CONCORD, N.C. (May 21, 2016) - As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series descended upon Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) for the All-Star Race, the teams were facing numerous new elements: a new race format, a new aerodynamics package, and a new tire compound. Casey Mears and the GEICO Racing team knew practice would be key in order to earn a transfer spot from the Sprint Showdown into Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. However, Mother Nature had a different idea, as rain washed out the lone practice session on Friday and postponed the race until Saturday morning.
The Sprint Showdown featured three separate segments - 20 laps, 20 laps, 10 laps - with the winner of each moving on to the All-Star Race. In addition, each team had to make a mandatory pit stop in between the segments with a minimum of two tires. At the beginning of the first segment, Mears started from the 14th position, as the lineup was set per the 2016 owner point standin
gs. A caution slowed the pace on lap 16 which allowed Mears to visit pit road for left side tires and fuel. The field went back to green with one lap to go, putting the GEICO Military Chevrolet in 15th-place as the opening 20-lap segment concluded.
After making his mandatory pit stop for right side tires, Mears started the second 20-lap segment from the ninth position. Quickly, the veteran driver reported the GEICO Military Chevrolet "needed more grip and was tight on landing." The segment remained caution-free, with Mears finishing in the 12th position.
Crew chief Bootie Barker took the opportunity to make a handful of changes to the No. 13 GEICO Military machine under the mandatory stop after segment two. Four fresh tires, fuel, air pressure, wedge and trackbar adjustments were all completed by the Germain Racing pit crew in order to help the handling.
Mears started the final 10-lap segment from the 17th position and in three short laps, the California native passed six competitors to take 11th-place. With the handling "much better," Mears continued his charge and crossed the finish line in the eighth position. Despite not transferring into the All-Star Race, the GEICO Racing team learned important information to carry into next week's Coca-Cola 600 at CMS.
"We definitely learned a few things that will help us in the 600," said Mears after the Sprint Showdown. "The GEICO Military Chevrolet was the best at the end which gives us a good starting point to work with when we come back in a few days. The car was loose off the wall and tight on landing, while being harsh over the bumps. Bootie (Barker) and the guys worked on it every chance we had though and we made the best out of a situation with so many new factors and no practice time."
The Sprint Cup Series remains at Charlotte Motor Speedway for round two of racing action at the 1.5-mile oval. Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Military Chevrolet will hit the track on Thursday, May 26th for opening practice at 2:00PM ET.
The Coca-Cola 600 will take place on Sunday, May 29th, with FOX carrying live television coverage beginning at 6:00PM ET. The Performance Racing Network (PRN) and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio channel 90 will also have the live radio broadcast.
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