Homestead: Mears - Dodge Saturday interivew

CASEY MEARS (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger) NOTE: Mears led the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup practice session at Miami-Homestead Speedway on Saturday afternoon with a lap of 172.430 mph. Mears will make his final start Sunday in the No. 42 ...

CASEY MEARS (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)

NOTE: Mears led the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup practice session at Miami-Homestead Speedway on Saturday afternoon with a lap of 172.430 mph. Mears will make his final start Sunday in the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger. He started the season with a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500, and is currently 15th in the standings.

YOU WERE FASTEST IN THE FIRST PRACTICE. DO YOU HAVE THE CAR TO BEAT HERE ON SUNDAY? "Well, you know how that goes. I think the top 12 guys in practice could be good in the race. It feels good to be able to run a good lap time. It says we've got a fast car, but the key is the long run speed. It tends to get really tight at the end of the run. I'm really loose in and tight center off. Even with it being like that we're able to run pretty good lap times. I think we've got a car that's in the ballpark. The thing right now I like about it is it'll run at the top and at the bottom. It looks like a lot of guys are being forced to run at the top. In the race you're probably going to have to end up going there because of the gear rule. We can't turn that much. Running around the top keeps the motor wound up good. I'm just happy because it looks like we've got something to work with. Today is a different day than tomorrow, but it feels good to be quick."

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MOST ABOUT LAST YEAR'S RACE HERE? "It was a real cool feeling to have such a great car. That thing turned really well. It was really loose for the first few laps, so we didn't have any short run speed. It's kind of opposite what we have now. We couldn't put in a lap time, but after the first 10 laps that thing would run like no other and the more laps we got on it the faster it would go. The problem was we knew if we had a late caution we were going to have a hard time because we didn't have any short-run speed. It was an interesting scenario. We were just getting ready to lap Tony and he was in the hunt for the championship and they found a spring rubber that was down on the apron. Who knows why the caution was thrown? We were looking at a win there. We've been poised for four or five of those really, and things didn't pan out for us. We had a couple of close calls this year and a couple of close calls last year. The thing I'd most like to do for this team and for Dodge and everybody is get a win. I'd love to end the season like that. I think everybody would, but with leaving I'd love to get the team a win before I go."

WHY DO YOU SEEM TO ALWAYS DO WELL HERE? "I really don't know. It's fast and smooth. I think bigger tracks suit my style a little better. I like the high speeds and at the end of the day you've got to have a car that's balanced. If it was off I'd be sitting about 15th and wondering why I didn't like it as much as last year. Fortunately we've got a car that's got a pretty good balance, and we've just got to keep chipping away at it."

WHAT'S HAPPENED SINCE YOUR QUICK START THIS SEASON? "I think we just got off a little bit. We got into some spindle stuff in the middle of the season. Although we learned a lot, the stuff we did in the middle of the season gave us some answers for the stuff we're doing now. I think we just got off a little bit. We had some momentum after the end of last year. I think we capitalized on that at the beginning of the season. In the middle of the season all of a sudden reality hit. We found out it was a totally new deal, and it took a while for us to click and gel and find out what we wanted. We got things really figured out and got the communication going. Donnie (crew chief Wingo) understands now what I need in the car. I feel like toward the end of the season it's a little bit more legitimate. We're getting there on merit and hard work and understanding each other."

WHAT'S YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU SEE THE 30 CAR WITH YOUR PAINT SCHEME? "Mixed emotions, I think at first it was 'that guy's in my car. That's not right.' At the same time, I'm happy for the team. It's bittersweet. I really like this car and team. I like everything about it. Me leaving this organization really didn't have anything to do with me being unhappy. That's what makes it so difficult. It was purely about getting an opportunity with a team that's arguably one of the best in NASCAR racing. To turn something like that down was just too difficult to do. That's why it's so bittersweet. It's not like I hate being here or being around these guys or don't like the car or sponsor or team owner. It's strictly just business. I'm hoping it's a better move. There are no hard feelings. It's strictly a move."

HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO HELP MONTOYA? "I've tried. I've given him all the advice I can when I can. I've let him know that he can ask me anything he wants at any time. I think he's used to being the guy, and I don't think he's used to asking other people for advice much. I talked to him quite a bit at Talladega trying to help him understand the draft and also at the test here at Homestead. Anytime I can, I've tried to help him. I've told Chip I'll do anything I can to help him get up to speed quicker, but there's not as much communication. If I was in his position, there would be more communication. I'd be trying to learn as much as I could."

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED MOST IN THE FOUR YEARS WITH GANASSI? "There's so much from top to bottom. Everything from how heavy the cars are, how the air around these cars affects everything versus an open wheel car, how things change from track to track. Having four or five years under my belt driving these tracks, there are things you just take for granted. I've learned a lot. I really owe Ganassi Racing and everybody here a lot with the knowledge I've gained over the last few years. I'm light years ahead of where I was when I got here."

DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE BEYOND BEING READY TO WIN? "I've been ready to win since last year. Honestly I think about the middle of last year I achieved an experience level that's capable of winning. I've been riding a year and a half now without a win feeling like I'm capable of it. I think the change, although I love driving for Texaco/Havoline and I love working with Donnie now, I think the change might have set us back just a little bit because Jimmy Elledge and I had a lot of momentum at the end of last season. Then it was like everything changed and we had to learn something new. Nothing negative toward this team at all. I love the 42 team now. I feel like they've been my guys forever, but the transitional stage where we had to learn each other might have set us back a little bit. At the end of the day it's been a great experience."

COMMENT ON JIMMIE JOHNSON'S CHANCE OF WINNING THE CROWN "There's nobody more deserving right now. I think he's been in the top five every year since he started. If anybody deserves it, it's Jimmie. He's a great guy, and I think he'll be a great champion. He's won the two biggest races we run all season long. He's been at the top of the sheet week in and week out. He's deserving of that championship."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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Series NASCAR Cup