With so much focus on the Chase and the top 12 and those drivers fighting to get in, what seems to get lost is the 31 other drivers that are fighting for not only a win, but possibly their rides for the remainder of this year and next.
Jen Preston and I will each be focusing on either a Chase driver or a driver not in the chase. With every point important and every final position key, it’s not just the guys fighting for a championship that have a lot riding in the final stretch of the season.
Were calling it the “Lugnut Report,” and this week’s featured drivers are Juan Pablo Montoya and Casey Mears. From Practices to qualifying to the race, find out how they ran at Michigan.
For Casey Mears the remainder of this season is critical. He has had a difficult year so far, moving from Hendrick Motorsports to Richard Childress Racing and taking over the No. 07 from Clint Bowyer.
It was the same crew and crew chief that guided Bowyer to the Chase for two consecutive years.
So with expectations high Mears needed results and he hasn’t found the same success that Bowyer has had in that car.
Heading into Michigan Mears was sitting 21st in the standings.
His practice speeds in the first practice, put him 13th on the charts, the team ran 26 laps and 22 of them were fast laps.
Mears best lap was a 38.7 seconds.
They drew 14th for qualifying order. On Friday the later you went, the faster your laps, Mears though struggled on his lap and had a disappointing 39.6 second lap. When all was said and done he was starting 42nd on Sunday.
On Saturday during the first of two practices Mears found his way to 15th on the sheet, working on green flag runs and trying different set ups. They ran five laps and ran one fast lap with his best speed of 39.4 seconds.
During the second and final practice Mears struggled found his way to 32nd on the chart and only ran one fast lap of 25 they ran.
The team struggled with loose condition and unable to find an adjustment that Mears was comfortable with.
His best speed was 40.6 seconds.
On Sunday he began to move forward and was in 34th when a rain shower moved in and forced the cars on pit road.
Mears and his crew came in when the red flag was lifted and came in just for tires on that first stop. They came out 40th after issues on the right side.
After a few laps Mears was tight through the center but loose on exit after just taking four tires and fuel. Mears though was still moving forward to 27th since they returned to green.
Mears continued to struggle with an extremely loose race car on exit and a very tight car in the middle of the corner, but Mears continued to move up 25th.
For his second pit stop Mears and his crew made an adjustment to help with the loose race car, they came out in 26th.
After the second caution of the day for Robby Gordon, Mears complained of being really, really loose in and loose off. Mears though was moving forward by lap 84 he was in 21st place.
After another green flag stop Mears was holding station in 21st. They were having a solid run with great lap times, but still struggling with a loose race car.
Mears on what they thought would be the final pit stop, Mears and crew came in and took four tires and fuel and came out 28th. They couldn’t get track position all day long, with so many drivers trying to gamble on fuel, Mears was unable to capitalize.
Mears was good on fuel as they came in and topped off on the final caution, so it became about getting every position in the end. Mears worked his way up into the top 10. With less than 10 to go Mears worked his way into sixth place.
A great finish for a team that needed a strong finish. They improved their point’s position to 20th. It was impressive to see this team rally and make the correct adjustments on this car to get them into the top 10.
Coming into the race on Sunday it didn’t look very good for this team, battling track position and a loose race car for most of the day. They had solid stops and Mears drove a great race.
Check out Jen Preston's report on Juan Pablo Montoya.
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