When the season finale rolled around in Homestead, FL, Casey Mears and the Germain Racing team were about to conclude their most successful year as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team. Impending weather threatened for the second consecutive week, but Mears was able to get the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS on track for practice and qualifying.
Mears was 25th in the opening practice session and ended up a deceiving 27th in qualifying after a fellow competitor thwarted an otherwise strong qualifying run. Saturday saw Germain Racing show their real strength when Mears quickly hustled around the 1.5-mile oval and land 14th on the board in the final practice session of the 2015 season. Both team and driver eagerly anticipated Sunday's green flag.
Inclement weather set in on Sunday afternoon, which would find the Sprint Cup Series in its second rain delay in as many weeks. Unlike Phoenix, however, the rain cleared quickly and after track drying was complete, Mears buckled into his GEICO Chevy on the starting grid, where cars got rolling with only a minimal delay.
When the green flag turned the field loose for the final time this year, Mears rolled off from the 27th position and almost instantly found himself going head-to-head with a loose condition. It is rare that such a problem would wreak havoc so early, so when Mears noticed that his trackbar was all the way up at 14, he knew something was awry. He noticed his display going in and out and that his trackbar was stuck and by lap seven, Mears had dropped to 31st and his display was gone completely. Fortunately, the first caution flag of the day waved on lap 13, allowing him the opportunity to bring his GEICO Chevy down pit road. The Germain Racing pit crew attempted to rectify the problem by making a manual trackbar adjustment, but it wouldn't budge and it was determined that the problem was the trackbar motor.
When the race returned to green on lap 18, Mears would be forced to start from the 41st position after the lengthy pit stop under yellow to work on the car. He had worked his way up to 35th by lap 21, when he informed crew chief Bootie Barker that the trackbar worked momentarily and he was able to get it down to 11 before it quit working again. The change helped and Mears immediately began charging forward, collecting 14 positions in 12 laps, moving into the 27th position by lap 30. "It feels like I'm on ice," Mears said, while passing cars and continuing his ascent up the scoring tower. He had worked his way up to 19th by lap 44, but two laps later, the tides would turn.
On lap 46, a handful of racecars began making contact, leaving spotter Ron Lewis to help Mears navigate the carnage and smoke present as sheet metal flew. His efforts were successful and Mears was able to clear the incident before a fellow competitor came out of nowhere to make contact with the rear of the No. 13 GEICO Chevy. The result was a hard hit for Mears and heavy damage to the racecar. He was able to drive away slowly, allowing him to pull into the garage where the Germain Racing team went to work repairing the significant damage in hopes of returning Mears to the race.
The GEICO team was expeditious in their efforts and, despite the severe damage to the No. 13 Chevy, Mears was able to rejoin the field on lap 150, where he was scored in the 43rd position. After collecting as many points as possible and moving up to 42nd place, Mears delivered his badly damaged racecar to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage on lap 210 of 267, closing out a tough evening of racing. While Mears' race ended prematurely, it did not spoil the fact that the Germain Racing team turned in a solid season that saw them record their best year since entering the Sprint Cup Series in 2009.
With GEICO and Mears both extended for at least the next three seasons, Germain Racing is excited about the prospects, as this week will find them back at the shop working on the 2016 cars.
"Tonight was tough because once I was able to get the trackbar down to 11, I was able to pass cars and make up ground," Mears said. "The GEICO Chevy was strong and it's a shame we got taken out like that. I'm so proud of the guys on this team; they always work hard and never quit. They could've easily packed up the car when I came to the garage, but they were committed to getting it back on the track. We have a great group of people and we're all excited about 2016. I just can't thank GEICO and our team owner Bob Germain enough for all of their support."
The next item circled on the Germain Racing calendar is their trip to Daytona in February. The Daytona 500 is on Sunday, February 21, 2016.