Daytona Media Day - Mears




HOW WAS YOUR VEGAS TEST? "Vegas went fairly well. I think for the team as a whole we struggled with a little bit of speed, not just the No. 25 team but the organization as a whole. We got the car pretty well balanced; things went fairly well. A couple hiccups here and there but it's a good start for the year."

ON THE DAYTONA 500: "You've got the guys that are pretty typical that you look for up front, year in and year out. I think you also see a lot of years at restrictor-plate races the favorite or the guy that looks the most dominant not win the race. I don't want to say that this type of racing is a crapshoot. It's not - there's an art to it. There's a reason why you see the same people up front year in and year out. But if there is any one race that has a lot of luck involved, Daytona and Talladega are those. Not necessarily the final laps but getting through the majority of the race."

YOU FINISHED SECOND AT LAST YEAR'S DAYTONA 500 - HOW BAD DO YOU WANT TO WIN THIS RACE? "I definitely wanted to win but what was even more of a reality at the end of that race is that we were like 20th with five laps to go and just made a hard charge through the center of the pack and got up towards the front. Before I could even comprehend that we had a chance to win, I just realized that we were at the front. It was one of those things that happens really quick and when I look back on it now, it's like 'what an opportunity to finish that well in one of the biggest races of the year. I had some decisions to make at the end of that race and chose to go with Jimmie (Johnson) and I knew at that point on the last lap that I didn't have an opportunity in myself to go for the charge to win. I at that point basically I had to choose who am I going to go with and ended up going with Jimmie and helping him to win. It was a great deal and obviously I want to make it even better this year."

ARE YOU GETTING BETTER AT RESTRICTOR-PLATE RACING? "I'm constantly getting better at it. Constantly learning, you know. At first you come in not understanding what these cars do in the air and how to work the air and how to avoid some of the wrecks. At first you just think 'man, this is just a luck thing. Whoever wins this is just whoever's in front at the end.' But you start realizing that there is an art to it and I've learned a lot about it over the last few years now. I feel like I got a pretty good handle on how to do that. There's always more to learn. I've never considered myself a guy who knows everything?

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING WITH HENDRICK AND THEIR ENGINES? "I think it's really good. I think that traditionally they have an engine program that's really good. Knowing that that's underneath you is reassuring. In this sport you have to stay ahead of things all the time. I feel really confident that we've got engines that are really strong this year and I'm looking forward to it."

DO YOU FEEL SETTLED WITH THE TEAM? "Yeah. But it's easy to say that at the beginning of the year. You've got to go out and perform and see how things are going to go but I am comfortable right now. It's funny because everyone keeps asking me so it feels like I should be under more pressure this year but I feel less pressured. Knowing that in the back of my mind that if we put people in the right places and make the right decisions, having the equipment and the resources that we have, the opportunity is there to win. We don't question that. We just have to go out and do the best we can with all that."

ON THE CREW CHIEF CHANGE: "It all happened really fast. I had talked with Jimmie about Darian (Grubb) for a lot of years. We talked a lot about Darian filling in last year and how impressed he was with him and how calm his demeanor was. The way he approached situations, his attention to detail on trying to really sort out and get the feel that Jimmie wanted in the car. He was just impressed. It was a surprise to get the change at this point; I was really looking forward to working with Lance (McGrew) but I think that if there's anybody that could have stepped in and eased my apprehension about having a new crew chief it could have been Darian. He's definitely the right guy for the job. There's nobody else that I could see at this point, being able to be placed in the situation and just go for it."

ON DARIAN GRUBB'S ROLE IN JOHNSON'S LAST YEAR'S DAYTONA 500 WIN: "Obviously Darian was a huge part of that but Chad (Knaus) was a huge part as well. He was back at the shop preparing that stuff; preparing notes for Darian. It was a joint effort there. But it's a very reassuring feeling that Darian has been through that process and understands how the team needs to perform and how the guys need to react in certain situations. He's been there watching it with a championship team now and he knows what it takes to get there. Having that knowledge is very valuable and we'll see how he clicks. So far things have gone well; we had a really good conversation today. I'm very impressed."

PEOPLE SAY THAT FOR GUYS IN THE TOP 35 THIS WEEK IS VACATION STILL. DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY? "Absolutely not. We're hard at work. This is pre-game time. If you're on vacation during pre-game time you're not thinking about what you need to be doing. Comparing the two scenarios it may feel like vacation, not having to worry about making the show but right now we're very focused and hard at work. Vacation's gone and we're ready to go racing."

WHAT IS YOUR APPRECIATION OF THE 500? "My appreciation for the Daytona 500 has grown over the past few years and being an open-wheel guy for so long I almost felt guilty that I didn't understand a lot of the history of the Daytona 500. Now that I've been here and know that this is my home and this is where I want to be I've just grown to appreciate it more and understand its history. And it's going to mean that much more to me if I win."

DARIAN GRUBB SAID THAT AFTER HE FILLED IN FOR CHAD KNAUS HE DIDN'T HAVE MUCH INTEREST IN BEING A CREW CHIEF AGAIN - YOUR THOUGHTS? "He did mention that to me that he was satisfied with his career as crew chief thus far. He's probably got one of the best records out there - 50/50 for wins. He said that - he didn't think he wanted to go that direction. At the same time he did express he wanted it to be the right scenario and he felt that this was a good opportunity, which I took as a huge complement. I think that we've noticed in testing that Jimmie and I have similar driving style; the way that we work the pedals and work the wheel at a lot of these tracks kind of helped Darian understand that 'hey, I've worked with a guy that has similar driving styles to this guy now.' And I think he's excited about the sponsor; I think he's excited about the amount of attention and effort that is put towards this No. 25 team and I just couldn't be happier that he decided to come aboard. It was something that happened kind of quick but there was a lot of time devoted towards this. As opposed to coming in on Sundays and being on the box he's going to be coming in three or four days a week to these races and that includes a lot of personal time at home. It's a huge decision for him to make and I'm glad he decided what he did."

WHAT WERE THE DYNAMICS OF THE CHANGE? "I heard about it a couple of days before it happened. It was a quick decision and like I said, from the beginning I was really looking forward to working with Lance. We had a good repertoire; things were going really well. The team had their reasons for making this decision and I support them. The team has been around for a long time; they understand the ins and outs of what it's going to take to win races and win championships in this sport. For whatever reason they felt like this was the right scenario for us to go out and do well. I really hope that Lance finds something within the organization and still be a part of things because he's very valuable and has a lot of experience. We don't want to lose that."

WHY DO YOU THINK THE CREW CHIEF SWITCH HAPPENED - WAS SOMEONE TRYING TO POACH DARIAN? "No, now that's digging kind of deep. It was just a team decision based on information they've had over the last couple of years. What they felt would maybe be a better fit. Really no bad issues. There wasn't one thing that set this off to spark this decision, it was just a series of events and things leading up to where we are now that they felt that this was the best scenario for the No. 25 team at the time. It would take forever to explain that and to be honest, I don't know all the reasons right now. But like I said, I was really looking forward to working with Lance and by the same token I'm really looking forward to working with Darian. I think that in no way shape or form did we take a step backwards."

YOU HAVE THE RACE WINNING CREW CHIEF - WHAT'S YOUR EXPECTATION? "It's funny because Jimmie told Darian, 'no pressure to Casey but he's with the race-winning crew chief, a car and a team that's won a race last year on a Superspeedway and all the things are there so no pressure.' I'm excited about it. I just think it's awesome. There's a lot of experience there in Darian. Obviously our team and road crew have been together for a few years so there's a lot of continuity there. We're going to learn a little bit of the ins and outs but it's an exciting opportunity to be a part of this whole deal. Obviously Hendrick Motorsports has fast Superspeedway cars and I don't think there's any exception this year."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Hendrick Motorsports