CASEY MEARS (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger) NOTE: Mears finished second in the Daytona 500 in February, and he was second fastest in Thursday's first practice session. Mears is driving the same Dodge Charger that he had here in February.
CASEY MEARS (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Mears finished second in the Daytona 500 in February, and he was second fastest in Thursday's first practice session. Mears is driving the same Dodge Charger that he had here in February. NOTE II: Mears was involved in an accident in Happy Hour and will switch to a backup Dodge Charger. See last note.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IN PRACTICE? "The biggest thing we're trying to do is get the car balanced right. You've got to race good here. You come to superspeedways and you want to build a fast racecar. You want it to be slick, but it's got to have enough downforce in it to stay wide open through the corners in the center of the pack. That's pretty difficult. As hot as it is right now, it's going to be so much more slippery than it will be at night. So if you can get your car handling better during the day it's going to be better at night because you can pick up more grip. I think we've got a pretty good car. It's the same car we raced with here last, and it's running well. I'm pretty happy with it right now. It's pretty fast down the straightaway, too. Hopefully we can qualify halfway decent. I don't see us running much in the final practice today. We've got a pretty good car. It didn't get dinged up in the Daytona 500, and I don't want to take a chance on hurting it.
"We're in race trim because it's an impound race. You practice in race trim and then you put tape on it for qualifying and see what you can run. I don't think we'll do a qualifying run in practice. We'll just have to wait and see what we've got tomorrow."
IS IT MORE SLIPPERY HERE AT NIGHT THAN IN THE DAYTIME IN FEBRUARY? "It's so much more humid and the tires fall off faster. It's hot right now, too. That's another thing we're going to have to work on. We've got to get hydrated and get enough air on us. It feels like the airbox is sucking air right out of the car now it's so hot and sticky."
REMEMBER LAST YEAR'S LATE-NIGHT, EARLY-MORNING FINISH? "It was typical Florida weather. With all the heat in the day, it rains in the evening. Hopefully we can stay away from that Saturday and have a clean, dry race. Sometimes you see more cautions in this race, too, because the tires fall off more and cars are getting away from guys more than they think. You see that in practice. The tires were wearing out more than the guys were thinking because they were making bigger mistakes. I think that happens in the first practice because you get back to reality. You haven't been to a superspeedway in awhile, and especially as hot as it is, it takes a little while to figure out what you need to do."
COMPARE YOUR FRAME OF MIND NOW TO THE WAY THINGS WERE IN FEBRUARY "I'm not really any different. I'm just excited about having the opportunity to win this race and really optimistic after the first race we had here. Everybody's got a shot to win this thing. It's a matter of putting yourself in the right place at the right time. As far as my attitude goes, we go into each week trying to win races. We really do. I haven't changed. We've had some downers this year and we've fallen in the points more than we wanted to. Now we've got a hole to dig out of to make The Chase. It changes things a little bit. You start the season off with a clean slate, and now that we've fallen back in points we can't afford to lose any more points. Getting out of this race clean is going to be real important."
ARE YOU GOING TO NEED SOME HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS TO MAKE THE CHASE? "We're going to need for some guys to run bad. If everybody in front of us runs better all the time we're going to stay where we're at. Even Matt Kenseth when he was back in points last year and came back he did a good job of coming back and other guys did a good job of falling backwards at the same time. It helped his cause of getting in. We need to have the same thing. This is the point in the year where some guys get stronger and go and some guys are going to make mistakes. Hopefully we can capitalize on it."
IS THERE A POTENTIAL FOR THE FIELD TO STRING OUT TOMORROW NIGHT? "Yes. When the tires get slick the ill-handling cars fall back further. I'm fine as long as my car works good. I'd rather be cooler and not have to sweat all night."
COMMENTS AFTER ACCIDENT IN SECOND PRACTICE SESSION. MEARS WILL SWITCH TO A BACKUP DODGE CHARGER THAT JAMIE McMURRAY DROVE TO A SECOND-PLACE FINISH IN THE 2005 PEPSI 400 "I guess the 31 lost the left rear," Mears said. "It got him loose and shot him straight into the fence. We didn't have anywhere to go. As soon as he hit the fence I hit his back end. It was a pretty hard hit, but I feel great. I just talked to Donnie (crew chief Wingo), and he said our backup car is just as good. I'm going to take his word for it. We'll find out how long it takes to get back out. We need to go out and run by ourselves a little bit and make sure the tires are clear. We run the tires so close to the body work on these cars. We need to make sure we don't have any rubbing and things like that. That's about it. We've got a setup we think will work, so we're just going to put it in this car. I guess we had been out there for 10-12 laps, and I was just thinking about coming in. We needed to make a change anyway, but I didn't come in soon enough I suppose."