ATLANTA, Monday, April 23, 2001 - With Mears as his last name, one would expect that Casey would have grown up in the garages of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After all, his uncle, Rick Mears is a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, and his...
ATLANTA, Monday, April 23, 2001 - With Mears as his last name, one would expect that Casey would have grown up in the garages of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After all, his uncle, Rick Mears is a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, and his father, Roger, put his off-road racing career on hold long enough to make two starts at the legendary Brickyard.
But surprisingly, Mears only attended the Indianapolis 500 once, last year as a spectator sitting in the grandstands. This year he will make a second visit to the hallowed racetrack, now as a driver with Galles Racing and teammate to Al Unser Jr. One has to wonder, though, if having "Mears" as a last name puts any added pressure on the young driver, especially considering the success his uncle has had at Indianapolis, drinking the traditional winner's milk in 1979, '84, '88 and '91.
"I have never felt any pressure in carrying the Mears name," he said. "The people that matter most know I am a young driver coming through the ranks doing the best job I can in a sport I love. I am very proud of where I've come from."
Father Roger Mears has a different perspective.
"I don't know," the senior Mears said about his son facing extra pressure in living up to the family legacy. "I guess it does (add more pressure) in some degree, but really, most of the pressure comes from within by Casey putting it on himself."
Though a rookie in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, Mears is no stranger to the driver's compartment of a race car. In the 1999 season, Mears completed every lap of Indy Lights competition and was second in the points championship. Last season he finished fourth in his CART debut in Fontana, Calif., driving for Team Rahal. Mears also has had tremendous experience in off-road racing, winning races in the stadium SuperLite Series.
With several driving opportunities offered to him last season, Mears chose Galles Racing and the Northern Light Series for one reason -- the Indianapolis 500.
"My choice was based on what was the next best step in my career, and of course, the Indy 500 plays into that," Mears explained. "Winning the Indy 500 has always been a dream, and an opportunity such as the one I have with Galles Racing that gives me the chance to realize my dream was definitely the best choice."
The 23-year-old driver was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week for the requisite Rookie Orientation Program.
"I'm just kind of checking this place out, getting ready to go," Mears told the Indianapolis Star. "I can't wait."
Mears, however, will have to wait a few days longer. He has to get through one more race before the Indianapolis 500, the April 28 Atlanta 500 Classic run at night under the lights of Atlanta Motor Speedway. This will be his first visit to the 1.54-mile, high-banked oval where speeds for the Indy Racing Northern Light Series cars regularly exceed 220 mph in competition.