DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Nov. 30, 2001) -- When Casey Mears arrives at Daytona International Speedway for Speedweeks 2002, it won't be for a test.
Last year, Mears, the son of off-road racer Roger Mears and nephew of four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rick Mears, made his first trip to the "World Center of Racing," testing a Ford Riley & Scott Mk III with Dyson Racing in preparation for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"I tested for Dyson Racing and it looked like I was going to end up running for them in the Rolex 24, but they picked another guy that had driven with them before," Mears said. "I got a chance to test there all day and that's the only time I've been to Daytona. It's an impressive place and a lot of fun."
This year, Mears will be driving a stock car at Daytona when he kicks off his rookie Busch Series season in the Feb. 16 EAS/GNC Live Well 300, a prelude to the 44th annual Daytona 500, the Super Bowl of stock car racing.
The 23-year-old Mears, a native of Bakersfield, Calif., will be driving the No. 66 entry for Welliver-Jessel Motorsports and will be vying for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors. His teammate will be Hank Parker Jr., driver of the No. 36 GNC Live Well Chevrolet.
Mears began getting some experience in stock cars toward the end of this year, competing in an ARCA race in October at Talladega Superspeedway and posting a ninth-place finish. He made his debut in the Busch Series in November, starting 21st and finishing 28th in the season-ending GNC Live Well 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Now, Mears feels he's ready to tackle the "World Center of Racing" for the first time in a stock car.
"Daytona is one of the most famous tracks in the world," said Mears, who has a strong open-wheel background, competing in Indy Lights, CART and the Indy Racing League. "I'm really looking forward to it. That's definitely the big place for NASCAR. It's going to be a first for me. It's going to be a whole new experience. I'm sure I'll be leaning on a lot of the key guys for information about the track. It's going to be exciting."
Tickets for the EAS/GNC Live Well 30 and other Speedweeks events can be purchased online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.