Casey Mears, No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Impala SS Was The Nextel Wake-Up Call Guest And Spoke With The Media About His Momentum After His Recent Cup Win At Charlotte, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Joining HMS In '08, His Expectations For Sunday'S Road Race...
Casey Mears, No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Impala SS Was The Nextel Wake-Up Call Guest And Spoke With The Media About His Momentum After His Recent Cup Win At Charlotte, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Joining HMS In '08, His Expectations For Sunday'S Road Race And More:
TALK ABOUT YOUR MOMENTUM AND HOW IT WILL HELP YOU AT INFINEON: "I think that the team has just really come together. We've had a lot of growing to do early this year. A lot of changes went on within the team and the organization on the No. 25 side and built all brand-new race cars for the 1.5-miles and had some really good cars come out of the shop lately. It seems like the team is really starting to gel. I think (crew chief) Darian Grubb and I are starting to communicate very well and that's just starting to show. I think that prior to these last four races I'd feel like the four races before that, we really started making a lot of good progress and the cars were very fast, we were very competitive; we just weren't getting the results we needed. So it's good now and I feel fortunate that some of that bad luck has kind of gotten out of the way and we've been able to capitalize on the product that they have."
WHAT IS YOUR EXPECTATION FOR THIS WEEKEND? "I'm looking forward to it. I think, obviously, with all the changes, that Hendrick Motorsports has done a really good job with capitalizing on doing the best job we can with these new cars. My car has felt, the new Impala SS, like it has been very competitive. I feel like my car has handled very well in respect to the field and I think we made some really good progress. I'm looking forward to this weekend, the road course being something totally different. Definitely it's going to take some time to fill out what this car wants at this particular track. We've done some testing at places like VIR. I know David Green's done some testing for us; Max Papis has done some testing as well. We've gathered a lot of good data and a lot of ideas on what we want to do for here at Infineon. But definitely when you come to this track, it's its own unique place and we're going to have to learn what it wants here."
DID YOUR WIN ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE HAD? "I think that if you're here and you're questioning that you have the ability to be here then you don't need to be here. You really need to know that you could beat anybody out there. I think that I've always felt that but I've always wondered what's the missing link to getting myself to that point. I think that obviously I signed with Hendrick Motorsports and being a part of that organization, and being able to utilize the resources like Jeff (Gordon) and Jimmie (Johnson) and Kyle (Busch) obviously, with the success they've had over the last few years, and what the team has done has definitely helped elevate it. my surroundings have just elevated. In the aspect that I know this equipment can win races. I think it takes the question out of your mind maybe a little bit. I think that where I've been in the past there's always been good race cars, great race teams, good people. But because nobody on the team has had a whole l ot of success you kind of question in the back of your mind, is everything right. I think going into a company like Hendrick Motorsports you don't question that. You know that the engines are strong, you know that the chances of winning races are there. I think that now, winning that race, that definitely hasn't changed my opinion on how I feel about myself but it definitely takes some pressure of myself and my team so that we can just go out and do our job week in and week out and not have to worry about in the back of our minds, 'hey, is this a team that can win, can I win personally?'. Some of those questions are gone. We know we can do that. Not that it really dominated my train of thought in the first place but at the same time it did put some pressure off of our shoulders and just let us go out and respond to the weekend as we need to."
YOU'VE GOT A TEAMMATE THAT'S LEAVING AND ONE COMING - WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE TO KYLE BUSCH AND DALE EARNHARDT, JR.? "First of all, this isn't a fact in any way, shape or form, but first of all being in that situation last year, the first thing I can say is I just didn't like the lame duck thing. That's something that the media uses that automatically puts a title on a driver and team that just makes them feel like they're just not as good as the others. And it's just not true. We're here to go racing. When I was in that situation last year, all the guys on my team were 110% focused on their job which made it no different that if I was going to be there the following season. I was a driver that wanted to win races. As long as you have that understanding within the team and organization, that's not going to change anything. Now, if changes happen later throughout the year, if other things come up that are physical changes, that will affect the race team. But right now, Kyle is a talented driver, they've got a great crew and good guys and they're in competition to win the Chase this year or make the Chase. I think they're focused with that right now and as long as they stay on the same path which I think they're going to do a good job of, I mean, we went to a dinner last night with all the No. 25 guys and everybody's getting along great and was just happy to be out at dinner and happy to be here in Sonoma so as long as nobody else surrounding that team, outside media and fans and things like that make to big of a deal about it, I think we'll be fine."
JUAN MONTOYA CLAIMS YOU HELPED HIM WITH LEARNING THIS TRACK - CAN YOU ELABORATE? "With Juan coming over to the Ganassi team while I was there, we actually kind of started trying to help him out a little bit. I understand coming from that side of things what it takes to transfer over here to the stock-car side and for some reason we'd just been kind of communicating a little bit. I think that I have some sympathy for him on where he's coming from and how long it took me. Obviously he reached higher levels on the open-wheel side of things, won championships, won a lot of races, went to Formula One and so his skill level and what he's accomplished before he came over here is a lot higher. So I expect his learning curve to be a lot faster. At the same time there is some things that. I had a lot of people help me and that's the thing about the NASCAR sport that's different than other sports. If you went over to Formula One and you're struggling with a couple things, you couldn't g o over to another guy on another team, maybe your teammate, and ask him how do you get around the track and what are your keys. And I think that when I first came here as a rookie, I could have went to anybody. Mark Martin, Bill Elliott, all those guys gave great valuable information and just seeing a guy come over that has so much to learn, I'll definitely offer up any kind of help I can."
HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED THE ADDED SPOTLIGHT ON HMS WITH DALE JR. COMING OVER? "Well, I think that the good thing that makes it easy is there seems always a spotlight on Hendrick Motorsports. It obviously was huge news that Dale is coming over. We're very excited to have him. He's a great guy. I'm really looking forward to working with him. He's a lot of fun to be around. He's been a friend of mine since I've been back here. And we talked off and on through these past couple of weeks, excited about what's coming up. Obviously, the last couple of weeks were pretty hectic with a lot of that. Fortunately, it didn't really affect my team in particular. There was a lot of stuff going on in the background. We really didn't know what was going to happen and it got announced and we're all happy about the news, but now that has calmed down, we're here at Sonoma and focused on getting around this track."
YOU SAID YOU WERE REALLY EXCITED ABOUT EARNHARDT, JR. JOINING YOUR TEAM: "I'm just really excited. So, obviously we're very excited about having him, but now that this last week has gone by and the announcement is done, obviously there is more information that is going to come out in the future on what exactly is going to happen. As for right now, I think things just kind of calmed down a little bit and we're able to focus on Infineon on this weekend and the race."
HAVE YOU GOTTEN ANY TIPS FROM JEFF GORDON ON HOW TO WIN HERE? "I haven't talked with Jeff a whole lot, a little bit about it. We talked a lot at VIR about what he does with the car, how he drives it, input into the wheel, how he uses the brakes, things like that, and I was able to look at his data, overlay it with mine, which is really valuable. So, at least I got a good idea of how he approaches the car and what he likes to do. As the weekend goes on, for sure, I want to get two laps on the track. Fortunately, we'll see how this weekend goes, but I want to definitely get some advice from him as we go along. I've been utilizing Jeff all year long. Obviously, he's talented, going to championships and successful, so I want to utilize that most I can."
TRANSITIONING FROM ONE TEAM TO ANOTHER, HOW STRESSFUL IS THAT? "I think that if it would have been any other team in motorsports - in NASCAR period - it might have been a little more difficult. But I think, granted, I've had so many friendships and relationships outside of racing with the Hendrick Motorsports team and family, immediately it felt comfortable there. Obviously we had a lot of technical things to work on. We wanted to build cars. We had to work on communication on the track, at the track at weekends that you have to work on. I think as far as making the transition to the team itself, it was a very easy transition. I guess (it was) a little bit stressful because you're just trying to figure your new surroundings out but I guess my whole point in saying that is that my surroundings were pretty familiar when I made the transition. So it was very easy."
DO YOU THINK KYLE BUSCH WILL FIND THE SAME KIND OF ATMOSPHERE AT ANOTHER TEAM? "I don't know what Kyle will find when he moves. I know how I was inside, I know what I saw when I came to Hendrick Motorsports. Depending on where he goes and what relationships he has with that team when he makes that decision, it will be good for him to ask when the time is right, exactly what is going on."
YOUR REACTION AFTER WINNING THE COCA-COLA 600? "I think that it's been four years of just built up. anything else I've ever raced in my whole career I've won races in. To be in a series for four years and not win a race is difficult. I think that crossing and getting that checkered flag for the first time, whatever was coming out was going to come out. I didn't really have any control over what I said or how I said it. It was definitely an emotional victory, a lot of relief lifted off my shoulders and just definitely pure reality. I wasn't putting on a show, it was all natural what was coming out. I was very excited for having won and I couldn't have had a better group of guys."
HOW DO YOU THINK JEFF GORDON WILL HANDLE RACING AND FATHERHOOD TOGETHER? "I'm probably the worst guy to ask about fatherhood. I haven't even thought in that direction yet. Talking with Jeff this morning, man, he's just so excited about it. Definitely you'll want to get his perspective on this because obviously that's firsthand. But I think it's just great seeing him so excited. He was very happy this morning coming in on the helicopter. We were just kind of talking about the whole experience and we just couldn't be more happy for him and Ingrid. I think they're going to have a lot of fun. I think that people have different drives and different reasons for the success they have over the years and this may change the way he thinks but I don't thing in the least bit it's going to sacrifice his talents or the way he focuses on racing. He might have some new inspirations for doing well but I just think that he's obviously been very successful; very hugely talented and he's just on a new chapter in his life and really enjoying it. We'll see what happens."
HOW LONG YOU THINK YOU CAN CARRY YOUR MOMENTUM - A LOT OF TIMES AFTER A WIN IT CARRIES ON AND THEN TAPERS OFF. "I don't know. That's the first negative thing I've heard since we won, to be honest. And I haven't even thought in that direction. As long as I don't go that way I think we'll be fine. Things have just been going well. Honestly, I've said it before, I wish I could go back in time and take this whole group and follow our season and exactly what happened. We just had some bad luck. We really did. The type of success we've been having for the last four races, we've had the previous four races before that, before the 600. We just haven't had the finishes. At Darlington we had the car to beat. We honestly did. We were much quicker than Jeff (Gordon) the majority of the race and just needed some track position, needed to get up there. We ended up blowing a motor because we got rubber in the screen. But I can go down a long list of all the races prior to that where we had top-five cars and just didn't get the results, whether it was just wrong place, wrong time, losing that engine at Darlington. So we've had this momentum, we've had really positive thinking. You would have walked in the shop before the 600 and you would have seen people smiling, excited to be there, knowing what we had. We had a product that was going to do well. So if you want to talk about the highs of the 600 and kind of carrying that momentum, I think we've had that momentum prior to that and capitalized on it at the 600."
WHAT WAS YOUR ADJUSTMENT COMING INTO THE SERIES FROM OPEN-WHEEL? "What's kind of funny, knowing that I had been on a lot of road courses in the past, and road-course racing was really my background - I had done a lot more road courses than ovals - but driving an open-wheel on a road course vs. a stock car is totally different. I think, actually, coming here to Infineon and driving on the road course what probably one of the most difficult transitions that I had. I knew how to grab gears, I knew how to turn right, that whole thing, but then you've got a car that's almost double the weight, doesn't want to stop, doesn't want to turn and you're asking all of that here. You go on an oval and it seems to be a little more simplified. But I thought the transition from open-wheel to stock cars was actually a little more difficult on the road courses. For some reason I struggled a little bit more here than Watkins Glen; I adapted to that very well. But it's definitely a whole new anim al for sure."
WHEN DALE EARNHARDT, JR. MADE HIS ANNOUNCEMENT THAT HE WAS JOINING HMS, A LOT OF PEOPLE SAID THAT HE WOULD BE THE NO. 3 DRIVER THERE. HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? "I've pretty much heard that from all the media: 'man, he's going to be the third driver at Hendrick Motorsports'. It's funny because I listen a lot to the media, I watch Wind Tunnel and all those things and it's funny because it's a four-car team. I'm new coming in. I don't expect to get the recognition that Jimmie and Jeff did, much less Dale. Obviously he's the most popular driver in the series. But it was kind of funny - it didn't really hurt my feelings - but it was just kind of funny to here them talk about the whole Hendrick Motorsports team and just never get mentioned. So it was kind of weird. I'm over here, guys. I just won a race last week, say something about me (laughs). I think that that's our job as the No. 25 team, to make people want to mention us and I think that we're going down that path and I do n't think that that's definitely an outside source that affects you after the races are over. Whether it makes you happy or makes you sad, but I think that within the organization we knew we got a strong, key group of people that give great valuable information. I think Dale Jr. is going to add to that. I'm friends with every single one of those guys and obviously how the world looks at the team as a perspective vs. how we look at it internally is going to be a different perspective. Hopefully over the course of this year we can make the No. 25 known and get Casey Mears out there a little bit more before equal spokes in the media's eyes. So we'll see how it goes."
HOW EQUAL ARE THE FOUR CARS AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "I think that out of all the teams that I've ever seen or been with, IndyCar teams, Indy Lights teams, the parity is unbelievable. All the same parts and pieces are there. Now, the people that run the individual teams have a lot of leniency on which directions they can go but the potential for parity is there more than any other team I've ever been with and I think that with the new Impala SS it's created even more parity. With us building some new cars at the beginning of this year we really looked at what the No. 24 and No. 48 were doing and built cars along those lines. Boom, we got right up where they were with the car that we ran with at the 600 and at Michigan. That was one of our newest cars that we built and it was much more along the lines of what the No. 24 and No. 48 were doing. I think that if you look at Hendrick Motorsports right now as a whole, there is a lot of parity between the cars right now."
CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH YOUR REGIMEN ON RACE DAY? "Each race is a little bit different and I don't have a particular regimen. There's certain things that I do each and every race. The biggest thing I try to do is hydrate the night before the race and hydrate as much as I can the day of the race. My schedule changes and varies from track to track but typically you wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is go to the souvenir trailer and sign autographs for about 30 or 40 minutes. After that we usually have two to three hospitality appearances. After I get back from those we have the drivers meeting. After that we have about an hour to get something to eat, hydrate a little bit more and go to introductions. Really the way that NASCAR is laid out and the way that we do a lot of our things within the team pretty much dictates my regimen, what I do in the mornings and leading up to the race. Fortunately Hendrick Motorsports has done a really good job. we have someone that travels on the road with us now that makes meals for us before the races so we're getting the proper foods and things like that that may help for that day. But when I raced IndyCars I had a lot more time to think about being superstitious, putting one glove on before the other, eating a certain thing. But with NASCAR racing these days it's such a fast pace not only on the track but outside the track. I just deal with the day the best that I can and try to eat and hydrate as best I can before the race."
-credit: gm racing