Daytona 500: Mears' media visit on new ride

Post Practice Q&A Session with Casey Mears, No. 25 National Guard / GMAC Monte Carlo SS Daytona International Speedway February 14, 2007 CASEY MEARS, DRIVER OF THE NO. 25 NATIONAL GUARD/GMAC MONTE CARLO SS WAS THIRD QUICK IN TODAY'S FIRST...

Post Practice Q&A Session with Casey Mears, No. 25 National Guard / GMAC Monte Carlo SS
Daytona International Speedway
February 14, 2007

CASEY MEARS, DRIVER OF THE NO. 25 NATIONAL GUARD/GMAC MONTE CARLO SS WAS THIRD QUICK IN TODAY'S FIRST PRACTICE SESSION - THE FASTEST CHEVROLET IN THE FIELD. HE TALKED WITH MEDIA ABOUT JOINING HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AND ABOUT WORKING WITH NEWLY ASSIGNED CREW CHIEF, DARIAN GRUBB:

DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE IN JOINING HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "No, I feel a lot of excitement. There are just so many good things about this organization. The pressure is always there to do well in this sport. If you're not thinking about that at some point, you're not maintaining the level of competitiveness that you have to. So that's the same as last year.

"It's just a really good feeling that I know I'm with a good organization that's capable of winning championships week in and week out and I enjoy it now."

IS THERE A BIG TRANSITION FOR A DRIVER WHEN HE CHANGES TEAMS? "There is a lot of transition. But I think that for this change, it was a lot easier than a lot of other changes that I probably would have made in the past. The fact that I was already good friends with Jimmie (Johnson) and Jeff (Gordon) and pretty close with Rick (Hendrick) has made the change a lot easier. I know a lot of guys on the team already just because of being friends with a lot of those guys.

"And so it wasn't like coming into a new team completely blind and having to learn a whole new organization. I knew a lot of the people already. I just needed to learn their structure and how they do things."

ON WORKING WITH (CREW CHIEF) DARIAN GRUBB FOR THE FIRST COUPLE OF PRACTICES "It's really good so far. As of right now, there is no indication that we have a whole lot to work on. I'm telling him what I need and he's going right to work on it. So far, things are going well. I think once we get through Daytona and we get to California and Vegas, we'll have a lot better idea of what we need to work on. But right now I'm really happy with him. He's doing a good job."

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE GIVEN A CREW CHIEF THAT WON THE DAYTONA 500 LAST YEAR? "That is the thing; he has done it before. They just didn't pull him out of the woodwork and it's not his first time. On top of that, even though he wasn't the crew chief for the No. 48 the whole season, he sat on top of the pit box and looked into the calls and helped make a lot of the decisions that they were making. So he brings a lot to the table and I think being through that championship season and seeing what it took to do that is really valuable on our side now."

WILL THE WEEK AHEAD BE ENOUGH TIME TO GET READY FOR THE BIGGEST RACE OF THE SEASON WITH A NEW CREW CHIEF? "Yeah, if I remember right, he only had two days to get ready for the 500 last year, so this year he has a lot more time (laughs). I feel really comfortable. Darian and I have talked a lot. I've talked to him almost every day on the phone when he's not here. When he is here, we've spent a couple of hours at a time talking in the bus. It ranges all from just talking a bit and getting to know each other and talking about California and Las Vegas and what we're going to do there, to things that we're going to do at Daytona. So we've actually spent a lot of time together in a short amount of time getting up to speed about what we both need to hear from each other."

DOES IT HELP THAT YOU'RE BOTH MAKING A FRESH CHANGEOVER TO THE NO. 25 TEAM? "I think it's good for everybody as a whole. There just needed to be some change, probably, within the whole organization. And the No. 25 team has gotten better over the last couple of years, but I think the fact that he and I are both coming in new and there are some new, refreshing ideas and I'm just very excited about getting started with it."

LAST YEAR WAS AN UP AND DOWN YEAR. DO YOU THINK YOU'RE GETTING CLOSER TO GETTING IT TOGETHER? "Yeah, I think that last year was a good season. In the middle of the season, we had some issues. There were no real problems, we just kind of got off a little bit on the wrong path. We discovered what that was about three-quarters of the way into the year and rebounded at the end of the season and came back. But in my last couple of years now, we've put in a competitive effort and I've been able to run up front and get a taste of what that's like and realized that's where I want to be. I mean I've always known that. But until you get to run there and learn how to race the guys who run there week in and week out, there is just a little bit of a different way of doing it. The last couple of years of having that experience has been very valuable and I feel like I'm ready to win."

WILL IT BE STRANGE TO SEE THOSE OTHER CARS YOU USED TO DRIVE COME UP BEHIND YOU, LIKE JUAN PABLO MONTOYA? "Yeah, it was pretty funny because when we lined up to go qualify, I think I was right behind the No. 42 and the No. 41 was right behind me, so I was kind of in a Ganassi sandwich there and it was the two cars that I've been in the last four years. So it was interesting. There are a lot of good guys over there and a lot of good friends. It's good to keep those relationships, but at the same time I just couldn't be more excited about where I am now. Everybody here has just been so great. I'm just looking forward to a lot of good years."

ON LIMITED PRACTICE SESSIONS "I think the guys who ran the Shootout have a little bit of a leg up on us just because this tire is a lot harder. The cars are sliding around a lot more. There's a lot to learn real quick. And you only get a couple of practices to do it. Fortunately, all our other cars were in the Shootout and we got an opportunity to learn from them. So we're starting in a good place and we've really got to use our time wisely in this next practice to be ready to do."

WITH THE WIND AND WITH SOME DRIVERS WHO ARE TAKING SOME CHANCES BECAUSE THEY ARE IN DESPERATE SITUATIONS, DO YOU HAVE TO BE VERY CAREFUL? "Yeah, I don't try to do anything too spectacular in practice. I just feel out my car and see what it's going to be like. In the 150's, we're in the same boat. We want to do well. We want to get a good starting position for the 500, but there are a lot of guys out there that are in desperate situations and are going to make desperate moves and with this tire we have right now, there just isn't a whole lot of margin for error. So we're just being careful. We want to make sure we get this car through the 150's and get it into the Daytona 500. So far, everything has been going really well. We've just got to continue to get the car turning better and hopefully get the National Guard / GMAC Chevy up front."

THIS IS THE FRST TIME YOU'VE BEEN IN THE DRAFT WITH YOUR MONTE CARLO SS. DO YOU NOTICE ANYTHING DIFFERENT? "Oh, I really enjoy it. I think the Chevy drives great. We noticed a lot of things at Vegas as well. I felt like it was a little bit better in dirty air - maybe a little bit more efficient. I couldn't be more happy right now."

WHAT'S YOUR STRATEGY FOR THE 150'S? "There are so many little things that are going to get us to where we need to be. The team's got a ton of potential. Darian (Grubb) has done a good job of assessing the areas we need to work on. I can't wait. All the parts and pieces are there. The people are there. It's a matter of making the right decisions and putting the people in the right places. So far things are going fairly smooth. We're making a lot of progress on the things we need to focus on in the season. We're going to have some growing pains. There is some stuff that will be going on throughout the year. Darian and I have to learn each other and learn the team and the ins and outs of how they operate. But so far, things are going pretty good and moving along pretty fast."

WHAT'S THE BIGGEST THING YOU LIKE ABOUT THE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN YOU AND DARIAN GRUBB? "It's open. I think he's learned a lot of valuable lessons by being a part of the No. 48 team for so long and then being the lead engineer for the last couple of years. He's had an opportunity to work with all the teams at Hendrick Motorsports. It's really valuable to have a guy like that aboard and so far the communication has jut been outstanding so far."

ON HIS NEW TEAMMATES "I'm really excited about them and getting to know Kyle (Busch). I'm getting to know him more and more all the time. He's a really talented guy. And of course Jimmie (Johnson) and Jeff (Gordon) can speak for themselves. Obviously the championships are there. They are fun to be around. The team chemistry is already there. We've been sharing information and talking. Jimmie and I are already having a lot of conversations with a lot more detail than we've ever had in the past. Obviously by being friends, we talked about racing, but never with many details because we weren't on the same team. So it's been really fun to hang out with him and talk about details about what we both look for out of a car. Fortunately, we're coming to find out that we're really similar as far as our driving style goes. So I think we're going to be able to rely a lot of information.

"We're here to win races and we want to sit on poles and we want to make the Chase. So we've got to work hard and we've got to speed up some of the learning processes here to do that. At the same time, we've got to have realistic goals and be conservative when we need to be, and get those solid finishes. At the end of the day, the championship still rewards consistency, so we've got to focus on that."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Casey Mears
Teams Hendrick Motorsports