Casey Mears and company unloaded their camouflage-clad No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS on Friday morning, prepping for a busy visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway that would find them practicing, qualifying and racing all in the same day. The Germain Racing team will sport a military-themed racecar for the balance of the month of May that will pay tribute to the United States military. Aside from the ever-present camouflage, the car also features a saluting Gecko wearing a military helmet.
When practice got underway, they were hoping to get their hands wrapped around a track that has long given them fits. Mears quickly took to the racing surface and began winning the battle when he ended up 7th on the speed chart as the day's sole practice session came to a close. Just a few hours later, Mears pedaled the No. 13 GEICO Chevy around the 1.5-mile quad-oval at a blistering 192.417 miles per hour, qualifying ninth for Friday night's event.
Cool temperatures and a light sprinkling of rain were present as the drivers arrived on pit road for pre-race ceremonies, but quickly dissipated as the cars began firing their engines. The green flag turned the field loose in a high-speed spectacle that would keep fans on the edge of their seats. After going green, Mears began to throttle forward and had the GEICO Chevy sitting in the sixth position by lap nine. As the opening segment began to wind down, Mears reported to crew chief Bootie Barker that the frontend was falling off bad. Barker assured him they would make the necessary adjustments during the upcoming break.
Mears finished up the opening segment in the 6th position and was pleased with the speed of his GEICO machine. He visited pit road where the Germain Racing crew delivered the promised changes, along with four tires and fuel before sending him back out on the racetrack for the final segment of racing. Mears restarted the race from the 10th position, but by the time he completed just a single lap he was back up to sixth place and two laps later was running solidly in the top five. He continued to reign in the leaders and when the checkered flag waved, Mears and his military-themed No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS collected a third place finish. Upon crossing the finish line, Mears joyfully took to the team's radio frequency: "Great job, guys. This is the best car we've ever had here." Mears popularity among fans was also evident when he wrapped up the All-Star week as one of the top 10 drivers in the Sprint Fan Vote.
"It was a lot of fun to drive the GEICO Chevy tonight, it had a lot of speed," Mears said. "This may be the first time that we were passing cars on the final laps here at Charlotte. We've always struggled here, so it is nice to see that we're making some progress. I'm happy for GEICO, KMC Wheels, Castrol and all of our partners. It's always fun when you can go to a racetrack and be that fast. I appreciate the hard work of everyone on this Germain team and we're looking forward to the Coke 600 next week." He added, "It was cool that so many fans voted for me in the Sprint Fan Vote. Things like that are humbling and mean so much because it's a democratic process that the fans directly take part in and I appreciate their support. Our fans are important to me because that's what this sport is all about, they are why we get to do what we do each week."
The Germain Racing team will again return to Charlotte Motor Speedway next week. The Coca-Cola 600 bears special meaning in the Mears' household, as it is the race where Casey captured his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in 2007.