CASEY MEARS, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S/CARQUEST IMPALA SS, met with members of the media and discussed his second season with Hendrick Motorsports; his three teammates, racing the Impala SS; expectations for the season and more. ON FEELINGS STARTING ...
CASEY MEARS, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S/CARQUEST IMPALA SS, met with members of the media and discussed his second season with Hendrick Motorsports; his three teammates, racing the Impala SS; expectations for the season and more.
ON FEELINGS STARTING SEASON WITH NEW CAR NUMBER, CREW CHIEF AND TEAMMATE: "It feels real good to be coming back for the second year with Hendrick Motorsports. I think the first year was a learning transition, getting to know everybody. Even though I have a lot of good friends there, I am still learning how that organization runs and what they are all about. Coming back this year, I really feel like I am a part of the team whereas last year, I was just trying to get to know the team. Obviously winning last year was a big deal for us. Now coming back with the No. 5 team, I am very excited about the future. Everything is looking really good. I think we are better prepared this year than we ever were last season. We are ready to go.
"I think what a lot of people forget about that (talk about teammates) is that doesn't affect racing and that is what we are here to do. Everybody is worried about that or think that is a big topic, and to me it is just not that big of a deal. As far as those guys getting a lot of media attention and having a lot of fans versus where I am at right now, does not affect my job whatsoever. That is just an outside look on things and it doesn't affect how I feel, I mean, I am here to go racing. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know those guys are all going to get a lot of attention.
"I am just happy to have them as teammates, I think they are all great guys who are fast. I can learn a lot from them, and at the same time, I can contribute just as much. When we sit down in our meetings, the fans and the media aren't there to remind us about who is where on the scale. You just sit there and talk about what your car is doing and you work together as a team. I get that question a lot, but it is probably one of those things that is most not an issue that is out there.
"The thing I really like about Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) is hiss confidence. He has a lot of confidence in what he has done in the past, he is very confident in the team and I just really enjoy working with him. When he makes a decision, he is very definite it, I like that too. You can tell when he makes a decision, he is confident in it and I like that too because it helps me be confident in those decisions he is making too. Knowing him going in to this season was definitely key for me. I knew of Darian (Grubb), but I didn't really know him very well and with him coming in late, it took a while for us to figure each other out. But fortunately Alan and I through the course of last year had some awesome opportunities to talk and get to know one another a little bit and it has made that transition a lot smoother this year."
ON PUTTING ADDITIONAL PRESSURE ON HIMSELF: "I always put a lot of pressure on myself to try to do well. I don't feel like I put any more pressure on myself then versus now. Knowing a lot of things that we went through last year to try to get the team sorted out and get it to where we felt like we could win races on a weekly basis, it took a while last year. This year, moving in to the No. 5 team with the success that they had last year and the fact that group has been together for so long is going to get us up and running a lot faster.
"It feels more like family, more like my team now. Going in to last year, I was obviously hired on new and learning and just getting to know a lot of people at Hendrick Motorsports even though I had a lot of friends that are there, but it took a while to learn everybody and how they do things there. Now I definitely like I am coming back to my team, even though there was a change."
"You always learn a lot of little things throughout a season. It is hard to pinpoint one particular thing that is probably big, but, like my uncle (Rick Mears) always said, if you stop learning throughout your racing career, you might as well retire. You always learn something. The biggest thing is keeping up with this new car and learning how to drive this new car. Learning what it likes. Learning what kind of changes it wants, I think that is the biggest learning curve everybody has right now. Going to some of these bigger tracks, is definitely a big challenge.
"It is really its own animal. It definitely similar to the cars we have driven in the past, but the closest things it is close to is the cars we drove last year. Still, not even close to that. Just a different animal in the way your approach it, working the bump-stop versus working on springs, trying to learn that whole combination. The car has less downforce and a lot higher roll center so it doesn't respond and turn as well, so there are just a lot of things. The hard thing about this car, it never really feels good. You might be running good laps times, but it just never really feels good so it is hard to go back and tell my crew chief, man, I know the laps times are good, but this thing doesn't feel very good. Learning what good is with this new car is going to take a little bit of time because even when they are good, they don't feel good."
ON HOW MUCH ALL FOUR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS DRIVERS INTERACT: "We have always all talked. Honestly, Junior has come in and has done a really good job of being a good teammate. Right away we communicated in the mornings before the test, we all have meetings mid-day together along with our crew chiefs and then again after the test, we all got together and talked. We will have a lot more answers to a lot of these questions as we get in to the season and see how the race weekends go, but leading up to this point everything has been going really well and everyone is communicating really well."
ON LEARNING ANYTHING ABOUT JUNIOR THAT SURPRISED HIM: "No, not really. I have known him for a good while now. Everyone has a different approach as to how they do things obviously and we are slowly learning how Junior explains his car and things like that. But as far as a personality and a person, I haven't learned anything new, but as we go down the road, I am sure I will."
ON WHAT WOULD BE A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: "A successful season for us would be to make the Chase and win a championship. When I say this it kind of sounds like it is coming out of left field because of where we finished in the points in the past. But really, I look at this as being my best scenario I have ever had in a very long time. I think we can easily have the opportunity and everything there to make the Chase. Last year if I could have just gotten back just four or five of those races in the beginning of the season, before we got things sorted out, we could have made the Chase. Like I said, it is never easy, but all the tools and the pieces of the puzzle are there to do that. Once we make the Chase, we are there to win the Championship. We will have to see how it plays out, but our goal this year is to win."
-credit: gm racing