Hard charging Mears 21st at wild Richmond

- With just 11 races to be contested in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Germain Racing rolled into Richmond looking to put the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS at the front of the field. A track that has often provided the team with headaches, they turned the tables on the ¾-mile raceway and found speed that saw driver Casey Mears in a position to be at the front in the final laps late Saturday night.
 
It was a fast Friday for Mears, who posted the quickest time in final practice. Unfortunately, track conditions betrayed the driver and when qualifying was complete, Mears would be relegated to a 26th place starting position. It would serve as little consequence, as he would quickly move the GEICO Chevy forward when the race got underway on Saturday.
 
On Saturday evening, the hot sunshine gave way to cooler temperatures when the green flag turned the field loose for 400-miles of racing. Mears started his journey from the 26th position but, despite encountering a loose condition early, the crafty veteran made progress and began making his way through the field.
 
In a wild night of racing at Richmond, Mears managed to keep his GEICO Chevrolet clean, save for an incident on lap 279 where Matt DiBenedetto made contact with Mears and sent him spinning down the racetrack. After a masterful save that saw him  avoid contact with other cars, Mears collected himself, visited pit road for repairs and got back to work.
 
A record setting 16 cautions provided the GEICO crew ample opportunity to display their prowess on pit road. Nearly every stop was executed in the 12-second range, while Mears picked up positions on the bulk of the restarts. Their collective effort found them in position for a strong finish as the race wound down.
 
The 400-lap race headed into overtime, leaving two laps of racing when the event returned to green. After visiting pit road for tires and fuel, Mears took the final green flag of the night from the 21st position. Wasting no time, he charged into the top-15 within a single lap and was knocking on the door of the top-10 when Greg Biffle spun immediately in front of him as the field approached the white flag. NASCAR opted not to display the caution flag and Mears was forced to bring his No. 13 GEICO machine to a near stop in order to avoid the spinning car, which allowed his fellow competitors to zip past him. He managed to regain speed and despite the momentary setback, Mears made a final lap charge that netted him multiple positions en route to a 21st place finish when the checkered flag halted an interesting night of racing at Richmond International Raceway.
 
"We had a good night, made solid calls and had the GEICO Chevy in position for a strong finish there at the end," Mears said after climbing from his car. "I was loose most of the night, but we worked hard to make changes and I was able to pick up positions when I needed to and I was fast enough to get up through the field. I had to get slowed way down to get around the 16 (Greg Biffle) when he spun in front of me there at the end and lost a bunch of spots. Fortunately, I was able to get going again and pass a handful of cars to get back up to 21st. All in all, it was a solid race for our GEICO team."
 
Germain Racing will now set their sights on the Windy City.
 
Casey Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Chicagoland Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, September 16th, at 1:30 PM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 6:45 PM (ET).

PMI PR
Speedway Digest Staff

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