Returning to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the second time in as many weeks, the GEICO Racing team looked to turn in a solid performance at the longest race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Casey Mears posted the 14th fastest time in the first round of qualifying on Friday before advancing to the second round where he would notch a 17th place starting position in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. After posting the seventh fastest time in final practice on Saturday, the No. 13 GEICO Military Chevrolet looked primed for an impressive finish. However, once the green flag dropped on Sunday evening, a tight handling condition plagued the Germain Racing team for all 400 laps and left Mears with a 30th-place finish.
After a moving military tribute honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country, Mears and the GEICO Racing team were ready for battle at the 1.5-mile oval. Mears and Germain Racing featured the name of U.S. Army Ranger, Specialist Christopher Wright, who lost his life in Afghanistan, on the windshield of the No. 13 GEICO Military Chevy. On-hand for the race were members of Wright's family, along with four of his fellow Army Rangers who served alongside him in the Army's 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, GA.
When the race went green, Mears quickly reported to his crew the GEICO Military Chevrolet was an "8 out of 10 tight" which hindered his ability to turn through the corners. As a scheduled competition caution slowed the pace on lap 25, crew chief Bootie Barker brought his driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and "big adjustments." Mears restarted from the 27th position on lap 31.
A long caution-free run saw the field pit under green flag conditions while Mears continued to report "plowing tight" handling. The second yellow flag was displayed on lap 113 and the GEICO Military pit crew took the opportunity to make adjustments underneath the hood of the No. 13 Chevrolet. After spending a little extra time on pit road to complete the service, Mears restarted from 35th-place on lap 121. In just 10 laps, the veteran driver picked up four positions as the field began to spread out once again.
Another lengthy green flag run ensued and at the halfway mark of the 600-mile event, Mears reported he wanted to run in the top groove but the car wouldn't turn up high. The third caution came four laps later, allowing the Bakersfield, California native to return to pit road for additional adjustments. The GEICO crew once again popped the hood and made adjustments, while changing four tires and adding fuel to the No. 13 machine. Mears continued to run inside the top-30 for the remaining laps and crossed the finish line in the 30th position.
"We were just way too tight tonight," Mears said after the race. "When we practiced in the heat of the day on Saturday, the GEICO Military Chevrolet was good. But when it came to the race, it just plowed and nothing seemed to fix it. I'm proud we were able to honor U.S. Army Ranger Christopher Wright on the windshield and have his family at the track with us today."
The Sprint Cup Series now heads to Long Pond, Pennsylvania for racing at Pocono Raceway. Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet will hit the track on Friday, June 3rd for opening practice at 11:00AM ET.
The Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 will take place on Sunday, June 5th, with FS1 carrying live television coverage beginning at 1:00PM ET. The Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio channel 90 will also have the live radio broadcast.