As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited Texas for the seventh race of the 2014 season, Germain Racing was looking to improve upon an intermediate speedway program that has often given the team fits over previous years. Fortunately, the weekend began well, but, in the end, they would be left scratching their heads.
Casey Mears and his No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS started out strong in the Lone Star State, landing 13th on the speed chart in the weekend’s first practice session on Friday. On Saturday, they advanced to the second round of Sprint Cup qualifying and finished up in the 20th position, leaving the team optimistic as they approached race day.
Race day would simply turn into nothing more than a long day after heavy rain blanketed the Fort Worth area on Sunday. Before Mears would even be able to do battle with the 1.5-mile oval of Texas Motor Speedway, he would first meet Mother Nature eye-to-eye. After exhaustive attempts at drying the racetrack, NASCAR postponed Sunday’s running of the 500-mile event until Monday morning at noon (ET).
On Monday, the radar was clear and racing finally got underway. In order to ensure that the track was safe, the first nine laps of the race were run under caution after green/yellow flags waved simultaneously to indicate the official start of the 334-lap event. Mears and his #13 GEICO Chevy would roll off the starting grid 21st after a tie with Austin Dillon in qualifying left him one spot behind. It was of little consequence, as Mears quickly picked up positions when the green flag finally set the field underway on lap 10. He jumped to 18th and was gaining ground before Dale Earnhardt, Jr., found himself hard against the outside wall in turn one on lap 13 after getting into the grass and shooting up the racetrack, bringing out the caution just four laps after going green. While Jimmie Johnson absorbed the brunt of the mud and debris that Earnhardt’s car spit up, Casey was behind the Johnson’s No. 48 car and also took on a grill full of mud. Mears indicated to crew chief Bootie Barker that the car drove fine and there was no need to pit and risk surrendering positions.
After a lengthy clean-up, Mears and his GEICO machine restarted the race from the 18th position. While he moved into 17th on lap 28, he began to experience handling issues with his racecar and was in 20th on lap 34 when he said to Barker, “I can’t turn. It’s tight in the center.” Two laps later, the condition worsened and over the team radio frequency he was heard saying, “It’s plowing now, the front tires are gone.” This would only be the beginning of a frustrating day, as track conditions changed many times over the course of the afternoon, adding to the team’s challenge to correct the handling. Each of the seven caution flags, along with three scheduled green flag stops, saw the GEICO pit crew working hard to correct the issue. Despite their best efforts, Mears would remain at odds with his #13 Chevy and when the checkered flag closed out the Duck Commander 500, the team was credited with a 28th place finish.
“It was a long day for sure, and the changing track conditions didn’t help us any, but the guys kept working hard all afternoon,” Mears said at his hauler after the race. “We tested Darlington last week and were really fast, so I’m focusing on the good things and thinking positive as we head there in a few days. Darlington is one of my favorite places to race and I’m excited to get the #13 GEICO Chevy on-track Friday.”