Casey Mears and his Germain Racing team entered the Irish Hills with high hopes and expectations for the new low downforce aerodynamic package that would be on display for the first time at Michigan International Speedway. After a solid performance in practice and qualifying, misfortune would strike Mears early in Sunday's race as a rear gear cooler failed, putting the GEICO Chevrolet in the garage for 12 laps. Despite this issue, the team persevered through the remaining 140 laps to finish in the 32nd position.
"This year has really been unbelievable at times," said Mears after the race. "The bad luck that has followed our GEICO Racing team is crazy. If we could rewind the season so far and start over, I would be all for it. But to fix the rear gear cooler failure as quickly as we did and get back out there to gain a couple laps and positions in the second half of the race, just shows how much this team never gives up. Sooner or later our luck will turn around."
After advancing to the second round of qualifying on Friday, Mears secured the 24th starting position for Sunday afternoon's 400-mile event. In the opening five laps, Mears passed four competitors to enter the top-20 and looked poised to continue his charge forward. "Your speeds are within two/tenths of the leaders," encouraged crew chief Bootie Barker on lap 25, as Mears held the 19th position.
With the field continuing to log laps caution-free, green flag pit stops began on lap 39. Mears reported his entry into the corner was better after dropping his in-car track bar, but as the tires changed throughout the run, the GEICO Chevrolet was becoming tight on late exit. Barker called his driver to pit road on lap 41 for a scheduled stop of four fresh tires and fuel.
Just as Mears returned to the track following his service on pit road, the veteran driver radioed to his GEICO team that his car was "crazy tight off the wall in turn one." On lap 46, the first caution of the afternoon slowed the pace and smoke began to appear from the rear of the GEICO Chevrolet. After examination on pit road, the crew was able to diagnose the problem as a failure in the rear gear cooler. Mears went behind the wall for repairs as the race continued around him.
In just 12 short laps, the GEICO Racing team replaced the rear gear cooler, allowing Mears to return to the racing action on lap 63. Despite being scored in the 40th position, the No. 13 team was determined to keep fighting to obtain the best finish possible. Using pit strategy and solid handling, Mears was able to work his way into 36th-place with 50 laps to go. On lap 154, the California native was involved in a crash but did not receive any damage or contact with the wall, allowing the GEICO Chevrolet to continue. Over the final 40 circuits, Mears gained four more positions to cross the finish line in the 32nd position.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will have a well-deserved weekend off before heading west to California for racing action at Sonoma Raceway. Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet will hit the track on Friday, June 24th for opening practice at 3:00PM ET.
The first road course event of 2016 will take place on Sunday, June 26th, with FS1 carrying live television coverage beginning at 3:00PM ET. The Performance Racing Network (PRN) and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio channel 90 will also have the live radio broadcast.