Tuesday, Jan. 31,2006 LVMS Test Session CASEY MEARS (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger) NOTE: Mears, along with drivers Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon, teamed to win the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona on Sunday. Now that he knows the way to...
Tuesday, Jan. 31,2006
LVMS Test Session
CASEY MEARS (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Mears, along with drivers Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon, teamed to win the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona on Sunday. Now that he knows the way to victory lane at Daytona, Mears talks about last Sunday's race, the Las Vegas test and his outlook for the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Season as Senior Driver for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
CAN YOU APPLY ANYTHING FROM THE 24 HOURS TO YOUR CUP PROGRAM? "It was nice to get some road course racing in, but the cars are a lot different. I think everything you race you learn something from that carries over to the next race, but I think running the NASCAR stuff helped me in a race like that. The biggest thing you learn in these long Cup races is patience and when to make moves and not to make moves, the important times to go and not to go. I think if anything the NASCAR side helped me on the 24-hour race."
HOW MANY HOURS DID YOU DRIVE? "I'm not sure. I ran about three hours the first two times I drove and then I ran about an hour and a half the last time, so I probably ran more than seven hours. I slept between the second and third session for a couple of hours. You're definitely groggy and it takes a little bit to get going, but after you get going you're fine. You wake up again and you're racing. The last run was the best run I had. I put in some of my best times on the last run. We made up a lot of ground."
DIDN'T YOU SAVED SOME TIME IN THE PITS TOO? "The brake system we had, we had a quick disconnect on the brake line. Instead of trying to pull the calipers off and put new pads in and put new rotors on, they had a whole assembly with a quick disconnect. They could change brakes in about two minutes. We had a problem going from sixth to fourth, so under caution we came in and they changed the whole rear gear cluster, alternator and all four brakes, the driver in nine and a half minutes. It was pretty impressive. We only lost two laps under caution. We had enough time to get back up there."
YOU ARE THE FIRST ACTIVE NASCAR DRIVER TO WIN THIS RACE, AND IT'S A PRETTY BIG RACE "You've got Lemans, the 24-hour race, Daytona 500, Indy 500 and Brickyard 400, so it was pretty cool to win this one. I really felt like we were going to win the thing going in. I had a really good feeling about it. When we left the test, we all sat down and talked about it. We knew if we didn't have a problem we could win because all three of us were fast. We didn't have a weak link in the team. Some of those teams just have two or three good drivers. The whole package was there if we
didn't have any issues. Don't get me wrong. I didn't predict it. Was I surprised and excited and surprised when we won? Absolutely, but all the tools and pieces of the puzzle were there. That race has been around for a long time and a lot of (NASCAR) guys have tried to be a part of it. To be the first guy to win is a cool deal. That will never change."
DO YOU CLOSE THE BOOK ON THAT RACE ONCE THE TEST BEGINS TODAY? "It's pretty much out of the picture now. I'm excited about it and I'm going to think about it the next few weeks, but when I got in this Texaco Dodge today the focus is to have a real good racecar when we come back here to race in March. It's a pivotal test, too. I think we'll find out how we work together as the 42 team as opposed to the 41 team last year. We're trying to distinguish some stuff from what we ran last year against what Donnie (crew chief Wingo) and Jamie (McMurray) ran. The first day is going to be some evaluation, trying to establish the direction we're going to go."
ARE THE TWO CHARGERS YOU'RE TESTING BASICALLY THE SAME? "The bodies are identical, but there's a little bit different geometry package. One is very close to the Charger I had last year. It's not the same car. Reed Sorenson's got all the cars I had last year. The other Charger is like the one Donnie and Jamie ran toward the end of last season. We're going to see which one we like better and go from there."
COMMENT ON YOUR FIRST MORNING TEST SESSION AT LVMS "We're going back and forth on some stuff right now. I think you'll see some more speed out of us tomorrow. We're trying to sort through what we want to run. We're struggling a little bit getting the car well balanced. The tire falls off real bad. It runs for about two laps, and then it starts falling off real bad so we're going to have to take a little different approach than we had last year here and get it handling as well as we can later in the run. We tried both cars. One is a little better than the other, but not much. We can probably tune either one and get it go the way we need to go."
SO NOW THAT YOU'VE FOUND VICTORY LANE AT DAYTONA, CAN YOU GET BACK THERE IN FEBRUARY? "I hope so. It's totally different. My confidence is high, but not just because of winning the 24 hours but how we finished last year. If we remain focused on what we need to do we'll be just fine. Donnie (crew chief Wingo) and I are working real good together. The communication is good and the rapport is good. On these tracks there were things we were doing last year on the 41 team differently and we've just all got to sit down and go through that the next couple of days."
HOW COOL WAS IT TO WIN THE 24 HOURS? "It was awesome. It's a weird win at the same time. As a driver that's been around for awhile and crew up in a racing family, the 24 hour race has always been a big race. Over the last few years it's gotten bigger because so many big names are getting involved, but it's always been big for me. To come home with the win is just crazy. I knew we could do it, but it's starting to sink in a little bit that we actually did it. It was a weird race to win because it was teamwork, three of us driving. To watch Scott cross the start/finish line and get the checkered flag and be excited about a win was a different feeling than I've ever had because it's always been just you. As a team, the drivers are ultimately tested mentally and physically. When we went away from that race last year, I told some of our guys to win it you had to do everything right from top to bottom and that's what the winners did last year and that's what we did this year. You go into that race expecting anything, so nothing really surprises you because you expect anything to happen."
ANY SPECIAL PLACE FOR THE TROPHY? "In my house somewhere. I haven't really thought about it yet. I know where the watch is going to go. It's going to go on my wrist. I'm going to wear that thing around and show it off to everybody. I wanted to get it fitted today and walk by Tony (Stewart) and hang out with him a little bit and see what he had to say about it. He's not here today, so I'm going to try to get it fitted tonight and come by tomorrow."
DAVID STREMME (No. 40 Coors Light/Lone Star Steakhouse Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Stremme, a Raybestos Rookie of the Year contestant in 2006, wrecked in the afternoon practice session Tuesday. His team switched to a backup Charger.
"Everything had been going pretty good, and we've been learning a lot, but the motor just expired getting into the corner. I'm kind of a victim of my own oil I guess. It just slid up in the wall. It wasn't real bad, but the car sustained some body damage. It happened down in turn three, just as you arc in it, it let go. It didn't hit that hard. The worst thing was riding to the infield care center."