CASEY MEARS, DRIVER OF THE NO. 5 KELLOGGS/CARQUEST IMPALA SS, met with media member at California Speedway and talked about his performance in the Daytona 500, his teammates at Hendrick Motorsports, racing in California and on the West Coast and...
CASEY MEARS, DRIVER OF THE NO. 5 KELLOGGS/CARQUEST IMPALA SS, met with media member at California Speedway and talked about his performance in the Daytona 500, his teammates at Hendrick Motorsports, racing in California and on the West Coast and much more.
ON HOW HE FELT HE DID IN DAYTONA AND HOW HIS TEAM IS APPROACHING CALIFORNIA. "First off, I'm very excited about the beginning of this season. I had a great race in Daytona and was real happy with the way things came together. Unfortunately, not happy with the ending. We were running third there with six to go and made a move to try to win the race and it didn't work out for us. The thing I'm very excited about is how well we ran, how fast the car was. We were in a position to win. It seems like all the tests and everywhere we've been, we've been pretty fast. We struggled a little bit here at California in the test itself but the guys felt like they found something on the seven post that was pretty valuable. We're looking forward to hopefully getting out at some point and seeing how we are."
ON HOW HE WORKS WITH HIS TEAMMATES AT THE RACE TRACK. "Our sport is a unique sport with the way that we are a team, but at the same time we are looking for individual success too. Where we work really well as a team is the days leading up to the racing event. In practice, the meetings that we have, after practice to get ready for Sunday. We usually go to each other's cars at times throughout practice just checking to see how their cars are handling. So we work together as a team leading up to the race. Now when we get to the race we work as a team as well on the pit box. The crew chiefs and engineers are constantly exchanging information. You know what changes worked for them, tire pressure changes, that scenario. When we are on the track at places like Talladega and Daytona we work very well together where we can bump draft, we can hook up and really make a line move. Other than Daytona and Talladega we're pretty much racing against each other. The only thing you do do with your teammate is maybe give them a little more room. You give them that extra inch that you wouldn't give another competitor. But when it comes down to the end and comes down to winning the race you treat them like you would anybody else."
ON JUNIOR JOINING HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS: "Well for me I'm very comfortable with it because it doesn't affect anything that I do. Other than media asking me whether or not I think it's -- honestly. Media asks me a lot about it and fans ask me about it but outside of nobody asking me that question there's nothing there other than the fact that we're four race car drivers all trying to achieve the same goals and work together. I think that those guys obviously have a lot of media attention surrounding them which is well deserved in a lot of aspects. I respect the fact that they get that attention. I'm striving not to get that attention but to get that success that breeds that attention myself. I just feel fortunate to have three guys that I can really pull good information from and we can work really well together as a team. The valuable part of that is the fact that we do all work well together. It's not four egos in this team and we can't share information and what breeds that is having four confident teammates. If they weren't confident in their abilities they would be less apt to say hey here's what I found because they want that advantage. They know that on any given day they can beat me and I feel the same way. When you feel like you have the talent to be able to beat your teammates is when you have the confidence to go ahead and share that information. The best scenario at the end of the day could be all four of us fighting each other for the championship. That would be a good kind of problem to have, so we're striving for that."
ON JIMMIE JOHNSON'S COMMENT ABOUT HOW IT IS MOTIVATING AND ENCOURAGING TO RACE WITH HIS TEAMMATES AND HOW IT BRINGS OUT THE BEST IN HIM. "I think it just breeds a competition within a team that's a very healthy competition. Obviously we all want to see each other succeed, but at the same time I kind of view it as anybody whose got brothers and sisters. You know you love your brother or sister and you don't want to see them get hurt and you don't want to damage them in anyway. But if you're going to go race against them in a go kart at a local park or something like that you definitely don't want to be the one that comes home in second because then you have to deal with them all day long. It's a very healthy competition and I really enjoy it. A lot of people say if you're such good friends with these guys, how do you race them so hard. Shoot you race those guys harder because you got to see them all the time and deal with it. You don't want to look in those guys eyes and say hey they know they beat you that day. You want to be the one that looks at them and say hey I got you today. It really makes it fun and I got to tell you I feel like this team that we have is in a lot of ways one of the best teams you will ever see. You got four guys that work really well together, obviously talented, obviously got the equipment. It's just a lot of fun. I look at Jimmie Johnson and shoot I've known him since I was 12 years old. I consider him one of my best friends in the world if racing wasn't there so to have him as a teammate. Through him I met Jeff and became great friends. I met Junior as soon as I moved back to North Carolina about seven years ago. We're not real close but very friendly obviously. We've been buddies for a long time. We've got a very unique situation over at Hendrick Motorsports right now and it's a lot of fun."
ON RACING IN HIS HOME STATE. "I tell you what California it's different. I had someone come up to me today and they go how does it feel, it was a typical reporter form L.A. that wasn't a big race fan, just knows what's going on in L.A. and came up to me and said you know racing is not that big in California how does that feel? I said you're just outside the loop, racing is huge in California. The majority of the racers inside the Sprint Cup Series are from California. I mean you just got to look at that. There's a lot influence form California, a lot of good racing that happens here that get overlooked by the general population in California. I love coming here. I think it's great to come back and see a lot of the fans that have been here for years. You had Ontario, Riverside, Ascot Park. There's a lot of good racing that's gone on in California for a lot of years and I think its just kind of slipped away for a while in the general public's eyes. I think this is a great racing state and to come back and see friends and family. I've got a lot of people coming up to me saying hey I'm friends with so and so, we raced with your dad back in the off road or I was here when your uncle did this and that. When your grandfather first came back I was racing with him man it's so great to see somebody still carrying the Mears name and for me it's a lot of fun."
ON TRYING TO BALANCE WORKING AND VISITING WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHILE RACING IN CALIFORNIA. "You know it is. I think in some ways it's great to see everybody and in other ways it's difficult because I am working. We very rarely have time to hang out but I do the best job I can. I typically try to get back to Bakersfield when I'm in town. I'm not going to be able to do it this time but I have so many friends and family that come to hang out we typically stick around on Sunday and hang out with all those guys and catch up with them. It is a tough balance because you're here to do your job and you got to focus on what you are doing but you have a limited amount of time to spend with them so it can be difficult sometimes."
ON IMPROVEMENTS HIS TEAM AND ALL OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS HAS MADE SINCE LAST YEAR. "I think that Junior winning those first couple of races is showing that hey they've come in and done a good job. I think the equipment is there. The No. 5 and No. 88 side has definitely stepped up and matched that of the No. 24 and No. 48. The meetings that we had in Daytona were very encouraging. To see all four drivers really interacting and working well together, we didn't have that before. It was the same idea, but it didn't seem like it went as smooth. Junior has done a really good job of coming in and fitting in really well, so that was encouraging too. The biggest thing that I've pulled away from, the first couple of events when I look at the events and the races, the 150's and the Shootout from my side of things, I'm in a very good position as opposed to last year. It was a great team, a great group of guys that I had last year but we came in last minute and changed the crew chief the week before Daytona. There was just a lot of unorganization, we were building a team. This team is established with the No. 5 team. This group of guys have been together now for quite a while. To have that continuity and to have that base underneath you is definitely a good feeling and right out the gate I thought Alan (Gustafson) and I would have a lot of learning to do to try to figure each other out, but man we hit is off great right away. I feel like he really understands what I'm needing and what I'm wanting. We didn't have a great car in the middle of that race in Daytona. He made the proper adjustments based on what I was saying to have a really good car at the end of that race and to put ourselves in position to win. We didn't have the finish that we wanted obviously, we made a move there that didn't work out for us but I'd been second there, I've been in the top five. I'm not there to finish second anymore, we're there to make a move to win. I was just very encouraged with our communication and how well it is. I feel like we are so far ahead of where we were last year. Obviously the No. 24 and No.48 are trying to maintain that success on the No. 5 and No. 88 side we're trying to bring it up to their level. I think that so far, we're there."
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF NASCAR RACING ON THE WEST COAST. "I don't know. It's definitely the progression of coming out to the West coast has grown a lot. I don't think I would want to rush that. It's got to be accepted. I think it has for the most part. Phoenix is unbelievable, I think California has continued to have some good crowds. I think they had trouble when it was 120 degrees at that last race. That was difficult. It would be tough to sell that but we put on a great race here, we put on a great race in Phoenix. Sonoma is a lot of fun in a totally different venue. I wouldn't mind seeing a couple more west coast races. It's a long trip for the guys but we've got to come here anyway and if they plan it right it wouldn't be a problem. I'd love to see us personally, and this is just selfish reasons because I love Laguna Seca, but I'd love to see us go to Laguna Seca. That market is very close to Sonoma, so I don't think that would probably ever work out but it's such a beautiful track. It's a great area and I think as far as road courses go it would be a lot of fun. It's kind of a home track for me. I raced there for about four years in a formal Mazda series so I really enjoyed that."
ON AN ADDITONAL DATE IN LAS VEGAS? "I think if Vegas does well and is well received if we had a second race in Vegas, I think it would be fun."
ON WHAT THE UNVEILING OF THE CAR OF TOMORROW MEANS. "They took the cover off of it. Last year we obviously ran a limited number of races in the new car and it was a test run and a great way of doing it. We all got to get our feet wet with it a little bit. It was tough and it was difficult going back and forth between the cars. It was hard for the teams to build two cars at one time. I think that NASCAR got some negative reaction because of us going back and forth between the two cars. You drive the old car and it had more grip, more down force and naturally as a driver you're going to get into this other car that doesn't have that it's not going to feel as good. Your first reaction is hey I don't like it as much. But when it's all you have and you're racing against everybody that has the same thing it's just like anything else. It doesn't matter if its tricycles, go karts or what you're racing as long as they're the same and you have the same competitive advantage as everybody else, it makes it fun. So far, Daytona I think was a great race. Obviously the car wasn't built to go faster it was built to be safer and hopefully as we go down the road the fans continue to receive the car well and we continue to make it better. I think this year running it all season long is making it easier on the teams and it's forcing us to go okay let's focus on this and make it work. When you have that as a task I think you put more effort into it and make it work and so far things have been going well."
-credit: gm racing