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Mears and New No. 5 Team

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         NASCAR NEWS - Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mears excited about quick bond with new No. 5 team
Driver says camaraderie with other teammates special
By Raygan Swan, NASCAR.COM

FONTANA, Calif. - Casey Mears is at times the overlooked 
Hendrick Motorsports driver. Unlike his counterparts, media 
doesn't swarm Mears in the NASCAR garage; his face isn't 
plastered on billboards and your rarely see him on covers 
of magazines. 

But he doesn't mind; Mears is never envious of the 
attention, however, their success is what he is 
desperately trying to obtain. 

"I think that those guys obviously have a lot of media 
attention surrounding them which is well deserved in a 
lot of aspects," Mears said. "I respect the fact that 
they get that attention. I'm striving not to get that 
attention but to get that success that breeds the 

A Bakersfield, Calif., native, Mears is confident in his 
own backyard -- his family is with him this weekend and 
he loves West Coast racing. 

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In his sixth season, Mears has just one victory -- last 
season's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. In nine 
previous Cup starts at the Auto Club Speedway, he has 
earned two top-10 finishes. 

"I'm excited ... I think the equipment is there," he said. 
The No. 5 [Mears] and No. 88 [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] side has 
definitely stepped up and matched that of the No. 24 [Jeff 
Gordon] and No. 48 [Jimmie Johnson]." 

Mears is acclimating to yet another new crew chief, Alan 
Gustafson, and a new team just as he did at the beginning 
of last season with the No. 25 crew. But things are 
different, he said, because the No. 5 team is established 
and has a successful resume. 

Mears is stepping into the same team that led Kyle Busch 
to a victory, multiple top-10s and a spot in last season's 
Chase for the Nextel Cup. 


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"I'm in a very good position as opposed to last year," 
Mears said. "It was a great team, a great group of guys 
that I had last year but we came in last minute and 
changed the crew chief the week before Daytona. There 
was just a lot of un-organization, we were building a 

Most times, driver-crew chief relationships can take an 
entire season to build as the chemistry is often not 
instant. However, Gustafson has given Mears a feeling 
of continuity and stability almost immediately. 

"I feel like he really understands what I'm needing and 
what I'm wanting," Mears said. "We didn't have the Daytona 
finish that we wanted, obviously, we made a move there 
that didn't work out for us. But I'd been second there, 
I've been in the top five, I'm not there to finish second 
anymore, we're there to make a move to win." 

With six laps to go, Mears was running third before he made 
contact with Tony Stewart last weekend during the 50th 
running of the Daytona 500. 

Encouraged by his team's communication, Mears said he feels 
far ahead of where he started last year partly because of 
the new chemistry Earnhardt Jr. has brought to the team and 
of course the continual support from Johnson and Gordon. 

"To see all four drivers really interacting and working 
well together, we didn't have that before. It was the same 
idea, but it didn't seem like it went as smooth," Mears 
said. "I just feel fortunate to have three guys that I 
can really pull good information from and we can work 
really well together as a team." 


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Each Hendrick driver will check on each other's machines 
throughout practice, gleaning and exchanging information 
about handling. On the pit box, all four crew chiefs 
exchange information on tire pressure changes and adjust-
ments. On the track, the four drivers form alliances the 
put them in positions to win. 

"You give your teammates that extra inch that you wouldn't 
give another competitor," Mears said. 

But when it comes down to winning the race, Mears said you 
treat them like anyone else on the track. 

Nevertheless, he characterizes the competition between his 
teammates as healthy and likened it to a sibling rivalry. 

"Obviously we all want to see each other succeed, but at 
the same time I kind of view it as anybody whose got 
brothers and sisters," Mears said. "You know you love your 
brother or sister and you don't want to see them get hurt 
and you don't want to damage them in anyway. But if you're 
going to go race against them in a go kart at a local park 
or something like that, you definitely don't want to be 
the one that comes home in second because then you have 
to deal with them all day long." 

Mears said it is one of the sports best teams and will be 
known historically for its camaraderie. 

"It's just a lot of fun," he said. "I look at Jimmie 
Johnson and I've known him since I was 12 years old. I 
consider him one of my best friends in the world if racing 
wasn't there so to have him as a teammate. Through him I 
met Jeff and became great friends. I met Junior as soon as 
I moved back to North Carolina about seven years ago. We're 
not real close but very friendly obviously. We've been 
buddies for a long time. We've got a very unique situation 
over at Hendrick Motorsports right now and it's a lot of 

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