Mears celebrates winning the 2007 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. (Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Casey Mears Part II: A 14-Year NASCAR Staple 

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two part story looking back at Casey Mears’ racing career. To read part one, click here.

Despite struggling at first, Mears began to get a grasp on the stock car. With qualifying trim being one of the Ganassi stable’s strong suits, came Mears’ first career pole at the hallowed grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Mears laid down a track record in 2004, lapping the 2.5-mile oval at a whopping 186.293 mph. That record stood for nine years. 

“That was huge,” Mears said. “The emotions at Indy always run high. When I always went there, obviously dreaming of being in an Indy car, and knowing the success that my uncle had there, my dad raced at Indy. To be able to lay down a lap like we did that day, in the manner that we did it at Indy, was super-special. Had a lot of my family there that weekend. To share that with them was a really cool experience.”

As Mears acclimated to the finesse of racing in NASCAR, his results improved between his rookie year in 2003 to 2006. Though after leaving Ganassi at the end of the 2006 season without a victory in the Cup Series, Mears was hungrier than ever. 

A Memorable Memorial Day 

His breakthrough came in 2007, in NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on Memorial Day Weekend. 

Piloting the No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Mears and crew chief Darian Grubb stretched their fuel during the final 59 laps, en route to earning his only Cup Series victory. 

The win was one that Mears reflected on fondly. 

“I remember a lot about that day. First off, it was one of the first really competitive weekends we had in a stock car at Hendrick,” Mears said. “When I first got there, even though Hendrick is Hendrick Motorsports, and obviously have had a lot of success, that 25 team was a little bit of an odd-ball team at the time.

“We found out about a quarter of the way through the season that our bodies and the way that they were being built versus the other cars on the team had a lot larger discrepancies than what we thought. We really struggled the first part of the season with speed. We didn’t really figure out until a quarter into the season that we were quite a bit off on downforce.”

After struggling the first few races of the season, one of the No. 25 team’s first new cars built practically mirrored the cars of teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, was in Charlotte. 

Mears leads a pack of cars during the 2007 Coca-Cola 600. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Mears qualified the car 16th, running in the top-10 for the majority of the race. 

“We probably weren’t the car that was going to win the race. But we definitely had a good shot of top-three or top five.”

After race leader Tony Stewart and contenders Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. went into the pits for fuel, Mears led the final six laps. 

“The thing I remember the most about that is how competitive we were, the speed that we had, it being Memorial Day weekend and driving for the National Guard, you couldn’t have won on a better weekend,” Mears said. “I know that day, we had a crew member on our car that we were carrying his name of his family member that had passed away in the line of duty. He was actually on our team. We were carrying multiple names on the decklid of our car, of fallen soldiers. He had his brother’s name on there.

“To win for him, to win for the National Guard. Chevrolet, that was the very first win for the new RL-7 motor that year. So, it was a first for Chevrolet,” Mears continued. “Also being Memorial Day weekend and my uncle having the success at Indy, to win that same weekend as Indy was huge. My mom and dad were there in victory lane. All of our friends were there in Charlotte. It was a really, really good celebration, and a big win at the right time.”

One more season at Hendrick came in 2008, a shot in the No. 07 for Richard Childress Racing in 2009, followed by six-and-a-half seasons at Germain Racing piloting the No. 13 Geico machine followed. 

Reflection On A Fulfilling Career

Since his departure from NASCAR in 2016, the now 44-year-old Mears resides in Arizona, where spending time with his wife and two children is his life highlight. 

“Honestly, it was tough the first couple years when I wasn’t racing on a regular basis,” Mears said. “When you do something your whole life, really, I did it from the time I was three years old. To all of a sudden not having that on a consistent basis was really difficult. It was also really difficult to have the mindset of, even possibly figuring out what’s next in life.

“You’re so focused on motorsports, period, that the process of thinking about what was next was really difficult. The one thing I can say through all that, the biggest blessing was being able to have some really quality time with my kids at such a crucial age.

“Being able to be home with them, pick them up from school, drop them off at school, take them to sporting events. Being present in their lives, was a pretty big blessing. I felt like, clearly we’re gone Thursday through Sunday, racing almost every single weekend.

“I think about all the baseball games I’ve made, all the cheer events I’ve made, all the school events that I’ve been able to make over the last five or six years. I definitely wouldn’t take it back. I feel pretty fortunate that I was able to do that.”

Mears finished his Cup Series career with three poles and one victory. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

As Mears looks back on a career filled with exuberance, challenges and perseverance, he has peace knowing he poured everything into giving his teams, sponsors and supporters an opportunity to succeed. 

“The one thing I’m really most proud of is being in the sport for as long as I was,” Mears said. “I had a long career in motorsports. Obviously, in motorsports, you have to be successful, you have to put the numbers on the board, you got to have speed. Obviously, you’ve got to be desirable for someone to want to hire you.

“Was I one of the guys that was going to win you a championship? Possibly in the right scenario. What I was most proud of was that I felt like I built really strong relationships in the sport,” Mears added. “I feel like my reputation was if I was hired on a team that had a car that was capable of running 15th, I brought it home 10th. If I had a car that was capable of running 12th, we brought it home eighth. I feel like I got just a little bit more out of the car than it was supposed to, and I built good relationships.

“I felt like I always had strong relationships with my sponsors, my team and I was able to do it for a long time. So, just proud that I was one of those guys in the sport that people wanted around and got to drive some really fast race cars for some good programs.”