The "Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up to Cancer" was as up and down as the banking that makes Bristol Motor Speedway famous. The 500-lap NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was scheduled to begin at 1:00 PM (ET) Sunday afternoon on FOX. Despite the 100% chance of rain in the forecast, the green flag waved only about 90 minutes late. That said, the race that officially lasted 3 hours and 37 minutes took nearly 8 hours of starts, stops and waits to be completed.
During that time, Casey Mears drove the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet on a tear toward the front of the field, then spent many, many laps chasing it down again before getting cut off shy of a top-20 finish.
Mears took the green flag in 27th position, raced up to the 22nd spot and then had a short caution period and about a three-hour break to ponder how he could move further up through the field. He told crew chief Bootie Barker the car was "not too bad" and that he'd only made a slight track bar adjustment during that short green-flag run.
After another red flag due to rain, FoxSports 1 picked up the racing action at 6:30 p.m. ET as the cars were rolling back onto the track. Just 45 minutes later, 128 laps were in the books and Mears was solidly in the top 20 and was pressing forward. On lap 146, with Mears in 18th place, spotter Ron Lewis told him the GEICO Chevy was the fastest car on the race track. As he issued those words, Mears was challenging for position 16 on the track. It looked as though he had easily marched into the spot when he suddenly retreated to 19th place and told the crew over the radio he felt certain he had a tire going down. Mears visited pit road under the green flag for right-side tires and a full load of fuel.
The ill-timed issue proved to be a loose wheel. While it was good that Mears pitted to get it replaced, he was left two-laps down and the leaders were afforded a chance to pit under caution only about a dozen laps after the GEICO Chevy returned to the track in 33rd position. From there, Mears and the Germain Racing pit crew clawed back into the top-20 before a fuel issue sent the GEICO Chevy to the garage. Mears was credited with a 36th-place finish; he is 19th in the Sprint Cup Series point standings.
"We had a huge improvement from qualifying to race trim. The GEICO Chevy was very fast at times tonight and it's obviously frustrating to go through what we did. We lost two laps early because of a loose wheel and never were able to get both of them back before we started losing fuel pressure at the end. We won't know until later what exactly happened, but, we didn't have enough pressure to even maintain pit road speed, so our night was done too early," said Mears. "The GEICO Chevy was definitely fast here and we'll try to carry that on into Richmond."
Mears and the Germain Racing team will be back racing in six short days as they head to Richmond, VA, to continue the short-track action under the lights at Richmond International Raceway.