Mears Finish On Target

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They say a green car is bad luck, but that didn't stop Casey Mears from matching his career-best finish of seventh in the Fujifilm/Target Dodge at Texas Motor Speedway.

Mears started the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 sixth after his qualifying effort on Friday. He immediately went to battle with Jeff Gordon after the start of the race. The No. 24 performed a bump-and-run on the Fujifilm Dodge and tore off part of the rear bumper to bring out the first caution on lap 17 for debris. The team made a four-tire stop while several cars elected for fuel or two tires only.

Racing resumed on lap 23 with the No. 41 in the 21st position. Mears had a fast car under him and battled his way up to 14th when green-flag stops began on lap 79. He brought the car down pit road on lap 81 for four tires, an air pressure adjustment and fuel. When the second caution finally waved on lap 117, Mears was 12th and one of only 18 cars still on lead lap. He told crew chief Jimmy Elledge the car was tight all around so the Fujifilm/Target team made a chassis adjustment and changed tires.

The green flag waved again on lap 124 with Mears in 11th. He returned to the top 10 on lap 128 when he passed teammate Sterling Marlin. Once again, a long run brought the No. 41 down pit road under green-flag conditions on lap 184 for a routine stop. The caution waved for the third time on lap 190 with 15 cars on the lead lap.

With only six laps on the tires, Elledge made a call in the pits for a trackbar adjustment and fuel only to gain valuable track position. Although Mears came out of the pits fourth, NASCAR determined he was speeding on pit road and sent him to the tail end of the longest line. Elledge brought him back down pit road for four fresh tires after the penalty was assessed. Racing resumed on lap 204 and Mears tried to clear lap traffic. He worked his way up to 12th when green-flag stops began on lap 258.

Elledge decided to keep Mears on the track for several more laps so they could finish the race with just one more stop. The decision worked to the team's advantage when the caution waved on lap 265 catching several cars a lap down or on the tail end of the lead lap.

Mears made his final pit stop of the day on lap 268 and was sixth when racing resumed on lap 272. Several caution flags waved during the final 62 laps of the race. The team took the checkered flag in seventh position to earn their second top 10 of the season.

"I'm a little frustrated," said Mears. "We came back, and at the end of the day I'm happy. I feel a lot more comfortable, and we've been fortunate to bring the same car back from Las Vegas and Atlanta. The guys did a great job in the pits today, and I think we're only going to get better.

"If you were tight today you were stuck on the bottom. You lost the air off your nose so fast it was hard to pass. The pit road penalty (speeding) set us back a good bit. We went from fourth to 15th, so we lost a lot of spots. It probably didn't kill us, but I would have liked to see what would have happened if we could have stayed up there."

The Target Team was the big movers in the points standings this week going from 23rd to 18th, just 82 points out of the NASCAR Top 10.

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