Daytona 500: Mears - Media Day visit

CASEY MEARS, NO. 90 KEYED UP MOTORSPORTS IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Daytona Media Day and discussed his new team, expectations, new NASCAR rules and other topics. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO COME DOWN HERE IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ...

CASEY MEARS, NO. 90 KEYED UP MOTORSPORTS IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Daytona Media Day and discussed his new team, expectations, new NASCAR rules and other topics.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO COME DOWN HERE IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SITUATION THIS YEAR THAN LAST? "It's hard to tell yet to be honest, until we get on the track and really see what we have we know we have a car that's a couple years old. Sometimes that doesn't matter a whole lot on the superspeedways. The good thing is we're able to secure an ECR engine and obviously they've been competitive over the last few years. As far as buying, they bought the cars through DEI so we're able to get a transmission, drive line, rear-end through them so we got a lot of good parts and pieces on the car, the only question in our minds at all is if the car is a little old and how's that gonna affect it when it comes to speed. When we get on the track and we run I'll have a better opinion on how I feel about being here. I haven't been in this position, not having points coming into Daytona, since the first time I came here with Ganassi and we raced our way in fortunately and obviously the stuff was right and working real good and I didn't know what I was doing. Now I know what I'm doing and it's gonna be curious to see whether or not we get the car handling properly and get it good enough to race in."

WHAT'S YOUR PROGRAM FOR THE YEAR, WHAT DO YOU HAVE GOING? "Right now the only thing that's locked in, there's a lot of talk about some Nationwide stuff, truck stuff, hit and miss Cup things, but the only thing that is locked in right now for sure is the six-race deal with Key-Up Motorsports."

DO YOU RACE WITH AN ATTITUDE OF 'NOTHING TO LOOSE'? "Absolutely, the whole thing here is to qualify one, we get in the show then we are able to approach the race and I think that obviously if we do make the race we got to have realistic goals and I think a big accomplishment for us would be to make all the races and be inside the top-35 when the music stops at the end five races and be able to get into Martinsville regardless would be good."

I ASKED BOTH OF YOUR FORMER CHILDRESS TEAMMATES HOW THEY FELT ABOUT YOUR SITUATION AND BOTH EXPRESSED SOME EMPATHY AND BOTH SAID YOU WERE A REALLY GOOD TEAMMATE LAST YEAR ON THAT TEAM -- "I appreciate that, it's hard in one year to get at home. I think the last third of last year things were starting to really come together as far as feeling at home over there and getting to know those guys, I think they understood where I was and what I was looking for and I think there was a good mutual respect there for those guys and it was a lot of fun being over at RCR. Right now obviously the immediate future is here in Daytona and that's really what I'm focused on. I appreciate those guys feel that way and I feel the same way about them and hopefully make something good happen the first part of this year and spark something for the remainder of the season."

HOW TO YOU CHANGE YOUR MINDSET FROM BEING AT CHILDRESS AND HAVING A FULL-TIME, LOCKED-IN RIDE TO RACING WEEK BY WEEK NOW? "You know I don't think your mindset per say changes on how you approach racing in general, it's pretty much the same but obviously those Fridays are going to be a little different qualifying in and I guess what's going to affect my mindset the most is after practice on Friday if I feel like we have a realistic shot or if we about not to make it. That's going to change your approach on how you go out and cut that lap on Friday and once that's done you can relax and go to racing just like you always do but obviously those Friday's are going to be a lot different."

ESPECIALLY FOR THE 500 AND FOR THE DUELS, HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THAT? "I think the biggest thing we can do, it's different here you want to have a really fast lap but at the same time you got to have a car that handles these days at Daytona. I mean it use to be with the old car you know we'd run 15, 16-18 laps wide-open all the way around this place before you would have to start lifting and the tires would work and I'm seeing guys now getting four or five laps in and having to peddle-it the cars have to handle and have to be right. I'd almost feel better if it was Talladega in a way as far as qualifying and racing just because you pick the right holes, you're on an equal playing field with everybody. When you come to Daytona these days now you got to have a car that handles, that got to be the number one thing that we need to work on obviously we need to go out and see if we have speed, need to do some qualifying runs and about the end of the day we're going to have to get in the pack at some point and really see make sure that cars handles the way its suppose to."

YOU ARE WITH KEY-UP MOTORSPORTS FOR THE FIRST SIX RACES, HAVE YOU TALKED TO ANYBODY ABOUT RIDES AFTER THAT? "I've talked to probably just about everybody to be honest, there are some possibilities of some things for 2011 for sure. There may be some things that open up mid-season; there may be some new teams that start up six or eight races into, there still some guys trying to put programs together for 2010 and just couldn't get it quite done in time so there are a lot of little things happening. I've talked to Richard a lot and I know he was really wanting to continue running that fourth program and they're continually searching for sponsorship and if something was to come together maybe there's five, six, eight, ten races still there so I'm pretty much talking to everybody. I'm hoping that a lot of guys view me after these six races that if I don't get to continue with Keyed-Up Motorsports hopefully I'm that first guy on the bench that can get the job done if something opens up I'll be there."

HOW DOES YOUR ROLE CHANGE WITHIN A TEAM GOING FROM A POWERHOUSE ORGANIZATION LIKE CHILDRESS TO A STARTUP TEAM LIKE KEYED-UP, DOES YOUR ROLE CHANGE? "My role changes for sure, I think when you go into an RCR or Hendrick Motorsports your another piece to the puzzle. I think in one of these deals they are leaning on me a lot to get the job done and also to give them advice on what they need, how the car feels, what I'm looking for and obviously coming into a new program like this and you're a rookie and you don't really know exactly how a car is suppose to feel it'd be hard to get it there. I think having the experience is going to help me and help these guys get to where they need to be quicker."

IS THAT, FRIDAY GETTING INTO THE SHOW, IS THAT GOING TO BE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR YOU PERSONALLY BECAUSE IF YOU'RE IN THE SHOW, YOU'VE BEEN THERE AND YOU'VE DONE THAT? "Sure, it's going to be interesting to see you know I haven't been through it in a long time the first time I was telling these guys the first time that I started my first year in Cup with Genesis I had to qualify in the first few races and that was pretty nerve-racking I remember it but now days with the way that its getting approaches is there's a handful of us that are qualifying to run the whole race and then there is another handful that are qualifying to start and park basically so your racing your legitimate guys and your also having to race guys that aren't going to run the whole time which I've never looked at it from this perspective and its actually in a lot of ways I'm not glad I'm here but I'm glad I've got the opportunity to view it from this perspective because there is a whole new world on this side of having to qualify in and I hope when all said and done if I hope that we make it in and I hope that if we don't make it in its not because two or three guys that are going to park made it in front of us, that would be kind of hard to swallow."

WHAT SHOULD NASCAR DO, WE JUST TALKED TO MIKE HELTON, AND HE WAS TALKING ABOUT START AND PARKS AND MAKING SURE TEAMS DIDN'T ABUSE IT -- WHERE IS THE HAPPY MEDIUM? "It's the first time I've really looked at it. The only way to do it is try to hold everybody's feet to the fire. I know some of the guys that are doing it and that's the only way that they are getting by and from that perspective I don't want to see those guys being a scenario or situation where they get shutdown. At the same time being in my scenario knowing we are going to race the race and we are putting the time towards developing a pit crew, paying for the engines the whole race, to be now in this scenario really the only way is to make teams have to buy all the tires, if they park and if it's not valid and they can't find something really wrong with the car maybe it's not just not getting the prize money maybe it's a little bit of a penalty. At the end of the day, what makes it tough is there are guys that have been in the sport a long time that in a sense got the wrong end of the deal and it's their way of making a living right now and I'm a part of that as the next guy because I feel like they deserve that at the very least. But at the same time it's a tough situation beyond this side of the coin if we qualify in and it's not issue and if we qualify in and two or three guys get in that aren't going to run it kind of it will bother you a little bit.

WHO IS DOING THE CHASSIS, MOTORS, STUFF LIKE THAT? "We bought some cars from DEI, initially bought two down force cars and two superspeedway cars. I know the superspeedway stuff for sure is probably two years old and their down force stuff is probably a year and a half old as well. They bought another two DEI cars that I think Arica Armorial was going to race last year and then it didn't come together. I think they are good cars, they are just dated and talking a lot with Raymond Key and talking a lot with Richard and the guys at DEI we were able to secure an ECR motor for Daytona, DEI was able to help us out with a transmission, rear-end gear, so the package should be pretty good other than the car being dated obviously we want to get our handling right for California and those places. We've been leaning on a lot of guys at DEI and RCR just to get the parts we need to get there and everybody's been real helpful and we'll just have to see how the time comes. Not running these cars I don't know anything yet until we actually get on the track and know what kind of things we need to accomplish from here."

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SAY HI TO ALL THE MEN AND WOMEN SERVING ALL AROUND THE WORLD? "I'd love to say hi to everybody in the military, I really appreciate what you do. I know when I ran for National Guard I really got a good behind the scenes look at what the men and women do overseas and here at home and it's amazingly appreciated. Hopefully some of you guys can watch on Sunday "We went to Walter-Reid a couple years ago and it's definitely best wishes to anybody that's been injured in the military I think the one thing that I was most impressed about was talking to everyone that was majorly injured and how up-beat they were and how good they felt about what they were doing overseas, just really appreciate that attitude and everything they go through."

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS, CAN YOU GO THE FIRST FIVE OR SIX RACES AND GET IN THE TOP-35? "I think we could, Doug Richards is the crew chief on the deal and pretty much the manager and getting everybody hired, wither or not we're going to work well together we'll find out. He's a good guy and has been around the sport long enough to know what it takes to make the show and hopefully we can do that. We are getting some good help from some good teams that just want us to succeed and I think that the reality is that we can make all these races and if we do then our reality for us is to start between 15th and 25th and if we can do that and not have any big hiccups then that's something we can accomplish for sure."

INCREASE IN FEMALE FANS? "I think everybody is important, and anybody that enjoys our sport as much as we do we like. It's neat to see that there has been an influx of female fans over the last five, six years and I really think it's starting to take shape and a lot of that is because there are some die-hard fans that like racing but really I think what our sport has kind of turned into a little bit more of now is that with the internet and TV shows with the amount of exposure that were getting now a lot of the female fans want to know what's going on behind the scenes. Your married, you have kids, oh no kidding that's how that works, what's going on, and then what's cool about that is that's gets them into the sport, gets them a better understanding and once they're in then they start watching it on TV and start understanding it. It's neat seeing a fan and then three years later seeing that same fan and them asking why did you take two tires, why not four, asking a technical question and knowing that they've learned a lot over the three years. "

DO YOU THINK THEY ARE ATTRACTED BECAUSE OF THE GUYS? "Everybody has their own reasons; some get involved because of that reason. Others are just curious about racing as others. Everybody has different reasons."

WHAT IS THE STRANGEST QUESTION YOU GET FROM FANS? "Where do you go to the bathroom, which is in my suit. I've only done it a couple times in my career. You don't get to get out and go. But that is probably the number one question."

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING A DRIVER? "Getting to race and driving the car."

You guys have to adjust a lot and now YOU'RE adjusting to your situation with your ride and everything, do you think YOU'RE better eqiupted to adjust to each situation? "I think I am a master at adjusting in the last six years just going from team to team, owner to owner, car to car and crew chief to crew chief. Definitely having done it over the last few years, you get more accustomed to how to short-cut your way to get to your solution sooner. I think every challenge or any experience I've had over the last few years has been challenging and always after I go through the experience I look back and go man, if I would have done it this way or this way or this way we could have got to where we needed to be sooner. It's not a position I want to be in changing all the time, but the fact that I've done it I think that I've learned some of the things as far as nipping the butter out of the way and some of the things to get to sooner so you can get to the better conclusion to make the car faster."

Having the cobwebs, did you get to do anything on the off-season? "I haven't done anything in the off season, so I'm a little webbed-up right now I'm ready to get out there and knock the cobwebs off and get a little rust out. Not only for me but then also we got to see how this team is going to gel and how's its going to respond. Obviously I think getting through tech and stuff it's going to be a big deal and that's going to take a lot of time and top to bottom we have a lot to sort through in the first couple days here."

The adventure at your job on the track Does that diminish some of the thrill you guys get when you get off the track? "I think because of what we do on a weekly basis and the adrenaline rush you get out of being on the track out of avoiding a crash, being in those different scenarios I think it takes me more than a typical person to get excited about something for sure. There was a crash on the freeway about 4 or 5 months ago and a lady cut somebody off and they got in a wreck with three or four cars it was like a Talladega wreck like 100 yards in front of me. I put on my flashers and kind of slowed everybody down behind me and I pulled over and helped the lady a little bit, I didn't even really get excited it was just something that happened. I think that everybody around me was in complete panic and I was like everybody calm down. Everybody's is okay. I left there thinking man maybe if I didn't do what I did on a weekly basis I might have been a little more excited but yeah things like that I don't think that because what we do on a weekly basis we get as excited about certain things as some people would."

Wonder about how you first got into racing, what did you first race? "The first thing I ever raced was a plastic big wheel. My dad shoved me off the hill and we were racing, actually raced serious, it was a drag race basically but all the kids drag raced. But anyways I started off doing that and then raced BMX bicycles, flat track three-wheelers and four-wheelers for a lot of years, by the time I was 11 or 12 I was running go-karts, I then started racing off-road when I was 13. While I was racing off-road I started racing Formula Fords, and then when I was 14 I started racing Formula Mazdas and ran those until I was 17 or 18 years old. Then raced Indy Lights for five years then got into the Nationwide Series for a year and now I am in my seventh or eighth year of Cup."

-source: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Teams Hendrick Motorsports