Just a week removed from a memorable visit to Daytona that saw Casey Mears and the GEICO team depart the rain-soaked event with a top-5 finish, the team arrived in New Hampshire for the Camping World RV Sales 301. The weekend in Loudon, NH, would betray that of Daytona and leave Mears and Germain Racing ready for the upcoming off-week.
Beginning with the moment they unloaded the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS off of the hauler, the Germain Racing team found themselves challenged through three practices and a qualifying session. After dealing with a clutch issue and flat tire in the opening practice on Friday - which saw them end up 38th in practice - they ended the qualifying session in the 31st position, leaving Mears with a cumbersome workload on Sunday.
When the green flag turned the field loose for 318.46-miles of racing, Mears rolled off the grid 31st. He quickly picked up two positions and moved his GEICO Chevy into the 29th position on the opening lap. By lap 21, he was in the 19th position and ultimately ran as high as 17th before an issue with the car manifested itself later in the race.
On lap 108, Mears indicated that he might have a problem with the car, at which point crew chief Bootie Barker put the GEICO crew at the ready. While he continued to pedal along, Mears would be subsequently proven right when the caution flag was displayed for debris on lap 112. It was discove red that the camber shim fell out of the right-front upper control arm. The issue would cause him to remain on pit road as the race returned to green on lap 119. Once he rejoined the field, Mears was 11 laps down to the leader, in the 40th position.
While the extended visit to pit road left the team out of contention, the Germain Racing engineering staff used the balance of the afternoon to gather data for their return visit to the 1-mile oval in September. Of note, Mears and his No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet began turning lap times comparable to cars in the top-20 as the race wore on. On lap 211, Mears reported that the car was better than it had been all day. When the checkered flag closed out 301-miles of racing, Mears and the GEICO team were credited with a 38th place finish.
"Really, the weekend as a whole was a challenge for us and it just seems like we struggled to get the GEICO Chevy right," Mears said. "I felt like we were getting better and then we had the control arm issue and that alleviated any hope of a strong finish. I'm really proud of the crew because they worked extremely hard this weekend and we never quit and even at the end of the race, we were much faster and showed a lot of progress. We took some good notes and we're excited to get back here in the fall."
Mears and the GEICO team will now enjoy the final off-week of the 2014 season before returning to action in Indianapolis.