Neither rainy days nor Mondays will be getting the Germain Racing team down this week. Monday kicks off a week free of racing for the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS and Casey Mears. Heading into the break, the organization has a lot to be proud of after leaving Pocono with a 16th place finish and scoring another top result at a rain-soaked Michigan.
The "Quicken Loans 400" weekend at Michigan International Speedway was repeatedly interrupted by rain, but none of the cloud cover seemed to dim the spirits in the No. 13 garage area. Mears posted solid practice times of 21st, 18th and 23rd, and qualified 27th for Sunday's 200-lap event.
Rain showers were present on Sunday morning, but the race went green with just a slight delay after the Air Titans got a thorough workout as they prepared the track for 400-miles of racing. The racing action, however, was short-lived. Mears picked off four spots, made a brief mention of the GEICO Chevy's water temperature running a bit warm and then the fun was put on hold by ra in. The red flag was displayed at lap 14. Cars were put under cover on pit road, the dryers went back on track, and Mears stopped by the GEICO pit box to chat with the crew. The track cleanup took about an hour but, as the field started the 'one-to-go' lap, the rain fell again and the cars were back on pit road, covered up, again. Racing restarted anew at lap 29 with Mears in 23rd place.
The new race was to get to the competition caution at lap 40. Under that caution, Mears came to the attention of the GEICO crew for four tires. He entered the pits 24th and left in 28th, as many teams opted for two-tire stops. While rain threatened, crew chief Bootie Barker was confident there was plenty of racing to come and four tires would serve Mears better.
It wasn't ground hog day, but rather a bad case of "Race. Rinse. Repeat." Before the field could get back to green after the competition caution, the red flag was displayed at lap 46. Again.
Racing resumed on lap 52, but slowed quickly for a wreck by the 18 car just two laps later before restarting at lap 60 for a long green flag run, which featured pit stops by much of the Quicken Loans 400 field. Mears and Barker pushed the fuel envelope and the gamble paid off. Mears was running in the third position before he pitted at lap 94 for four tires and fuel. Meanwhile, racing continued under green until the leaders began another round of green flag pit stops. Mears stayed out and again held his position even against cars with fresh tires until the fourth caution of the race waved at lap 126 for debris. Mears earned the opportunity to return to the lead lap in 14th place before capturing an additional spot and moving into 13th.
The final caution and subsequent red flag at lap 138 proved to be the end of the rain-shortened Quicken Loans 400. While he started 27th, Mears made an assault on the field and collected 14 positions before recording a 13th place finish in the wet Irish Hills of Michigan.
"This was a very strong race for the GEICO Chevrolet SS team. We got a bit tight as the race progressed, but the car was good. Bootie and the guys made great strategy calls and we caught a caution when we really needed it," said Mears, who now sits just 12 points removed from the top-20 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers points standings.
Big mover Mears collects 14 positions to finish 13th in Michigan
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