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XFINITY

Mears on 2017 Debut: “It Was Fun Being Back”

FONTANA, Calif. — Casey Mears made his first start of the 2017 NASCAR season on Saturday at Auto Club Speedway, finishing 14th in the Service King 300.

Mears, running a 12-race schedule for Biagi-DenBeste Racing in the XFINITY Series, started 19th and immediately caught the attention of the broadcast booth, as he jumped eight positions in the first 10 laps of Stage 1.

Did four months out of the racecar amp the Bakersfield, California native up enough to navigate through the field as quick as he did?

“I don’t know,” Mears told POPULAR SPEED. “Maybe everyone was just not ready to go, and I was? It was weird … I just kind of shot all the way up through there.”

He lost a few positions as the opening stage winded down, but his No. 98 Geico Military Ford was flirting in the top 15 virtually the entire race.

“I just did what I normally do on restarts, and I just happened to go by everybody,” Mears said. “But we were too tight also. That’s probably why guys were loose to start, and we shot up through … then we lost some positions towards the end of that run.”

The 300-mile event marked his first XFINITY start in seven years. His last race in the series came at Phoenix International Raceway in April 2010, where he finished 31st for Braun Racing.

He also gave the No. 98, which is usually driven by Aric Almirola, its best finish of the season after the team sat out last week’s race at Phoenix.

Mears ran full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with Germain Racing from August 2010 through 2016 but was replaced by Ty Dillon, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors in the No. 13 Chevrolet.

“It was fun being back. We struggled a little in practice and got a little behind,” Mears said. “But in the race, just about halfway through, we started to get it really close, and the car got a lot better.”

His next start for Biagi-DenBeste will be at Texas Motor Speedway in two weeks, and Geico will continue to support him in his 11 remaining races.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Mears Slated for 12 Races With Biagi-DenBeste Racing

Biagi-DenBeste Racing is looking to build off a successful 2016 season as they announced on Monday that Casey Mears will drive the No. 98 Ford Mustang with primary sponsorship from GEICO in 12 NASCAR XFINITY Series races this season.

Mears, who has one NASCAR XFINITY Series win coming at Chicagoland Speedway in 2006 while driving for Chip Ganassi Racing is looking forward to continuing his longtime partnership with GEICO this season.

“I’m thankful for GEICO’s continued support and I’m happy we were able to get this deal put together with Biagi-DenBeste Racing,” Mears said. “Fred Biagi and Bill and Lori DenBeste are great people and I’ve always respected them and how committed they’ve been to NASCAR and building their team over the years. I’m honored to be able to drive the #98 GEICO Military Ford and pay tribute to our military and their families. GEICO does a terrific job of supporting the military and I appreciate the opportunity to play a small role in honoring our service members.”

Biagi-DenBeste Racing gave GEICO their first NASCAR win in 2004 at Daytona with Mike Wallace behind the wheel.  Team co-owner Fred Biagi looks to continue the success from last season where Aric Almirola scored a win for the team in the July race at Daytona.

“It’s great to have GEICO back onboard after experiencing success together early on,” Biagi said. “GEICO is a first class company that has high standards and cares about its customers. Our philosophies line up well and we look forward to working together to have a successful year with Casey and the GEICO Military Ford.” He continued, “I’ve always had a lot of respect for Casey and his family and it excites me to have him in our racecar. I believe this new partnership will not only help us improve our race program, but also result in elevated awareness and generate the interest of potential sponsors.”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News

Ty Dillon to Drive No. 13 for Germain Racing in 2017

After months of rumors, Germain Racing confirmed on Monday morning that Ty Dillon would drive the No. 13 Chevrolet full-time in NASCAR’s premier series next season.

The 24-year-old Lewisville, NC native will replace Casey Mears, who had driven the No. 13 entry since the second half of the 2010 season.

In an interview during an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR’s Radio’s “The Morning Drive” program, Dillon had indicated an agreement with Germain Racing had come earlier in the season.

“The questions kept coming and coming,” Dillon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The cool thing is that I knew what I was doing; I just didn’t say anything. It’s kind of like having an awesome secret that you want everyone to know, but you kind of had to hold it back. I guess all good things are worth waiting for. I’m just excited for what’s to come.”

A Germain Racing team spokesman confirmed Robert “Bootie” Barker would return as crew chief in 2017. Geico will also return as primary sponsor for the No. 13 entry extending a relationship that began during the 2009 season.

Germain Racing shares a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, which was founded by Dillon’s grandfather and its entries are powered by ECR engines.

Dillon said the existing partnerships should help smooth his transition to a full slate of racing in NASCAR’s premier series.

“I think it’s just going to help us all work a little bit closer,” Dillon told SiriusXM. “Everything is just going to be working hopefully a little bit better between RCR, and everybody just wants to keep growing at Germain Racing and that’s what I’m excited for. Everyone’s got a positive attitude to move forward. I’m looking forward to growing as a driver and also growing with this team. …

“It’s not just making it to the Cup Series for me and Germain Racing. We want to go win races and we want to go win championships. But this is a great start in putting our foot in that direction.”

Dillon has amassed four career NASCAR national series wins and has finished in the top five in points during his tenures in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Dillon has indicated that he will remain involved in RCR’s XFINITY Series program next season.

“I plan on running the XFINITY Series, too,” Dillon said, “so hopefully you’ll be seeing a lot of me on Saturdays and Sundays and getting as much racing in as possible.”

Mears had indicated during last month’s Chase race at Talladega Superspeedway that his plans with Germain were uncertain past this last season. Mears has one career Cup Series win in 488 career starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Mears Satisfied With Glen Repave; Matches Season-Best Finish

When Casey Mears crossed the finish line 12th in Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen International, he matched his best finish of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season, which came at Daytona International Speedway in July.

Mears, the driver of the No. 13 Chevrolet, has struggled as he has 18 finishes outside the top 20 in 22 points events this year. The Bakersfield, Calif. native was running in the top 10 late in the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen, but wasn’t able to maintain the track position. Still, a 12th-place finish gave his single-car team a satisfying day in what’s been a long season.

“I think we called a good strategy, and we got all the way up to fifth,” Mears told POPULAR SPEED. “We struggled to get through the Carousel and Turn 6 a little bit and lost some spots. Then at the end, we were able to gain some [spots] back so 12th place is a pretty good day for us points-wise after the year we’re having.”

Mears is currently 28th in the standings. At this point last season, he was in 20th points. In other words, the Germain Racing team has taken a step backward in 2016. But Mears expressed optimism about NASCAR’s second and final road course event of the season and gave the newly-resurfaced Watkins Glen a positive review.

“The repave is great, I think it’s awesome and I think the track did an amazing job,” Mears said. “The tires definitely were too hard for the surface, though. But it’s a durable tire, and it lasted well. We put it through a lot of punishment today, and we didn’t have any issues. Really, everything was good all around. New surfaces are always temperamental, so once it gets weathered in a little bit, it will be good.

“I think [the race] was kind of as expected. With a new surface and a hard tire, if you were bumped out of the groove, the car really became a handful to drive. Whenever that happened today, we saw a lot of carnage. The race itself was fine for us, though, I don’t know if we were quite top-five material. I think under the right circumstances we could have finished in the top 10.”

In 13 career races at the track, Mears has six top 15s and one top five — a fourth place finish driving the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2004.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Mears Wishes Everyone Could Experience Professional Struggle

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Few drivers know the hardships of having to struggle to remain at the Sprint Cup Series level quite like Casey Mears.

As the nephew of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears and the son of off-road veteran Roger Mears, Casey entered the industry with high expectations. Having won the USAC Triple Crown championship in 1994, Mears only added to the hopes that he too would become an elite-level driver.

Mears showed a tremendous amount of promise while in the Indy car ladder system and even made eight appearances in the early 2000s. But initial struggles and a lack of funding forced him to seek out a career in NASCAR and he bounced around several top owners in the mid-2000s, including Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske and Richard Childress.

When he didn’t post the results expected of him with the elite teams of the sport, combined with the simultaneous downturn of the economy, he soon found himself driving for back-markers and start-and-park teams. That made his eventual ascension to Germain Racing all the more rewarding, helping lead the No. 13 team from a 30th-place entity to one on the fringe of contending for the Chase for the Championship.

Mears wishes everyone could go through such peaks and valleys.

“I would love for every top guy in this sport to go through the growing pains that we went through as an organization to appreciate where we’re at now,” Mears said. “It’s really hard to explain how that feels. If you can imagine, I had great opportunities with Hendrick, ran at RCR, where we really started getting successful toward the end of the season. Ganassi gave me an incredible opportunity, and here I am with some of the top organizations that really have it put together. You pick it apart when you’re there because you’re competitive and you want to get better.

“But when the economy goes down and Jack Daniels pulled out at the time at RCR and all of a sudden I find myself wandering around figuring out where I’m going to go and I take a start and park opportunity, and I would love every person in this field to have to go through that and know what it feels like.”

Further, Mears called his time start-and-parking the worst feeling ever. It makes coming off his best season with Germain all the more worth it.

“You need passion and somebody is saying okay, let’s go do it,” Mears said. “And it’s green flag, and then okay, stop. I had never done that in my life. When I was racing big wheels when I was three years old I didn’t stop before I got to the start-finish line. That’s what we do. Inherently, that was very difficult to go through, and like I said I wish a lot of these guys could go through it.”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Casey Mears, Bootie Barker Say They Can Maintain Performance

While the likes of Team Penske and Stewart Haas Racing have garnered much of the attention and headlines after four races this season, Casey Mears and Germain Racing have silently put together the biggest surprise of the first month of 2015.

Mears and his familiar GEICO No. 13 is currently 12th in the championship standings and believes that a technical relationship with Richard Childress Racing is starting to pay big dividends.

Mears opened the season with a sixth-place run in the Daytona 500, a result which was largely viewed as a fluke and the byproduct of restrictor plate racing by industry observers. But the team followed that up with finishes of 15th, 25th and 20th at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix respectively.

While the results aren’t spectacular when viewed within a bubble, Mears was quick to point out that his team’s lap times in practice and qualifying are not too far removed from the top-5 in the ultra-competitive, parity-ridden Sprint Cup Series.

“One thing I’m noticing, is that, if you’re inside the Top 15, you’re running lap times that are capable of anywhere from fifth to 15th, to be honest,” Mears said. “If you’re a Top 15 guy, you’re a call away from being a Top-5 guy.

“We’re just continuing to really focus on being top-15 and with being top-15, you’ve got opportunities to finish way higher than that.”

Such was the case two weeks ago at Atlanta when Mears qualified 21st and ran inside the top-20 for much of the afternoon. When a series of crashes developed near the front of the field, Mears and company capitalized and finished 15th.

In fact, Mears’ ability to take care of his equipment and avoid getting caught up in costly incidents has drawn a considerable amount of praise from his veteran crew chief Bootie Barker in recent weeks.

“He is one of the best that I’ve ever seen at being able to do that on a week-to-week basis,” Barker told Popular Speed. “Being able to do that by itself keeps you in a lot of races.”

Despite one of the best starts of his career, and certainly his best with Germain, Mears believes he and his team is actually better than the 15th to 20th they’ve shown after three downforce races.

“But now that we’ve seen the pace that we’re capable of running in parts of this year, we’re slightly disappointed with some of our results.”

Mears said they erred by taking two tires at Vegas and they lost a lap early. As a result, they were playing catch-up all afternoon and didn’t get the finish they were capable of. He believes they had a top-10 car at Phoenix before they lost a spring that went undiagnosed until the end of the race.

“So, I think our goals were very conservative to start the year,” Mears said. “But now that we’ve seen what we’re capable of and how fast we have been able to run, I think internally our goals are getting a lot higher.”

But is it sustainable? Barker thinks so.

“We definitely think this is sustainable,” Barker said. “We have really talented people working on this car and we have the resources. We just have to execute.

And if they do, the most feel-good story of the first part of the season may turn into the feel-good story of the Chase for the Championship.

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

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