Race Weekend Central

Casey Mears Driver Diary: Looking Ahead, Keeping Busy & the Better Half Dash

Chicago was rained out and we ran Monday (Sept. 19). We just had a really tough race and with the rain delay it was really dragged out. I honestly don’t even recall a lot of the actual race. I just remember that my car wasn’t handling very well and we kind of struggled.

It was cool to see all the GEICO people at the track on Sunday morning. The event that they put on was really good. They did a really good job. They had a lot of GEICO signage everywhere. Having a lot of the people come in for the weekend who don’t usually get to come out was nice.

We weren’t that bad at Loudon. It was one of those races I wish we could have run the whole race. The shorter tracks have just been a lot better for us. It seems like when we go to places like Loudon, Richmond, Phoenix and Martinsville, we run better. We actually had a halfway decent car at Loudon and I think if we had been able to run the whole race, we’d have been decent.

We had a decent car at Dover. I felt like we were pretty good. We were moving through the field and passing guys. We had a pretty decent car and unfortunately we had an issue; we didn’t really break the fuel pump cable, but we ended up stripping the end off it and we had to come in and fix it, which put us several laps down. We had a pretty good car there and I think we would have had a good finish if that hadn’t happened.

When we have to start-and-park we’re looking for anything we can find. I think that it’s a limited opportunity. We really go to the start-and-park races fully prepared the way we would on a full race weekend, so it’s difficult to get a lot of information, but it’s a hell of a lot better than not going at all to be able to go there and try some things and play around with the car a little bit. It always helps.

We approach those races somewhat like a test session. The full race weekends we try and bring what we’re more definite with knowing, and when we park, if we go to those races and Bootie just wants to try something really off the wall we’ll go ahead and do that knowing we’re not running the whole race, so it’s a little easier to try things.

I think you always think ahead to next year. From a team standpoint with some of the announcements out earlier in the year, it sounds like we’re going to do a lot of restructuring for next season. So that’s already in place; obviously the ball is already rolling there, so we’re definitely looking ahead to next season. We definitely also have to keep our heads in the game for the remainder of this season to stay in the Top 35 in points.

We’ve got a fairly good cushion for sure, but if we have a couple of bad races and those guys have a couple of good ones, we could be looking at being closer than we want to be at the end of the year. So for sure, we’ve started thinking about next season and what we’re going to do, but we’ve also got to keep our heads down and do the best we can this year.

Honestly, with the whole formula they have right now for the restrictor-plate tracks, I don’t know if there’s any way to keep up from bump drafting in pairs. It’s going to happen just as much if not more. Honestly, at Talladega, I would say that if you really watch the first three quarters of that race, nobody’s really pushing the issue with bump drafting anyway. Everybody’s running around and trying to stay clean. There are a couple of guys who will get together up front and go. I think you’ll see a pretty similar race to last time.

I would say it’s more stressful to run in the big packs, just because there are so many other variables. In the pairs if you get to working with a guy pretty good, it’s pretty seamless. You’ve got to stay on your toes because you can still wreck pushing each other, but with the big packs it’s more unpredictable what five guys in front of you are going to do that’s going to affect what you do.

At the end we get that stress all over again, though; in the last 10 laps it’s just like running in the big packs where you’ve got a guy pushing you and you can’t really tell him to stop quick enough when you do see something coming.

Away from the track, we’ve been doing birthdays! Trish and Samantha both had birthdays. I’ve been traveling a lot, too. We had a test at Bristol and then we had a test at Phoenix the week after, so we’ve been in the middle of that trying to do birthdays, but we’ve been busy testing as well.

Honestly, I don’t really have a special raceday routine. The only thing that’s really routine in my day is when the drivers’ meetings are scheduled and everything else that’s scheduled for you. It seems like these days, the races are always different and we’re starting at different times. For sure, I like to have that hour, hour and a half after the drivers’ meeting to myself to go back and change, grab something to eat and just relax before the race.

I used to be superstitious when I ran Indy cars and I had time to think about stuff like that. We just run so many races that I don’t really do it any more, but I used to always put my right glove on before the left. I just get in now and get all my stuff on and go.

Trisha ran in the Better Half Dash. It would be sad if the first win in our relationship came from her. But I’d be excited at the same time. If she had won we’d both have our first wins at Charlotte! It would have been exciting if she won. She did a really good job. I was really proud of her. I was proud of her when we went to practice. You could tell right away that she got the hang of it a little bit better than a lot of the girls. She’s very athletic and aggressive, and she really likes competition. She’s always super competitive in almost everything we do, so I knew that she’d be trying pretty hard and she did.

She didn’t have a whole lot of racing experience, but she grew up in South Dakota, and she said that they used to all go slide around on the ice and stuff. She surprised me; the first time I ever took her out driving in anything she had some pretty good car control. She couldn’t tell you why she was doing it, but she was doing it right and saving it and everything. She did good.

Trish played basketball in high school and college, so she’s pretty intense when we play. She really wants me to shoot a better shot. She does not like watching my ugly shot, so it gets pretty intense when I play basketball with her. Basketball to her is like racing to me, so when I just want to play around, she wants to do it right. I think she was more nervous for her race than I was, but I have to admit, when I was trying to do video, I was shaking a little bit when she got in there and was racing pretty hard. I was excited for her, but nervous at the same time, hoping nothing bad happened.

Samantha just turned three. She loves doing all kinds of things. She likes driving her little car. She has a little battery-powered car. She loves that. She likes all the stuff 3-year-olds like to do. She loves to draw and color, yank the dog around when it’s on a leash. She’s a lot of fun.

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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