Darlington: Mears qualifying interview

CASEY MEARS (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger) -- 21st COMMENT ON GETTING BACK IN TOP 10 "We've been hanging in there. The last two races, Talladega and Richmond, we've had a car that's right at a top 10 car. At Talladega I think we had a...

CASEY MEARS (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger) -- 21st

COMMENT ON GETTING BACK IN TOP 10 "We've been hanging in there. The last two races, Talladega and Richmond, we've had a car that's right at a top 10 car. At Talladega I think we had a car that could have won the race. It ran up front pretty well. We just got caught up in something that wasn't our 'sfault, but I think several guys did. That's the reason we stayed in the position we were. Like I said a few weeks ago, we've just got to get better. We've got to consistently finish inside that top 10 and focus on trying to win races. Right now we've got a lot of work to do to stay consistent. The last two weeks we could have been inside the top 10. At Richmond we had our issues there as far as getting caught in the pits early. Matt Kenseth put that oil down and we got caught in it and spun out and that put us in the back. We got a lap down early and we struggled to get it back the whole race. We had a car that was capable of running well. I think the team is making strides. We're getting better, but things are happening on the track and we're not getting good results. We've got to keep working at it. The harder we work and the more we stay consistent, we'll be fine."

COMMENT ON TESTING AT CHARLOTTE "They did an excellent job repaving the track. The tire is to be kind of a crutch a little bit. It's not the right tire. They're using it and we're all dealing with it and I think it'll be a good race, but it's a very, very hard tire. The cars are pretty inconsistent right now. With a full fuel load and new tires and you go out it's all you can do not to wreck because the thing is so loose. Because the tires are so hard, before you're halfway through a run the cars get really, really tight. It's made 'em really unstable. I think all the teams have done a pretty good job coping with it. From the first day of testing to the last day, guys have done a good job taking what they've got and running pretty well with it. At the same time, I think the restarts and starts on new tires, starting side by side in a pack with all the air affecting all the cars, guys are going to have to be careful. I see a lot of early cautions with short runs right out of the gates. The cars are just so unstable right now."

WE'RE AT DARLINGTON. WOULD YOU RATHER BE LUCKY OR GOOD HERE? "Good. It's a difficult place to run well, but it's one of the most fun tracks on the circuit. I really enjoy coming here. I haven't finished well here yet, but I really enjoy this place. It's a lot of fun to drive. It's totally different than anywhere else we go. It's bitten me more than it hasn't bitten me, but at the same time luck is one of those things where you want to be lucky, but at a place like this you've got to be good. You want to have a good car and you've got to be smart and not get into the fence early and knock the fenders off the car before you get started. It's a long race, so if you're just patient and stay inside that top 10 or top 15 the first three-quarters of the race, you'll be in position to get a good top five or top 10 at the end because some of the other guys will be impatient or made a mistake and already hurt their cars. That's key here."

COMMENT ON TIRE MANAGEMENT AT DARLINGTON "It's typical Darlington. This place has always been the same, and the tires always wear out a lot. At any other track you go into the corner and you kinda get a feel for what the car is like. The next time you go in the corner you may go a little bit harder, kinda teasing that limit. At Darlington, you work it the other way. You go through the corner good one time and the next time you back up your entry, slowing down, knowing you're not going to be able to go through there as fast as you did the lap before just because the tires are falling off. It's a little bit of a guessing game. You guesstimate how much your tires are going to fall off, hoping you don't back up too much. Then you just run a slow lap, but if you overshoot that a little bit or go in the same as you did the time before, nine times out of 10 the grip is not going to be there. It's a drivers' track. You've got to be smart, and you've got to prepare yourself for the long run and be ready for what the tire is going to do."

WHO WOULD YOU TRY TO COPY AT DARLINGTON? "When I first came here, a guy I really watched, especially in the Busch Series was Jeff Burton. He's always been really good here. In a Busch car he's been awesome, and he seems to run well in a Cup car, too. Some guys adapt to this track a little better than others. My first year here in a Cup car I was behind Mark Martin watching him a lot. He's been around this place a ton and always seems to do well here. So many guys are good now, so it's hard to say. Sometimes you have a good guy who has a bad car and vice versa. It depends on if the team has its act together, too, but those are two guys I like to watch here."

YOU WERE OUT OF THE TOP 10 FOR ONE WEEK. DID THAT AFFECT YOU IN ANY WAY? "Not really. Looking at the points, I didn't really feel like we were in the top 10. I felt like we were eighth to 15th because everything is so tight. You can be 14th and be almost as close to being in the top 10 than if you were eighth because everything is so tight right now. I wasn't too worried about it. Obviously we want to be inside that top 10. Our goal is to be sixth or seventh by the time we get back to Richmond so we don't have to stress about it like Donnie (crew chief Wingo) has the past couple of years about making The Chase and just missing it. So, we want to get in solid so we're not worried about that."

ARE YOU STILL TALKING TO CHIP GANASSI ABOUT YOUR CONTRACT? "We're still working on it. Chip and I have talked a lot. We've had a lot of positive meetings. We're pushing forward and trying to make things work. Right now I'm really working hard to be with Chip. There are a lot of good things going on here now. I've got a lot of great guys that work on the team and support me a lot. I really like being a part of the Texaco/Havoline team. There's really nothing to say. We're working at it. Obviously there's always opportunity, but I'm focused on trying to work things out with Chip right now. The most I hear about it is what I read in the press. Everybody is kinda making a bigger deal out of it than it is. Chip and I are focused on trying to get something done and put together. The most I hear about any of that is when somebody comes up to me and says, 'did you hear what's on Jayski?' I say, 'really, tell me about it.' It's all rumor and everybody like to stir it up a lot when it comes to things like this. I guess it makes for a good story, but really we're just focused on running well at the track. Chip and I have talked a lot, and that's all I can really say."

HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO RUN BETTER THIS SEASON? "I don't think our performance is that much better to be honest. We've been doing well, and I'm happy with what we're doing. Donnie has made some excellent calls on top of the box to get some good finishes at the end. The big thing that's rewarded us this year is even though it hasn't been top 10 consistency, we've been consistent running the whole race, not going a lap down, bringing the car home on the lead lap. We've had races this year where we've been a lap down, but the biggest difference between this year and last year is taking a bad day and making it a decent day at the end of the day."

HOW HAS THE NEW MANUFACTURER COMING IN NEXT SEASON OPENED UP OPPORTUNITIES? "I don't know. Regardless of who the manufacturer is, any time there are new teams coming into this sport it opens up options for a lot of people and makes the sport bigger. I don't know how they in particular have changed the sport because they're not really in it yet. I'm not really worried about it right now. I haven't really talked to 'em. I guess if they had talked to me it would open up an option, but I haven't really considered 'em, so I'm not really too worried about it."

ARE YOU MARKETABLE RIGHT NOW? "I don't know. I guess so. You tell me. I feel like I'm at a good age right now. I'm young, but I'm seasoned and I've got a lot of experience under my belt right now. I know what to expect at a lot of these tracks. Maybe I'm the type of guy people want. Maybe I'm not. I'm not too sure. Right now, I'm just real happy that our performance has been a little bit better this year. I think Texaco/Havoline has been happy, and hopefully I'm the type of guy they want. I've been told that before. That's like you asking me, 'hey, do you think you're good looking?'

What am I supposed to say? 'Yeah, I'm beautiful. I'm perfect.' I'm in a good spot right now."

WILL YOU MAKE THE INDY 500 PART OF THE NEGOTIATIONS? "I'd love to. I don't have to talk about that with Chip. We don't have to put it in writing. It's something he knows I would love to do, and obviously he's a guy that can make that happen. It would make the most sense if you look at it from that perspective. All the scenarios have to work out to be able to go run the Indy 500. Roger Penske is probably the only other one who has the same capabilities of doing what Chip does. Going and running the Indy 500 doesn't interest me. Going and winning the Indy 500 does. Chip has that capability."

-dodge motorsports

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Mark Martin