Casey Mears Scores First NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Career Victory in Coca Cola 600; Chevy R07 Engine Wins Second Consecutive Event at Lowe's Motor Speedway; Six of Top-10 Finishers Behind the Wheel of Chevy Monte Carlo SS Win Gives All Four ...
Casey Mears Scores First NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Career Victory in Coca Cola 600; Chevy R07 Engine Wins Second Consecutive Event at Lowe's Motor Speedway; Six of Top-10 Finishers Behind the Wheel of Chevy Monte Carlo SS
Win Gives All Four Hendrick Motorsports Drivers Trips to Victory Lane in 2007; Team Chevy Drivers Have Won 11 of 12 NNCSPoints Races This Season
CONCORD, NC - Casey Mears, No. 25 National Guard/GMAC/American Heroes Monte Carlo SS, captured his first NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Mears's victory is the second consecutive win for the new Chevrolet R07 engine and the first in a NNCS points-paying event.
Crew chief Darian Grubb made the call late in the race to gamble on fuel mileage to give Mears and their Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) team a shot at their first victory. The Bakersfield, CA native ran out of fuel on the backstretch of his cool-down lap.
Mears trip to victory lane gives HMS nine wins in the 12 races run so far this season. Mears inaugural win also completes a sweep of all four HMS drivers winning in 2007.
"I am so proud of everybody here," said Mears. "It is definitely a team win. We had a third, fourth, maybe fifth place car. The only way we were going to win it was to stay out. I tried to conserve fuel the best I could. All the Darian (Grubb) and the National Guard/GMAC guys did an excellent. I want to say hi to all the National Guard guys out there. It is a special weekend for all the American Heroes; they have all paid a big price for us. I am proud to take them to Victory Circle. It is a big night for all of us."
Mears started 16th but was never lower than 13th in the running order the entire 400-lap/600-mile race.
J.J. Yeley, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Monte Carlo SS, also scored his best NNCS finish coming to the checkered flag in second place behind Mears.
Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Monte Carlo SS, finished sixth. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS and Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Freight/Marines Monte Carlo SS finished eighth and ninth respectively. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Power of Pride Monte Carlo SS rounded out the top-10.
Chevrolet continues to lead the Manufacturers' Cup standings as the NNCS heads for Round 13 of the 36-race season on June 3, 2007 at Dover International Speedway.
CASEY MEARS, NO. 25 NATIONAL GUARD / GMAC MONTE CARLO SS -- Winner
"I can't believe it. Wait a minute. Let me look around to make sure what it looks like. The team just did an awesome job. I've got to thank Darian (Grubb, crew chief). He made an awesome call. He told me to conserve fuel. I am so proud of everybody here. It is definitely a team win. We had a third, fourth, maybe fifth place car. The only way we were going to win it was to stay out. I tried to conserve fuel the best I could. Darian (Grubb) and the National Guard/GMAC guys did an excellent. I want to say hi to all the National Guard guys out there. It is a special weekend for all the American Heroes, they have all paid a big price for us. I am proud to take them to Victory Circle. It is a big night for all of us."
ON DARIAN TELLING HIM STRATEGY TO CONSERVE FUEL: "What happened was I wasn't sure I could do it. Then there at the end, we thought we were falling off, and maybe not good enough to win, I don't know, we thought we would work on the fuel mileage so I started saving fuel. I saved a bunch of fuel but we did run out of fuel on the backstretch of the cool down lap."
ON THE SATISFACTION OF WINNING: "You know, a lot people were really good to me to get here. It is hard for me to talk about right now, just so happy right now. I appreciate everything everyone has done. Everybody has done an unbelievable job. The new Chevrolet engine ran great and ran 600 miles. It was a great day for us."
J.J. YELEY, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES MONTE CARLO SS -- Finished 2nd:
ON HOW GREAT CAR WAS ALL NIGHT: "We really definitely did, we were going to come out with a top-eight finish at least. If we hadn't I would have been really upset. We got up to fifth and got real tight and fell back to about 10th. But the guys really kept digging. Steve (Addington, crew chief) made great calls. The car was so close, all the changes made a huge difference. We went back and forth between being too free and too tight. We hit it there near the end and thank goodness they got all the fuel in it we needed. This is a great feeling. We were definitely worried about running out fuel. I tried to let the thing coast as long as I could to conserve and then use the breaks. My little girl's birthday is in three days and wish I could have got her a win tonight, would be nice to give her a big trophy for her birthday, but this is ok."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS -- Sidelined in crash:
ON HARD HIT: "It wasn't that hard. The car just got up in the air really good, I knew that. The No. 96 just good loose, I tried to go underneath him, he clipped me, turned me in the grass and I shot right in the outside wall. The No. 84 hit me just as I hit the wall and that is what put the car up in the air like that. Spectacular wreck. Unfortunate because, man, what an awesome race car we had. I was so proud of Steve Letarte and the guys. When we bring race cars like that to the track, it just makes me have a whole lot of fun. I was having a blast out there and I hate we are out of it. But I am ok. I want to say hi to Ingrid at home, because I know she is probably a little nervous right now. I will be home soon.
"Honestly I am fine, it looked a lot worse than it really was. I just feel bad for all these guys on this DuPont/Department of Defense Chevrolet because the car was really incredible. I just had no where to go when Tony Raines got loose, I tried to go to the inside but he just clipped me.
ON WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO RECAPTURE MAGIC HE USED TO HAVE AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY: "I was falling in love again out there today. I tell you what, when the car is driving like that, you drive from 32nd to the top-five, the way we did, I was liking it. We have got to have everything go our way. We have been having so many things go our way, I hate this today because of the points. But as good as this race team is, we will fight our way back and get back up there and have some more good runs. Hopefully come back here in the fall and win it, we know we are capable of it.
"This will be that one bad race we haven't been hoping for or looking for, but we had such a great car. We have a lot of clawing back to do, because of the points thing, but we will be ok."
WERE THE TIRES A FACTOR? "It does have a factor, but if you've got a brain, you know that you don't race right now. You run your own race. There are just too many guys out there who aren't doing that. The tire doesn't make it easy, but it's just common sense right now, it's such a long race."
IS THERE A COMMON LINK TO ALL THESE EARLY CRASHES? "Well, it's a 600-mile race. It's hot and slick during the day like this and with these tires; it just makes it very hairy. You've got to be careful. I see guys driving way over their heads too early in a 600-mile race -- too early for any race. That's why we've seen some of those incidents and that's why I got caught up in that one. It doesn't make it easy when the grip level is where it is right now. But oh, well. It doesn't matter. We had a great car. My car was good. And all I do is just drive it straight for a few laps and then boom, you're gone."
IT LOOKED LIKE A REALLY HARD HIT, ARE YOU OKAY? "Yeah, I think it looked worse than it really was. I was gearing up for it to be a really hard hit, but it wasn't as severe as I thought. With all the safety things that we have (like) the soft wall, I was very, very pleased with the impact and how it absorbed. It looked nastier than it really was when the No. 84 (AJ Almendinger) was right there because it sent the car airborne, but I'm fine."
JEFF GREEN, NO. 66 BEST BUY MONTE CARLO SS
"It felt like we were going to have a good car. We were just biding our time and waiting on the sun to go down. We picked up about 15 spots, and were just trying to be patient. It was a 'wrong place, wrong time' deal. I thought I had (the wreck) cleared, but then someone slammed me in the back. The car's done, so we'll pack it up and head to Dover. I hate it for Best Buy and the Fisher House, which is the program we were running on the car this weekend. We still want people to go to BestBuy.com and donate to the Fisher House. It's a great cause that helps military families.
"The tires we've got this weekend, it's just causing everyone to slide around. It doesn't make for very good racing, I don't think. There's already a lot of torn up race cars, and I think you're going to see a lot more in the garage before the night's out."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS -- Finished 8th:
"It was great. I thought we finished second. I didn't know all those guys stayed out. I wasn't watching. But I was still real happy with the way we ran. We were good all night. We were in the top three; top five all night. I'm real proud of that."
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN AFTER THE DARLINGTON PENALTY? "It's all right. I would have rather finished third or second, like we should have. But some of those guys can afford to gamble. We can't. But we had a good car. It was fun."
WERE YOU LAUGHING WITH YOUR TEAM? "Yeah, I didn't know I finished eighth (laughter). I thought I was second, man. They didn't know either. Oh well, what are you going to do."
DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX FREIGHT/MARINES MONTE CARLO SS, STARTED SIXTH, FINISHED NINTH:
"Our car was good. We were going to finish third but everybody had to pit. Some guys got better fuel mileage than us. We just missed out there. We had a great night. We ran a lot better than what we tested and practiced here, so overall. It was a good night for the FedEx/Marine Chevrolet."
ON HOW FRUSTRATING IT IS TO BE RUNNING SO WELL AND HAVE TO PIT WITH SO FEW LAPS TO MAKE UP TIME AND TRACK POSITION: "Very frustrating. Just kept getting closer and closer to Tony (Stewart) there and Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) we had the best car at the end. We just didn't have the right fuel tank, we just couldn't afford to come in and top-off like some of those guys did and they lucked out and got a good finish.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/POWER OF PRIDE MONTE CARLO SS, STARED 21ST, FINISHED 10TH:
"We made a mistake on the last pit stop, but still had to stop for fuel. I think the best we would have been was sixth where the No. 20 was. It's just part of the deal.
ON FIGHTING BACK AGAIN FROM ADVERSITY: "We did. It is the hallmark of our team. But it is just little things, frustrating little things that kept going wrong. Good points night."
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 LOWE'S/POWER OF PRIDE MONTE CARLO SS, STARTED 21ST, FINISHED 10TH:
ON LEVEL OF FRUSTRATION ON HAVING STRONG CAR AND HAVING TO PIT: "Well, we weren't going to win the race anyhow. We had a very poor pit stop and it put us back a little bit. We had a good car, the guys did a good job, it was the best the car had been since we been here for the race. We knew we had to stop; it is all right. We weren't in a position we did that, they are either not up in the points, you know what it is. Right now, we are accumulating points and trying to get to the end."
ON SATISFACTION FOR REBOUNDING AND SURVIVING FOR A DECENT FINISH: "No, not satisfied at all."
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS -- Finished 6th:
WAS THAT A WILD END TO THE RACE? "It wasn't that wild to me. We just had to pit for gas and ended up outside the top-five."
JOE GIBBS, OWNER JOE GIBBS RACING:
ON HAVING ALL THREE JGR CARS IN THE TOP-10, WITH A CAREER-BEST FINISH OF SECOND FOR J.J. YELEY: "I'm really happy for Interstate and J.J. You look at something like that where they just fought and fought and fought, and I think that jumped them up to 15th in points. So, I'm really happy for them and the Interstate car. As bad as we feel with the 20 car we're still moving in the right direction in points and everything. I felt like it was the best car. You hate to lose the race when you have the best car, but I think we did the smart thing because we felt like we were going to be short (on fuel) so we had to come in. To have all three cars in the top-10: Denny (Hamlin) and FedEx did a great job all night and fought hard. So we had three cars up there and I'm really proud of everybody at the race shop. Motor guys and everybody did a great job. That's a long race. It's a big battle for everybody on pit road. Everybody had to hang tough and to have three cars in the top-10 was a big night for us."
GREG ZIPADELLI, CREW CHIEF, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS:
WAS THAT A WILD END TO THE RACE? "I guess. I'm proud of my guys. Everybody did a good job tonight. We didn 't have a great practice yesterday with the heat and as slick as it was, so we elected to quit early and kind of put our car close to where we were in the All-Star race with some more adjustments in it for pit stops. Everybody did a good job tonight. We were just a little off on fuel mileage. I didn't feel we could make it. We were two-and-a-half laps short. That's the problem -- you run so fast and you lead all those laps and you get the worst fuel mileage. That's just part of racing. We wanted to come in here and race all day and try to put ourselves in position for a top-10 and then hopefully a top-five at the end of the day. Coming into it I would've been excited to finish sixth, because we haven't been that good here at Charlotte in the last few years. But to see that we were probably a second- or third-place car, at worst, all night long, it's a little disappointing. But, that's kind of the way our season has been. But we'll keep pluggin' and go to Dover. It's a place we've won before. It's a place we've run really well at, so maybe we can get a win there."
IS THERE MUCH SATISFACTION TO YOUR FINISH IN THIS RACE? "If we didn't have an opportunity to win it, then I would've said that sixth-place and leading laps was awesome. But sitting where we're at right now, it seems like everything is stacked against us. There's probably four or five (races) we could've won easily this year and things just didn't go our way. This team's been through it before and if we continue to run as good as we do, we'll be there at the end of the year and hopefully get our wins when we need them the most."
-credit: gm racing