by Virginia Vroom of Predictem.com
One of the biggest patterns that I always preach about within NASCAR is the ability to maintain consistency. As it is the weekend of the 600, it seems fitting to talk about Casey Mears as the defending champion and also a driver who has fought the consistency demon ever since making his Cup debut.
Mears started racing in the series driving for Ganassi. He spent three years driving the No. 41 car and then was moved to the Ganassi No. 42 car. Since then, he’s been tossed around seeing where he could fit in, working with owners who were simply trying to reorganize their garages. Mears explains that consistency has been the demon for him. It is so hard to overcome moving from team to team on a yearly basis. Rarely does a driver join a team and just click immediately with the team members, the crew chief, and the owner. To any driver, the first year is typically a get-to-know everyone year, learning the quirks and the ins and outs of the how that team works. The drivers become familiar with the cars, the equipment offered by the teams, and also their schedules.
Well, since losing his ride with Ganassi, Mears has found a spot with Hendrick, but that does not mean that he has the security that Gordon, Johnson, and even new member Jr. have. These guys have the experience that Mears has not been afforded. He does not spend enough time in any once garage to focus on what his key goal is: racing. How can someone focus on winning a race when he has to spend the majority of his time getting used to his team members and his equipment and testing and the owner’s wishes? Is this even fair to ask someone to do this after one year?
This weekend, Mears has something to prove. He is the defending champion of the Coca-Cola 600 and wants to defend his title probably more than anyone has wanted to do it before. This is just his first year again with a new number, a new crew, and a new car, but he has done relatively well considering his circumstances.
Another component that comes into play is the idea that he could just as easily lose his ride again. With rumors of Tony Stewart being a free agent and looking around at all of his options, it’s eerily similar to Kyle Busch losing his ride and Jr. being a free agent last year. Despite the rumors, Mears has a contract through the end of the 2009 season. Hopefully, he will be able to maintain his ride that long.
Given some security, I think that Mears actually has the potential to be a great driver. He may not be a Jeff Gordon or a Jr., but he’s got talent. He’s proven that much. He’s done much better this year and even last year than he has in his entire career. Being with Hendrick for more than a year has proven that he has made some significant improvements and is melding a bit more with his teammates and everyone that works in the Hendrick garage. I think that everyone needs to cut guys like Mears a bit of a break. They are great drivers. They’ve made it to the Cup series for a reason. Just because they may not be All-Stars yet does not mean that they do not have the potential there to do so in the future. Let’s give Mears a little bit more consistency and a couple more years with the same guys and see what happens. Look at Kyle Busch! He moved to Gibbs and is now dominating. Sometimes, it’s all a matter of who you click with and the ability to work with the same guys every weekend. That’s really not asking too much when you think about it.