Daytona International Speedway is a facility that Casey Mears and Germain Racing always look forward to visiting. This Fourth of July weekend, they invaded the 2.5-mile, high-banked superspeedway with the No. 13 GEICO Military Chevrolet SS. They aimed to turn in a strong finish under the lights on Saturday night when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series took to the track for 160-laps and 400-miles of racing action.
After starting 20th in the Coke Zero 400, Mears and his GEICO Military Chevy ran at the front of the field nearly the entire evening. While both the television crew on NBC and the radio announcers on Motor Racing Network boasted of Mears' success throughout the race, the Bakersfield, CA, native charged to the front and, on lap 66, found himself as the leader for two laps. He ran solidly in the top five and had the No. 13 GEICO Military Chevy in the third position with fewer than 20 laps left in the event.
With just 12 laps remaining, he was in the seventh position when Tony Stewart lost control of his car and collected Mears in a crash. Stewart later apologized, but for now there was work to be done. The Germain Racing pit crew acted quickly and patched up the front-end damage that threatened the car aerodynamically on a track where it is critical. The crew's skillful work on pit road allowed Mears and the GEICO Military Chevy to return to the race in the 22nd position when the race went green with only six laps left to contest.
He collected three positions and was up to 19th before the caution flag quickly reappeared after a crash on the restart lap, with five laps to go. As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field headed into overtime, leaving only two laps to recapture lost ground, Mears craftily made his way around the legendary speedway gathering positions in bulk. After facing near-certain peril with only 12 laps to go in the race, Mears and the GEICO Military team rallied, recovered and brought home a 12th place finish when the checkered flag closed out an exciting evening of racing in Daytona. This is Germain Racing's second top-15 finish of the 2016 season.
"We needed a run like that tonight. I had a lot of fun running up front all night in the GEICO Military Chevy and we had the speed to be there at the end and go for the win," Mears said after climbing from his car on pit road. "I'm so proud of our guys and how they came together to get the car fixed after we got caught up in that crash with the 14 (Tony Stewart). I'm not sure what happened there; it looked like he just lost it. It was great to recover and finish 12th, but I think I could've actually picked up more spots, but I couldn't push the 16 (Greg Biffle) because he was missing his rear bumper." He continued, "This Germain Racing team does such a great job on our restrictor-plate program and I'm glad we were able to come here tonight and have the type of run we deserve. I appreciate everyone's hard work."
The Bluegrass state is up next for Mears and the GEICO team.
Casey Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Kentucky Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Thursday, July 7th, at 2:30 PM (ET). Qualifying will follow on Friday, July 8th, at 6:45 PM (ET).
The Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is on Saturday, July 9th, and it will be televised live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 7:30 PM (ET). The Performance Racing Network (PRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.