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Mar 16

Bristol Post Race Report - GEICO Chevy SS - Mears

Posted by: lori

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BRISTOL, TN (March 16, 2014) - Coming into the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway tied for 16th in the point standings, Casey Mears and the #13 GEICO team looked to rebound from a challenging weekend in Las Vegas.  They got off to a great start, logging the eighth-fastest time in the first practice session on Friday.  During qualifying, Mears navigated the .533-mile oval in 15.038-seconds at a speed of 127.597mph, which was good enough to put him 25th on the starting grid. 


Saturday was action-packed for the NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors with two additional practice sessions on tap.  Going to work on their race set-up in the second practice run, the #13 GEICO Chevrolet SS was posted 16th fastest. With one practice session left to go, the Germain Racing crew made changes to Mears' Chevy before sending him out for the final hour of practice before Sunday's race.  The GEICO machine agreed with the changes and after completing 40 laps, Mears had laid down the fastest time of the session and was first on the board when it ended. 


With confidence in their race package, Sunday morning brought great anticipation in what 500 laps on the Bristol bullring might bring.  Holding little hope for a timely start given the forecast for rain, the team labored through their race morning responsibilities getting the #13 GEICO Chevy through the pre-race inspections and onto the starting grid...and then they waited.  With a forecast that was ever-changing, NASCAR finally called the drivers to introductions at 2:05 PM (ET) and the cars rolled off of the starting grid for the Food City 500 after a 1-hour, 44-minute delay.


Respecting the 'green' track conditions following the rain, Mears got off to a conservative start while getting a feel for the GEICO Chevy through the opening laps, before visiting pit road for a scheduled competition caution on lap 50.  Crew chief Robert 'Bootie' Barker made the call for four tires and fuel with no adjustments based on Mears' feedback that the car and track were 'coming to him'.


When the race went back to green on lap 57, Mears restarted in the 23rd position and continued to pick up positions on the track.  By lap 85 he was posting lap times on par with the leaders and, as he broke into the top 20, he radioed, "I know if we can get up there, we'll have something for them," referring to the benefit of track position.


With a well-handling car cruising in the 17th position, Mears and the GEICO team would have to show patience when the rain returned, forcing the cars to pit road at lap 124.


The race restarted following a three-hour rain delay and the GEICO team found themselves in the same position as at the start of the conservatively until the track got a new build-up of rubber.  Reporting a vibration just past the halfway point, however, Mears radioed that he had a tire going down and quickly headed to pit road under green at lap 263.  Indeed, the left front was down to the fibers and in the process, the #13 GEICO team was posted five laps down in the 37th position.


With the unpredictability of what might unfold on a racetrack such as Bristol Motor Speedway, no one was giving up.  Perseverance and a little help from anticipated attrition assisted Mears in recovering 10 positions to finish 27th, salvaging an otherwise challenging day.


"Coming into the race, we were really confident in our set-up, but we also didn't know what to expect from the track following the rain delay," Mears explained.  "We were gaining early on and if we could have stayed green I really think we would've been good and had the #13 GEICO Chevrolet up front.  After the second delay, the track just didn't respond the same," continued Mears.  "If we could've predicted that, we would've made different choices as far as adjustments, but it was still a good effort for the GEICO team and I'm glad we persevered through it and recovered to finish 27th."


Next up for NASCAR's premier series is a swing back to the west coast and 400 miles on the 2-mile oval at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. The weekend's opening practice session is on Friday, March 21st, at 3:00 PM (ET).  Qualifying will follow at 7:40 PM (ET) and will be televised live on FOX Sports 1.


The Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is on Sunday, March 23, and it will be televised live on FOX beginning at 3:00 PM (ET).  The Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SIRIUSXM NASCAR (Channel 90) will carry the live radio broadcast.


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Contact: Debbie Glenn, Player Management International, Inc.