GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Atwell and Cecco

Tuesday, October 21, 2008 | 12:00 AM

Honestly, no other class in GNCC Racing seems to offer the competitive balance that we see in the Women's ATV Class. Year after year the title goes down to the wire, and this year is no exception. Traci Cecco and Angel Atwell are basically tied in points coming down to the finale this weekend at the Klotz Ironman GNCC. Who will win? We talked to the two ladies to get their take on it all.

Angel Atwell

Angel started the year with a win in
Florida and hasn't let up all year.
Jason Hooper photo

GNCCRACING.COM: Well we're getting ready for a real showdown this weekend.
Angel Atwell: Yeah we sure are. It should be exciting.

For you, you had a shot at wrapping this thing up early, so are you disappointed to have to bring it down to the wire like this?
No, because anything can happen at these, and I know that. I told people that I hoped it wouldn't come down to Ironman, but I had a feeling it would.

So you've been kind of expecting this all along.
Definitely. I really thought it would go down to the Ironman.

We've had this happen before with Traci and Stephani Parton, but do you have any expectations as to what you're in for?
Well, I think we're in for a long, hard, two hours, lets put it that way. It will be good. We've had some good battles this year. In Kentucky, we had a good battle going there and we were pushing so hard, that we both knew we had to back it down or someone was going to get hurt out there. We were really on the edge. I think it's going to be another one like that this weekend.

It's good to hear that it actually can come down to that, because in that morning race, you have a lot of other things to deal with, like bottlenecks and traffic and stuff like that.
Oh yeah it sure can.

But you have had some heads up battles.
Oh it can happen, and when it happens, it's a blast. In fact, I just wish this weekend we could just have our own race and have the track to ourselves. That would be awesome!

You've gotten better and better every year, and this is the best season you've had yet. What do you attribute your improvement to?
You know, I think you could just say that I'm not the rookie anymore. I'm one of the veterans now and I know what to do. Experience is starting to pay off. And my sponsors get better every year, and my equipment gets better.

Do you think you've advanced a lot of speed and endurance, or is it just more making good decisions?
The speed is definitely a factor. I still haven't hit that point yet where I'm consistently scaring myself and having to slow down. Like Traci has said before, I don't really hit that. So, until I get to that point the speed is still there. But it's really about making good decisions, too.

And is that just experience?
Yeah. You have to be patient. And somedays I'm patient and somedays I'm not!

So if you're stuck in bottleneck on Saturday morning, how hard is it going to be to be patient then?
It's going to be pretty tough! I'll try not to get too excited and hold it together. I know I've done everything I can possibly do to get where I need to be, and I need to rely on that.

What about Friday night? Going to get any sleep?
I'm going to stick with my regular routine, which is to have a couple of beers before I go to bed. That puts me to sleep!

Okay so if people see you on Friday night, they need to know you're not slacking.
Oh no. There's definitely a reason for it!

And I'm sure if you do win this title, there will be a big celebration on Saturday night.
Oh yeah. It will be good.But I'm not counting on anything. Yo
u don't know what is going to happen in this kind of racing, not until it comes down to the flag. That's what makes this so good.

Who do you want to thank?
Tom Clark Motorsports, Axis, Leager, ITP, Hiper Wheels, PowerMadd, HMF, Fasst Company, GT Thunder, Maier Plastics, Moose Racing, Steamline, DP Brakes, Quad Tech, there are so many. So many people have helped me get here.

Talk about being on team Tom Clark.
It's really fun. I don't think they had even heard of me at first, but I went to them to see if they could work with me on bikes and parts. Now they're really into it, they're huge fans now. Melissa from the shop, she started going to the races this year. She came down to Florida with me and she had a blast. But she was so nervous! She stayed with me and she was so worried that she started stressing me out. I told her she needs to be calm or she was going to make me nervous! Anyway, she's planning on coming to Ironman, and she said she'll probably be more nervous there than she was in Florida!

You need these people to calm down!
I know. It's really going to be fun though. I can't wait.

Traci Cecco

Traci Cecco has won three in row to get
back into the championship chase.
Hooper photo

Well we have the race of the year coming up again.
I know. Can you believe it has come down to it again? It reminds me of the Parton days.
So how many times have you come down in a winner-take-all battle like this?
This happened twice with Stephanie, and now again here with Angel, so it's the third time.

Is it good, or do you wish you had this locked up?
I like it, I like the competition. It gives us tons of publicity, tons. It helps us get sponsors and gets us noticed. You know everyone is going to be paying attention. So it's a good thing.

When it comes down to it in these races, is it even a heads up race, or does it come down to not getting stuck in a bottleneck?
We'll have out times when we're going all out and swapping positions. But this last race is definitely going to be picking the right lines, who is not going to get stuck. We're both very competitive. I think my pressure is a little relieved, because I have six wins and Angel has five. So she has to win the last race to tie us, and then she would win the tie breaker by having the better finish in the last race. So basically, she has to win, but if we were to take a second and and third, I would still get the title.

And you never know, that could happen here.
You just never know, it's the Ironman and anything can happen there. I've been training really hard. Coming out of the break, I really focused on having to win the final four races. I did three, so now I need one more.

You've made these late season surges before. Is there something about these final tracks that work for you?
I tend to like the faster tracks, Indiana, Ohio and New York have fast sections, and I enjoy that. But you need to work on your downfalls, so I have definitely tried to pick up my speed in the tighter woods sections and the more technical stuff.

Angel has been getting closer every year. Did you expect this competition?

Is it fun to have a battle like this again?
It is. I'm happy to be the consistent one who is always there, I've battled with Stephanie and lots of others over the years. Tons of pressure, losing sleep at night, it's stressful times. I'm anxious. I wish we could have gone straight from Ohio to Indiana.

If you get stuck in a bottleneck, is it harder to keep your cool in a race like this?
It is very hard to keep your cool and to keep your mental focus. You can do everything you want to keep in shape physically, and making sure the bike is perfect. But a lot of racing is your mental capacity. I do my little mental training every day, because the races are so mental. I replay in my head every night every situation that could happen, so I have an answer in my head and when it happens in a race, it's instinct. Poor Johnny. He's not only my mechanic, but he has to deal with my mentalness. In Ohio, we were walking the track and I saw two lines when I was walking the track. I had to talk to him about it and I had to ask a lot of the pro guys what they thought. IN the end, I wound up making a lot of passes in that section.

Atwell (202) and Cecco (201) have been this close all year.
Hooper photo

How cool is it for your crew? Are they razzing you about this?
No, they're all pumped, and they're very encouraging. They are all asking how the training is going, and am I ready. I think that is going to be really neat, a lot of the pro riders are going to be paying attention.

I heard it may rain this weekend.
I check the weather every day, I'm the weather girl! This course can get technical because of the hill climbs and stuff like that. But from what I've heard, they haven't had much rain in the area so maybe the rain will be a good thing.

Will you be able to sleep Friday night?
It's going to be tougher than usual, I don't sleep very well the night before the race to begin with. You know, last year I was in the hotel room and I realized I didn't walk the start of the track. It was 4 a.m. and I woke up in a panic. I needed to check the start! So I called Johnny and told him we had to get up and go check it out. I had a flashlight so we could check the track at night. So we got up, ate, and checked out the track. Last year we started on the fourth row and we wanted to prove we could still win the overall. I know I torture him sometimes, but I take this very seriously, and you can't let little things go like that.

Angel told me today there was a race in Kentucky where you went all out.
Yes it did. We both talked after the race and agreed that if we kept riding like that, someone was going to fall down, and we don't want that to happen.

Okay well good luck this weekend, and may the best woman win.