Posted by: lori on Nov 24, 2010
Homestead, FL (November 21, 2010) – Casey Mears and the GEICO Racing team arrived in Homestead looking to put GEICO in the field for their first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the south Florida season finale. Mears and the Germain Racing team have proven themselves as a solid Top 25 team and looked to continue their run in Homestead.
On Friday, practice got off to a fast start and Mears would shoot to the top of the speed chart and run in the Top 20. As the practice came to a close, the #13 GEICO Camry dropped to 39th as the team prepared to head into Sprint Cup Series qualifying late Friday afternoon.
A year ago, the #13 GEICO Camry was sent home after narrowly missing the race, but Mears’ qualifying lap of 30.948 seconds on Friday ensured that it would not happen twice. The #13 GEICO Camry would line up three spots ahead of Denny Hamlin who would later spend his afternoon attempting to notch his first Sprint Cup Series championship.
When the season finale got underway under bright, clear skies and temperatures in the 80’s, Mears wasted little time moving forward. Starting 34th, he moved the #13 GEICO Camry into 29th by the close of the second lap.
When the event’s first caution flag waved on Lap 18, Mears was running in the 30th position and radioed to crew chief Bootie Barker: “There’s no front grip. The front grip is terrible.” Barker assured Mears that the team would go to work on the #13 Camry upon his arrival on pit road under the caution flag.
The following lap, Mears brought the #13 GEICO Camry to the attention of the Germain Racing pit crew and they furnished him with four fresh Goodyear Racing tires, a tank of Sunoco racing fuel and the necessary adjustments to assist with the front grip. After coming down pit road in the 30th position, the Germain Racing pit crew returned Mears to the racing surface 27th, netting three positions on pit road.
Just two laps after going back under the green flag, Mears and the #13 GEICO Camry picked up three positions, moving into 24th before the caution flag reemerged when Denny Hamlin was sent for a spin through the infield grass. Mears stayed out and did not come down pit road, given he had just made a visit two laps earlier.
Mears reached the 23rd position by Lap 28 and Lap 53 found him telling Barker that his GEICO Camry ‘feels tight in the center’.
Mears brought the #13 GEICO Camry down pit road on Lap 70 for a scheduled green flag pit stop. He took on four tires and fuel and returned to the race in the 37th position. Two laps later, Mears had picked up five positions and was sitting 32nd. A lap later, on Lap 73, he was 31st and he informed Barker that his car ‘is a lot better in the center’.
Mears reached 30th before the caution flag was displayed on Lap 98. He visited pit road to receive four tires, fuel and adjustments, as he continued to battle an ill-handling racecar. After restarting 33rd on Lap 103, he radioed to Barker on Lap 103, “It’s weird. I’m a little tighter, but I’m not any better.”
Something must have gotten better because Mears began to move the #13 GEICO Camry through the field. He reached 30th by Lap 124 and then found himself in 28th when Marcos Ambrose went for a spin on Lap 135, once again bringing out the yellow.
After restarting 28th on Lap 140, Mears jumped to 27th before the caution flag waved just a lap later when Juan Pablo Montoya and Joey Logano found themselves tangled up.
Mears spent a short time down a lap, but quickly hustled to 26th position on Lap 146 and put himself in the Lucky Dog position – the first car a lap down. The racing gods showed mercy on Mears and the GEICO Racing team, as the caution flag was displayed on Lap 164, allowing Mears to return to the Lead Lap.
Although he was a lap down, Mears had been consistently faster than the cars in front of him, so returning to the Lead Lap offered the opportunity to start gaining positions. He wasted little time. After restarting 26th on Lap 169, Mears had the #13 GEICO Camry 25th on the subsequent lap. He then jumped to 24th on Lap 172, 23rd on Lap 181 and was running 21st when the cautionflag came out for debris on Lap 187.
With 75 laps to go, he was running in the 20th position.
After the caution came out on Lap 195 when Dave Blaney hit the wall, Mears came down pit road for four tires and fuel. Barker informed Mears that he would be short on fuel and that he would need to pit one more time prior to the conclusion of the race. 72 laps remained and the #13 GEICO Camry would be able to travel 53 laps on a full tank of fuel.
After restarting 28th on Lap 199, the caution flag came out once again just two laps later when Jeff Gordon’s motor blew on the frontstretch. Mears took the opportunity to bring the #13 GEICO Camry down pit road to top off with fuel.
Mears restarted 29th on Lap 206 and began a run through the field. On Lap 214, he passed both Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte to move back into the Top 25.
A week ago in Phoenix, Mears found himself stuck in fourth gear for the vast majority of the race beforehustling to a 24th place finish. Homestead saw the #13 GEICO Toyota Camry once again battling a gear issue as Sunday’s race wound down.
While running 24th on Lap 233, Mears radioed to Barker that he felt like he lost the driveline and gears. Barker instructed him to take the #13 GEICO Camry directly to the garage. No one could have predicted what would happen next. Upon inspection of the racecar it was determined that the rear gear broke, something that rarely, if ever, happens in racing.
Mears was out of the race with just 34 laps remaining. After starting 34th, Mears and the GEICO team would be relegated to a 33rd place finish, a colossal disappointment considering they had run solidly in the Top 25 for much of the day and appeared destined for a Top 20 finish.
While Mears was visibly disappointed, he spoke with big picture vision.
“Something like this is tough because these things just don’t happen; rear gears don’t normally break,” Mears said. “But it’s racing and I’m sure we all think we’ve seen everything until we see the next crazy thing. I’m heartbroken for this team because we have worked so hard to get to the point where we are now as a solid Top 25 team. We have made tremendous improvement since August and I almost wish Daytona (2011) was next week because we keep improving and we feel we’re better than a lot of the teams out there.”
He continued, “When the season ends it means that Thanksgiving is around the corner and I always think of our troops serving in forward areas. What we do here at the racetrack each week is a sport, but what our troops do is life or death and they provide the blanket of freedom that we sleep under each night. Our troops and their families are in Trish (wife) and I’s thoughts as we count our blessings this holiday season.”
Since Mears took over driving duties of the #13 GEICO Camry in August, the team has missed just one race and has consistently finished in the Top 25 each week. The 2011 season will find GEICO as the primary sponsor for 18 races, leaving an exceptional opportunity for a company to come on-board and complete the season. The names ‘Mears’ and ‘GEICO’ are synonymous with greatness and a company looking to expand awareness would benefit from a relationship with both.
Less than three months remain before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series arrives at Daytona International Speedway to get the 2011 season underway.
To learn more about the GEICO Racing program, please visit: www.geicogarage.com
You can also follow GEICO Racing on Twitter: www.twitter.com/geicoracing
Please visit the Casey Mears Facebook fan page: www.facebook.com/caseymearsracing
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Contact: Doug Barnette, Player Management International