Team Preview: Germain Racing

Casey Mears

Mears: "Our cars are lookin’ the best they ever have. If we get everything out of what we have and make the right decisions, I see us knocking on the door to be in the Chase." (Photo: Getty Images)

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In 2015, Casey Mears and Germain Racing inched closer to a spot among the top 20 in the final point standings.

Similar progress in 2016 would put the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet right where the team feels it belongs.

"A huge goal for us would be to break the top 20 in points and I honestly feel like we’re better than that," Mears said, eyeing the arrival of Speedweeks which is now less than two weeks away. "We had several things happen last year that typically don’t happen to race teams. Without those issues, we could have had a solid season and finished maybe 18th in points."

Last season, the team improved from 26th to 23rd in the final standings as Mears completed his fifth full season with Germain Racing. His best finish, sixth place, came in the season-opening Daytona 500. Now, Mears says it’s time to take the next step.

"Team morale is high, right now, and it’s been a long time coming for our program," he said. "Over the last five years, there’s been huge growth – from being a start-and-park program running half the races to where we are now. We have another year of being affiliated with Richard Childress Racing in 2016, and that’s given us a better understanding of what it takes to go out and compete."

Mears says that technical alliance with one of the sport’s top-tier organizations has helped boost his and the team’s confidence.

"Now, we’re starting to build a playbook," he said. "Being aligned with RCR, we’ve slowly gotten our cars closer to where theirs are. We know we have the rules change to deal with, but we also have a history, now, and experience to look back on that’ll give us a good starting point at all the tracks."

The rules change Mears speaks of is NASCAR’s shift to a low-downforce aerodynamic package that was tested last year and will be implemented for this year, starting later this month at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Like many of his fellow competitors, Mears is in favor of the change.

"The racing was better," he said, referring to last year’s events at Kentucky and Darlington Raceway, where the new rules were tested. "It will continue to get better as we get further into the year, and as Goodyear gets time to know and understand what kind of (tire) loads they’re going to see in the center of the corner."

From behind the wheel, Mears says lower downforce will mean more lead changes and better competition.

"When you’re chasing a guy down and he gets in a little too hot, and has to catch it, you can get down underneath him and go," he said. "The cars are a little harder to drive and when you have that, there are more chances for drivers to make mistakes."

As Mears looks ahead to the 2016 campaign, he sees plenty of promise as he walks the halls of his race shop.

"Our cars are lookin’ the best they ever have," he said. "If we get everything out of what we have and make the right decisions, I see us knocking on the door to be in the Chase."

Mears’ confidence entering the new season is further buoyed by the strong bond he’s formed with veteran crew chief Bootie Barker.

"Now that we have these years together, when there’s an issue or we’re not fast, we’re going to figure it out," said Mears, who is under contract with Germain through the 2018 season. "We all know these are the people we’re working with for the next three years. That continuity is important. Just look at what Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have accomplished."

The reference there is, of course, to the six-time Cup Series champion and his long-time crew chief.

"When you have that type of history," Mears adds, "it helps you get places quicker."

Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – will have live coverage of the 58th Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 21, starting at 12 p.m. (ET) – with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.

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