An emotional Casey Mears celebrates his first NASCAR Nextel Cup win. More pix at the end of this page...
Mears Gets First Career Cup Win
By Reid Spencer, Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
CONCORD, NC (May 27, 2007) — Casey Mears gambled and won Sunday night.
Crew chief Darian Grubb’s fuel-mileage call in the closing laps of the Coca- Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway propelled the No. 25 National Guard Chevrolet into victory lane in NASCAR’s longest event.
Though it was Mears’ first win in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, it extended the dominance of Hendrick Motorsports to nine victories in 12 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races this season.
“We were a third-place car, a fourth-place car at best, and that was the only way to win it,” said an elated Mears.
The top five finishers all stayed on the track while the front-runners pitted for splashes of fuel in the final 10 circuits, but Mears and Grubb believed they could finish the race without coming to pit road.
After he crossed the finish line, the engine in Mears’ Chevy began to sputter on the cool-down lap.
J.J. Yeley finished second to post the best result of his career.
Kyle Petty, who won the 600 in 1987, ran third, followed by Reed Sorenson and Brian Vickers, who gave Toyota its best finish of the season.
Tony Stewart, who pitted from the lead for fuel on Lap 393 of 400, was sixth. Ricky Rudd was seventh, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson, who lost the lead because of a lug nut
problem in the pits on Lap 338.
Thanks to Johnson’s problem, Stewart inherited the lead for a restart on Lap 342 and pushed his advantage to more than two seconds before coming to the pits for fuel. Earnhardt and Hamlin followed him to pit road on subsequent laps, as none of those drivers had enough fuel to finish the final 59-lap green-flag run.
Hendrick Motorsports has won nine of the past 10 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races, and Chevrolet drivers have claimed victory in 11 of the 12 events this season.
Complete race results and point standings in the Related News section on this page...
Checkered Flag Fast Facts
Practice: Thursday, May 24 (SPEED at 4 p.m./AT, 3 p.m./ET)
Qualifying: Thursday, May 24 (SPEED at 8 p.m./AT, 7 p.m./ET)
Practice: Saturday, May 26 (SPEED at 4:30 p.m./AT, 3:30 p.m./ET)
Final Practice: Saturday, May 26 (SPEED at 7 p.m./AT, 6 p.m./ET)
Pre-Race: Sunday, May 27 (SPEED at 4 p.m./AT, 3 p.m./ET)
Race: Sunday, May 27 (FOX at 6 p.m./AT, 5 p.m./ET)
- Casey Mears won the Coca-Cola 600, his first career victory in 156 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races.
- This is his second top-10 finish in 2007.
- This is his third top-10 finish in nine races at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
- This is the fifth consecutive victory for Hendrick Motorsports. It is just the eighth time in NASCAR history
that a car owner has posted five or more victories. The last time was by Petty Enterprises in 1971.
- J.J. Yeley (second) posted his career- best NASCAR NEXTEL Cup finish.
- Kyle Petty (third) posted his best finish since he won at Dover in June 1995 and his first top-five since he
finished fifth at Dover in June 1997.
- Jeff Gordon continues to lead the 2007 point standings. He has led the point standings since Bristol and
is now 132 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson.
Green Flag Fast Facts
The Race: Coca-Cola 600
The Place: Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.
The Date: Sunday, May 27
The Time: 6:30 p.m./AT, 5:30 p.m./ET
TV: FOX, 6 p.m./AT, 5 p.m./ET
The Track: 1.5 mile oval
The Distance: 600 miles; 400 laps
The Purse: $6,569,628
2006 Winner: Kasey Kahne
2006 Pole: Scott Riggs
Pre-Race Schedule (local/ET time): Thursday—Practice, 3-4:30 p.m. Qualifying—7:10 p.m. Saturday—Practice, 3-3:50 p.m. and 6:20-7:20 p.m.
Year-To-Date Standings: click here
- Ryan Newman won the Bud Pole for the Coca-Cola 600 with a lap of 29.140 seconds, 185.312 mph.
- This is his 39th Bud Pole in 200 career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races.
- This is just his second top-10 start in 2007 – both Bud Poles. He also won the Bud Pole at Atlanta.
- This is Newman’s sixth Bud Pole at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. He has 11 top-10 starts in 13 races at
Lowe’s – all forth or better.
- Kurt Busch posted a lap of 29.179 seconds, 185.065 mph to join Newman in an all-Penske Racing
South front row. It is just his second top-10 start in 14 races at Lowe’s.
- Elliott Sadler (third) completed a sweep of the top three positions for Dodge.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fourth) posted his fifth top-10 start of 2007.
- Dave Blaney (eighth) was the fastest of the drivers required to qualify on time as all four
manufacturers posted top-10 starting positions.
- Bill Elliott (22nd) qualified for his first NASCAR NEXTLE Cup race since Homestead - Nov. 19, 2006
- The "Did Not Qualify" list for this week includes: Paul Menard; Michael Waltrip; Ward Burton; Kevin Lepage; Mike Bliss; and
Green Flag Notes...
Photo Gallery - Sunday, May 27
- After qualifying 23rd for the Coca-Cola 600, Dale Jarrett commmented: "I don’t think I had to work this hard to win a championship, but that’s what it takes these days..."
- If it weren't for bad luck, Michael Waltrip wouldn't seem to have any luck these days...For the second week in a row he hit the wall during his qualifying lap - ending
any chance he might have had to start the Coca-Cola 600; Waltrip has just one start this year in his new Toyota - at the season opener Daytona 500...
- How’s this for the definitive scary stat: En route to taking control of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points lead, Jeff Gordon has averaged an incredible 181 points per race over the last six races. During that time, he has never finished lower than fourth, doing so twice and both times earning 170 points.
Gordon has placed a recent punctuation on an overall surge by Hendrick Motorsports. HMS has had at least one car in the top 10 for the last 40 races; the last outside-the-top-10 event for HMS was April 9, 2006 at Texas – Jimmie Johnson finished 11th and Kyle Busch 15th.
The last time HMS didn’t have at least one top-15 finish? That was 67 races ago, June 26, 2005 at Infineon Raceway.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) is one of eight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers who will run a special paint scheme saluting a military entity this weekend. Others include Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Ward Burton (No. 4 State Water Heaters Chevrolet), Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet), Casey Mears (No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Chevrolet) and Mark Martin (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet).
- NASCAR Busch Series drivers Shane Huffman and Jon Wood also will run special military paint schemes in Saturday night’s CARQUEST Auto Parts 300.
- In honor of the Memorial Day weekend, the teams’ participation is called the American Heroes Memorial Day Tribute. It’s a joint effort with branches of the United States military to raise funds for four major military support organizations, U.S. soldiers and their families.
- Several personalities from the military, political and entertainment worlds will attend the Coca-Cola 600. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, will be on hand. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen will serve as Grand Marshal. Arizona Sen. John McCain will serve as Honorary Starter. And singer LeAnn Rimes will perform the national anthem.
- When word arrived that the legendary Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) was coming to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup
Series, it was only natural to assume he would easily win the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title. Eleven races into the season
Montoya has a battle on his hands. He comes into the Coca-Cola 600 with a slim four-point lead over David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Ford).
- The latest Manufacturers Championship standings show on-a-roll Chevrolet with a 35-point spread over second-place Ford.
- A vivid illustration of just how deep – and how competitive – the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series has become is provided by this
week’s car owner point standings. Two former series champions’ teams are outside the top 35 this week. The rest of that
story: One of those former champs, Dale Jarrett, has already used up his allotment of six “past champion provisionals” which
got him into races if he didn’t qualify well enough to make a race based on speed – a requirement for teams outside the top
35 in owner points each week. The other former series champion, though, is Bill Elliott, who has joined the Glen Wood-owned
No. 21 Motorcraft Ford team. Elliott, who is “semi-retired,” has used none of his provisionals this year. As for the
“bubble,” this week finds Casey Mears, in the Mary Hendrick-owned No. 25 National Guard/GMAC American Heroes Chevrolet,
holding the precious 35th spot. He’s got a little breathing room, too, 75 points ahead of the No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota
owned by Bill Davis and driven by Dave Blaney.
- Jimmie Johnson should top anyone’s list of favorites for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. Over the last four years at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, he has never finished lower than third. During that eight-race span he has five victories, including a memorable four-in-a-row run covering 2004-05. Last year he was the runner-up in both series races at LMS.
- If Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) is going to start a rally, Lowe’s Motor Speedway would seem like the likely place. Kahne, trolling at 30th place in the series standings, has yet to win this year. Contrast that to last season when he won a series-high six times – including a season sweep of the two LMS races. Heading into the Memorial Day holiday weekend, Kahne has managed only one top-10 finish – a seventh in the season-opening Daytona 500. But there have been signs of life; Kahne has climbed from 36th to 30th over the last seven weeks.
- In the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points, Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont/Dept. of Defense Chevrolet) and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s/Power of Pride Chevrolet) are 1-2. But as far as their potential “seedings” go for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, those positions are reversed – for now.
Starting this season, the 12 Chase qualifiers get 10 bonus points for each victory during the 26-race span leading up to the Chase, which consists of the last 10 races. Drivers qualifying for the Chase have their point totals “reset” to 5,000, whereupon bonus points are added, in effect creating “seedings” to start the Chase.
Johnson’s four victories thus far will be worth 40 bonus points, provided he doesn’t falter dramatically and not qualify for the Chase. Gordon’s three victories have him assured of 30 bonus points.
This bigger-than-ever emphasis on winning could end up helping a driver’s Chase chances greatly, and make up for a so-so overall season coming into the last 10 events.
Country music star LeeAnn Rimes sings the national anthem...
Ryan Newman leads the pack to the green flag to start the Coca-Cola 600; over 175,000 packed the sold-out grandstand...
Mears leads en route to victory...
Kyle Petty finished third - his best finish since June 1995...
Mears' National Guard crew celebrate their win...
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson visited Mears in Victory Lane...
"I can't believe I'm here!" said Casey Mears repeatedly during his Victory Lane interviews...
Photo Gallery - Thursday, May 24
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 8 bears a special camouflage paint scheme this weekend to commemorate Memorial Day (Monday May 28 in the U.S.)...
Jeff Gordon's No. 24 also has a special paint scheme for Memorial Day weekend...
Bill Elliott makes his return to the driver's seat this weekend in the No. 21 Wood Brothers/JTG Motorsports Ford...
Tony Stewart readies for his qualifying run...
Ryan Newman won the Budweiser Pole Award for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600.
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