Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
NASCAR Driver Q & A · Amy Henderson · Thursday July 24, 2008
No question about it, Casey Mears has racing in his blood. His grandfather Bill began the “Mears Gang” tradition in the 1950s, racing anything with wheels while winning the infamous Pikes Peak hill climb during his heyday. But little did he know then that the accolades would get bigger and better for the following generation. Casey’s Uncle Rick won the Indianapolis 500 four times, and father Roger is an off-road racing legend – conveying a passion for motorsports to son Casey that runs deeper than ever these days. Even during a season of struggle — Mears will miss the Chase in his second and final year with perennial contender Hendrick Motorsports — the love for anything motorsports allows to him to see the light at the end of the tunnel during these trying times.
In this latest edition of Beyond The Cockpit, our Amy Henderson sat down with Mears to talk about the driver’s past, present, and future — with a lot of stops in between. The 30-year-old talks about his beginnings in racing, his family’s influence, his friendship with Jimmie Johnson, and the strangest question a fan has ever asked him. It’s one-on-one time with one of NASCAR’s brightest stars, the nicest guy in the garage according to drivers and fans — and the latest generation of the legendary Mears Gang.
Amy Henderson: Big question first: Any news on your plans for 2009?
Casey Mears: Things are looking good. There are some good opportunities out there, but nothing is set in stone. I’m just talking with different teams right now about what is out there and what’s available. Hopefully, we’ll make a decision soon and let everyone know what we’re doing for next year.
Henderson: You come from a very diverse racing background – everything from BMX bikes to Champ Cars. Can you talk a little about your background, what it was like coming through the different series you’ve raced — and what you learned from each level?
Mears: I grew up racing. I raced BMX, and that was just learning the basics of what racing was all about. From there, I went into 3-wheelers and 4-wheelers, racing flat tracks at Bakersfield Speedway — again, I was so young, just trying to learn the basics with something motorized, just learning what racing was all about. When I was about 12, I got into go-karts, and they were the first thing I raced on asphalt. Learning how to run on asphalt was a little more in line for learning how to run open-wheel, because I mostly ran these karts on road courses.
But shortly after that, I got the invitation to go run the Mickey Thompson Off-Road Series in Superlites. Racing off-road and racing on dirt again was a good experience. We were racing in front of a big crowd in a stadium; it was televised. As far as the racing itself, the thing I really learned from dirt racing and off road was how to adapt to different circumstances. You’d have so many times when the track was dry and it would get hard and slick, and then sometimes it would be muddy and get real slick, and then other days you’d have a nice, real “packy” track. What happens on an off-road course is every time you go back out on it, it’s constantly changing — whether it’s drying up or getting wetter. It depended on the weather that day and how they watered it. You’re always chasing what might be the fast line, and I think it also really teaches you to adapt to long races, when the racing groove really changes and you’re looking for grip on the track and searching for lines that may be better than when you first started the race. So, that was really good [for my career] when I did that.
Then, I started racing formula Mazdas and ran those for about four years, and that was the first real, full-sized open-wheel car that I had driven — I ran for the championship for three or four years, preparing me to move up the ranks in open-wheel. The good thing about that series is you really couldn’t adjust your car, so you might get a car that’s tight, and next time you might get a car that’s really loose and you have to learn to drive around those issues and still win races. When I first started in that series, if the car wasn’t pretty close, I had a hard time winning races, but in my last year or two in that series, it didn’t matter what kind of car I got; I could win with it. It was valuable as far as learning how to adapt to different balances in a car.
From there, I started racing open wheel. I raced Indy Lights for four years, and that’s the series just below getting into Champ Cars or Indy Cars. It was just preparing me to go in that direction. Racing on a lot of the same circuits, being around a lot of the Indy guys was definitely key in getting noticed and moving up through the ranks. I ran there for four years, and finished second in the championship one year and third another year.
From there, I was trying to move up. I got a one-off race from Bobby Rahal in a Champ Car and in my first race there I got fourth, which was really cool. From there, I was looking toward to the next season and whether or not to go to Champ Cars or to the IRL, and I decided to go to the IRL — and that just turned out to be a real disaster. The team just wasn’t real prepared and real put together. We had talked about doing a full season, and it only ended up being three or four races — and then, the team ended up shutting down. So, that was kind of frustrating. For the remainder of that year, I went to a lot of different Indy Car races and Champ Car races. When Alex Zanardi got into his bad crash in Germany, I filled in for him for the remainder of the year. I think it was the last four or five races of the season.
After that, I had opportunities in both CART and IRL. But I also had an opportunity to try the Busch Series [in 2002], and I decided to go do that. It was with a team that was struggling, kind of a low-budget deal, and they ended up shutting down the year after I ran for them. [But even after all that], I had an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing; and obviously, being in the Busch Series was great to learn the different types of tracks and to learn what these cars wanted. That prepared me to go into Cup [as a rookie for Ganassi in 2003].
Henderson: You have been winning races since you were a little kid. Do you have one that stands out the most?
Mears: The biggest win that stands out to me the most is the latest – in the Cup series. That was a big one for us, the Coke 600. To win was something I was trying to do at this level [for years], and it felt really good to get that win. I really enjoyed the win I got a couple of years ago in the Nationwide Series, too – my first win there was definitely a big moment in my life. In Indy Lights, the win in Houston on the road course was big because that street circuit is so technical and difficult to drive. I sat on the pole and won the race, so that was a big weekend for me, too.
Henderson: You’ve talked a lot through the years about the friendships you have made in the garage — particularly with Jimmie Johnson. How long have you known each other?
Mears: We’ve known each other since I was 12 or 13 years old. We raced against each other in Superlites. The last year that we ran Superlites, he was my teammate. We just hit it off real well. He’s a great guy and enjoys having fun. Now, we’ve been friends for so long that I consider him really my best friend.
Henderson: Can you tell any stories on Jimmie that you won’t get in trouble for?
Mears: Oh, man, I don’t know. There’s several good times we’ve had. We get in trouble a lot. Not a lot I’d really want to share with the general public!
Henderson: What would you be doing if you weren’t racing?
Mears: I don’t know. I’d say that I’d get away from racing completely and do something totally different… but I don’t know. I truly love the sport, and it’s hard to imagine not having some sort of involvement in it. I jokingly say that I’d be on a beach somewhere. Open up a surf shop and just enjoy the beach. I’ve always loved the beach and the ocean and the water. I really enjoy going down to Mexico, and that’s what I like. I’d probably just do something to try and get away, and the reason that I say that is I love to race so much that I don’t know if I could be around racing and not be able to get in the car.
Henderson: You’ve grown up in a racing family — your grandfather, your father, your uncle, your brother, and your cousin have all raced. Can you talk a little about growing up immersed in racing, and your family’s influence on you?
Mears: It was a lot of fun — it was great growing up in a racing family. With my dad and my uncle to lean on, it’s made it a great learning experience. All the way through my career, I’ve had two of the best coaches; but especially my dad was the one that I leaned on the most. Then, as I got older and started getting more into open-wheel, Rick started coming more into play. To have those two guys as coaches and as guides to learn from was awesome. At the same time, there’s not a lot of people who can say that they got to race with their cousins, or traveled with my dad and my brother [when they] raced against each other for a lot of years. And obviously my grandfather raced, too — it’s just a lot of fun to look back on everything that my family has accomplished over the years. It’s real easy to get caught up in what’s current and what’s going on, and forget about all the things that my family has accomplished. It’s neat to look back and look at old pictures and really see what everybody’s done — it’s amazing. If you reach out and look at all the cars that my grandfather and my uncle and my dad raced, and then you start throwing my brother and my cousin and I all in, there are a lot of race cars and a lot of races that have been won.
Henderson: You sent your father to the Barrett Jackson auction with a blank check for his 60th birthday. What did he come home with?
Mears: He ended up getting a ’37 hot rod. It actually has a Corvette motor in it and a fiberglass body — a beautiful car. Dad was cool because he saved me a little cash on that deal, too. He was going to bid on it, but they thought it would bid for too much so he worked a deal behind the scenes to buy the car directly from the guy; and that way, he got to build it the way he wanted it and everything else. That was a big deal for my dad turning 60. He’s been by my side through my whole career, and it felt good to be able to do that for him.
Henderson: Many drivers have foundations or support various charity endeavors. Which charities do you support?
Mears: A lot of people have foundations and things like that and I never really started my own foundation, but I’ve always supported a lot of my friends and a lot of fellow drivers. I’ve done things with Elliott Sadler for autism and Target House — when I was sponsored by Target, I got pretty heavily involved with that. Breast Cancer Awareness was a big deal too — when I drove the Target car — to show support. I’ve done some things with the Alzheimer’s Foundation. My grandmother is in an Alzheimer’s care facility, and so I know and understand how frustrating and difficult that disease can be. I’ve done that — as well as anything Jimmie has ever done. I don’t have a specific charity. I’ve just tried to help and support everybody else.
Henderson: If you had five words to describe yourself to a complete stranger, which five words would you choose?
Mears: I don’t like describing myself! These really don’t go together, but I think outside the track, I’m pretty patient. On the track, I’m very competitive. I feel like I’m bragging about myself! I would say I’m very easy going. I’m passionate about my sport. Easygoing, passionate, determined. There are a lot of words, depending on what scenario.
Henderson: Let’s wrap up with a couple of random questions, just for fun. What’s something that would surprise most people about you?
Mears: You know, I don’t know. I don’t really know how I’m perceived as far as the general public goes. I think that I try to be myself when I’m on camera or on TV — I just try to be myself, and I don’t know what would really surprise anybody.
Henderson: Fair enough. What is your guilty pleasure?
Mears: Milk and cookies at midnight.
Henderson: What’s the strangest gift or request you’ve ever received from a fan?
Mears: “Will you marry me?” (laughing) Either that, or one time I signed a diaper. Somebody was asking me to sign this washable diaper, and you could tell it had been used — that was a little strange.
Henderson: Was it clean at the time, I hope?
Mears: They said they washed it, but it didn’t look like they did a very good job.
Henderson: Last time you cried — what made you cry?
Mears: Last time I really cried…I don’t know. I didn’t really cry, but I got teary-eyed a little bit when I was in the ultrasound with my girlfriend a little bit ago.
Henderson: One thing you couldn’t last one day without?
Mears: Other than people? My bed! At least every day I’ve got to be in my bed for a little while!
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