Casey Mears and his GEICO team entered Kansas with three consecutive top 20 finishes under their belts and were looking to continue that run. Saturday marked the first time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced at night at Kansas Speedway and the full grandstands reflected the significance of the event.
Mears and his No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS were quick off of the truck and ended up 11th at the close of the weekend's opening practice session on Friday. Final practice saw Mears 26th on the board before he later qualified 27th for the 5-Hour Energy 400.
When race fans arrived at the track for Saturday evening's 267-lap event, rain threatened the area and even caused a short delay. The precipitation cleared quickly and the green flag set the field underway just a few minutes after the scheduled start time. Mears and his GEICO Chevy rolled off of the starting grid from the 27th position and quickly moved into the top 25 on the opening lap. Unf ortunately, he would soon encounter handling issues with the racecar that would find him battling a loose condition that plagued him for the balance of the evening.
Despite an evening-long confrontation with an ill-handling racecar, Mears and his GEICO crew remained persistent throughout the race. The Germain Racing team made wholesale changes during several pitstops that seemed to help the GEICO Chevy as the race began to wear down. However, disaster nearly struck when A.J. Allmendinger spun in front of Mears on lap 187, forcing the GEICO machine into the grass where it spun up and across the racetrack. Mears did a masterful job of controlling the car, avoiding peril and saving it from any significant damage.
Mears recovered from the lap 187 incident and had moved up to 23rd, in the free pass position, before an empty gas tank sent him scurrying down pit road for fuel on lap 256. The car struggled to re-fire during his pit stop, costing him valuable seconds as he rejoined the field with just nine laps remaining in the race. While the spin on lap 187 and the setback on pit road provided significant challenges, Mears managed to rally back and hustle the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS to a 26th place finish.
"It was a long night and we really struggled to get the #13 GEICO Chevy where we needed it to be," Mears said. "We were fortunate not to get caught up in that crash. The guys worked hard the entire race and we will now focus on getting to Charlotte next week and learning as much as we can at the Sprint Showdown. Hopefully, we'll learn some things that will benefit us in the Coca-Cola 600 the following week."
The next two weeks will serve as an opportunity for the Germain Racing team to sleep in their own beds, as they will race just down the road in Concord, NC.
The back half of May will feature Mears piloting a military-themed No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS at both the Sprint Showdown and the Coca-Cola 600. GEICO and Germain Racing will salute our troops with a camouflage-accented paint scheme, accompanied by a Gecko wearing a military helmet on the hood of the car.