Every year on Memorial Day weekend, three of the biggest motorsports events - Formula1 at Monaco, IndyCar at Indianapolis, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway - take place across the globe, creating a special day for teams and fans alike. After watching fellow GEICO Racing driver Tony Kanaan win the historic Indianapolis 500, Casey Mears and the No. 13 GEICO team looked to record a solid performance in the longest race of their 2013 season. Despite two pit road penalties and a brush with the wall in the first 115 laps, the Germain Racing team battled back to finish in the 23rd position.
The Coca-Cola 600 race weekend kicked off on Thursday as Mears took to the 1.5-mile track for practice and qualifying. After a 27th-place effort in the opening practice session, the GEICO crew made changes to the car prior to qualifying. The set-up tweaks significantly helped the Ford Fusion during time trials, as Mears laid down a lap of 28.142 seconds while the sun was still heating the track. A traditional off-day on Friday allowed the team additional preparations before returning to the track on Saturday for two final practices. The Germain Racing team, led by Crew Chief Bootie Barker, completed their sessions in the 16th and 15th positions, respectively.
Mears knows what it takes to win the longest event of the year - 400 laps, 600 miles - as the California native took home the trophy in 2007. Positive outlooks were seen throughout the GEICO pit stall prior to the green flag, but shortly after the race started, trouble struck the No. 13 team. As Mears came in to make his first scheduled green flag pit stop, the GEICO Ford Fusion was caught speeding, placing a pass through penalty on the team. While the problem was still being diagnosed, NASCAR informed the team that Mears was also speeding on his pass through penalty, causing him to make a stop-and-go penalty. With both of these penalties happening under green flag conditions, Mears was scored in the 40th position when the dust settled.
Unfortunately the trouble didn't stop there for Mears. On lap 115, the veteran driver made contact with the outside wall bringing out the caution. Minor damage could be seen on the GEICO Ford and the crew quickly made the repairs on pit road before returning to the track. A strange turn of events happened once the field went back to racing, as the TV camera over the frontstretch broke a cable, leaving the wire across the race track. Numerous cars, including Mears, ran over the cable causing damage to all involved. While repairs were made to the cable, NASCAR brought out a 15-minute red flag period and allowed teams to make any necessary repairs to the cars. This opportunity gave the crew time to make changes to help Mears when racing resumed.
Despite the uphill battle, the GEICO Racing team never gave up. Green flag conditions returned on lap 131 with Mears in 39th-place. Over the next 130 laps, Barker used pit road strategy to regain positions on the track and Mears continued to drive his Fusion with determination. By lap 260, the No. 13 GEICO Ford had picked up five positions to return to the top-35. As the race began to wind down, the action on the track heated up, as fellow competitors wrecked twice directly in front of Mears. By missing the spins in front of his windshield, Mears was scored in 22nd-place by lap 360.
Over the final 40 laps, Mears and the GEICO team continued their fight before crossing the finish line in the 23rd position. While this was not the finish the team had originally hoped for, focus and determination allowed Mears and his No. 13 GEICO Ford Fusion to gain positions and record their sixth top-25 performance of the season.
Next week, Mears and the GEICO Racing team head to Dover, Delaware for a meeting with the Monster Mile. The FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway will begin at 1 PM Eastern Time on Sunday, June 2nd. The race will be televised live on FOX, while the Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast.