Inspiring Athletes

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Casey Mears (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

With an uncle like four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears and a dad like Roger Mears who had successful runs in the open wheel and off-road circuits, most might assume that Casey Mears would have been destined to follow in those sizeable footsteps. While Mears did try his hand at Indy racing, he ultimately found his way into the NASCAR ranks with stints at Ganassi-Earnhardt, Hendrick Motor Sports and Richard Childress Racing.

After racing for four different teams in 2010, Mears has finally settled back in to a comfortable situation with up-and-coming Germain Racing behind the wheel of the Geicio-sponsored #13 car. Inspiring Athletes sat down with Mears in his hauler at a race late last season where he talked about dealing with the uncertainties of racing, drawing strength from his family and growing in his faith:

Chad Bonham: How often do you think about what your last name has meant to auto racing?

Casey Mears: I don’t think it’s something you think about until after your career is over. I’ve been very fortunate to have both my dad and my uncle be successful in the sport in different aspects from the off-road stuff to the Indy Car stuff. As a kid, it was a lot of fun growing up in the sport. It gave me some advantages, for sure, in pursuing rides. I don’t that I need to live up with what they’ve done but I definitely want to hold the name proud. The more successful I am and the better I am, the easier it is to do that. But at the end of the day, I know that I’m carving my own path on the stock car side of things. I don’t think about it a whole lot.

Bonham: Are you surprised to have wound up in NASCAR?

Mears: I always loved off-road. I had a blast doing that. I really thought I was going to go the open wheel route when I started racing. I dabbled into Indy Cars some and I thought that was going to be my path, but out of the blue I got an opportunity to come over here. I’m glad I did because clearly it’s the place to be right now when it comes to racing in the U.S. I really enjoy it.

Bonham: You’ve raced with big teams like Hendrick and smaller teams like now with Germain. What’s the difference?

Trevor Bayne (left) talks to Casey Mears (right) during practice at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Mears: What’s really cool about this situation is that I’ve gone to those big teams but I’ve been the third or fourth wheel. I never looked at it from that standpoint as I signed with those programs. I just thought, here’s a team with a bunch of resources and thought it would be a great place to be. And they are if they focus on you. It’s difficult to go to a place like Hendrick with Jimmie (Johnson) and Jeff (Gordon) there and (Dale Earnhardt) Junior at the time when you’re not the main focus. When we had issues, it was difficult to get things squared away. It’s a great place to be. Great people, obviously. Amazing equipment. But you’ve got to have a great crew chief and engineers that believe in you. That’s what’s great about being here. Yeah, it’s a smaller team, but we have the resources of (Michael Waltrip Racing) and when it comes to drivers, I’m the main focus. They listen to what I have to say and work around what I need.

Bonham: How has marriage and fatherhood changed your perspective on racing and life?

Mears: (Having a family) makes it great. My daughter is amazing. She’s so much fun. And (my wife) Trish has been outstanding through everything that’s gone on the last couple of years. It’s really fun to have them around. NASCAR is the type of sport that caters to having family around. If I was playing football or baseball, my family couldn’t travel with me. We get to have a home on the road which is nice. When you have a baby, a lot of people give you flack like maybe you’re going to start thinking about things more or maybe you won’t try as hard. But to me, it’s been the reverse. The fact that I’ve got this little human being relying on me to provide for her, it makes me want to be that much more successful and work harder than I ever have. It’s more rewarding when you do well.

Bonham: How has faith played a role in your personal growth?

Mears: I still have my personal battles with understanding all of what encompasses a full amount of faith. But I think that it’s really cool to have the chaplains around. I learn a lot at the racetrack through them. When you’re having issues, whether they be personal or at the track, it does it make it easier to know that there’s something much bigger than yourself. It’s easy to step back and remind yourself to not let it completely ruin your day. There’s a bigger picture that we’re here for and it allows you to be more comfortable and relaxed during times of turmoil.

Bonham: Is the faith community different here in NASCAR than what you experienced while part of Indy Racing?

Mears: It’s a real similar feel. It’s been 10 years since I’ve been there but probably one of the biggest influences in me understanding the Bible better was Hunter Floyd. He was a chaplain on the Indy Car circuit. He was really cool. He had been in racing a lot of years and didn’t become a chaplain until later in life. He had been through a lot of the things that us drivers had been through, so he was a good guy to lean on. Depending on how you wrap your arms around it, I think both are trying to accomplish a lot of the same things. Now, on the NASCAR side of things, MRO has a lot more support than (Indy Car’s ministry has). They’re able to do a little bit more. But it’s definitely great to have them around.

Bonham: What do you get out of chapel services?

Mears: I want to spend some time reflecting and learning. I do it when I have time. Our time is demanding. There’s times when things are going on and I can’t go. It’s a little bit of a getaway. Dover is a great example. We’re sitting there in church and they bring in these kids from the inner city of Philadelphia and they sing for us. It just touches you to see kids that sing as well as they do and seeing them believe as much as they do. You walk away with a good feeling. Racing’s a very difficult outlet for the chaplains. It’s a very busy sport. It’s a very self-absorbed sport. It’s, “What can you do for me now and how can you do it quicker and how can we go faster?” It’s a great outlet to go in there and reflect a little bit and remember that there’s a lot bigger purpose than just you going out there. I always walk away feeling good. It’s just a bunch of people in there trying to be better. I enjoy it.

Bonham: Does your new ride at Germain Racing ease some of the anxieties you may have experienced over the past few seasons?

Casey Mears driving the #13 Geico Toyota

Mears: Knowing your fate is huge. Going into the tail end of last year and the first part of this year, there was so much uncertainty to each week. It was stressful. Who am I going to race for next week? How am I going to get a paycheck? Those things are difficult. So being with this team and this organization and knowing there’s a goal and we have future, it definitely lets you focus more on today than worrying about what’s happening tomorrow. This is a group of great guys. We’ve got fast cars and we’ve got a good product. It’s supported through MWR with a lot of information. There’s a lot of optimism that we can do really, really well. I didn’t know what to expect coming in here. But everybody does a really good job. Hopefully we can excite some people and figure out how we can run a full season. If we have full sponsorship, we’ll be inside the top 35 and we’ll compete for the top 15 by the end of the year. That’s a very realistic goal. There’s a no reason why we can compete with the top guys.

Keep up with Casey Mears by visiting his official website HERE.

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