FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEARS MUSCLES TO 17TH-PLACE FINISH AT MICHIGAN
Brooklyn, MI (August 17, 2014) - What started out as a misty, damp and dreary morning finally gave way to sunshine in Michigan at the conclusion of Sunday's 200-lap Pure Michigan 400. Casey Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS crew had worked together to put a setup under the car that they felt would work well in race conditions - it seems the efforts paid off.
In Friday's practice session and qualifying, crew chief Bootie Barker and Mears worked through a variety of adjustments, but the general consensus was that the car was tighter than Mears would like it to be. He posted 26th place times in both the opening practice and in qualifying.
Sunday's race was scheduled for a competition caution, but it proved a bit anti-climactic since the first yellow flag waved just five laps in after the 18 car slammed into the outside wall. When the time came for the competition caution at lap 22, the handling of the GEICO Chevy played well into Barker's race strategy. The car was a bit too loose for Mears, and Barker called for two tires and four rounds down on the track bar - an adjustment he'd discussed with the crew that morning. The field went back to green for one short lap at 25 and the team radio chatter took a chaotic then celebratory tone.
"We made it! And didn't lock up any tires," exclaimed Mears from 22nd position after spotter Ron Lewis had frantically guided him through a huge crash that unfolded in turn one on the restart. The melee sent nine to the garage or pits for repairs.
Mears was 19th when the field made a clean restart at lap 30 - only to have debris slow the field again after six laps of racing. The green flag run was a long enough run to let Mears build some feedback for Barker on the trackbar adjustment the crew had made under the competition caution.
"The car doesn't have enough rear grip. In traffic, it's just way too loose. The adjustment gave me about 75-percent of what I need," explained Mears.
During the second time in for service, Barker called for four tires and had the pit crew add a spring rubber in the left rear. Initially, the changes seemed to be opposite of the intended result, but after tire pressures built up, Mears said the handling came in. He logged his fastest lap of the race at lap 59, clocking a 37.131. That time would later be bested several times over, but it let the driver and crew know they were on the right path with the adjustments.
Just past 50 laps remaining, and about four laps shy of where Barker had hoped to pit, Mears radioed from 19th position that he thought he had a flat tire. The worries came along with a loud bang as if something hit the car, or broke off the car, and a subsequent vibration, Mears told Barker. The crew put on four tires at lap 154 and returned Mears to the track in 23rd place under the green flag.
"I don't know what the noise was that I heard," Mears told Barker after the GEICO Chevy seemed fine with the new tire set. Barker replied, nonchalantly, "You're crazy." Barker then discussed the handling of the racecar, plotting the remainder of the race.
The crazy, however, didn't seem to stop there. As the race rolled on, a series of cautions produced a restart at lap 174 that looked every bit like a green/white/checkered finish. The field was three and four cars wide and wrecking everywhere. Mears made it through, in 18th place, and, earned the Free Pass to get back on the lead lap.
From there, the GEICO Racing pit crew gave Mears his final set of tires, twice, because the first effort at lap 174 had such a bad vibration it had to be replaced while still under caution. The second set was installed at lap 176 in a blistering 12.39 seconds but Mears had to hustle the GEICO Chevy around the track for the restart at lap 178.
With 17 laps remaining, sun was still nowhere to be seen and spotter Lewis announced it was misting in turn four. No worries - the green flag waved at lap 183 and the field roared to life for a final green flag race to the finish. Mears finished the race in 17th place and with that collected the team's 13th top-20 finish of the 2014 season. He now sits tied with Kurt Busch for the 23rd position in the point standings.
"Good job on pit road today, boys. Way to get it done," said Barker to the crew as the checkered flag waved.
"The GEICO pit crew did a good job on pit road today and we were able to stay out of trouble with the GEICO Chevy. We made the car better throughout the race," said Mears. "What we learned today should be very useful for us in the future."
Right around the next left turn...it's the thrills and spills of Bristol Motor Speedway. The GEICO Chevy hits the track on Friday, August 22nd, at 11 a.m. ET for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, which will air live on FOX Sports 1. This is followed promptly by final practice at 1:30 p.m., also airing live on FOX Sports 1. Qualifying kicks off at 5:40 p.m. and airs on ESPN2 while Saturday night's race airs on ABC starting at 7:30 p.m. ET The Irwin Tools Night Race is 500 laps, 266.5 miles, and is also broadcast live on Performance Racing Network (PRN) and Sirius/XM NASCAR radio, channel 90.
Please visit www.GEICO.com to learn how you could save money on more than just auto insurance.
To learn more about the GEICO Racing program, please visit: www.caseymearsracing.com
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- PMI -
Contact: Lori Smith, Player Management International