FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEARS DEPARTS PHOENIX 11TH IN POINTS AFTER 14TH PLACE FINISH
Avondale, AZ (March 2, 2014) - Casey Mears and his GEICO team departed Daytona a week ago with a 10th place finish and they eagerly anticipated their arrival in Phoenix. Many off-season changes, including a switch to Chevrolet and a new technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, has turned the Germain Racing crew into incurable optimists. Phoenix would also offer them their first opportunity to confront the new qualifying format, which they ultimately handled just fine.
When the first practice session concluded on Friday, Mears and his #13 GEICO Chevrolet SS sat 22nd on the board. Later that afternoon, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series would take to the track for the new group-qualifying format in which drivers would battle to be in the top 12 fastest cars in an attempt to advance into the final qualifying round. Mears laid down a fast time, but on his second run was blocked by a fellow competitor, thwarting his attempt to reach the next round. However, his strong qualifying run would place him 18th on the starting grid, a 25-position improvement from a year ago, and just ahead of Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart.
While rain blanketed the Phoenix area over the course of the opening segment of the weekend, Sunday presented only bright sunshine when the cars lined up to go racing. When the green flag got The Profit on CNBC 500 underway, Mears started 18th, but by lap nine was running in the 21st position. Mears radioed to crew chief, Bootie Barker: "It turns so bad in (turns) one and two that I have to go to third every time." Three laps later Barker updated Mears on his progress: "Your last three laps are your fastest so far." And, lap 27 heard Barker echo more of the same: "Casey, your lap times are competitive, you're doing fine."
While Mears battled handling issues early on, the GEICO crew solidified a plan and executed promptly when caution periods allowed. By lap 118, Mears and his #13 GEICO Chevy were among the fastest racecars on the track, turning in top five and top ten lap times. Barker's radio communication on lap 148 served as confirmation: "Whatever you're doing, Casey, keep doing it." And, he did. After going down a lap, the Bakersfield, CA, native aggressively pedaled the GEICO machine around the one-mile facility until he found himself in the Lucky Dog position on lap 251. The racing gods smiled upon Mears when debris in turn one saw the caution flag displayed with 35 laps remaining, allowing the #13 GEICO Chevrolet SS to return to the lead lap.
Mears restarted in the 18th position with 30 laps to go, but three laps later David Gilliland cut a tire and brought out the yellow flag. Barker said to Mears, "Now, you can go racing." Mears did just that when the flagman set the field back under green with 21 laps remaining. He quickly moved up to 14th before Kurt Busch lost an engine and brought out the event's eighth and final caution flag of the day with 15 to go. After taking the green flag with nine laps left on the docket, Mears sat strong in 14th and surrendered no positions before turning in a 14th place finish in the second race of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. His top 15 finish serves as a nice encore to the top 10 he recorded at the Daytona 500 a week earlier. He currently sits 11th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings heading into Las Vegas.
"We had a good day and the Germain Racing crew did a nice job of making adjustments to our #13 GEICO Chevrolet SS, which certainly helped me as the race wore on," Mears said after climbing from his car following 312 laps of racing. "We're achieving our goals and it's clear that we have potential. We're focused on getting better and continuing to learn more about this car and working closely with RCR (Richard Childress Racing) and Chevrolet to keep building this GEICO program." He continued, "We left Daytona with a top 10, and now we get a 14th place finish in Phoenix, so we're achieving consistency and the key will be to maintain that as the season progresses. We're sitting 11th in points, which says a lot about our team and how hard these guys have worked and it's also good for our sponsors, GEICO and KMC Wheels." He also noted, "Today was Bootie's (Barker, crew chief) birthday, so I'm glad we could give him a good race."
Next week, Mears and the GEICO team hope that Lady Luck will be on their side as they travel to Las Vegas, Nevada, for race number three of the 2014 season.
Mears and the #13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Thursday, March 6th, for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test from 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM (ET).
The weekend's opening practice session is on Friday, March 7th, at 2:00 PM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 6:40 PM (ET).
The Kobalt 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is on Sunday, March 9th, and it will be televised live on FOX beginning at 3:00 PM (ET). The Performance Racing Network (PRN) will carry the live radio broadcast.
Please visit www.GEICO.com to learn about how you can save money on more than just auto insurance.
To learn more about the GEICO Racing program, please visit: www.caseymearsracing.com
You can also follow GEICO Racing on Twitter: www.twitter.com/geicoracing
To learn more about KMC Wheels, please visit: www.KMCwheels.com
- PMI -
Contact: Doug Barnette, Player Management International