Pruett Scores Bullseye
June 28, 2004 | 2:29 P.M. EST
Pruett started the event in sixth, but quickly moved up to fourth before the first caution. His exceptional road course background was evident as he was one of the few cars able to pass on the 2-mile course and was sitting second behind eventual race leader Jeff Gordon on lap 10. He held onto the second spot until the second caution waved. He brought the No. 39 Target Dodge down pit road for service. The pit crew changed four tires, added fuel and got him out ahead of Gordon.
On the team's second and final pit stop, Pruett was blocked in the pits and fell back to sixth. He battled his way back up to third before the checkered flag waved.
"It is difficult to step in for one or two races a year and really gel with your guys," said Pruett. "This team did a great job. If you've got to come in and do a one-race deal, Chip Ganassi Racing is my best opportunity. I look forward to running the No. 39 again at Watkins Glen."
Mears collected his seventh top-10 finish after a 29th-place qualifying effort. The team knew the challenges facing them and developed an early strategy. Crew chief Jimmy Elledge had Mears short pit on lap 24 to make up some time on the leaders before making their final stop. The plan worked out perfectly.
Mears was 18th when he brought the No. 41 down pit road on lap 23 for service. The team made a chassis adjustment, changed four tires and added fuel to help the loose condition of the car. After the stop Mears was 37th. Other teams began to pit 10 laps later and when the caution waved on lap 45, he was up to 18th. Elledge told Mears to conserve gas, as they had to race to lap 66 to get inside their fuel window.
Racing resumed on lap 48 with the No. 41 in 14th. Elledge called Mears down pit road on lap 66. As Mears entered pit road, the caution waved. The lucky break was the turning point for the team. The Target crew serviced the car and sent Mears back on the track. The rest of the field came down pit road two laps later and Mears was credited with the top spot.
Racing resumed on lap 69 and he held onto the lead until lap 73. Over the remaining laps, he was able to keep the Target Dodge in the top 10 and finish the day in seventh.
"I'm real proud of the Target team," said Mears. "They did an excellent job, and to have Jamie (McMurray) and Scott finish second and third was a good day for Ganassi. This is a place where I have struggled, and we overcame it and had a good race. We came out here to get a good finish, and I feel real good about what we did today."
Mears' other Ganassi teammates McMurray and Sterling Marlin finished second and 21st.
Mears remains 17th in the championship standings, just 229 points out of the top 10.