Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Texas Recap, Phoenix Advance CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge Charger) NOTE: Mears, a 27-year-old driver from Bakersfield, Calif., is fresh off a fourth-place finish on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway....
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Texas Recap, Phoenix Advance
CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Mears, a 27-year-old driver from Bakersfield, Calif., is fresh off a fourth-place finish on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Mears finished fourth earlier this season at TMS, matching his career best finish of fourth last season at Watkins Glen. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates announced Monday that Mears would drive the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger in 2006. Mears talks about his race at Texas, ride for next season and outlook for Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway.
OPENING COMMENTS "I was real pleased with our run at Texas. It's been a long time coming. We've had some really good cars this year and for several different reasons we've struggled to bring home the finishes. I'm just real happy that the team has had a chance to get some good results lately. I'm very excited about driving the Texaco/Havoline Dodge next year. It's a pretty big surprise in a lot of ways. We were going to go one direction at one point. I found out Monday morning from Chip that I was going to drive the 42, and I'm very excited about that. Texaco has been in this sport for so long with so many great drivers. I believe they'll be in their 19th season in NASCAR next year. I'm excited to be with that whole group. It's a premiere ride, and I'm looking forward to next year.
"We haven't discussed a lot of the details. We had discussed making some changes going into next year before all this came down. As far as I know everything is going to stay in place on the 42. Nothing is set in stone yet, but as far as I know it's going to be Donnie Wingo and the whole 42 crew. I believe Reed (Sorenson) is going to have the whole 41 crew. As far as I know that's the way it's going to be, but everything has happened so fast lately that there could be some changes."
WHAT'S THE FEELING LIKE GOING INTO A HIGH-SPEED TURN? "If anybody's been on a roller-coaster before that's the closest feeling you'll get to what we do week in and week out. The way that feels on a roller-coaster is a similar feeling. The only difference is you're in control of it and you're not on track. There's room for error and that makes it a little more exciting. I love it. It's what makes me want to do what I do. When I go to places like Texas, Atlanta, Homestead, California Speedway, Michigan, places where you carry a lot of speed and really get back into through the corner, even places like Bristol give me the feeling of fun that tells me what I really like to do."
DO YOU SEE A BENEFIT OF STAYING WITH THREE CARS INSTEAD OF GOING TO FOUR? "Yes I do. I think this whole transition, everything that's transpired the last week or so is going to benefit our whole organization. I think there were a lot of good thoughts going to four cars, and I think our organization could handle that. At the same time, it's going to be nice going into next season not expanding and just trying to be able to perfect what we've got. We're really made some gains and some improvements. Instead of taking time and effort to build more cars for next year, we're going to be able to refine what we already have. I think at the end of the day it's the right decision, and I think it's going to benefit the organization even more."
COMPARE THIS SEASON TO LAST SEASON "From time to time I talk to my uncle Rick (Mears) and yesterday we were on the phone for quite a while discussing everything that was going down. One thing I said to him was that every year I'm involved in stock car racing I get to the end of that year and realize just how much I didn't know the year before and what a big transition it was from open wheels to stock cars. I'm definitely a better driver this season. I think our whole team has been pretty underrated this year. We just haven't gotten the results we deserve. For some reason or another the results we got in Texas was the same thing we should have got in Atlanta. We had a couple of tire issues, but I could go on and on down the list. If the points read the same, what I've learned and the kind of driver I am has excelled and surpassed where we were last season for sure. I'm a lot more comfortable, and I know I can go to every track and have a possibility to win the race if we get things right. I see big improvements over last season."
WHAT WAS THE ADJUSTMENT PERIOD COMING INTO CUP LIKE FOR YOU? "It is complicated for two reasons. Just because for the fact it is complicated. It's a different style racing than you've ever done before growing up. The races in Nextel Cup are so much longer than anything you've been used to. Your mentality has been race-race-race, get everything you can every single lap, don't give anybody any room. That's how you learn growing up because the races are so much shorter you've got to take what you can when you can get it. Not to say we don't drive hard every lap, but there are ways to drive hard and give people room. It's a very tough balance to learn, go out and go fast but don't get in anybody's way. That's difficult. As a rookie, trying to earn respect from some of the other drivers your task is doubly hard. Even if you're doing something right they're going to say you're doing it wrong because you are a rookie even before they can get to you they feel like you're going to do something wrong. So it's a difficult balance. It's funny, not too long ago I was Sterling. We were in a meeting and a couple of comments were made about my rookie year. People were asking me why I was racing them so hard? My comment to them was I signed up for a race. I don't know what they signed up for. There is time to run hard and time to give people room. If you're running in the middle of a race and a guy is running you down half a second a lap, you don't have to run that guy hard and risk the chance of crashing or making a mistake or slowing him down because he feels like racing at that point. He's going to get by you regardless and you just make it harder on both of you. That's been tough to learn the last two years, but I feel like I've got a pretty good grasp on it right now. At the same time you've got to get that respect. In other people's mind you shouldn't be racing them that hard on that lap, but because of the Lucky Dog and the way traffic is right now, you have to run guys harder than you want to. If you lay down you're really losing a lot of positions. It's difficult, but when I see rookies make the same mistakes I made I understand why they got so mad at me. It's just a learning process and everybody picks up on it pretty fast because people let you know right away what you're doing wrong."
COMMENT ON DENNY HAMLIN "I haven't really raced with Denny that much. I raced with him right at the end at Charlotte and got by him at the end. I think he's obviously been smart. These races are long and the first thing you've got to accomplish is finishing. He's been doing that. He's got two guys to look up to, so he's in a good situation."
COMMENT ON GETTING THE TEXACO RIDE "I was excited about doing the 30 car next year. That was something I was pretty pumped up about. Ever since I've been told I'm going to drive the Texaco/Havoline car now, I realize how much I wasn't excited about that 30 deal because I'm so much more excited about this 42 deal. Having a sponsor like Texaco/Havoline that's been in the sport for a lot of years now. So many good drivers have driven this car -- Davey Allison and Kenny Irwan and Dale Jarrett. The list goes on and on -- Ricky Rudd. It's an honor to fill this spot, and I'm excited about it. Going into next year with points is a big deal. It's an established race team. If we don't change anything, which I hope we don't, it's established. It's ready to go. We were starting a whole new deal for next season with a whole new number. It's kind of a relief and then there's a lot of excitement, too, based on who the sponsor is."
WHAT ARE YOUR EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF THE TEXACO CAR? "I remember seeing Davey Allison and Ernie Irvan and Dale Jarrett always doing so well in the car. Also on the Indy Car side Texaco/Havoline was with Newman/Hass for so many years. The relationship with Mario and Michael Andretti always having success growing up are my earlier recollections. It has a heritage and history of success and that's something I'm looking to restore. I think the whole organization of Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing is growing. I feel like we're going to continue to get better. We're having to really refine the car we have. I think we've established a real good base and I want to get Texaco/Havoline back in the winner's circle next year."
CAN YOU PINPOINT ANY FAMILY TRAITS THAT HELP YOU DRIVE AT THIS LEVEL? "I've learned a lot from my dad (Roger Mears) and my uncle (Rick Mears). Both of them had different driving styles. Both of them had a lot of success. My uncle was probably more patient. He took a little more time. My dad was very aggressive into making things happen that were pretty unreal at time. I've tried to take two or three things from both of those guys and try to combine them and try to be aggressive at the right time and try to be patient at the right time. Fortunately when I do something wrong I have both of those guys to lean on and say, 'hey, here's where you did it wrong' and learn from it. I try to apply what those guys have done over the course of their careers and apply it to mine."
COMMENT ON BEING SENIOR CUP DRIVER FOR CHIP GANASSI NEXT SEASON "I don't know what it's going to be like. I don't think I've ever done anything with a senior attached to it before. I've always been the young guy, but I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I've already been working with Reed and David. They're both talented drivers. I can learn some things from them, and I've already done all I can to help them with their Cup career. The thing I like about them most is they're both good guys and they understand the team concept. It's an open book at Ganassi Racing. I think it's already applying. I walked over to David's pit at Charlotte to see if there was anything I could do to help out. I did a little bit and the same thing with Reed. We talked about Atlanta and where he needed to run to run fast. I think maybe I can help speed up their learning process and they're talented drivers and I'll learn some things from them. It should be a lot of fun."
COMMENT ON YOUR TEXAS RUN "I thought it was our race to win. The only issue I had was we could not go fast for about 10 or 15 laps.We were just way too loose. After 10 or 15 laps we were the fastest thing on the racetrack, but the leader would gap us so much after a restart that it took 15-20 laps to run 'em back down. I knew the worst thing that could happen was a late caution and we ended up having a late caution. I feel like it really hurt us because I think if it had gone green we would have had a good shot to win the race."
COMMENT ON RUNNING AT PHOENIX "I've done a lot of testing here in Indy Lights and I did an IndyCar race here. I like coming back to Phoenix. I'm actually out here now. It feels like I'm getting back home a little bit. It's close to the west coast. I have a lot of friends and family coming out. I'm excited about it. We were really fast last year in the fall race. We were running third at the time and had a left rear tire go down and ended up crashing with about 10 laps to go. It showed us if we get the car right there we can have a lot of success at this track. We came back in the spring with a totally different geometry package in the front and struggled. We've gone back to our fall setup from last year, and that's how we'll start out this week."
DID YOU CALL YOUR UNCLE ABOUT THE NEW RIDE? "Yes, and he was really excited about it. He was well aware of the direction I was going. Over the last couple of years my dad and uncle have both retired and I've looked up to them for so long. It's nice to see the roles reversed and see how excited they get about me racing. They've been really supportive. I talk to my dad all the time. He drives my motorhome and he's there for each and every practice and qualifying and after each race. I always get advice from my dad. My uncle and I keep in touch, and I get advice and not just racing advice. All this stuff about what ride should I take, what's going to happen, stuff behind the scenes, I ask for advice on that, too."