Heading into the 2016 season, Casey Mears sits second in points in the last five Daytona races; a considerable achievement for any organization, especially a single-car team such as Germain Racing. The GEICO team has once again started off Daytona Speedweeks in quick fashion. After scoring a top-5 finish in the Sprint Unlimited on Saturday night, Mears turned around on Sunday and outhustled the majority of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field to end up 13th in Daytona 500 qualifying. Wednesday saw Mears' trend of speed continue when the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS shot to the top of the board where it finished up practice in the fifth position.
The Can-Am Duel 150's would offer the Bakersfield native the opportunity to keep his momentum rolling. Starting from the 6th position in Duel number two, Mears and his GEICO Chevy aimed to notch a strong starting position in Sunday's Daytona 500. A year ago, Mears was relegated to a 41st place starting spot after an engine gave way early in the opening Duel 150. Despite starting at the rear of the field, the GEICO driver rallied to a 6th place finish in the Great American Race.
When Can-Am Duel number two got underway at the World Center of Racing on Thursday night, Mears and his GEICO Chevy started the event from the sixth position. From the moment he took the green flag, it all seemed elementary to Mears, as he quickly collected two spots and jumped to fourth on the second of 60 laps. The front cars began to break away in a single-file formation and the No. 13 GEICO Chevy would continue to run solidly in the fourth position, even through a scheduled green flag pit stop on lap 38. When Mears brought his GEICO Chevy to the attention of the Germain Racing crew for a fuel-only stop, they promptly returned Mears to the racing surface, allowing him to retain his spot in the running order where he continued to hold the fourth position.
As the laps wound down, drivers became antsy and the ever alert Mears took full advantage when he rocketed by Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth to take over the second position behind Kyle Busch with just five laps remaining. Challenging for the lead, the GEICO driver seemed poised to collect a win on Thursday. Unfortunately, with just under two laps to go in the event, Mears fell off the pace when his fuel tank ran dry, leaving him 17th on the scoring tower, but also allowing him to avoid a massive last lap crash that sent a handful of drivers to back-up cars for the Daytona 500.
On Sunday, when the drivers take to the starting grid for the 58th annual running of the Daytona 500, Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will begin their 200-lap journey on the outside of row 16, in the 32nd position.
"The Daytona 500 will be good. The GEICO Chevy is fast; the car is right, so we will be strong, but I really wanted to win this thing tonight," Mears said in the garage after the race. "These guys at Germain Racing have done a great job getting this car ready for the Daytona 500 and we have had a lot of speed since we got here. I'm proud of our team and all of the hard work they put in to make sure we were in a position to be able to win the race when we got to the track. It was fun to run up front all night and we definitely had a chance to win this thing. I guess the silver lining is that we avoided that big crash at the end and will be able to use our primary car, which has been a rocket this week. Our guys are resilient and we're already thinking about Sunday. We are here to win the Daytona 500 and that's what we are focused on right now."
The Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is on Sunday, February 21st, and it will be televised live on FOX beginning at 1:00 PM (ET). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.