CASEY MEARS, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S / CARQUEST IMPALA SS met with media and discussed today's announcement that he and Hendrick Motorsports will part ways at the end of the 2008 season. ON HIS TOP 5 FINISH AT INFINEON RACEWAY LAST WEEKEND "Yeah, that...
CASEY MEARS, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S / CARQUEST IMPALA SS met with media and discussed today's announcement that he and Hendrick Motorsports will part ways at the end of the 2008 season.
ON HIS TOP 5 FINISH AT INFINEON RACEWAY LAST WEEKEND "Yeah, that was definitely something the team needed. We had good strategy, obviously, and I think we had a good car. Fortunately there at the end a couple guys took themselves out there and so it was a good, solid day for us. It was something we really needed. It's been a long year so far. It's been a short first part of the season, but definitely a long season. It was something team needed and I needed and the whole program needed."
IT HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED THAT YOU ARE LEAVING THE No. 5 TEAM. WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THIS AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN? "I've known now for a couple of weeks. Rick (Hendrick) and I sat down and had a talk. Right now, we didn't know exactly how things were going to play out so we haven't really jumped around to make any conclusions right away. But it's disappointing. I'd love to be there, obviously. Hendrick Motorsports is a great organization. We've definitely had a rough year for probably several reasons. But everybody has worked hard. Alan (Gustafson) and Rick and everybody has worked hard to try to do what we can to help improve the program, and we just haven't had the luck. We had some bad luck at the beginning of the year and then had some bad runs to back it up. It's frustrating that we've had the start to the season that we've had. Unfortunately, it's kind of weird because we still have the second half of the year. Everything has happened so early. But the big thing is obviously we have a lot of potential still. I don't feel a whole lot differently about the team or the organization or the guys than I did at the beginning of the year. I feel like every week we have the opportunity to capitalize on a good finish and for some reason, we've just really, really struggled. The team as a whole and then we seemed to struggle a little bit more the latter part of the first half of the season and it's unfortunate that things have come out the way that they have, but at the same time, things happen for a reason. We're just going to try to finish off the rest of this year as strong as we possibly can. There are really no hard feelings toward anybody right now. Everybody is just going to be working hard and trying to get good finishes because at this point, it doesn't do anybody any good to worry about what's going on and not focus on the remainder of the season. We're just going to continue to work hard on that and see what happens for next season."
OVER THE YEARS, WHAT WAS THE NO. 25 TEAM AT HENDRICK AND NOW IS THE NO. 5, FOR WHATEVER REASON THERE HAVE NEVER BEEN CONSISTENCY AND GOOD FINISHES. IS THERE ANYTHING, ORGANIZATIONALLY, THAT YOU CAN POINT TO THAT SETS THAT CAR APART FROM THE OTHER THREE IN TERMS OF PERFORMANCE? "The biggest thing is that's probably one of the most difficult things for all of us. There is no real one place you can point the finger and say hey, this is bad. It's funny. I think if you did this with a lot of teams, if you analyze really how their whole season played out, you could look at four races right now that we wrecked out or just got in an issue that really wasn't our fault, we'd be sitting in about 12th or 15th in the points right now and we probably wouldn't be having this conversation. We've struggled a little bit as a whole this year, with the new car. It seemed like (Dale Earnhardt) Junior and Jimmie (Johnson) kind of grabbed a hold of it a little bit better as far as those teams performing on a weekly basis. And if you look at all of us, we've struggled at times. The races that we had good races going, unfortunately we had an issue and it's made us look worse than we are this year. It's frustrating because of that reason. I don't think that there is a hoax or a problem with the No. 5 team or anything like that, that transferred over from the No. 25. It's just really some hard luck at the beginning of the year and we backed it up with some bad runs. Fortunately we had a good run at Sonoma. The team has a lot of potential. We're there. If you look at Darlington, we had one of the fastest cars on the race track. We made one decision on the set-up and fell back to 21st. We went back on that change in a pit stop and were driving right back up to the top five and we had a header blow off, of all things, and blowout the left front tire and we've never seen that happen. We just have had some stuff like that happen this season. At the end of the day, this is a performance-based sport. My uncle has always said you've got to put the numbers on the board and that's how you keep your job and keep your ride. And unfortunately for a few different reasons we just haven't been able to do that this season. It's kind of funny because I say that now and we still have the whole second half of the year to work on. So I think we can have some good performances here before the year is out. The best thing that I want to do is get this No. 5 car back up as high as we can in the points and get some good finishes for myself and hopefully get a good opportunity for next season."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE MARKET FOR A CASEY MEARS RIGHT NOW? AGENTS YOU'VE HIRED? THINGS YOU'RE LOOKING AT? "There actually are some good opportunities out there right now. I'm pleasantly surprised. You know you don't really think about it a whole lot. I wasn't thinking about it a whole lot going into this next year. This wasn't in that mindset. But I'm definitely talking to different people. There are some good opportunities out there and I'm looking forward to having more discussions to see how that's going to play out. But as of right now, I don't have enough details to really discuss it. But I am pleasantly surprised with the opportunities that are out there."
IS IT MORE DIFFICULT SINCE YOU ARE WITH A STRONG TEAM WITH GOOD TEAMMATE AND THAT THE OTHER DRIVERS ARE ALSO CLOSE FRIENDS OF YOURS? IS IT HARD TO SEPARATE BUSINESS FROM PERSONAL? "It is and it isn't. I think because I've got such good friends over at Hendrick Motorsports, I understand more than ever that it's business and you can separate that. At the end of the day, obviously Rick is trying to run the best possible business he can and do the best things he can for his company. At the same time we're all really good friends still. I think the fact that I do have such good relationships over there makes these conversations a little bit easier in some respects. And in some respects, a little bit harder because you're leaving some good friends. But at the same time, we race around each other every single weekend regardless of what team you're with. When I was with Ganassi, (Chip Ganassi Racing) still some of the guys at Hendrick were some of my best friends. So I don't think that will change by any means. But at the same time, it makes maybe some of these conversations a little bit easier to go through. Obviously it's disappointing. It's not exciting to be going through this again, you know. It's been year in and year out that we've been making changes, or I've been making changes. I'm really looking forward to finishing off the rest of this season strong. I know we can do that. Everybody has a pretty positive attitude. It almost seems like now that people know kind of what's going on, it's has almost relaxed things even more and it almost seems like it's going to go better (laughs) from here on out, just because the tension isn't there wondering what's going to happen. I see us having a strong second half of this year and hopefully from here on out, get with the program where I can build a couple of good seasons in a row and build something to go from there."
YOU WON A RACE LAST YEAR IN THE NO. 25 CAR, MOVE TO THE NO. 5 CAR, AND NOW HALFWAY THROUGH THE SEASON ARE GIVEN THIS ANNOUNCEMENT. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE BEEN GIVEN ENOUGH TIME? HAVE YOU BEEN TREATED FAIRLY IN THIS SITUATION? "I don't a lot of the details of what's going on behind the scenes. Obviously I think that because we have good relationships there at Hendrick Motorsports, Rick, out of everybody wanted to see a multiple year deal and see me get some consistency. So, people have made decisions because they've had to make decisions. I don't know why everything has gone down. That would be a better question for Rick and some of the guys with the team. But he understands my situation more than anybody and that getting some stability would be good. But decisions are made for certain reasons and like I said, it's frustrating but at the same time I can't control a lot of those things. So, hopefully in my future, somewhere before I'm about 45 (years old), I can get a couple of years in a row (smiles). That would be good."
ARE YOU GOING TO STAY IN THIS SERIES, OR IS OPEN-WHEEL A POSSIBILITY? "No, no, no. I want to be here. This is the best series in the world. Right now it's the strongest, most competitive place and really, if you want to be a race car driver and prove that you can be the best, you need to be over here and that's where I want to be."
DO YOU EXPECT TO TALK WITH KYLE BUSCH SINCE YOU ARE THE LATEST AUTHOR OF THE DIARY OF THE LAME DUCK DRIVERS AT HMS? "I don't imagine so. I think I've got more experience than Kyle in changing teams. The lame duck thing is one thing that I don't agree with completely. That's probably, typically, the next thing I'm going to be answering for the next months until we figure out exactly what's going on with my career for next season. I've been through this enough to know that it doesn't do anybody any good to run poorly. I think it's important now more than ever to run good. I'm going to be working very hard. The team is going to be working very hard to put themselves in a position for next season to be the best they can in points to start the year. The transitions are never fun. But at the same time now that it's out, everybody can take a deep breath and just focus on the remainder of the season and that's what we're going to do."
SPEAKING OF THE LAME DUCK STATUS, THAT RELATIONSHIP DECLINED AS THE YEAR WENT ON AND HE WAS NOT ALLOWED TO ATTEND TEAM MEETINGS. DO YOU EXPECT IT TO BE DIFFERENT OR SIMILAR IN YOUR CASE? "I don't know. If it was the case, I wouldn't be surprised. It wouldn't be disappointing. I think that from a certain perspective that was the case. A team has got to protect what they're doing as well and in those meetings things are shared that they may not want me to see for next season. Hopefully I do get to attend them because it is a benefit for sure, going through the remainder of the year. I haven't heard of anything like that. Do I know that anything like that is going to happen? I don't know. I didn't really see that with Kyle, obviously, and I don't expect that to happen. But if it did, it wouldn't surprise me, nor would I be upset with it other than the fact that I'd be losing some information here and there on each race track that the other drivers have to provide."
THE NO. 24 AND THE NO. 48 ARE IN THE SAME SHOP AS ARE THE NO. 88 AND THE NO. 5. DALE JUNIOR IS THIRD IN THE POINTS. ARE YOU GETTING THE SAME LEVEL OF EQUIPMENT THAT HE IS? "I do, really. It's funny to say this now, but more than ever Hendrick Motorsports has got the parity that it needs. What you're finding with these cars is we've got some different stuff throughout the shop, but everybody has the advantage of grabbing a hold of all that. The biggest thing I've noticed this year is just how sensitive these cars are. Earlier in the year, the biggest mistake we made was thinking that man, you can change everything on these cars and it doesn't do anything. It's the same. And at times, it is. You'll change about 10 million different things on these cars and nothing responds, but then you go out and you pull about an eighth-inch of camber and all of a sudden you're one of the fastest cars on the track. I think finding that sweet spot in these cars has been difficult and I think the No. 88 found it early in some ways in some things that worked for Junior. And they've sort of just stayed in that window. Where earlier this year, we were bouncing around a lot just going from one set-up to another and really trying to find where our path was. PAGE 14
"We've sat down and talked and realized that (with) making some small changes and getting some direction, we've really started to narrow down more of what we like. So I don't think with our performance and the way that things have gone this year, is because they've been giving me poor equipment. We've had great race cars in a lot of ways. Alan and I had trouble getting our communication down early. Now we're starting to get a little bit more on the same page and we're starting to see a little bit of progress and starting to develop some trends. Unfortunately, after last year we had gained some momentum and won a race and Darian (Grubb) and I were starting to get on the same page. Now you move into the No. 5 car and you've got to learn a new crew chief, new driver scenario and on top of that, learning a new car. So that just kind of threw us for a loop at the beginning of this year and obviously that some of the reason when we didn't have the performance. But that's also why I've got a lot of confidence that we can perform the rest of the season because I know it's there. We've just got to wrap our arms around it and make the right decisions and move forward."
DO YOU JUST TRY TO REMAIN UPBEAT AND HOPE THAT YOU HAVE THE KIND OF YEAR THAT KYLE BUSCH IS HAVING NOW? "Yeah, I don't see why we can't, to be honest. It's frustrating to go through these scenarios but beyond this right here, we're still at the race track, do you know what I mean? We're trying to make the best race car we possibly can. That team's got a lot of pride. They want to run well. I want to run well. We're just going to continue to work hard. There are no hard feelings anywhere, I mean really. It's a scenario that developed from reasons that I really know why it actually ended up happening, but it happened for a reason and now we've just got to focus and buckle down and do our jobs like we know how."
GIVEN THIS ANNOUNCEMENT AT THIS TIME OF THE SEASON, WHAT'S THE LEVEL OF COMMITMENT THAT RICK AND THE REST OF THIS TEAM IS GOING TO GIVE YOU? ARE YOU PLANNING FINISHING OUT THE YEAR IN THIS RIDE, OR IF YOU FIND SOMETHING WILL YOU MOVE ON BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR? "I think that Hendrick Motorsports is as committed as ever to making sure they've got a fast race car, if not, maybe more. Obviously now that we know we've struggled a little bit, they really want to find exactly why that has been. For myself, I want to do the same. I'm committed to finishing out the remainder of the season with Hendrick Motorsports. I haven't even thought beyond any of that. I'm going to have discussions about next season with other teams. If something develops toward the end of the year where it makes sense for everybody, given the scenario, I don't know exactly what the future holds. But right now my plan is to finish off the rest of the year with Hendrick Motorsports. When it gets down to the end of the year, you start seeing things happen that you wouldn't have thought would happen at this point in the season. We'll see how that plays out as time goes on. But right now, I think that Hendrick Motorsports is very committed and in seeing the No. 5 car do well and I'm the same."
YOUR NAME IS ALREADY BEING CONNECTED WITH A FOURTH CAR OVER AT RCR. ARE YOU INTERESTED IN THAT? HAVE YOU TALKED TO THEM? "They are a great organization, obviously. If that was an opportunity, it would be great. As of right now, I'm just getting my feelers out to everybody and trying to see what exactly is out there and what the opportunities are. So far, I've seen some really good opportunities and if something like that is to develop, it would be a great opportunity. Right now there are a lot of things out there, surprisingly. I wasn't even thinking about it. I wasn't thinking about next season. I was thinking oh my God, when I heard the news; I'm thinking there's not going to be anything going on. But the more you dig into it; there are a lot of things that are happening for next season. There are a lot of teams that are continuing to grow and add new teams and making changes for next season. So I am pleasantly surprised with the opportunities and hopefully will have some good conversations. I'd like to get something tied up as soon as possible just so we can all just take a deep breath and relax and focus on the remainder of this year."
-credit: gm racing