Mears Collects Fifth Top-10 Finish of the Season at Charlotte Concord, N.C. (May 30, 2004) --- Casey Mears piloted the Target Dodge to his third top-10 finish in the past four races. The seventh-place finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway moved ...
Mears Collects Fifth Top-10 Finish of the Season at Charlotte
Concord, N.C. (May 30, 2004) --- Casey Mears piloted the Target Dodge to his third top-10 finish in the past four races. The seventh-place finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway moved Mears from 18th to 16th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings.
Although the Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race on the NASCAR circuit, Mears immediately began moving up from his 14th-place starting spot. He entered into the top 10 for the first time on lap six. The first round of green-flag pit stops began on lap 55 with the Target Dodge in the sixth position. Mears told crew chief Jimmy Elledge the car was loose and the water temperature was running high. He brought the No. 41 down pit road for four tires, fuel and to have tape removed from the front grill.
Mears was still sixth at lap 100, only one of 16 cars on the lead lap. The first caution waved on lap 160 and he brought his Dodge down pit road for a chassis adjustment, four tires and fuel. Racing resumed on lap 166 and the car began to tighten up. He broke into the top five for the first time on lap 183.
Another long green-flag run forced cars down pit road for service and fuel. Mears was one of the last lead lap cars to pit and was credited for leading lap 230 of the race before bringing the No. 41 in for service. The caution waved just two laps later and Elledge told Mears to remain on the track.
Mears radioed Elledge to let him know the water temperature shot up to 250 degrees. The team determined there was a piece of paper on the grill of the Target Dodge. He attempted to rub the debris off the grill using the back bumper of the No. 49 car, but the debris was imbedded. The temperature dropped slightly and the engine tuner believed that it would be alright until the next stop. He pitted on lap 298 for service, including the removal of debris from the grill of the No. 41.
The Target Dodge was consistently one of the quickest cars on the track and was running seventh when the caution flag waved on lap 338. The team filled the car up with enough fuel to make it to the end of the race. However, when the caution waved again on lap 367 the team decided to take on fresh tires. Trouble on the pit stop dropped Mears from sixth to 11th for the restart.
He battled his way back up to 10th when the caution flag waved with just seven laps remaining in the race. NASCAR dropped the red flag to ensure a good finish. Elledge told Mears to pit for fresh tires since there were only 12 cars left on the lead lap. Mears was 12th when racing resumed and the fresh tires proved to be a good call. Despite battling flu-like symptoms and over five hours in the car, Mears charged his way back up to seventh in the final three laps of the race.
"I'm real proud of everyone tonight," said Mears. "We weren't sure how the Target Dodge was going to handle after struggling in practice, but the team made the right call on the set up. It was a tough race, but we hung in there every step of the way and gained a few spots in the points. After the struggles I have had here in the past, I couldn't be happier with a seventh-place finish."
This is the third seventh-place finish for this chassis already this year, it finished seventh at Las Vegas and Texas earlier this season.
Next week's racing action is in Dover for the MBNA 400.