Mears Survives Wild Race at Talladega to Finish Eighth Talladega, Ala. (April 25, 2004) --- Casey Mears, with the help of the Target Team, piloted the No. 41 Dodge to an eighth-place finish at Talladega, a career-best superspeedway finish.
Mears Survives Wild Race at Talladega to Finish Eighth
Talladega, Ala. (April 25, 2004) --- Casey Mears, with the help of the Target Team, piloted the No. 41 Dodge to an eighth-place finish at Talladega, a career-best superspeedway finish. Mears was a front-runner for most of the day and despite heavy cosmetic damage to the car, brought home a top 10.
Mears started the event 16th and quickly maneuvered toward the front of the three-wide pack. When the first caution waved on lap two, the Target Dodge was up to fourth. On lap 19, Mears took over the top spot to lead for the second time this season. His lead was short lived when the caution waved on lap 21. He brought the No. 41 down pit road for right-side tires, an air pressure adjustment and fuel. When racing resumed on lap 26 he was sitting second.
The caution waved again on lap 33 and crew chief Jimmy Elledge told Mears to bring the car down pit road for fuel only. Unfortunately, Mears made contact with the No. 30 car exiting the pits that caused front-end damage to the Target Dodge. He brought the car back down pit road for repair to the nose of the car and four fresh tires. He was 35th when racing resumed on lap 35.
That was not the only trouble the No. 41 would find. Mears scraped the outside wall on lap 63 trying to avoid a car that checked up in front of him. The damage was mild, but the team was able to take a look at the car on lap 69 when the caution waved. Elledge made the call to take on right-side tires only and Mears came out of the pits in fifth.
Mears was consistently running in the top 10 and the pit crew was doing an excellent job on pit road to give him valuable track position. When the caution waved on lap 146, Elledge told the Target Team to put on four fresh tires and fill the car full of fuel for what he assumed would be their last pit stop of the day. The crew noticed the grill and nose of the car needed repair. Mears brought the car back down pit road to top off the fuel and add a patch to the front of the car.
The green-flag waved on lap 153 with the Target Dodge back in 11th. Mears sliced and diced his way back into the top 10 before the caution waved on lap 166. Racing resumed for just five laps when the yellow was displayed again on lap 176 with the No. 41 sitting fourth. The race was poised for a nine-lap shootout and Mears had worked his way up to second with the aid of the No. 29 car. Mears was working the outside line during three-wide racing when the caution flag waved on lap 184. NASCAR determined Mears was running eighth at the time the caution flag waved, and clean-up crews were unable to clean the track up in time to get the race restarted.
"I'm happy with eighth," said Mears. "I wanted to race for it, but it could have gone either way. We're sitting there in the top 10 and you want to race for it. I think we could have got at least a top three out of it. Considering how beat up this front end is, it's probably good we ended under caution. My nose got beat up bump drafting. We were beating the heck out of each other out there trying to get an advantage. That's about the only way you can get an advantage. It was a good run for our Target Dodge all the way around. I'm really happy with it.
"It was awesome running out front. To be able to go out and lead laps like this and run up front at a place like this is a huge testament to the team. I've learned a lot with the draft, and it's all showing. We're having a lot of fun with it now. I've got donuts all over the car and I hit the wall a little bit avoiding a guy. It's more beat up than my Martinsville car was last week."
Mears moved up two spots in the championship standings to 18th, just 159 points out of the NASCAR Top 10. His teammates Jamie McMurray and Sterling Marlin finished ninth and 30th respectively.
The Target Team heads out west to California Speedway next weekend for the Auto Club 500.