2009 Ride: No. 07 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
2009 Primary Sponsors: Jack Daniel’s, DirecTV, USO, Choctaw Casino Resort
2009 Owner: Richard Childress
2009 Crew Chiefs: Gil Martin (Feb. – Apr.), Todd Berrier (Apr. – Oct.), Doug Randolph (Nov.)
2009 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 4 top 10s, 0 DNFs, 21st in points
High Point: Richmond in May. Despite a brand-new crew, Mears ran strong all night, and thanks to some good strategy and a well-driven race, grabbed his first top 10 of the year. A couple of other things worth mentioning about what looks on paper to be a dismal season: Mears never failed to finish a single race, and he improved his average finish by more than two positions over 2008.
Low Point: Darlington. Mears ended the night in 36th place, his worst finish of 2009. He finished 29 laps off the pace.
Summary: For the second year in a row, Mears took over a team that had qualified for the Chase the previous year and failed to make the Chase himself. But Mears didn’t have an abysmally bad year, either. He started the year with a solid 15th-place run at Daytona, and didn’t post a top 10 until Richmond in May – not exactly a strong start – but not a terrible one, either. He finished every race, averaging around 20th-mid-pack but no better, and this would be the season trend.
But Mears wasn’t the only RCR driver underperforming – the team as a whole struggled mightily, and after placing three cars in the Chase in 2008 was shut out completely in 2009. Mears took the brunt of the attempts to turn it around, having key team members taken away twice in an attempt to right the ship for Kevin Harvick and then Jeff Burton.
Mears has not had more than a single season with an intact team in more than five years, and that has taken a toll on his career. He closed 2009 with an unspectacular but not terrible 19.8 average finish. His best finish was a sixth at Michigan in August, but throughout the fall the team showed steady improvement – they often ran better than they finished. His worst finish, 36th, wasn’t as bad as the worst finishes of Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin or Jeff Gordon.
Team Ranking: Fourth. Mears was ahead of teammate Harvick for most of 2009, but Harvick passed him in the points standings at Homestead.
Off-Track News: Mears announced his engagement to girlfriend Trisha Grablander who is the mother of his daughter. Samantha. The couple will be married in January 2010.
2010 Outlook: At the moment, there is none. Mears was released from his contract at the end of 2009 when RCR could not secure sponsorship for his car. They will shut the team down if none is found. Mears could race the No. 07 at Daytona – the team will enter that race, and has indicated that Mears is their pick if he doesn’t sign on for a ride elsewhere. He could return to RCR full-time if a sponsor is found, or could return to the Nationwide Series or even Indy cars, as Mears has shown to be an outstanding open-wheel driver.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: C+
2007 Grade: B-
2008 Grade: D
2009 Grade: C
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