Mears Pilots Back-Up Car to Eighth at California Speedway Ontario, Calif. (May 2, 2004) --- The Target Team with driver Casey Mears collected their fourth top-10 finish of the 2004 season at California Speedway. The team overcame several ...
Mears Pilots Back-Up Car to Eighth at California Speedway
Ontario, Calif. (May 2, 2004) --- The Target Team with driver Casey Mears collected their fourth top-10 finish of the 2004 season at California Speedway. The team overcame several setbacks, including extreme heat, to finish eighth at Mears' home-state track.
The Target Dodge was slated to start 13th for the Auto Club 400, but had to drop to the rear of the field after Mears hit the wall in the second practice of the weekend. The Target Team quickly prepared the back-up car that Mears piloted to his first top 10 at the track.
Mears dropped back to 37th, per NASCAR rules, before the green flag waved. He wasted no time advancing through the field on the two-mile track. He maneuvered the No. 41 Dodge into the top 20 on lap 47. The caution flag waved on lap 50 and crew chief Jimmy Elledge called Mears down pit road for a chassis adjustment, four tires and fuel.
The Target Dodge broke into the top 15 on lap 87. Mears continued to run in the top 15 for the next 80 laps. On lap 168 he told Elledge the car shut off, but he quickly switched over ignition boxes and was able to continue on the track. He lost one spot on the track during the switch and dropped to 14th.
Green-flag pit stops began on lap 197. Mears brought the Target Dodge down pit road on lap 200 for an air pressure adjustment, four tires and a full tank of fuel. There were only 22 cars left on the lead lap and Mears was now in 15th. He passed the No. 20 car on lap 208 and the No. 29 car on lap 218. Mears then set his sights on the car of Mark Martin who was two seconds ahead of him. He caught and passed Martin on lap 229 to take over 13th while trouble on the No. 38 moved him up to 12th. With just two laps to go, several of the front runners ran out of fuel and Mears crossed the finish line in eighth.
"We're real happy with that finish after crashing our primary car," said Mears. "The guys did an unreal job getting that thing ready to go. The last time we used this car was in the ARCA races we won last year. It wasn't a bad car, and we were pretty happy with the body going into the race. We weren't real happy with it at the end of practice, but I knew if we made a couple of small changes and it helped us where we needed that we would be all right.
"Jimmy (crew chief Elledge) did a great job tuning the car. The Target Team did a good job preparing it and we had decent stops all day. Our guys did a good job packing it with fuel on that last stop. We took an extra second or two on pit road to make sure it was topped off. We were close, but we made it."
This is the second consecutive eighth-place finish for Mears and the Target Team. Mears moved up one spot in the championship standings to 17th, just 157 points out of the NASCAR Top 10. His teammates Jamie McMurray and Sterling Marlin finished 15th and 27th respectively.
The Target Team will take a break for Mother's Day weekend before heading to Richmond.