Charlotte: Winning team press conference

POST RACE WINNER'S PRESS CONFERENCE WITH CASEY MEARS, DARIAN GRUBB, RICK HENDRICK, NO. 25 NATIONAL GUARD/GMAC MONTE CARLO SS: MEARS: "This is unbelievable. This is very, very exciting about it and I am very, very relieved. It has been a long...

POST RACE WINNER'S  PRESS CONFERENCE WITH CASEY MEARS, DARIAN
GRUBB, RICK  HENDRICK, NO. 25 NATIONAL  GUARD/GMAC MONTE CARLO SS:

MEARS: "This is unbelievable. This is very, very exciting about it and I am very, very relieved. It has been a long time and it feels great to do it here at Hendrick Motorsports. Darian did an unbelievable job today. All the guys did a great job in the pits. We made a lot of changes today. Made a lot of changes to keep up with the track. There at the end, we had a really good race car. Started conserving fuel fairly early not knowing quite how it was all going to play out. I was hoping like heck that Darian wasn't going to call me in. He was saying 'Man, we are about a half or ¾ of a lap shy on fuel'. I was hoping he wouldn't say come in and he didn't, we gambled it and saved a bunch of fuel and won. It was just unbelievable. I think the thing to take away from this today was we had a very competitive race car. At the end, we made a good decision to win the race. I can't believe we are sitting here."

GRUBB: "It was a very long night but I am so proud of this National Guard/GMAC team and all of Hendrick Motorsports. All of the success we have had this year is just a testament to how much work everybody puts in and how much dedication they put forth to be able to succeed. Everybody just goes out there and does their job day in and day out. We haven't had the season we have been looking for this year. We have had a lot of mishaps, failures and things like that which has put us back in points. But they guys don't give up, nobody gives up, we just keep fighting and keep fighting. We lost our alternator, like about 78 laps in to the race. We had to come in and change batteries, we swapped back and forth between batteries. The track conditions forced us to make a lot of changes. It is just a completely different car that we started the race with, We didn't give up, we just kept working on it and working on it. Now the success of Hendrick Motorsports just shows it."

ON A MEARS BACK IN VICTORY LANE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 16 YEARS:

MEARS: "That is pretty cool. I would say something better, that made me tear up a little bit. I have watched my Uncle (Rick Mears) and my Dad (Roger Mears) got a chance to race the Indy 500 too, but my Uncle won four of them, on this day. Man, what special day just because of that. My family has had an unbelievable history in racing. I have always wanted to make my mark in history with my family.

"We have a long ways to go and a lot of races to run, but it sure feels good to come up with a win today, especially being Memorial Day. Obviously because of my Uncle's success in The 500 but on top of that, the National Guard. Memorial Day weekend, what better car to win than the National Guard car this weekend. We had a lot troops here supporting us. The American Heroes car, was running a lot of the names of the fallen soldiers who have paid the ultimate price for us, for us to be able to come out and have a good time like we did this weekend. It was a very big honor to run those names on the deck lid of our car today. For a lot of reasons, it is a very special day for us."

"I think that one of the things that carrying all of those names made it really hit home was that we have a team member who had a relative whose name was on the decklid of our car. General Nepal (SP) was there today and he knew several of those people first-and. Just listening to them and how they spoke about it really hit home. It is a huge honor for us just to be able to do that. And to represent them in the highest regard with a win today is very special. It feels good. What those men and women do for us week in and week out is...well, it is very easy to forget what they do because we are happy, living in the United States, loving it just like everybody else and we forget what they are doing overseas to help protect us and keep it that way. Today is one of those days that we need to remember that and hopefully we brought a little more awareness to it today."

ON THE NAMES OF THE FALLEN HEROES ON THE DECKLID OF THE NO. 25

HENDRICK: "I happen to be with one of the Generals this morning and when we were standing there, he and this other officer were talking to about three or four of the guys and their families that were lost. It brought back to me, when we went through our family loss, and had the names on the hood, how much it meant to us. We still treasure those pictures in victory lane and honoring them. This was unbelievable that it happened here and happened on this day. I think that to everyone of the soldiers, and we had a bunch of them here, when they would come by the car, that is what they would look at and point to people's names, that they knew. It meant an awful lot."

ON FEELING ANY PRESSURE TO JOIN HMS TEAMMATES IN VICTORY LANE:

MEARS: "I think there is always pressure in this sport. I never got involved in this sport because I wanted to run fifth or sixth, I always wanted to win. So there has always been that pressure there. More than anything it was a comfort knowing that those guys were winning week in and week out. It is easy to look back now and go 'Hey, it is here. These guys are winning with it. We just have to grab a hold of it.' I think that what Darian has done a very good job of this year is really working with the No. 24, No. 48 and No. 5 and really learn exactly and understand what is going on there and applying it to what we do week in and week out. It has been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of people don't realize exactly what we've gone this year. The stuff that we have gotten caught up in, the little bit of bad luck that we have had. The reorganizing that we have been doing. We are rebuilding a team this year. Not completely, but rebuilding in a lot of areas. Going through that and then having several good runs and just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it has been frustrating. But this definitely solidifies that we are a team that is out there to wins races and out there to run up front. We keep getting better all the time. I think the more that Darian and I work together, I think we said it this weekend, when we left on Thursday, I looked at Darian and said, 'Man, I feel like we are starting to click.' He is starting to understand what I want, understand the way I say things, what I need after that. We just felt very comfortable this weekend. I am really happy with the progress we are making."

YOU NEVER DOUBTED YOUR ABILITY TO WIN A RACE. NOW THAT YOU HAVE, CAN YOU EXPAND ON THAT?

MEARS: "As a driver in this sport, if you are doubting your ability to compete with other competitors, you're in the wrong place. But I think I'd be completely lying if I didn't say at some points, you'd doubt. Not necessarily that you can make it happen, but what do I need to make it that much better. My uncle and my dad have told me that if you ever stop learning, you need to retire because this is a sport that constantly changes and improves over time and you need to keep up with it and learn. I've always in the back of my mind, known we can do this. We could run up front. We've just never quite come home with it. Today solidifies a lot of that. Some people might say this was a fuel mileage deal and obviously it was at the end of the day to win it. But we did a lot out there to. We conserved fuel. We didn't run down Tony. We could have at one point. And we conserved and saved the tires in case we had a run there at the end, and it all paid off."

DID YOU THINK YOUR FIRST VICTORY WOULD BE SUCH AN EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE FOR YOU?

MEARS: "I just didn't think about it. I have a lot of special people around me. I've got people coming out of the woodwork pulling for me. My mom and dad are my biggest supporters every weekend. My dad drives my motorcoach, so he' s here through the good things and bad. So it's been gratifying to see the satisfaction on their faces because they've been living it with me. It feels good to bring it home for them."

COMPARE WHAT IT'S LIKE TO GIVE CASEY HIS FIRST WIN

GRUBB: "I'd say it was definitely tough and a new experience being the crew chief and actually getting to make the call and second-guessing the engineers' numbers and running the numbers myself with a calculator. I was the guy making that recommendation before. And now I was taking it from the engineer and looking through it. We had to take into account everything that was going on with the points and where we were at. We were running second at the time, so we didn't back into the win. We were running top 10 all day. We fought and fought. We were able to go out there and continue to win the way we wanted to win. We ran hard all day and just didn't give up. We have an entire team and organization backing us up at Hendrick Motorsports.

"I'm kind of numb a little bit I guess because of being in victory lane with Jimmie (Johnson). This is even more special because it's Casey's first win and our first win together. We earned it. We've gotten better and better each week and we'll keep working."

ON GETTING THE NO. 25 CAR TO VICTORY LANE

MEARS: "Rick told me at the beginning of the year that one of his biggest goals was to make sure we got the No. 25 team up and running the way it needed to. We've seen nothing short of that. Anything we've needed, we've been able to get it. I've made some pretty aggressive decisions at the beginning of the year and gotten a lot of the stuff we needed. It's great to have that support. It feels great to bring a win home for Rick and reward him with all the support he's been giving us."

NOW THAT YOU'VE WON, WILL THAT HELP YOU TO REALLY CONTINUE TO CHANGE THINGS AROUND?

MEARS: "We've had that confidence for about the last five races. We had a car at Darlington. We've had several cars that have been fast and competitive. We knew we had the speed. We just needed to get everything else around it right. From a team standpoint, and when you talk about confidence, for the past five weeks even though we've been in this hole, when you walk in the shop the attitudes have been great. Guys are smiling and laughing and having fun at their job and doing a good job with their job. And we're sitting 35th in points and I think that's key. Darian's demeanor really sets the tone. Everybody on this team and in this organization knows our capabilities. It's very hard to prove that to everyone in the outside world. But we know it, and we're going to back it up the rest of this season."

TALK ABOUT YOUR EMOTIONS ABOUT GETTING YOUR FOURTH TEAM INTO VICTORY LANE, AND ABOUT CASEY GETTING HIS FIRST WIN AT A PLACE WHERE JEFF GORDON GOT HIS FIRST WIN?

HENDRICK: "It always feels good to see someone in the organization who hasn' t won a race, win a race. You feel like you've accomplished something. You climb that mountain. You never know how a guy is going to act on the box. It's almost like a field general. Can they make the call? Can he handle the pressure? We saw that. He (Darian) just never flinches. It feels good. If I look across the sheet at what we've spent and what the resources are. They're equal across the board. I know these guys can do it and that Casey can do it. When crew chiefs and drivers can work together, they know what they want before they even call for it. I was on the radio tonight when Darian said they were going to be about a half lap short. I knew somewhere inside of me that Darian was going to go for it.

"But it felt so good with the win at Talladega last year, we couldn't really enjoy it. We had one guy in the points that got booted. So this was special. But to win at Charlotte with all our guys was really special."

ON HOW HE IS GOING TO CELEBRATE HIS WIN ON MONDAY:

MEARS: "I am going to relax. I had about a 10,000 lb gorilla off my back. I am going to relax, spend some time with my friends. We have to go test on Tuesday so we have to be ready for that. But definitely go out and have a good time and celebrate and spend time with some good friends. In victory lane, Jimmie and some of those guys came up and I think we are all going to be ready to get together and have a little fun tonight."

ON RELIEF OF GETTING FIRST WIN:

GRUBB: "I really don't see it as pressure. I see it more as the overall pride of the job. That is what we are paid to do. We are in this sport for a reason. The pressure is there, of course, when I get the call from Mr. H and he asks me what is going on and I have to give him answers but, that is the reason we are there, we are there to perform every week. We come in to every race planning to win. We put the pressure on ourselves, just to drive ourselves further and further, try to make ourselves better and better every week to win. We have made steady progress toward that. We still have a lot of work to do; I won't kid anybody on that. We have got a lot of issues and stuff we are going to keep working on, but it is all smaller things now. We are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, tonight was a good show of that."

ON HIS JOURNEY TO GET TO THIS POINT:

MEARS: "I actually had opportunities in both CART and IRL at the time I made the decision to come run the NASCAR Busch Series. It was still very unclear at that point whether CART or IRL was the place to be and it is still kind of unclear at this moment. I figured what the heck, I will take a chance and go run Busch, if things work out, great. But if they don't, by then I will know what direction to go in open wheel and hopefully make the right decision. Fortunately, it has paid off.

"I got an unbelievable opportunity out of the blue with that Busch team. Got an unbelievable opportunity the last four years. I feel like the greatest opportunity I have ever had is sitting right here. It is very special. The first couple of years I was in Cup, the first year I can't believe I was even there. I was so far inexperienced with these types of cars. It just took a while to get the feel for it. I think the last couple of years that I ran before this year, I was really starting to get the hang of it. Starting to get the feel for it, starting to understand what was going on. Then to get the opportunity to come to Hendrick Motorsports with all the resources and people out there to do things to the very top of their game, it is just an unbelievable opportunity. It is a great place to be, a fun place to work. I have great teammates, from the crew chiefs, to the other drivers, we all share information, we all talk and that is a huge part of the success that we have.

"I think the most challenging thing was getting used to the cars on the track. You go from an 1,800 lb car to a 3,400 lb car and it is just a totally different animal all together. The short tracks were very difficult for me. I had never driven anything smaller than a mile, those are our short tracks in open wheel. Then go to Martinsville and Bristol, I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to get around those places. It took time but I finally figured it out. You know, those are probably the toughest things, learning the cars and the short tracks. Over time I have gotten comfortable with it, this really feels like home. A lot people ask me if I wish I was in the Indy 500 this weekend or would I love to have an opportunity to do the Indy 500, I would like to do that sometime, but I feel like I am at home here, I love driving the stock cars."

ON THOUGHTS WHEN ACTUALLY TOOK THE WINNER'S CHECKERED FLAG:

MEARS: "I don't know, I was yelling so loud, I couldn't hear myself think. I was going down the backstretch and I was thinking I might be able to coast and still win this deal. I was hitting myself inside and telling myself not to think that way, just get through three and four and then the goose bumps starting coming because I knew we had an opportunity to win this race. All my emotion for the last four or five years being here has just built up, it has been frustrating having the runs that we had, coming so close and finally seal the deal and come home with it, was just unbelievable. Great place to start. I feel like we are starting over. I feel like we have something real special going on here. Darrian and I have developed a real good relationship and we are 10% in to a 100% relationship we still have a lot of growing to do, a lot of understanding. We are just going to continue to get better from here. That is the good part. To see the progress we have made from the beginning of the season, see the runs that we have, to come home with a win this early in working together, there is still a ton of growth there is really exciting for me."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rick Mears , Roger Mears
Teams Hendrick Motorsports