Casey Mears and the GEICO Racing team arrived in Long Pond, PA, on Friday armed with a fast racecar and looking to have a strong run at the Tricky Triangle. Before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series could take the green flag, however, Mother Nature would have her way with the Pocono area on Sunday, forcing the postponement of the race until Monday at noon (ET).
Starting 29th, Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS wasted little time in making up ground when the green flag gave way to the Axalta 400 on Monday afternoon. While he encountered handling issues early on, the Germain Racing crew made quick, effective changes that soon found Mears pedaling the GEICO Chevy forward, picking up positions two and three at a time. Mears penetrated the top-20 on lap 28, having collected 10 positions in just seven laps at a facility where passing is at a premium. He made quick work of his fellow competitors and found himself eyeing the top-five when he took over the sixth position on lap 56.
Late in the race, during the lap 119 caution, crew chief Bootie Barker made a bold move when he ordered a fuel-only stop that would provide Mears with premium track position when the race returned to green with just 38-laps to go in the 160-lap event. Mears and his GEICO Chevy would restart the race in the second position and, despite racing on old tires, he would run solidly in the top-five as the laps began to wind down.
Barker alerted the GEICO driver that he would be three laps short on fuel and asked for Mears' cooperation in saving as much as possible. The crafty veteran happily obliged and was somehow able to maintain his track position while attempting to save fuel and also racing cars with fresh tires. Mears did a masterful job and would drop no lower than 14th as the race entered the final laps. He managed to save another lap and a half of fuel; putting them just on the edge of being able to complete the race, as the Germain Racing crew anxiously awaited a caution.
Unfortunately, the yellow flag would betray the team and with just over a lap remaining in the event, Mears radioed that he was out of fuel, leaving him to hustle to pit road for a quick splash that would allow him to complete the full 160-laps. He would hurriedly zip around the 2.5-mile triangle-shaped racetrack and score a lead lap, 24th place finish when the checkered flag closed out 400-miles of racing.
"Today is one of those bittersweet days because we ran really well and it was great to run at the front and show our speed, but we really needed a caution there at the end," Mears said after the race. "Bootie (Barker, crew chief) made great calls today and if a yellow would've come out there at the end, we would've been in great shape. It was a gamble worth taking, especially because it allowed us to have the GEICO Chevy up front and in the hunt. Everyone did a great job today and we are looking forward to getting on the track in Michigan next week."