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NASCAR

Casey Mears Off to Best Start of His NASCAR Career

Mark J. Rebilas-US Presswire

2013 has provided a platform for both rookies and relatively unknown names to get attention at NASCAR’s highest level: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick are both formidable rookies at elite teams with incredibly high expectations, Aric Almirola is anchoring the second Richard Petty Motorsports car after ending 2012 with impressive results, and Paul Menard is currently carrying Richard Childress Racing, sitting ninth in points.

But humbly sitting back, 17th in points is the Germain Racing Ford of veteran driver Casey Mears. Mears is no stranger to the fold, formerly driving cars owned by Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress earlier in his career. He is also of course the son of Roger Mears and nephew of racing legend Rick Mears.

That’s why when Mears entered the Sprint Cup Series in 2003 with Ganassi Racing, it was strange to see him not only struggle, but look outright lost at time. 2006 and 2007 brought a time of transition, with the inclusion of the Car of Tomorrow and a move to Hendrick Motorsports, the dominant team in Sprint Cup. But things only got worse for Mears, despite finding victory lane at the Coca Cola 600 in 2007.

Mears has not had a top-10 finish since 2010, which saw him go from bad team to bad team, including both Key Motorsports and Red Bull Racing, who are now both out of the Sprint Cup Series.

But, during the middle of the season, Mears found his home. Germain Racing was expanding by downsizing. The former Camping World Truck Series championship team was going to be running the Sprint Cup Series full time, without compromises.

The team has stability everywhere, starting with the Germain brothers’ dedication, veteran crew chief Bootie Barker on top of the pit box, technical alliances with Roush-Fenway Racing, sponsor Geico, and Mears himself in the cockpit. They have not missed a race since the 2011 Daytona 500, and the hard work the team has put in is coming to fruition in 2013.

Currently, the team sits 17th in points, without a single retirement and only one non-lead-lap finish. The rest of the finishes have all been top-20 runs — impressive for a team with only one car and a driver who many said was not cut out for the sport.

It is only the beginning. Sponsor Geico and Mears both have contracts running through 2014, and there is no doubt that if the trend continues, we could soon see this independent operation contending for race wins shortly. As the season continues, look for the 13 car to continue to move towards the front of the pack, signaling both the rebirth of Germain Racing and Casey Mears.

Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486