Casey Mears, No. 13 Geico Chevrolet SS met with media and discussed the racing community of Bakersfield, the change to the Chase format, his thoughts on social media, and more.
TALK ABOUT YOUR SEASON...
“Everybody is always excited about a season, but we are especially excited at Germain Racing, for sure. We’ve got a lot of things going on with the partnership with RCR. So far all the testing has gone really well. We tested with a lot of speed here in Daytona and went to Nashville, and that worked out really well, too. It’s a big step for our organization. Last year was our first full season and now having a full relationship with RCR from the technical side to being able to review data, cars parts and pieces, it’s a real big step in the right direction for our program.”
BAKERSFIELD SEEMS LIKE A REALLY TIGHT-KNIT COMMUNITY. DID YOU FEEL CONNECTED TO THAT RACING COMMUNITY AS YOU WERE GROWING UP?
‘I did, for sure. In Bakersfield, there’s farming and oil and racing. Really, there is. I don’t know if it’s just because I grew up in it that I knew about it so much, but there is.
WHEN GUYS COME OUT HERE FROM THERE, DO YOU KEEP AN EYE-OUT FOR THEM AND REACH OUT TO THEM BECAUSE YOU KNOW BAKERSFIELD?
“You know what’s funny, is although I heard about some of the younger guys going up, I’ve only seen them around. I haven’t really met them. There is such an age disparity. I think now being back in North Carolina and having a family of my own, it probably took away a little bit from the time that I might have spent back in Bakersfield. So, to be quite honest, when these guys came up, I’d heard of them but really didn’t know them a whole lot. I did have some friends back in Bakersfield I knew that were crew chiefing some of those guys in Late Models and I heard about them coming out in this direction. I know Kevin (Harvick) had a little bit tighter line of sight in bringing a couple of guys out to let them run the trucks and stuff back a couple of years ago. But yeah, you keep tabs. But I don’t know them well.”
DID YOU AND KEVIN HARVICK RUN AGAINST EACH OTHER IN THE EARLY DAYS IN BAKERSFIELD?
“No. Like when we raced go-karts and stuff, he was always a couple of years ahead of me, which was a couple of classes ahead of me. I was there and watched. He raced with my cousin quite a bit. He raced against my brother a lot at Mesa Marin in the stock cars. But as I started getting involved in that stuff, he was already progressing back this way.”
YOU COME FROM A RACING FAMILY. DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD HAVE FOUND YOUR WAY RACING, REGARDLESS OF BAKERSFIELD?
“It’s always hard to say that. I think I have so many ties to my family that a lot of the reasons why I’m racing is because of that. But there is a big racing crowd there and if you wanted to go racing, it wouldn’t be hard to get involved directly. It’s hard to think about that what-if’s. But for sure, I could have definitely gone down that road.
THERE IS A LARGE ROOKIE CLASS THIS YEAR. DO YOU THINK IT’S POSSIBLE TO TAKE THAT LOWER TIER RIDE OR ARE YOU SELLING YOURSELF SHORT RIGHT OUT OF THE GATE?
“You know what’s hard in our sport is it’s hard to prove yourselves in some of those smaller teams. It really is. So, what you risk as a young guy coming into a team that maybe can’t quite get it done, there might always be that question in your mind to other bigger team owners. You know, is it them or is it the team the reason why they’re not performing. And quite honestly if you’re not with one of the bigger teams that has the funding to really take advantage of it and do it right, it’s very hard to compete at this level. Obviously if they can do something and really standout, it’s not a bad road to take. But it can work for you in either direction, really, depending on how it shakes out.”
WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR GOOD WORK ETHIC?
“For sure from my dad, and my mom. Really. Just growing up with those guys. My mom worked countless hours trying to do everything behind the scenes to help my dad’s race program stay where it is. She did the books, she did all the travel, she did everything. And my dad was into it 24/7. My dad didn’t grow up in a wealthy family. They loved to go racing. They worked on backhoes throughout the week to pay for their racing habit on the weekends and that’s just what they did. They raced Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; and a lot of times on Sundays. I learned it from my parents.”
DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST SET OF WHEELS AS A KID?
“The very first thing that I got really excited about was my dad ended-up with a Diamond Back sponsor at one point and I was racing BMX at the time and I got a brand new Diamond Back BMX bike. And that was the first thing that I got really, really excited about.”
ON THE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL ENTITIES OF RACING
“It varies from track to track. At Daytona and Talladega, more than the physical demanding side, it’s just very tense. You’re running so close and so tight, and you find yourself gripping the wheel a lot tighter than you should. You are thinking about a lot of things and you mentally just get drained. On top of that, it gets hot. And that’s when the physical aspect comes in. But then when you get to a place like Bristol or Martinsville or Watkins Glen or Sonoma, you physically can get tired. Your arms, your shoulders, your legs, how hard your pressing on the brakes, there’s a lot more physical aspects to what we do than I think a lot of people have thought in the past.”
NASCAR.COM JUST ANNOUNCED THEY ARE DOING FANTASY RACING. DO YOU HAVE A FANTASY RACING TEAM? DO YOU THINK IT’S A WAY TO BRING MORE FANS INTO THE SPORT LIKE THE NFL HAS?
“I don’t personally have a fantasy team. I think I focus so much on actually doing it, that it’s hard. I do think it’s impressive how far it’s come. I think it’s a great way to get fans involved and keep them engaged. I know from the fantasy football side of things, just listening to the people that are involved in that, it becomes passionate.
“It’s just like anything else. If you throw a bet down but you don’t really care about it, you’re not going to follow it. But when you watch these guys who invest some in their football teams or their racing teams and it really gives you something to pull for and something to root for, and I think it’s a great thing.”
WHY DO YOU THINK NASCAR MADE SUCH A DRAMATIC CHANGE TO THE CHASE FORMAT?
“I think the biggest thing is to create more excitement and I think making it easier for a lot of the fans to follow it. Quite honestly, if you start getting into the nuts and bolts of how it’s always been, it can get somewhat confusing to the casual fan. So It think that one, it’s going to make it a lot more exciting; and two, I think it makes it a lot easier to kind of understand. When you look at other sports, it’s very simple. Somebody wins and somebody loses. And that’s how it goes on down the line until somebody wins the championship. And in our sport, it was always very convoluted. There were do many bonus points and extra things. Somebody can finish fifth and still win the championship and it’s kind of hard to understand that sometimes.”
DOES SUCH A DRASTIC CHANGE HURT THE INTEGRITY OF THE SPORT?
“I really don’t think so. Our world has changed so much. You’ve got to be careful to understand the history of our sport and honor that. But at the end of the day, the world has changed so much. The sponsors have changed so much. The amount of dollars that are flowed into these programs has changed a lot. So, I think they’ve done a good job of clarifying those things.
“We’ll all be able to look back at the end of this year and go man, if it was last year’s rules, we would have finished much better. But at the end of the day, it’s the same points for everybody. Everybody has the same opportunity and it’s going to be who takes advantage of it the best.”
ANY CONCERNS THAT WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP OVER TIME WON’T MEAN THE SAME?
“No way. No, not at all. If you’re in that top four going into Homestead, you’ve earned it. I think they way they have it stacked out right now, you can’t be a fluke and win and make it in that final four. If you won a race, you’re going to have to back it up from the time the Chase starts until the time it ends to have an opportunity to win the championship. The guy or gal that wins this year, it’s going to be earned.”
WHO IS THE PERSON YOU MOST ENJOY FOLLOWING ON TWITTER?
“You know what’s funny is that I follow more people that are outside of our sport than I do inside our sport. I follow a handful of the drivers. I enjoy following Jimmie (Johnson) just because he’s a friend of mine. Anything personal that he posts about his family and his kids and stuff is always fun for me to just take a look at.”
HOW MUCH TIME TO YOU SPEND ON TWITTER DURING AN AVERAGE WEEK OR AVERAGE DAY?
“When it started out, I was trying to be very active in it. And I still do, from time to time. I post something anywhere to maybe three times a week to maybe 15 times a week depending on what’s doing on during that weekend or if it’s exciting or if there is something worth posting. At first I was like you know, hey, good morning. Or, what are you guys doing for breakfast? (laughs) And you find yourself quite honestly, finding that balance between real life and what you do and actually keeping the fans engaged and posting things that have good content. There’s a good balance there.”
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST BENEFIT OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN GENERAL?
“Just the fans interaction. It’s such a direct way to connect with the people that love our sport. And, I think at first I was very hesitant to do it because the Internet was so unpredictable. People could just post whatever they want and some of it was positive and some of it was negative. But I find that it’s a good outlet for us to post what we want on the Internet. Post the good pictures and the good things that are going on in our lives. So really, it has turned out to be a good outlet to make it a positive platform to post what you want.”
DO YOU EVER HAVE THOSE TIMES WHEN YOU JUST GET FED UP WITH IT?
“Not necessarily. I think one time when Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. ran into me on pit road and I got the tail-end of it, you know what I mean? It was like I was coming into my pit stall and he ran into me and I got all this flack for getting in his way, you know (laughter). It was crazy. You have those fans but it’s more than something that upsets you; it’s just something kind of funny.”
DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF HOW MANY FOLLOWERS YOU HAVE VERSUS OTHER DRIVERS?
“Not necessarily because I really think there could be a lot of things that could boost my following. But it requires some intense interaction followed by mailing things out or sending things out and doing those types of things. And just being a smaller team, a smaller organization, I really don’t have the staff that a lot of these guys to do follow-through with doing those types of things. So, I post as I see fit and if people want to follow, great. And if they don’t, no problem.”