Casey Mears and Germain Racing haven’t finished outside of the top 25 since May 11th in Darlington, with half of those checkered flags seeing Mears finish in the top 20. As the season wears on, the GEICO team seems to be blossoming well and their excitement was evident when they arrived at Daytona International Speedway this weekend, a place that has seen Mears and his GEICO car as the leader on multiple occasions.
Mears and the #13 GEICO Ford Fusion appeared quick in first practice when television coverage of the session showed him moving the car at will through the draft. He wrapped up the session 24th, sandwiched between Ricky Stenhouse, Jr, David Ragan and Joey Logano; all Ford teams. Crew chief Bootie Barker felt confident in their GEICO Fusion and chose to sit out final practice on Thursday, instead turning his focus to qualifying which was scheduled for late Friday afternoon.
When qualifying got underway at 4:10 PM (ET) on Friday, Mears betrayed his poor qualifying draw (third) and toured the 2.5-mile facility in just 46.701-seconds/192.715-miles per hour, landing him 19th on Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 starting grid.
When the green flag waved on a hot and humid Florida evening, Mears departed his starting position of 19th and set sail for the front of the field. By the fourth lap, he had arrived and was penetrating the top 10. He later ventured into the top five and appeared poised for a strong run. As restrictor-plate racing goes, Mears and his #13 GEICO Ford Fusion spent their evening vacillating up and down through the draft, returning to the front whenever he felt it necessary. At times, it appeared so effortless that one would assume Mears made a bet with himself concerning the amount of cars he could pass in an evening.
Business began to pick up as the race wound down. With 33 laps to go, Mears was in the 13th position when a caution flag slowed the field. The team’s radio frequency was dominated by Barker and Mears who were busy discussing whether or not to take two or four tires during the upcoming pit stop under yellow. The number four prevailed and Mears would surrender only six positions by opting for the latter, but would be well armed to make a charge at the end of the race. Barker’s wisdom prevailed and Mears found himself back in the top 10, in the eighth position, with just 15 laps remaining in the event.
Mears, whose racecar remained clean most of the night, was a little too close for comfort when cars began crashing just behind him as the field exited the short chute on lap 149 of a scheduled 160. The red flag halted the race while cleanup commenced. After a brief eight-minutes and 53-seconds, engines were re-fired and cars were rolling under caution. With seven to go, the GEICO Ford Fusion restarted 8th, but was shuffled out of the draft and just a lap later sat 12 positions worse in 20th.
The Daytona drama soon followed when a crash on the backstretch brought out the yellow flag with only four laps left in the advertised distance and leaving Mears far behind with very little time to do anything about it. With a Green-White-Checker finish on tap, he would need to execute an all or nothing strategy when the race went back to green. When the green flag set the field underway for the final time, Mears began an immediate surge and a lap later the white flag saw him three positions to the good in 15th. The final lap played out in typical Daytona fashion when Mears was approaching the start/finish line and Danica Patrick spun in front of him. The result was a chain reaction crash that sent the #13 GEICO Ford Fusion hard against the outside wall as the checkered flag was waving. Despite taking a hard hit and crossing the finish line sideways, Mears scored a ninth place finish, accounting for the team’s first top 10 performance of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. His effort also continues the string of strong, consistent runs that are normally tough to come by in auto racing, further evidencing the growth and development of Germain Racing’s Sprint Cup Series program.
“Tonight was a solid night for our GEICO Racing program and I’m glad we were able to get a Top 10 finish and reward the guys on this Germain team for all of their hard work. It was also nice to get a good finish for the folks at GEICO and our team owner, Bob Germain, because they both have made such big commitments to keep growing our program,” Mears said as he observed the damage to his racecar. “That second-to-last restart we restarted eighth and the 15 laid way back on the restart and had a huge run. There were three lanes open. The bottom lane moved to the bottom and I had like three lanes to try to block and he had a run and got to the inside of us and we dropped all the way to the back. But we had a really big run there at the end and picked the right lane and got through a bunch of guys, so that’s not the way we wanted to finish because we were sitting in the catbird’s seat there, where I thought we could have had a chance to win this thing, but we rallied back for a decent day.”
Mears and the Germain Racing team will now travel north to Loudon, New Hampshire, for race number 19 of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Casey Mears and the #13 GEICO Ford Fusion will hit the track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the weekend’s opening practice session on Friday, July 12th, at 12:00 PM (EDT). Qualifying will follow at 3:40 PM (EDT).
The Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is on Sunday, July 14th, and it will be televised live on TNT beginning at 1:00 PM (EDT). The Performance Racing Network (PRN) will carry the live radio broadcast.