CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge) NOTE: Mears will start 12th in Sunday's Advance Auto Parts 500, his best starting spot in three attempts at the .526-mile track. Fresh off a seventh-place finish at Texas, tying is career best, Mears ranks 18th...
CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge)
NOTE: Mears will start 12th in Sunday's Advance Auto Parts 500, his best starting spot in three attempts at the .526-mile track. Fresh off a seventh-place finish at Texas, tying is career best, Mears ranks 18th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings.
"I think this track is fun. The first time I came here I hated it, and when we came here last fall I really wasn't looking forward to it. About halfway through that race I started figuring it out, getting my timing right and figuring out what I had to do to run up front. We didn't get to the front, but we made up a couple of laps, finished on the lead lap and ended up 15th as opposed to five laps down and hitting everything on the track. I made big improvements from the spring to the fall and we made another big improvement this weekend with our best qualifying effort at Martinsville. I hope we have a good race Sunday and get a good finish.
"We had a good car for Bristol and ran into some problems. Something came through the radiator and knocked a hole in it. We came in the pits and changed the radiator, and that put us a few laps down. We were behind Ricky Rudd and he blew a right front, bounced off the wall and came back into us. There was really nothing we could do. It was just a bad weekend.
"I really enjoy short track racing. At first it was so new to me I didn't know if I enjoyed it or not. I do enjoy it. It kind of reminds me of running on a road course. At a place like this it's real flat and you run it hard into the corner and get the thing turned and get out of the corner hard. It's almost like a big hairpin at some of the road courses. I've always enjoyed road courses, so that makes it a lot of fun. It's really tight, so we get to bang a little bit and that makes it fun, too.
"It's really hard to pass. Unless you have a lot better car than somebody else you're pretty much got to get into them a little bit or wait for them to make a mistake before you can improve your position. I think the key is you've got to be aggressive, but you've got to be aggressive at the right time. If I can stay 12th through the first three quarters of the race and then start getting aggressive there at the end and try to move through the field that would be the way to do it. Hopefully the pit stops and everything work out right so we can maintain a spot in the top 10 or top 15 until the end of the race and not go a lap down.
"If you can have good pit stops and get out fast, that's the best way to gain positions, but you can also lose spots in the pits, too. We've definitely got to be on our game, but our pit crew is definitely a lot better now. The first couple of races we had a little trouble with the front, but we've got it fixed where our pit stops are pretty competitive. If everyone is on their game tomorrow, I think we'll be pretty good.
"From the looks of all the rubber in the outside groove and the way the tires are wearing out here, I think guys are going to want four tires. You might see people take two early to get track position if there's a short caution. You might see something like that, but I don't think you'll see it as much as you did in the past. This place is all about track position. I saw that last year when I was a lap down and started on the inside. I think Terry Labonte led the race, but we took off and pulled away from him once we got out front. Getting out front and being able to do what you want to do is big rather than being stuck in the pack and being forced to slow down when you're behind somebody.
"Qualifying was big for us yesterday because when we started we didn't know if we were going to be in the top 30. We changed everything from practice. We went to Jamie's setup. In the morning we were pretty good, but when the track changed we weren't as strong as we thought we needed to be. Jamie's setup was totally different. It felt pretty good and helped me get in a little better, but the forward bite wasn't as good off. Overall, the car was better and we had a better time.
COMMENT ON BEARD "I had a vacation last week and I didn't shave. I'm trying to see how much patience I've got and how long I can make it last. A buddy of mine had a cell phone and that wrap that's on the front, you usually pull that off right away. He tried to see how long he could make it last. That's kinda what I'm doing. I've never had a beard. It's different. When Chip comes back in town, he'll probably make me shave it off. I'm going to see if I can get through this weekend because he's in Japan. He wants us to have a clean cut image, but I decided I needed that rugged look for Martinsville."
BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Kodak Easy Share Dodge)
NOTE: Gaughan will start 11th Sunday. He discusses going to the premiere of the movie The Punisher earlier this week in Hollywood.
I was out west for Easter, spending some time with my family in Mexico. Monday was the premiere of the movie, so we met up with the Kodak folks and went out to the Ryan Seacrest Show. Tom Jane was on it and they had The Punisher racecar in the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Tom Jane came to the racetrack world (in Bristol) and it was me smiling and talking. I went to his world, and it was him doing the waving, smiling and talking.
"I signed some autographs in the Kodak Theatre. L.A. has more race fans than it used to, and Miss America was out there, too, so it wasn't bad timing. They do the Oscars and Emmys and all those things in the Kodak Theatre. Then I got mad when I found out that Jeff Gordon was one of the judges for Miss America. They found me his judge's desk, and I left him a note. I asked Jeff if he got it and he didn't. I was kinda bummed.
"My job is pretty easy. I grab a Kodak racing hat, a Penske/Kodak shirt and a driving suit that has what I'm supposed to wear and I walk out the door. In Hollywood, you've got to have style. I've got no style. I never had style, never going to have style. My sister dresses me if need style. I went shopping before that to try to find some style. It wasn't a black tie deal. They call it California business casual, which means walking down the red carpet.
"Terry Jarrell, my PR girl, and I had an invitation to walk down the red carpet. It's not as awe-inspiring as NASCAR. You jump in the back of a pickup truck at Bristol where Tom Jane did it, and there's 180,000 people with flashbulbs going off. I'm explaining to him who's going to get booed and who's going to get cheered. The crowd roars when Dale Jr. walks across the stage and boos when Kurt Busch walks across the stage.
"When you walk down the red carpet, there's 450 cameras lined up in a 450-yard stretch. His job was to stop and talk to each one. John Travolta and Kelly Preston were there. Gene Simmons from KISS was there. Tom Jane and his fiancee Patricia Arquette were there. The coolest guy in the world is the guy from Marvel Comics. His name is Avi, and I don't know his last name, but he was the only guy I wanted to meet. He's the neatest guy, and he's a big race fan. I had my Kodak with me, and I took his picture. He's going to come to Fontana and hang out with us.
"We get to see the movie, and it's a great movie. There's a lot of action in it. Travolta does a great job, and wait until you see Tom Jane. You meet him, and he looks like a regular guy. He's ripped for this movie. A lot of movie stars were there for the premiere. It was pretty neat. We went to the after party and hung out. Kevin Nash was in the movie, and he came by and talked a little bit. It's not the world we're used to, so I took advantage of it. The movie opened yesterday, and I really think it'll do well."