Mears strong Dover run spoiled by final few laps
Casey Mears and the GEICO team arrived in Dover, Delaware, looking forward to a battle royale with the track known as the 'Monster Mile'. One of the toughest tracks on the circuit, Mears recorded a solid first day at the historic facility. He ended up 25th in the opening practice session before later qualifying 22nd for Sunday's FedEx 400.
When racing action got underway on Sunday, Mears and his No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS began their journey from the 22nd position. With 43 cars on a tight-quartered, high-banked, high-speed racetrack, 400-miles of racing is always sure to get interesting. The green flag set the field underway and Mears surrendered four positions and slid back to 26th on the opening lap. The setback was temporary, as he hustled the No. 13 GEICO Chevy back up to 21st by lap nine.
Mears had worked his way up to 15th on lap 140, but just 18 laps later he was dodging flying concrete. Jamie McMurray's car hit a chunk of concrete on the racetrack, spitting it backwards in to a fast-closing GEICO car. Fortunately, Mears sustained just minor damage and the car passed muster during its visit to pit road under caution. The race quickly went to a red flag condition for the second time, leaving the drivers stranded in their racecars for twenty-two minutes while track workers repaired the newly created pothole.
As the race began to wind down, Mears found himself battling a loose-handling GEICO Chevy. Despite the challenge, he remained in the top 20 and seemed to be charging forward. He was riding in the 19th position when the yellow flag flew for debris in turn three. Rather than visit pit road for tires and fuel, crew chief Bootie Barker advised Mears to stay out and take the wavearound, allowing him to regain a lap to the field. The team would be taking a chance, as the decision would leave Mears 10 laps short on fuel should the race stay green for the final 34 miles.
Mears restarted 19th when the green flag turned the field loose on lap 366, hoping for a caution that would allow the GEICO Chevy to visit pit road for tires and fuel. Unfortunately, the gamble did not pay off and Mears was forced to his pit stall under green for fuel with just 11 laps remaining. Just a single lap after returning to the racing surface, Mears notified his crew that he had a right rear tire come apart, once again relegating him to pit lane while his counterparts continued under green flag conditions. As he was exiting pit road, the event's final caution flag of the day waved, sending him yet another lap down to the field. While the final few laps presented significant challenges, Mears still managed to record a 25th place finish, the team's ninth top 25 of the 2014 season.
"Our day started out really strong and the No. 13 GEICO Chevy felt good, which allowed me to get inside the top 15," Mears said. "Unfortunately, we got a little too loose late in the race, which hurt us a little, but the flat tire at the end was really the nail in the coffin. All in all a strong day by our GEICO team and things went well until the end. It was good to be fast and be able to pass people. We're excited to get to Pocono next week."
Next week will find Germain Racing battling the Tricky Triangle in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.
Casey Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Pocono Raceway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, June 6th, at 12:00 PM (EDT). Qualifying will follow at 4:40 PM (EDT).
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