Chicagoland: Dodge Saturday report

CASEY MEARS (Target/FujiFilm Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Mears will start fourth in Sunday's Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. It's his best qualifying effort of the season. Mears ranks third in the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year Race, 30 points ...

CASEY MEARS (Target/FujiFilm Dodge Intrepid)

NOTE: Mears will start fourth in Sunday's Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. It's his best qualifying effort of the season. Mears ranks third in the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year Race, 30 points behind leader Greg Biffle. Mears best finish was a 15th earlier this season at Las Vegas, and his best qualifying effort prior to Friday was a 10th at Talladega.

"When you run in so many races and you finally get a pole (in Busch Series), you're very excited about it but more than anything else you're relieved. It's something I've been trying to do for quite a while now, not that it's been years and years, but a lot of races go by in a year. I didn't really go out last night. We went over to the sprint car race a little bit last night. It got rained out, but we had a good time. We've got a race today, so I couldn't celebrate too much."

"This was my best qualifying run in Cup. We thought we had a good shot at the pole. We've been creeping up on it, and we had a legitimate shot at it. It was pretty close, but it's so competitive out here. A tenth is just like a second in most other series. I think qualifying has been the easier part for me. You run as hard as you can in qualifying, and that's what I'm used to. There's a lot more to racing. Each track has its own pace that won't eat up tires too fast. These tracks are hard to figure out, what's too easy and what's too hard. A lot of times I feel like I'm driving real easy and they tell me I'm driving in too hard. Then when I drive easy and think it's about right, they tell me to get in a little harder. It's tough to figure out the fine line, and that's probably been the hardest thing to figure out."

"A couple of times we had a real good race car - Richmond and Darlington. We ran well at Vegas, too. At the end of the day, if you get the car right, you can't drive it too hard. You can drive as hard as you want because you're running up there with less effort if the car is right. That's what you strive to do, get the car perfect. I don't have the experience with these cars to know if they're good or bad. Sterling can get in it and say, 'that thing is awesome.' Or he can get in it and say, 'you've got a way to go.' That's what seat time has been doing for me lately. When we have a good car now, I know it, and if it's off, I'll know that, too."

"It seems like every time I get in one of Sterling's cars, except for Richmond, it seems like it's a little too tight for me. We usually have to free up the car a little more, but if he's in the ballpark, we can bolt on what he has and be pretty good. At the end of the day it's always kinda what you like, but we learn from each other. Sometimes I'll try a set of shocks and think they're great. Jamie will put 'em on and think they're horrible. That's just driver preference. We are all three different, but because we are so different we learn a lot from each other."

"It's weird to me. If your car is set up different you can put on a set of shocks and it will affect it differently. It's not so much drivers as the cars are set up different."

"I really like this track. It's similar to Vegas. It's real smooth, and we ran well at Vegas. As far as racing goes, it's going to be tough because the track doesn't have two grooves right now. I'm hoping by the end of the Busch race the second groove will work in and by the Cup race it'll be pretty good. Right now the upper groove isn't worked in, but it'll get there eventually. It's a good race track. It'll be a really good track as time goes by."

"I don't think about the rookie race too much. In the back of my mind, I was pretty impressed with Biffle's win at Daytona. It gave him the rookie lead, but we do the best job we can do every weekend. Hopefully our best job will be better than their best job. You can't really focus on the rookie points. If you do that, you might be running 25th and running a conservative pace and another rookie gets around you and you start driving harder and make mistakes. We've got to look at the big scheme of things. If we take that approach and do well, we'll win the Raybestos rookie-of-the-hear title and not have to think about it."

"I'd rather win a race. It'd be great to have the rookie title, but at the end of the year they think about it and then no one thinks about it again. If you win a race, they'll remember that. It's more rewarding for the team and sponsors to get a win, but that doesn't mean we don't want to win the rookie title. We're trying really hard to do that, but we're here to win races. If the title comes along with that, that's an added bonus."

"I think the more time we spend together, the more the team understands what I want out of the car. I didn't really have to learn the language when I came to Winston Cup. Bakersfield (Calif.) is just a little redneck town anyway. A lot of people migrate in from L.A., but originally a lot of them came from Oklahoma and Kansas. It's just a bunch of oil wells and farming. As far as California goes, it's as far away as you can get from the beach, but I was pretty familiar with the language. I had a lot to learn with the cars. I'd never driven stock cars before at all. It was totally new for me. Last year with the team I was with, it was inexperienced. We had some good guys on the team, but they didn't have the tools and information this team does. Last year I learned some things, but I didn't understand why this worked and that didn't. Now, I'm understanding why things are happening. I've probably learned quadruple what I learned last year in the first half of this season. It's just getting better all the time."

"My dad was here yesterday. My uncle (Rick Mears) left me a message yesterday. He was all fired up, and it was really cool. He was all excited because I had such a good day. I called him back this morning and left him a voice mail. Dad (Roger Mears) is always here, and it feels good to have him here. Every time I go to buckle in he's there. It's great to know he's there watching. He always has something to say to me at the end of the day. It's just good to have some family around."

"It might sound crazy because of where we've ended up this year. We've only had one top 15. I think right now for us, a good goal for Sunday would be a top 15 or a top 10. However, this team is capable of winning. We're going to approach it conservatively, but if we're in the top five at the end, you'd better believe I'm going to be standing on the gas trying to win that race."

"We've got a great Busch car. We haven't run Happy Hour yet in the Cup car (third fastest in first morning practice), so I don't know how good it really is, but in the Busch car yesterday it was unreal. Kenseth and Brian Vickers ended up being pretty quick, so I'm sure we'll have some guys to race with, but we've definitely got a car that can win that race."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Greg Biffle , Rick Mears , Brian Vickers , Roger Mears