Casey Mears is an American racing driver who competes in NASCAR since 2001, with more than 600 races in two top national series. He scored one victory in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series in 2007 and one victory in the NASCAR Busch Series in 2006.
His greatest victory wasn't achieved in NASCAR, but at the 24 Hours of Daytona, where he won in 2006, sharing Chip Ganassi Racing's Riley-Lexus with Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon.
Uncle Rick Mears is a four-time Indy 500 winner
Casey James Mears was born on March 12th, 1978, in Bakersfield, California. He was born in a famous racing family, as his father, Roger Mears, was known off-road as a hill-climb racer, while his uncle, Rick Mears, is a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500.
He started racing with karts as a teenager in 1991. Next year, he switched to the SuperLites Off-Road Series, then to sprint cars in 1994, and finally entered the Indy Lights championship in 1996. He debuted at Cleveland Grand Prix and finished eighth.
Four seasons in the Indy Lights championship
In 1997, he competed his first full season in the Indy Lights and stayed in the series until 2000. Year by year, he progressed in the final classification, with 23rd place in 1997 and 17th place in 1998, to the runner-up position in 1999. Mears was driving for Dorricott Racing in 1999 and he scored four podiums in 12 races, to miss the title by 14 points behind his teammate Oriol Servia.
He came to the end in every race and became the fourth driver in Indy Lights series history to complete every lap in a single season. In 2000, his last Indy Lights season, Mears finally scored his first victory (in Houston) and finished third in the standings, behind Scott Dixon and Townsend Bell.
Fourth place in the CART debut at Auto Club Speedway
In October 2000, he debuted in CART championship, driving a third car for Team Rahal at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. He surprised all with the fourth place finish after he started from 15th and led for 10 laps. It remained his career-best result in the American top single-seater series.
Mears participated in three Indy Racing League events at the start of the 2001 season, driving for Galles Racing. He also attempted to qualify for the 2001 Indianapolis 500 but didn't make it. At the end of the season, he moved to parallel CART championship to replace the injured Alex Zanardi in Mo Nunn's Reynard-Honda. He started four races and posted the best result in Fontana, finishing eighth.
It was all of his CART and Indy involvement, as he focused on the stock car racing from 2001 onward. He debuted in the ARCA Series at Talladega, finishing 9th in the LJ Racing's Pontiac. After that, he debuted in the NASCAR Busch Series, at the last round of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, driving #66 Chevrolet for Cicci-Welliver Racing. He started 21st and finished 28th.
First full NASCAR season in 2002
After the team was sold to Wayne Jesel in 2002, Mears was driving the full season in the #66 Dodge for Team Jesel. Fifth place at Talladega was his best result and he finished 21st in points.
It was a big surprise to many when Casey Mears was selected to drive #41 Target-sponsored Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing in the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. In his debuting season, his best result was 15th place in Las Vegas. During the season, he participated in Chip Ganassi's #77 Dodge in four races of the ARCA Series and won three of them. Casey also continued to drive in the Busch Series, participating in 14 races with Braun Racing's #19 Dodge.
2006 was the best year in his career
Mears spent three more seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing in the renamed NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, driving #41 Dodge in 2004/2005 and #42 Dodge in 2006. The season 2006 was definitely the best year in the career of Casey Mears.
It started with a victory at the 2006 24 Hours of Daytona on January 29th. His co-drivers in the Chip Ganassi Racing's Lexus Riley DP were Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon. It was the second participation for Mears at Daytona 24-hour race with CGR prototype, a year before he finished sixth.
Best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series result for Casey Mears
Another great success at Daytona International Speedway followed three weeks later with second place at Daytona 500, which Mears started from 14th place. In the green-white-checker finish, he stayed behind the winner Jimmie Johnson, his future teammate. During the season, Mears scored seven more Top 10 finishes, including second place at Kansas, to finish 14th in the championship. It remained his career-best season finish in NASCAR Nextel/Sprint Cup Series.
The year gets even better with his first NASCAR victory in the Busch Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in July. Mears had a successful year in the 2006 Busch Series with Ganassi #42 Dodge, with five top 5 finishes in nine races.
Casey joined Hendrick Motorsports and turned to NASCAR
A month before his maiden NASCAR win, Mears announced that he was leaving Chip Ganassi Racing at the end of the season to join Hendrick Motorsports for the 2007 season. In 2007, he was driving the #25 Chevrolet sponsored by National Guard of the United States and GMAC.
On May 27, he won his first Nextel Cup race. It was the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Mears secured the win with a fuel gamble, taking the lead with five laps to go when most of the rivals stopped for fuel. Mears lost his fuel just a few moments after he crossed the finish line.
Mears earned four more Top 5 finishes during the year to finish the 2007 Nextel Cup season at 15th place. In the Busch Series, he participated in 19 races with Hendrick Motorsports #24 Chevrolet and finished second two times. It was his last season in the Busch Series, as 2008 marked Mears' focus on the premier NASCAR series.
Video : Casey Mears wins the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
One more 24h race at Daytona
Mears spent one more season with Hendrick Motorsports, driving #5 Chevrolet in 2008 without victories and scoring six Top 10 results. In 2009, Casey was driving #07 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, with just four Top 10 results.
Mears participated one more time at 24 Hours of Daytona in 2009, sharing the Childress-Howard Motorsports Pontiac-Crawford with Danica Patrick, Andy Wallace and Rob Finlay. They completed 702 laps and finished 8th.
Four race cars in one season
In 2010, Mears started the season with #90 Chevrolet of Key Motorsports, but he failed to qualify in five of six races. After he was released by the team, Mears became the driver for Tommy Baldwin Racing's #36 team in April. After his two-race stint with TBR, it was announced that Mears would be the temporary replacement driver for the #83 Red Bull Racing Team at Dover, replacing the sick Brian Vickers.
He drove four races with Red Bull's Toyota. During the June race at Michigan International Speedway, Mears wrecked his Red Bull Racing teammate Scott Speed. After that accident, Mears was replaced by Reed Sorenson and he returned to TBR for five more races.
In August, Mears stepped into his fourth car of the 2010 season, driving the #13 GEICO Toyota for Germain Racing at Bristol. He stayed in the car until the end of the season and set an agreement for full 2011 season. His best result in 2011 was 12th place at Martinsville.
Racing with GEICO and Germain Racing since 2010
GEICO signed a new two-year deal with Mears and Germain in January 2012. The team switched to Ford, gaining technical support from Roush Fenway Racing. The results were not better: Mears' top finish was 15th place at Sonoma. In 2013, Mears finished 9th at Daytona's Coke Zero 400, and it was the highlight of the season.
After the deal with GEICO was extended for 2014, the team again changed the manufacturer, switching to Chevrolet. The Coke Zero at Daytona was again the most successful race for Mears, as he finished fourth. He also finished tenth at Daytona 500 and Geico 500 at Talladega.
The last full season for Mears was 2016
In 2015, Mears finished 6th at Daytona 500, which was his best finish in that race since 2006. It remained the only Top 10 finish for Mears in 2015, but he still reached his best result in five seasons with Germain Racing, finishing 23rd in the championship. He spent one more season in the #13 Geico Chevrolet, ending his Cup Series career at the end of 2016.
In 2017, he was driving the #98 Ford for Biagi-DenBeste Racing on a part-time schedule in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He returned to the Cup Series in 2019, driving only at Daytona 500 for Germain Racing. In the meantime, he attempted Stadium Super Trucks, participating in eight events in 2017 and 2018.
Photos: autoracing1.com, speedsport-magazine.com, crash.net, motorsport.com, germainracing.com