West Test Next For Mears

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Casey Mears gets a chance to head back to his home state of California and the Auto Club Speedway this weekend in the first of back-to-back west coast races for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The Bakersfield native grew up 165 miles northwest of Auto Club Speedway and always looks forward to racing in front of family,. friends and fans.

“It seems like California, Las Vegas and Phoenix are the places where I get to catch up with some family and a lot of my friends," said Mears, who makes his first start at the two-mile Fontana track for Richard Childress Racing on Sunday. "That makes it one of the places where you want to win the most because it’s in front of a lot of friends and family."

"Hopefully, we can go back to California and be ready to go. It seems like RCR made a lot of improvements on their intermediate track program towards the end of last year and, obviously, had some success. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of that when we get out there.”

While the RCR program did make improvements in its mid-sized track program a year ago, Mears is still getting adapted to the No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet team since his arrival from Hendrick Motorsports.

And without off-season testing, this year's Auto Club race does bring a set of unknowns.

“It used to be the California/Las Vegas test every year," Mears said. "You’d go out to those tests and know if you were pretty good or if you still had a lot of work to do. Definitely, come California and Las Vegas, we’ll have a pretty good idea of what we need to work on and where we stack up.”

Mears is hoping to improve on last year's Auto Club 500 experience when he was involved in an early race incident and a fiery crash that included Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

That was just one of the mishaps during a long and wet weekend with the race finally being postponed by rain to a Monday conclusion.

“I think anytime you have a deal like that, it takes the wind out of your sails," Mears said of the two-day format. "You’re ready to go racing and then there’s a pause. You kind of feel weird the next day. It just feels different. There aren’t as many people in the stands and it feels like you’re just finishing something, not starting a race."

"In that situation being strong mentally, as a team, is huge. You have to understand that although that the day before was the day, you have to gear back up and be ready to race again on Monday. Sometimes that’s the best time to capitalize.”

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