CASEY MEARS, NO. 07 JACK DANIELS IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his move to Richard Childress Racing, the switch of sponsors, Jimmie Johnson's recognition, strategy at Daytona, and more. TALK ABOUT YOUR NEW TEAM, NEW SPONSORS, AND NEW...
CASEY MEARS, NO. 07 JACK DANIELS IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his move to Richard Childress Racing, the switch of sponsors, Jimmie Johnson's recognition, strategy at Daytona, and more.
TALK ABOUT YOUR NEW TEAM, NEW SPONSORS, AND NEW CAR HEADING INTO THE DAYTONA 500 THIS COMING SUNDAY
"Things feel good so far. I think the biggest test for us as a team was the Bud Shootout. It was great to be involved in that and just kind of get a head start on communication and what we need to work on for the 500. I think everybody is really seeing that obviously you'd love to have speed, but the big thing is having a car that handles. It used to be in 20 laps you could run wide open before you had to start to lift and start worrying about handling. And it used to be about 12 laps before you had to lift, and now it's about three laps. So, handling is just a premium right now and I think we saw that in the Shootout. It's something that we really focused on over at RCR and based on how we were able to run at the end of that race in the Shootout, I was very happy with the way the car handled and worked."
ON THE SPONSORSHIP CHANGE FROM KELLOGG'S TO JACK DANIELS
"It's just two totally different things. From one point of view, they are two great American companies that have been around for a long time. But I think that obviously you've got to ask somebody who represents both of those organizations that it is two totally different scenarios and totally different groups of people that you're trying to target. For me, it's a lot of fun to be a part of Jack Daniels, not just because of the product, but because of the way that whole company is. They are just a fun group of people. They really understand why they're in the sport. The main reason why they are in the sport is to promote not necessarily to advertise the brand, as much as it is to promote responsible drinking. They've made that very clear to me that that's why they're in the sport. So I'm proud of that. It's a lot of fun to represent Jack Daniels and I enjoy doing it. But like you said, it is two totally different spectrums. Obviously you don't gear yourself towards children anymore like I used to last year."
ON DRIVING FOR RCR, WHAT'S THE BIGGEST ADJUSTMENT YOU'LL HAVE TO MAKE WITH THE NEW TEAM? "Driving for Richard is a lot of fun. The biggest thing that I really enjoy about Richard is that he doesn't pull any punches, that's for sure. He definitely tells you what's on his mind. He gets right to the heart of the matter real quick. If there have been any small issues up to this point, you mention something to him and man, it gets done, it gets taken care of. The other thing that I really like about working for him is that every single time I've been in the shop, I've run into Richard, walking around on the floor. And it's just nice to see that. It's nice to be able to chat with him. You don't always think you have things to talk about, but you run into each other and you realize, oh, this and this you wanted to ask him. I just like that about Richard.
"As far as adjustments go, there are always a lot of adjustments moving into a new team. But right now, it's really strange. For the first time in all the changes that I've made, I feel like I've been here for a while. It seemed like it took me about three or four months before I was a part of the team and part of the organization the last three or four times I've changed teams. And coming into this organization, right away I felt like we'd been together for a while. I think that has a lot to do with (the fact that) the whole No. 07 team has been together a while. But then it also says a lot about their character and the way they hold themselves and the way they work. They've made me feel comfortable right out of the gate. And with the little bit of testing that we've done, we feel like we're on the same page. So it does feel like we've had some time together. I really feel like this is my best opportunity in a long time to really go out and show what I can do."
SO DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO HAVE A SOLID RIDE FOR THE FUTURE?
"Sure, and I think that anytime you go into a new possibility and new future and new team, there's always a lot of anticipation. There's always a lot of man, I feel like this is the best thing I could be a part of. I remember saying some of the same things going into last year and going into the year before that. But there is a different feeling this year. Last year, it was, you know, it should be good, based on everything you see. This should be good. It should be good. I'm very excited. This year, I know it's good. There is a different feeling about going into the year. I know that the things that we've done up to this point, I already know that I'm in a very good situation. I know that I can work with these guys. I don't have to wait to find that out. That's the feeling that gives me more excitement about this year than I've had probably since that last year I drove the NO. 41 car for Ganassi. Jimmy Elledge and I were on the same page. We were leading laps up front and having a good time. Ever since then, I've changed every single year and it's been a different scenario. This is the first time that I know going into this year that we've got a good shot at it and that's the difference."
IS IT A FAMILY FEEL AND DOES RICHARD MAKE THE DIFFERENCE? AND IN THESE TOUGH TIMES, DID RICHARD CHILDRESS TALK TO YOU ABOUT HAVING A BIGGER JOB DESCRIPTION THAN JUST RACE CAR DRIVER?
"Some of those questions are difficult to answer. I find that difficult every time I make a transition, with saying something is good with the new team I'm with, without making it sound like I'm bashing where I was before. It's so hard to walk that tightrope. It does feel like a family. But to a certain extent Hendrick did too. I'm good friends with Rick and was great friends with Ricky and am best friends with Jimmie there as well, but it's a different family. You go to RCR and it's just these guys that are up in Welcome, NC. A lot of them have worked together for a long time. It's a little more of maybe a down-home feel, is maybe the point I was trying to get across. I don't feel like there are a lot of outside distractions. They just focus on racing and that's it.
"Richard had a meeting with all four of the drivers and said that there are a lot of things going on right now, obviously, outside of Motorsports. But in all the United States and the world right now, economically and obviously that affects us from a lot of different areas. Richard explained that he had been through some of the tougher times in NASCAR and obviously NASCAR has excelled and gotten through those tough times and moved on. He just said it's all of our jobs ~ drivers, team owners, crew members, media members, and everybody that's involved in NASCAR to do our part and keep what we love going on."
WITH ALL YOUR TEAM CHANGES, DO YOU THINK IT GETS EASIER WITH EXPERIENCE? OR, DOES IT COME NATURALLY WITH DRIVER ABILITY?
"Maybe I'm not really comfortable this year. Maybe I'm just getting used to it, it what you're saying (laughs). But I think that definitely having this experience of adapting to new teams, it's not the experience that you want to have but I think it definitely helps. You make mistakes as you go on and how you deal with certain scenarios and the more you do it, obviously, the better you get. But I think I've definitely gotten better at understanding the main things I need to focus on as far as getting up to speed quickly. And I also think that RCR and Gil Martin and all the No. 07 guys have really done a good job of making me feel comfortable to do that part."
YOU'RE FOURTH ON THE SPEED CHARTS THIS AFTERNOON. IS THAT THE HANDLING FACTOR KICKING IN THAT YOU TALKED ABOUT EARLIER? "No, I think that's more of a factor of just being in the right run, the right lane, at the right time. Really, the speed charts at Daytona are so hard; you can't evaluate anything from it, basically. Usually the guys who are up front got good runs. Basically what happens, if you watch practice, when everybody leaves pit road if there is a gap, whoever is at the front of that gap and whoever is the couple of cars behind that catches that lead pack is going to have a quick lap time. And that's really all that amounts to. Obviously it feels good to be upwards on the speed charts at any point in time, but it's not something that we can look at as our car handling better or anything like that. We did have a good practice. It was a solid practice. I feel like we sorted through a couple of things that we definitely made gains. I've had a lot of practices in the past where at the end of practice you look at everything you changed and you don't want to do any of it again. So, I'm very happy with the progress that we made but I don't think that's really indicative of our speed."
WITH ALL THE DRIVER CHANGES THAT HAVE TAKEN PLACE, DOES IT TAKE YOU A COUPLE OF WEEKS TO RECOGNIZE WHICH DRIVERS ARE IN WHICH CARS?
"Yeah, it takes a little bit. But you see a lot of it really quickly though. With all the media attention that a lot of these new teams are getting, you watch SPEEDTV and these different channels and stuff and you find out what's going on. I was pretty caught up to speed, pretty quick, but every time we go out on pit road and we're getting ready to leave in a pack, my spotters tell me, hey, so-and-so is in this car and so-and-so is in that car and I keep learning more every time I go out. In Shootout practice, I knew who everybody was, but now obviously it's the 500 practice and there are a lot more cars and more to memorize."
JIMMIE JOHNSON HAS WON THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS, AND YET HE COMES INTO THE '09 SEASON WITH CARL EDWARDS AS THE FAVORITE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. DO YOU THINK JIMMIE GETS PROPER CREDIT FOR HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS?
"I think that's a good question. I think the people that know, for the most part, I think he gets great credit. He's such a damn good guy. I think he gets overlooked a lot, probably. Here's a guy who has done something that nobody has done in a long time in an era that isn't even close to how it was in the past. Obviously it was competitive in the past, but not near as competitive as it is now. And to do what he's done in these days, it ridiculous, you know? But I think he's not one of those guys who is jumping up and down and saying look at what I did. He's not asking for that attention. No offense to Carl, and I don't want this to be taken in a bad way, but when Carl wins, everybody is looking for a back flip. Jimmie does a burnout like everybody else and goes to victory lane. It's different people get different attention in different ways. And I think Carl is obviously very talented. The fact that he's picked to win the championship this year is probably just because somebody wants to see something different happen. And he was the next best guy."
WE SAW KEVIN HARVICK COME UP THROUGH THE BACK IN THE SHOOTOUT. WITH THE WAY THE DRAFT WORKS, HOW IMPORTANT IS YOUR STARTING SPOT? IN THE DUELS, IS THAT MORE ABOUT GETTING A FEEL FOR HOW EVERYBODY IS GOING TO RACE OR IS THAT REALLY JUST JOCKEYING FOR POSITION? "I don't think that it matters a whole lot. When it comes to those last three laps, a lot of stuff goes out the window anyway. Here's what you're going to see a lot of: People that start towards the back are probably going to stay towards the back. People that start towards the front are going to try to stay towards the front as much as they can. People that are in the middle are going to be looking to get in the front or go back further because the middle is just a mess right now. I think with the combination of what we have right now is jut really wild. The cars are really sliding around a lot. I don't think anybody really wants to take a lot of chances with knocking their fenders in early in the race. You've got people with different agendas going into the 150's that really dictates a lot of what you do. You've got guys going in with, hey, I've got nothing to lose, I'm going to fly through there. I don't care who I bounce off of to get in. I want to get in. And then you've got other guys who are going, okay we just want to make it into the 150's. And then you're going to have a group of guys who want to win the 150's no matter what. So, you really do yourself right by kind of knowing who those guys are and picking and choosing your battles in this race. But I know for myself, if I'm up front, I want to stay up front as long as I can. If I'm in the back, I'm probably going to hang in the back and wait for a good time to go just so I'm not caught in that mess."
-credit: gm racing