LEESBURG, Va. -- Motorsports standout, Johnny Rocca, has announced that he will indeed remain active in professional drag racing in 2001, ending any speculation that the veteran Pro Modified competitor was about to retire.
In fact, the popular USA Racing Team car-owner has been busy putting a hefty exclamation mark - and a unique marketing twist, to his ambitious and new motorsports plans.
Rocca's first revelation is that New England-based Mohegan Sun casino, the northeast's premier meetings, entertainment and gaming destination, will provide primary financial and marketing support for the 13-race, nationally televised International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) major event, plus select series tour.
At the same time, Rocca announced that up-and-coming pro driver, Paul Athey, an executive host at Mohegan Sun, will assume the team's driving duties. Athey, 24, a Mohegan Indian, whose grandfather was once Chief of the tribe, will move to Pro Modified, following a two-year stint in Alcohol Funny Car.
Rocca, himself a proud member of the Tuscarora Tribe, part of the Iroquois Nation, retired from driving prior to last year after four decades of competition. He will continue as car-owner and crew chief, and is thrilled with the newly forged relationship, which links all parties to their respective Native American Indian heritage.
"This is everything that I could have hoped for," said Rocca proudly. "The Mohegan Sun organization is very enthused with the positive and far-reaching publicity that our cohesive racing venture will generate for them in key markets across the United States and Canada, and especially with an all-Native American team, including a terrific driving talent in Paul Athey.
"In preparation, we've had a new '49 Mercury built by Cannon/Pittman Race Cars, which will prominently carry the Mohegan Sun logos, plus icons and sacred symbols of the Mohegan people, as well as the Tuscarora Nation," he continued. In addition, a second "show car" version is being created for static display and touring use by Mohegan Sun's marketing and public relations departments.
"The chance to go forth with this relationship, with it tied to our heritage, and with a driver who shows so much promise and discipline as Athey, is a very distinguished opportunity, and one which will reap success for all concerned," Rocca further explained.
Paul "Many Ponies" Athey is also thrilled with the opportunities, and admits that the switch to Pro Modified will be a challenge he looks forward to.
"This is by far the best deal that I've ever been involved with," said Athey, of Norwich, Conn.
"Driving in Pro Modified, with left-hand steering and a suspended chassis, will certainly take a little getting used to," he continued. "But, with Johnny Rocca's experience and teaching abilities, we're both very confident that the result will be a championship contending team, from start-to-finish, throughout the 2001 campaign."
Owned by the Mohegan Tribal Nation, Mohegan Sun is one of the most unique and dynamic casinos in the United States. It features an extraordinary Mohegan-themed design unlike any other in the industry, and is situated in scenic southeastern Connecticut, on 240 acres along the Thames River, in Uncasville.
A financial pillar of strength, results from the casino's fiscal year ending September 30, 2000 showed net revenues of $714.7 million. Currently, an ambitious $960-million expansion, entitled "Project Sunburst", promises to further enhance the landmark service and pleasure facility, with the addition of a 1,200 room luxury hotel, convention hall, 10,000 seat arena, and 35-store retail shopping complex, beginning in 2001. Currently, the casino boasts 5,900 employees.
For more information on the USA Racing Team, visit their official website at
www.usaracing.com. Also, for complete information and planning assistance, please
visit the Mohegan Sun casino's official website at www.mohegansun.com. For more
information on Mohegan Sun Entertainment, call the events hotline: (1-888-226-7711,