Talladega Strategy Ensures Mears of a Top-Ten Finish
EXCLUSIVE By Mary Jo Buchanan – @CJMearsGang (Casey Mears), driver of the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet for Germain Racing, always looks forward to racing at Talladega, where all teams are equal and everyone has a chance at the trophy.
This past weekend’s race did not disappoint as Mears finished top-10, which the racer deemed a definite step in the right direction.
“Our guys did a good job and we had a fast race car,” Mears told POPULAR SPEED. “At the beginning, we ran pretty hard and it got a little crazy up front. So we decided we would play it safe for a little bit. We missed the first incident and then we charged up through there to get into third for quite a while.”
“For the most part, we had a pretty seamless day,” Mears continued. “We just missed a couple crashes and there at the end, when it was time to go, everyone was three and four wide and it was pretty crazy.”
“I got behind the No. 9 (Marcos Ambrose) car there, pushed him really hard and we made a lot of progress there.”
“A good result for us for sure,” Mears said. “We had a string of races where we weren’t getting the results we wanted.”
“So, it was nice to go to Talladega and have a good run.”
The race weekend started with a somewhat confusing qualifying session that even sent a few of the regular Cup drivers home. For Mears, however, qualifying worked out well, pointing them in exactly the right direction for the race.
“It worked out OK for us,” Mears said of his qualifying effort. “It was a matter of really understanding what you were trying to do. It made it difficult because everyone wanted to get that big run and the only way to get that was to be about half a straightaway behind the pack.”
“You could get together with a couple of guys and work off that lead pack’s draft to put in a faster lap time,” Mears continued. “The whole challenge was that everyone was holding out as long as they possibly could to not be the cars in the lead pack because you wanted to be the car in the pack behind utilizing their draft.”
“The first session it worked out really well for us and we went with the No. 27 (Paul Menard) car,” Mears said. “We sucked up real well to a pack in front of us and we were 1 and 2 on the board in the first session.”
“Then going into the second session, we just missed it a little bit and we ended up 19th and 20th,” Mears continued. “So, you definitely had to play strategy for sure but at the same time you definitely needed to make sure you got a lap in.”
“That’s what happened to a handful of guys and unfortunately some guys went home that you wouldn’t normally see go home.”
Mears, his crew chief Bootie Barker, and his whole No. 13 GEICO team had a plan not only in qualifying but also throughout the race.
“We had a plan already going into qualifying and I had been talking with the No. 27,” Mears said. “I think we were hoping that all the other RCR cars would get on that plan as well. We kind of had that plan but really we just committed to working with the No. 27 and it worked out for us.”
“For the race, you definitely had to study the film,” Mears said. “I try to understand the history, know what works in the past and have that game plan. But when the cautions start falling, that can change it all up. So, you definitely have to have an A, B and C plan ready to go. It’s definitely a race that can change the whole complexion of it, especially when the caution comes out.”
One of the real keys to surviving Talladega for Mears was that spotter in his ear, guiding, cajoling and giving the best advice possible to keep the car going in the right direction.
“Ron (Lewis, spotter) and I have worked together for a couple of years and he does a great job,” Mears said. “I trust him and believe what he is saying. We really understand each other and that has developed over the years.”
Mears also credited the lack of the usual ‘big one’ at Talladega, as well as his missing some of the smaller wrecks, for his top-10 finish.
“Those last three laps we were four-wide and I was expecting the ‘big one’ the whole time,” Mears said. “And it didn’t happen. They kept it together and we made it through. I thought for sure it was going to happen at the end and I sure did not want to be a part of it.”
“At the end of the day, we hooked up with the No. 9 (Marcos Ambrose) car. I pushed him as hard as I could and we made some progress there at the end.”
Mears also felt he stepped in the right direction with his car sponsor, who also sponsored the race, the GEICO 500.
“We had several appearances around the track and in the infield for GEICO throughout the weekend,” Mears said. “It was definitely a big weekend. They’re a great sponsor and it has been neat to see how much they have grown in the sport, along with our team growing.”
“They definitely have gone full blown ahead with their NASCAR program, sponsoring us, the race and other events at the track,” Mears continued. “They really branded that race as their own.”
“It was fun to be a part of that weekend and obviously it is special to have a solid day when your sponsor is sponsoring the event as well.”
So, just how important was the top-10 finish to the Mears gang?
“It’s definitely a big boost for sure,” Mears said. “We obviously have high expectations when we go to the superspeedways because we have had success in the past.”
“A top-10 is good for us but it’s not excellent,” Mears continued. “But it is a good step in the right direction for our program.”
“We’re excited going into Martinsville this weekend after last week. Hopefully we can put together two good weekends in a row and finish off this year well and have a good platform to build from.”
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