Casey Mears and team have made tremendous gains as an organization over the last two years.
- A candidate or competitor who unexpectedly wins or succeeds in a contest.
- An unexpected result or situation, especially in a sports competition.
What you just saw were three examples of David defeating Goliath. The Front-Row teammates shoving their way through the best of the best to win Talladega, A.J. Allmendinger throwing that No. 47 around and trading paint with road course ace Marcos Ambrose to win at Watkins Glen, and Regan Smith holding off Carl Edwards to win the Southern 500 for a single-car operation from Colorado.
The unseen effort
In motorsports, we love underdogs. Whether its that back-marker scoring points in a Formula One GP or a last-second Indy 500 effort making the show, everyone enjoys seeing the little guys get their share of the glory. Usually, these teams take us by surprise and most are thrown aback by their sudden presence at the front. All these success stories have their roots in years of hard work and determination; effort that goes largely unnoticed by the general public.
One such organization is Germain Racing, a team I've had my eye on for a couple years now. They are showing all the signs that they could very well be the next break-out race team in NASCAR. Let me take you through the impressive growth of this team, which also has full-time sponsorship from partner GEICO, a relationship titans of the sport are struggling to secure.
In 2012, the No. 13 team was start and parking on a regular basis. When they weren't parking early, they would go on to finish around 20th to 30th in the field. In 2013, they didn't start and park once, raced up inside the top 20 more often, and even snagged a top ten finish at the July Daytona race.
In 2014, they earned their first top five and added three more top tens to their resume. At 1.5 mile tracks, they had cars capable of running inside the top 15, something that would have been a distant dream just 18 months prior.
Alliance with RCR
Talking with Motorsport.com about their continued growth, driver Casey Mears said the alliance they now have with RCR/ECR has played a major role in their improved performance. "It was definitely a huge step in the right direction. It's a matter of getting all that information processed and actually applying it. Having those doors opened for us so that we could tap into their resources and helped take us to the next level."
We'd love to have a second car, but it would have to be a fully funded program so it doesn't take away from what we're trying to do right now
Casey Mears on future team expansion
"There's so many little tricks aero wise that you have to know. It's all in the details. When you get to the short tracks, road courses, and the superspeedways where downforce isn't as important, you're just trying to get reduced drag. Those places are easier to manipulate as far as the bodies go. When you get to the short tracks, it's more mechanical than aero and so, I think we've always struggled with our bodies going to the 1.5 milers and this year, we've made some big strides there."
It can't be ignored that in just two years, Germain has gone from a start and parker to an RCR-aligned team capable of pushing out and top tens and even top five finishes at some circuits. That's some incredible improvement in just 24 months time.
Edging closer to Victory Lane
Casey is fully confident that the No. 13 group is ready to win and with their newfound speed, their chances aren't as limited as they once were. "We definitely have those kind of opportunities like we talked about before with the short tracks, road courses, superspeedways. The way our progress has been going lately, even tracks like Phoenix or Richmond and some of the 1.5 milers."
We have the ability to be nimble and move quickly but that comes with a price, not having some of the resources. Thankfully, RCR has filled some of those holes for us.
Casey Mears on being a single-car team
With the new championship format, a win is not just a major accomplishment for an underdog operation, but an instant ticket into the Chase, which opens up a lot more doors. "We saw JTG do it and get in the Chase and when they got into the Chase, it really accelerated their whole program," Casey explained. "The sponsors get more involved at that point, they get more excited and maybe some more funding comes in as a result."
A second car?
With their aforementioned growth, the thought of a second car has to be creeping up, but of course, it all comes down to the almighty dollar. "We'd love to have a second car, but it's all a matter of funding and it would have to be a fully funded program so it doesn't take away from what we're trying to do right now."
Although the GEICO-backed team has an alliance with RCR, it's not quite the same as having a teammate of your own to lean on. "We can kind of review what the RCR guys are doing. It's different from being in-house for sure. It's made our program better but us being in Charlotte while they're in Welcome (NC), we have to work really, really hard to make sure things translate properly. Having someone in-house would definitely be a lot better gage to what we're doing."
The advantage of being the 'little guys'
Being a single-car operation isn't all bad though. When questioned by this writer, Casey was quick to note that being able to move quickly is a major plus of being smaller than most of your competitors. "If we decide we want to do something, it's just one car. If we want to change a body, we just take it in the back, move things around and get it done."
"A lot of times with a multi-car program, when they find something new, they have to get it on all the cars to make sure everybody has the same thing heading into the weekend and that can drag things out. We have the ability to be nimble and move quickly but at the same time, that comes with a price, not having some of the resources. Thankfully, RCR has filled some of those holes for us."
Making it work
NASCAR is a cut-throat industry that is no easy success story. Anyone who goes into it with that mentality which quickly find themselves out of the sport. Teams drop from the field during each season and many new ventures never even make it to the track. One of the operations that remains constant is Germain Racing. They keep chipping away at it, edging ever so closer to that first checkered flag. They have a small group of dedicated employees dedicated to the cause, a veteran crew chief in Bootie Barker, and a solid driver in Casey Mears.
Their perseverance will pay off one day, it's just a matter of when that day comes.
*Note: RIP Reese 'Miss. GEICO' Lewis, who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Nov. 18th