Las Vegas, NV (March 6, 2016) - Casey Mears and Germain Racing unloaded their No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS in Las Vegas a week after recording their best-ever result at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The team has clearly made progress on intermediate racetracks and that trend would continue as practice got underway at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series would be afforded a test session on Thursday prior to the start of the race weekend. Crew chief Bootie Barker and his team took full advantage, as they sharpened their pencils and took good notes. On Friday during qualifying, Mears advanced to the second round, hustling his GEICO Chevy around the high-speed racetrack in just 27.989-seconds, at a speed of 192.933-miles per hour, placing him 22nd on Sunday's Kobalt 400 starting grid.
Mears and his GEICO team wasted little time getting to work on Saturday morning , where they not only recorded the third fastest time in practice, but also ended up with the third fastest 10-lap average. Just a couple of hours later, Mears and his GEICO Chevy went on another tear around the fast 1.5-mile oval and sat at the top of the board, in the eighth position, when the weekend's final practice session concluded.
A series of different weather conditions were on-hand for Sunday's race. Heavy winds and rain provided a short delay before drivers climbed into their cars and headed out to the racing surface to battle door-to-door for 267-laps. Mother Nature would soon turn it into a chamber of commerce day before reverting to the heavy winds and rain as the race came to a close. Mears and the GEICO Chevy rolled off of the starting grid from the 22nd position, but made immediate progress, picking up four positions in the opening four laps before taking over 17th place on lap 11.
Mears was charging hard before the competition caution came on lap 31. Scored in the 18th position, he traveled down pit road, where his GEICO machine received four fresh tires and a full tank of Sunoco racing fuel. Unfortunately, he would lose three positions during the stop and restart the race from 21st when it returned to green on lap 35. At a facility where passing is at a premium, Mears did his best to recapture lost real estate and would work his way back into the top-20, in the 19thposition, before the next round of pit stops. On lap 83, Mears brought the No. 13 GEICO Chevy to pit road for a scheduled green flag stop. The Germain Racing pit crew provided him with four tires and fuel and returned him to the racing surface in the 24th position. When the race returned to green, Mears would once again be forced to regain ground after losing five positions on pit road. This time, however, passing would become even more challenging and Mears struggled to pick up positions as the race wore on.
Problems would strike the team on pit road for a third time during a scheduled green flag stop on lap 143 when Mears' car wheel-hopped on entry to pit road, causing him to accidentally pass the GEICO pit stall and forcing him to travel down pit road at the pit road speed limit before coming around again and making it in for his service on lap 144. The crew sent him off with four new tires and fuel, but the team was left three laps down to the field.
Despite the setback, the GEICO crew and driver remained focused and talked calmly and intently about how to recover from the setbacks. Barker and Mears chatted confidently over the team's radio frequency about potential adjustments to the car, as well as a strategy for getting back on the lead lap.
While it seemed like a longshot to return to the lead lap, Barker continued to employ a strategy that saw Mears and the GEICO Chevy take multiple wavearounds, as well as a pit stop on lap 218, where the team gambled and took just two tires. Their resilience was rewarded and the team had Mears running in the free pass position by lap 223. While at one point it seemed unlikely that Mears would be able to return to the lead lap and chase a solid finish, with just 42 laps to go, the yellow flag waved, returning the GEICO Chevy to the lead lap and marking an improbable comeback by the Germain Racing team.
Their persistence paid off and after turning in two strong pit stops as the race wound down, team and driver had recovered and departed Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a lead lap, 23rd place finish, improving upon their effort a year ago when they ended the race three laps down and finished 25th.
"Obviously, we had a tough day on pit road, but we worked hard and never quit and were focused on getting back on the lead lap. When you're three laps down, it can seem overwhelming, but these guys never give up and the entire time we just kept talking strategy and how we were going to make it happen; there was never any negative talk," Mears said. "I can't thank everyone on this GEICO team enough for their hard work and persistence. We've always been resilient and today we showed the heart of Germain Racing. There were some negatives today, but there were way more positives that we'll take with us when we leave here and head to Phoenix. The GEICO Chevy was fast all weekend, just as it was in Atlanta last week, and you could see the speed in the car and the gains we're making on these intermediate tracks. We're focused on Phoenix and know we can go there and perform well. Adversity always shows you who you are and today we showed, once again, that we never quit and fight to the end, and it paid off. I'm proud of these guys."
The Mears Gang will continue their west coast swing when they head to Phoenix, AZ, next week.
Casey Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Phoenix International Raceway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, March 11th, at 12:30 PM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 6:45 PM (ET).
The Good Sam 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is on Sunday, March 13th, and it will be televised live on FOX beginning at 3:30 PM (ET). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
Please visit www.GEICO.com to learn how you could save money on more than just auto insurance.
To learn more about the GEICO Racing program, please visit: www.caseymearsracing.com
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To learn more about Germain Racing, please visit: www.germainracing.com