Atlanta: Casey Mears race report

Target Team Loses Motor and Shot at Second Top 10 Hampton, Ga. (March 14, 2004) --- Casey Mears and the Target Team were poised for their second consecutive top-10 finish when the motor expired with 23 laps remaining in the Golden Corral 500...

Target Team Loses Motor and Shot at Second Top 10

Hampton, Ga. (March 14, 2004) --- Casey Mears and the Target Team were poised for their second consecutive top-10 finish when the motor expired with 23 laps remaining in the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Mears led a career-best 37 laps and was running eighth when his day was cut short.

Mears earned his first start of the season inside the top 10 on his 26th birthday last Friday. He started the 325-lap race in ninth position. He piloted the Target Dodge into the top five by lap four and remained there through the team's first pit stop on lap 56.

At lap 100, there were only 15 cars on the lead lap and Mears was running sixth. He told the crew the car was a little loose, so crew chief Jimmy Elledge had the Target team make an air pressure adjustment, change four tires and add fuel on their second green-flag stop of the day on lap 115. The first caution flag finally waved on lap 125.

Mears began mounting a charge on the leaders at the halfway point. He took over the second spot on lap 171 and set his sights on leader Tony Stewart. The two raced side-by-side for several laps before Mears took over the lead on lap 178. He led for 36 laps before pitting under green on lap 214.

The Target Dodge continued to run in the top five despite the loose condition. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammate Jamie McMurray lost his motor on lap 245 bringing out the caution. The team adjusted on the No. 41, but it was still extremely loose. Mears dropped back to 10th on lap 290, but battled his way back to eighth when final pit stops began on lap 294. Mears came into the pits on lap 300, but the motor expired two laps later forcing the Target Dodge into the garage early.

"We didn't get a lot of points with the finish, but we led some laps and that felt great," said Mears. "I worked my way through the field, and it felt awesome. I'm so proud of my guys for the work they did all weekend preparing this car. It's disappointing because we ran so good and had a chance to move up in the points.

"Our engine guys and Ernie Elliott are giving us some awesome horsepower this year. We knew Atlanta was going to be a big test and we were running pretty high in the rpm range. Hopefully we can learn from today and move on and continue to get better. I'm really looking forward to next weekend."

The blown motor relegated Mears to a 34th-place finish and dropped him from 10th in NEXTEL championship points to 19th.

The Target Team looks to rebound at Darlington Raceway next weekend. The race will be broadcast live on FOX television and MRN radio on March 21 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

-cgr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Casey Mears , Chip Ganassi , Felix Sabates
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing