The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series arrived in Fontana, CA, this weekend for their third and final installment of March's west coast swing. It was a homecoming of sorts for Casey Mears, who hails from Bakersfield, CA, which sits approximately 150-miles away.
Racing in his backyard is a favorite of the GEICO driver and his effort in practice indicated so. Mears hustled the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS around the 2-mile D-shaped oval fast enough to end up 8th on the board when the weekend's opening practice session came to a close. He later qualified 23rd after touring the facility in just 38.757-seconds, at a speed of 185.773-miles per hour. Saturday saw Mears and the GEICO Chevy in the top-10 in the morning practice session, where they finished up ninth quick.
On Sunday, Mears started the race from the 23rd position. After dropping to 27th on the third lap, he quickly rebounded and soon had the No. 13 GEICO Chevy back in the top-20. A frightening moment occurred during the lap 120 caution, when the crew found themselves face-to-face with fire after a hot lugnut made contact with gasoline, causing flames to erupt on the left rear of the racecar. It was extinguished quickly and no one was injured. Shortly after his dance with fire, Mears went on a tear with 56-laps to go in the 200-lap event that saw him charge up to 11th place before tires got the best of him as the race wound down. The race would extend into overtime after a yellow flag was displayed with just two laps remaining in the advertised distance. On the final restart of the day, Mears took off from 21st, but collected four positions in the final two laps of the overtime finish to take the checkered flag in the 17th position.
Atop Mears' pit wagon during the race was the unified middleweight champion, and pound-for-pound best boxer in the world, Gennady Golovkin, a fighter whose spirit matches that of the Germain Racing team.
"The GEICO Chevy was fast today and it really took off there in the last 50 or so laps. It was fun to drive through the field and get to the front," Mears said. "The tire fall-off was huge, so about 18-laps into a run I found myself sliding all over the place. My focus today was to keep the car off of the wall because a lot of guys were hitting the outside wall and I knew if I could avoid that, we would be competitive. The guys did a nice job on pit road today and it feels good to have a solid finish after a tough couple of weeks in Vegas and Phoenix." He added, "It was great having Gennady (Golovkin) on the pit wagon and supporting us during the race today. Our team always fights really hard and it was nice having a guy there who is a champion and has that same type of toughness. He's a great guy and we appreciate his support."
After three weeks of touring the west coast, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will enjoy a week off before returning to action in Martinsville, VA.
Casey Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Martinsville Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, April 1st, at 11:00 AM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 4:15 PM (ET).