Tough road prepares Yunick for hard charge

By D.C. Williams News-Journal Correspondent

     Holly Hill----It's little wonder that somebody with the surname of Yunick would be involved in racing. But its a big suprise to learn that Gatorade All Pro Series 2000 Rookie-of-the Year Casey Yunick once swore it off like a drunk would a liquor bottle.

     "I tried to start full-time racing when I was 16 to 18 years old, but would run out of money," said Yunick about his earliest days in racing, each time ending his motorsports pursuit, at least until the next cash surge.

     "Since I was old enough to talk, I wanted to drive a race car. When I was a kid, whatever we were doing, it had a racing theme to it."

     Then came a time a few years back when he went to Nashville to work with Dash cars and, according to Yunick, became so dispirited he "came home and decided I wasn't going to do it anymore."

     However, about a year later his racing-bred DNA kicked in and he wanted back into the show. Only this time, Yunick had a better plan. During that off year he came to understand that it wasn't good enough to be an excellent race car driver, he also had to be a promoter -- of himself.

     With a sharpened understanding of the public relations side of the racing game, Yunick proceeded to scare up sponsorship money that would carry him not only through the next race, but a season of races.

     "Basically, that's what changed the world for me," said Yunick. "In the past a crash, blown motor or tire bill would put us out for the season. That doesn't happen anymore."

     With firm moral support from spouse Shannon, father Smokey Jr. and grandfather Smokey, Casey put together a NASCAR All Pro Series team for the 2000 season and headed for the bullrings that dot the southeastern U.S. With funding woes largely out of the picture, Yunick could focus on driving. And drive he did.

     Following an early stretch of top-10 finishes, Yunick put himself firmly out front in the annual rookie honors chase by the season's midpoint and went on to comfortably claim rookie of the year in the series.

     But not without a couple of late-season bumps along the way.

     Eventually finishing 12th in series driver points, Yunick feels he could've claimed a top-10 year-end finish if not for some bad racing luck. The worst of it came at Kentucky, where a blown tire transformed his sleek race car into something closer to a moving wreck. This year, Yunick believes the hard lessons have made for a team that will contend for a top-5 in points.

     "I'm just trying to learn so much so fast that its hard sometimes for it all to sink in," Yunick said. "But we're ready for the season to begin. We're as ready as we ever have been."

     His season starts Sunday in Mobile, Ala.

The News-Journal, Sports (page 7B), Tough road prepares Yunick for hard charge, (D.C. Williams), Saturday, March 24, 2001

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