Tough Luck Strikes Casey Mears at Bristol Motor Speedway
Mechanical Failure Relegates GEICO Racing Team to 37th-Place Finish
BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 21, 2011) – Coming off the first off-weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Casey Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Racing team were refreshed and ready to battle the bullring known as Bristol Motor Speedway – a short track known for bumping and banging.
On Friday afternoon, after two solid practice sessions, Mears took to the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” for his qualifying attempt. The car of Dave Blaney, who qualified prior to Mears, blew an oil pump, causing oil fluid to cover the track. Unfortunately, Mears’ laps were hindered by this situation, relegating the GEICO Toyota Camry to the 43rd starting position for Sunday’s 500-lap race.
The green flag flew on The Jeff Byrd 500 under sunshine in the Tennessee Mountains. Mears patiently began his trek to the front of the field, understanding that to finish well, you must first finish. The first caution of the afternoon slowed the pace on lap 29 for a multi-car accident on the frontstretch. Mears did a great job of avoiding the wreck and moved into the 34th position. The California native was instructed to stay out by crew chief Bootie Barker, allowing Mears to restart from 22nd-place.
A competition caution came on lap 52 for the teams to check tire wear on their Goodyear rubber as a right-side tire change was mandated on Saturday, prior to the final practice sessions. Barker brought Mears to the attention of his GEICO crew for four tires, fuel, and adjustments as the No. 13 Toyota needed more rear grip. Restarting on lap 57 from the 27th position, Mears allowed the laps to clock off during a long caution-free run.
Mears drove his way into the top-25 as the third yellow flew on lap 130. The adjustments made during the previous pit stop helped the GEICO Camry, so Mears brought his Toyota to the attention of his crew for four tires and fuel, with no changes to the handling.
Despite holding his spot inside the top-25, problems struck Mears on lap 158, when his Toyota would shut off in the corners. Mears successfully switched batteries while continuing to make laps, but the problem was persistent forcing the team to come to the garage for repairs. After changing batteries and working on the electrical interiors, Mears returned to the track, however the issue was not fixed. The GEICO crew then changed additional mechanical parts before solving the issue.
Mears returned to track on lap 229. Unfortunately, the tough luck cost the Germain Racing team 72 laps and placed the No. 13 in the 38th position. The team was unable to make up any spots, due to the number of laps down, until lap 410 when problems forced Dennis Setzer out of the race. The GEICO Racing team never gave up and continued to log laps and work on their Camry. Mears clocked lap times just as fast as the leaders in the final 100 laps of the race, despite damage to his machine. The checkered flag flew with Mears and the GEICO team in 37th-place.
The tremendous effort shown by the entire GEICO team allowed Mears and the No. 13 Toyota to remain inside the top-35 in the Owner Point Championship Standings, one point to the good over 36th-place owner Tommy Baldwin. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will return to the West Coast, as the fifth race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California will take place on Sunday, March 27, 2011.
Contact: Samantha Jones, Player Management International