MOORESVILLE – Casey Mears is four years and two car manufacturers removed from his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start with Germain Racing.
The small, Mooresville, N.C.-based operation has grown from an occasional start-and-park outfit to one averaging a top-20 finish.
Mears, however, wants more.
His average finish with Germain Racing has climbed every year: from 29th in 2010 to 28th in 2011, 27th in 2012, 24th last year and 20th this season.
Better finishes – highlighted by a ninth-place run in February’s Daytona 500 – aren’t the only positives the Bakersfield, Calif. native takes away from the season’s first 13 races.
Mears takes pride in having been with the team since its humble introduction to the sport’s top series.
“It’s fun to be here long enough to go through that whole process,” Mears told SPEED SPORT. “It makes you appreciate where you are now as an organization. We try not to look backwards a lot. We try to look forward, but when you look at how the team was run then compared to now, and the budget we have now, we’ve really turned a corner.
“It’s cool to start seeing results from all of that hard work.”
The move to Chevrolet from Ford helped Mears’ No. 13 GEICO team become more formidable. A new partnership with Richard Childress Racing, Mears believes, also played a major role. The additions and adjustments would slow down most teams, but Mears’ relationship with crew chief Bootie Barker made things easier.
Still, it wasn’t as simple as taking out an engine and replacing it with a different brand.
“The logistics of it all was a pretty big undertaking,” Mears said. “I think the transition (from Ford to Chevrolet) has been as seamless as it could be. RCR has been an open book, which has been great. We’re pretty much fully integrated as far as that goes.”
Germain began its Sprint Cup efforts in 2009 with Max Papis driving Toyotas. Mears took over in 2010 and the team moved to Fords .
The Chevy switch represented another step in the right direction for an organization whose biggest Sprint Cup coup is starting from the pole at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in 2012.
“Our mile-and-a-half programs have gotten better. We’ve seen a lot of improvement there this season,” said Mears, who finished third in the Sprint Showdown race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.
He just missed out on transferring to the All-Star Race.
Victory, aside from the close call in the Sprint Showdown, hasn’t been attainable. Modest budgets make winning races an uphill battle for small teams, but if moving from 30th place to 20th place can happen, Mears thinks more upward movement can be made.