CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Mears posted the eighth fastest time overall Wednesday with a lap of 182.927 mph and was 10th fastest overall in the No. 41-A Target Dodge at 182.771 mph. "It's kinda crazy. Last year here for...
CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid)
NOTE: Mears posted the eighth fastest time overall Wednesday with a lap of 182.927 mph and was 10th fastest overall in the No. 41-A Target Dodge at 182.771 mph.
"It's kinda crazy. Last year here for the first time I had no idea I'd be in a Winston Cup car this year. What a great opportunity with a really great organization, Target and Chip Ganassi Racing. It's just awesome. So far everywhere we've gone we've been pretty quick. We ran fairly good at Talladega. We went to Lakeland, Fla., and ran really well there. Then we came here and things are looking really good. We're just going to keep chipping away at it and I think we have a strong shot at the top five if not the pole when we come back.
"Part way through the year I was really focused on getting another year of Busch under my belt because we struggled. We struggled a lot last year. We had our shining moments every now and then. We qualified well here and there, but there toward the end of the year I started hearing a lot of things that there was some interest from different people. I didn't quite know what was happening, where I'd be the following year. I was getting a little nervous about it. Some things popped up where I could run Busch again and before the end of the year was out I got word that there might be some interest here. Shortly after the season was over I got the call and it was pretty unexpected. I didn't think I was going to go in this direction, but I'm really glad that I did. It was a hard decision to make. It wasn't because I didn't think the Ganassi organization was a good organization, but it was a hard decision. Is it too early? Is it the right time? At the end of the day, I figured if you put yourself with the right organization and the right people, you'll learn faster. So far every time I've done that - from go-karts to off-road, from off-road to open wheel, open wheel to stock cars now - when you put yourself in the right situation things just take off from there. I think that I've put myself in a situation where I can learn fast and learn more. If I ran Busch for another two years, I don't think I'd learn what I will in half a year here in Winston Cup. I think it was the right decision to make.
"I was kind of in between things at the time. I really didn't know exactly where I was going to go or what I was going to do. It was a tough decision to make. My dad (Roger Mears) and uncle (Rick Mears) called, and I really respect their opinion. At the end of the day we were all in agreement that this is what I needed to do and the place I needed to go. I'm really glad I did now. Even after I made the decision there was a little hesitation that maybe this was a bit too early.
"I like to change it up a little bit and do something different. I was disappointed last year because we didn't get a chance to do it (road course race). It kind of puts me in a bind this year because I haven't been on a road course in one of these cars. We'll probably have to test Watkins Glen and Sears Point. I'm really excited about it. I think it's going to be a lot of fun, and I think we'll do well.
"I don't think anybody is fearless. I think that fear kinda goes hand-in-hand with excitement and a rush. I wouldn't say I'm fearless, but I'm definitely not scared to hang it out and get everything out of the car. I don't feel that I'm like that (fearless), but it's good if other people see that. I'm going to give it everything I can every time I get in the car.
"I think it's hard to say what the ideal situation is. A lot of different combinations could be good for a lot of people. I think it's a really good situation. The fact that Jamie and I are coming into this thing somewhat together, obviously he came in last year and did really well. The fact he's been through those first few steps, coming from Busch and making that transition, I can lean on him for those things. Obviously there's going to be a little competitiveness between us. We're both two young guys coming in. Nobody is going to want to come back to the truck second out of the two of us. That's going to be healthy. We've both already been helping each other out a lot. It's going to be a relationship where we don't have to draw things out of each other. If I go out on the track and find something that's helpful, I'm going to go offer it to him. Sterling has done it for years, and he's going to be there to ask questions. He helped me out quite a bit at Talladega. Just being able to review some of his data is really helpful because everybody has got their different styles of driving, and Sterling has always been successful and that's something to look at. One of the things to add to that, one year, I believe it was 1999, we had a three-car team in Indy Lights. The big thing there was the relationships. I really hit it off with the two guys, and we got along great. At the end of the year we were fighting each other for 1-2-3 in the championship. The possibilities are the same here.
"I'm not too familiar with what a lot of other guys do, but I know it is fairly new to this side of the sport. I think technology and engineers and all that is coming more and more into play. It's not so much these days it feels like this and let's throw a spring at it and see what happens. You come in and say, 'it feels like this. What did we do in the past? There are formulas for a lot of things now. It's becoming more engineered than just the seat of the pants thing. Obviously the drivers information is crucial, and when it comes crunch time you're going to go by the seat of the pants, but I think having more accurate calculations has made test sessions a lot more efficient, and every time you make a change it makes it a more meaningful change. You're not just going off in the direction and find out that's not the direction you needed to go.
"Everybody realizes this is the top series in the United States and probably the world right now. It's very competitive. To be a rookie coming in, I have a lot to learn, and obviously I have a lot of experience around Indy cars and CART and Indy Lights. I only have one year in stock car racing. I think expectations are a lot higher. I think expectations are a lot higher for myself. I'm setting realistic goals. I want to start off easy and get my feet wet. I think the possibilities are very high that we can run well this year if not win some races. The possibilities are there. I don't feel the pressure of that really. I've just got to go out there and do the best job I can and see what kind of results we get.
"It's so different from an open wheel car to a stock car. The biggest piece of advice that I would give, and I've received from people, is just come here and keep your mouth shut and listen. It's totally different. If I came in here and pointed out several things I thought were wrong and asked 'why did they do this?' I would be eating my words because these guys have their reasons for doing things. They're professional, and they know what they're doing. Really, just keep an open mind and learn and listen to the guys who have done it in the past. I think some guys who came here from open wheel have had a different attitude, that 'hey what we've done is superior. We're going to come out here and do quite a bit better than these guys.' It's just not so. These guys have perfected it and you've got to listen to everybody you can and soak it in and try to learn their way. Fortunately, I got this last year. I think I picked up on it really quick. The engineer I have this year came from open wheel racing. Just last year he worked with Patrick. I don't know if there's a lot of guys on my team right now that have an open wheel background.
"I heard Chip had some interest. It was toward the end of the season, just after Phoenix I believe. I actually approached Andy (Ganassi team manager Graves) and said, 'what are you guys looking to do? Do you have someone in mind?' And he says, 'We've been thinking about you..' Then it went dead for another couple of weeks. Pretty soon I got a call out of the blue really. I kinda heard something and a week and a half later I heard something back and we put something together.
"Absolutely nothing has been said between me and Chip (about running at Charlotte and Indy 500 this year). I'd love to go run Indy. If there was a possibility there, I'd love to do it, but there hasn't been any conversation. I just came from Busch, and this is going to be a big undertaking this year. I think it'd be highly unlikely, but if I got the shot, I wouldn't think twice about it. We were playing around one time thinking about running the Busch race at Charlotte (on Saturday), go run Indy and then come back for the 600. That would be a pretty big dream. It might be a nightmare, I don't know, but it might be something to try to accomplish in the future sometime."