As the seventh race weekend of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season got underway Friday in Texas, Casey Mears and Germain Racing were focused on taming a track that has proved problematic for them in the past. While they fared well in practice and qualifying, Saturday night's Duck Commander 500 told a different tale after a loose condition and a bad set of tires provided insurmountable setbacks.
Friday in practice, Mears raised the eyebrows of everyone in the Sprint Cup Series garage when the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS sat fourth and fifth on the scoring tower in the weekend's two sessions. During qualifying, he advanced to the second round and ended up 20th on Saturday nigh t's starting grid.
Perfect weather conditions set the stage for Saturday night's 500-mile event that would try the patience of all 43 drivers in the field. Mears and his GEICO Chevrolet began their journey from the 20th position, but by lap 17 were closely eyeing the top-15 after arriving in 17th place. A loose condition set in and Mears quickly found himself at odds with his racecar. The Germain Racing pit crew worked efficiently on pit road all night and picked up positions during stops, while also making necessary adjustments to the GEICO Chevy.
As the race approached halfway, Mears radioed to the crew that the car was driving better, allowing him to arc it into the turns without getting loose, but a few laps later he found himself once again losing grip. After a bad set of tires during a long green flag run set the team back, crew chief Bootie Barker attempted to use strategy to regain lost ground and as the race entered the final 20 laps, Mears was back in the hunt, just a single lap down and in the free pass position. Surprisingly, a caution flag was never displayed, which thwarted Mears' attempt to rejoin the lead lap and charge into the top-20 as the race wound down. He remained focused and crossed the finish line in the 27th position and was able to maintain his status in the top-15 in the point standings.
"We've had a pretty good start to the season and in this sport you're going to have your tough days; this was ours," Mears said after exiting his racecar. "The handling of the car got away from us and we worked hard all night to make proper adjustments, but the set of tires during the long green flag run really hurt us and made it tough to catch up. I was encouraged by how fast we were in practice and I think it shows that we're improving on these types of tracks. Bristol is a fun place to race, so we're excited to get our GEICO chevy there and make something happen."
Mears and his Germain Racing team will now head to Bristol, TN, to do some beating and banging on the 'World's Fastest Half-Mile'.
Casey Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Bristol Motor Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, April 17th, at 12:00 PM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 4:45 PM (ET).
The Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up to Cancer NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is on Sunday, April 19th, and it will be televised live on FOX beginning at 1:00 PM (ET). The Performance Racing Network (PRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.