Mears Riding High

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Two California native sons come back home this weekend holding the first and second spots in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings.

While Jimmie Johnson sits on top of the heap after his Daytona 500 win, Casey Mears comes in holding the runner-up position.

Mears, the nephew of Hall of Fame Indy car star Rick Mears, feels like it is his team's turn to take a shot at breaking into the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" at the end of the season.

"We have always felt like we could be contenders and that we could be in the ‘Chase,’" said Mears, still riding high after his second place Daytona 500 run. "Last year a lot of bad luck plagued us from getting to that point. This year we have the equipment, we have the cars, we got everything in our power to be able to being able to make that 'Chase.' We just gotta put all the pieces of the puzzle in the right places and keep our heads up and keep digging and I think we can make it."

The driver of the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge is off to a great start in 2006 which has included a second place in the 500 as well as being part of the race winning team at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

"It’s definitely a good way to start the season. I know at one point there was a lot of talk about whether we should go to Mexico and try to defend the Grand-Am title on our off weekend just because we are leading the points after Daytona. But I don’t think that is going to happen.

It feels good to start the season off so well. It’s been a long three years trying to fortify myself in the sport and hopefully we are off to a good start doing that."

The season could not have started any better for a driver who has yet to win in the NEXTEL Cup and appeared to be an afterthought last season.

"It’s awesome. Obviously it’s one race, one event, and next week everything gets completely turned around and backwards. Leading into California, we got a lot of confidence, that’s been a good race for me. It feels great. I have left Daytona in a lot worse situations."

While others may get antsy about an uncertain future, Mears is confident that his contract situation will get worked out as he and is on the “tail end” of a four-year deal with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

"We are currently talking right now (with CGRFS), trying to figure things out. We are not really in a big rush. We know we have the whole year to get things ironed and ready to go for the future. Nothing is set in stone for the following season but we are currently talking about it."

        

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