TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 24: Casey Mears, driver of the #13 GEICO Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 24, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Casey Mears joins Biagi DenBeste Racing for 12 Xfinity Series races

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casey-mearsCasey Mears is sitting on the sideline during Speedweeks in Daytona Beach, but he’ll soon be racing himself in the Xfinity Series.

Mears, a veteran of 14 NASCAR Cup Series seasons, will compete in an initial 12 Xfinity races for Biagi DenBeste Racing beginning with the March 25 race at Auto Club Speedway. Mears will pilot the No. 98 Geico Military Ford.

Mears is recently departed from Germain Racing, where he drove its No. 13 Chevrolet beginning in the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2010.  Mears has 488 Cup Series starts since 2003 and one win, the 2007 Coca-Cola 600.

Mears will share the ride with Aric Almirola, who will drive the No. 98 for the superspeedway races.

“I’m thankful for Geico’s continued support and I’m happy we were able to get this deal put together with Biagi-DenBeste Racing,” Mears said in a press release. “Fred Biagi and Bill and Lori DenBeste are great people and I’ve always respected them and how committed they’ve been to NASCAR and building their team over the years.”

Mears last competed in the Xfinity Series in 2010. He has 93 starts in the series, but only one full-time season in 2002. he earned one win in 2006 at Chicagoland Speedway.

“It’s great to have Geico back on-board after experiencing success together early on,” team owner Fred Biagi said in a press release. “Geico is a first class company that has high standards and cares about its customers. Our philosophies line up well and we look forward to working together to have a successful year with Casey and the Geico Military Ford.”

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Social Roundup: 82 days until the Daytona 500

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The 2017 season for NASCAR’s premier series (sponsored by Monster Energy) doesn’t begin for 82 days with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26.

That’s a lot of time and the stars of the sport have to keep themselves busy. Here’s a look at what some NASCAR drivers are doing with 82 days until the first points race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is busy going through production days for sponsors that will be on his No. 88 Chevrolet when he returns after missing the last 18 races of 2016 with a concussion. When he arrives at Daytona, he’ll also be a married man after he ties the knot with his fiance Amy Reimann on Dec. 31.

So any commercial that debuts next season needs to reflect reality.

While the Daytona 500 will likely mark Dale Jr.’s return to racing, it will also be the debut of Stewart-Haas Racing with Ford. It will also be the first race for Clint Bowyer with SHR after his lone season with HScott Motorsports (which has announced it wouldn’t compete in NASCAR in 2017)

And Bowyer expressed his excitement and possible shock at how quickly things are changing for him with a picture of a new Ford truck.

Keeping it in the Stewart-Haas Racing family, Danica Patrick has officially announced a book she is writing that will be released in January 2018 titled “Pretty Intense.” As part of the project, Patrick has also made available a 90-day health and nutrition plan she has tested herself.

Meanwhile, Casey Mears still doesn’t have any plans to announce for the next season after he was replaced at Germain Racing by Ty Dillon. Mears spent seven years in the No. 13 Geico Chevrolet.

Greg Biffle doesn’t have any plans announced for next year either, but he’s not sitting around for a phone call. The 19-time Cup winner is hanging out with Kurt Busch in the Glamis sand dunes.

As the offseason really gets going, a few drivers are taking part in a small basketball league called “The Hoop Group,” which you can follow along with on Twitter. Drivers in the league include Denny Hamlin, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ryan Blaney.

Martin Truex Jr. tops Cup Series lap leaders in 2016

DOVER, DE - OCTOBER 02:  Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota, races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Citizen Solider 400 at Dover International Speedway on October 2, 2016 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images
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A lot of laps were run in the 2016 Sprint Cup season.

From February to November, there were 10,523 laps were logged over 36 races.

Here’s a breakdown of the top 10 drivers in laps led in 2016. Topping the list is Martin Truex Jr., who led a career-high 1,809 laps. His previous best was 581 in 2007.

Lap leaders

Martin Truex Jr. – 1,809

Kevin Harvick – 1,384; Career best – 2,294 (2015)

Kyle Busch – 1,379; Career best – 1,673 (2008)

Matt Kenseth – 928; Career best – 1,783 (2013)

Carl Edwards – 918; Career best – 1,282 (2008)

Jimmie Johnson – 737; Career best – 2,238 (2009)

Joey Logano – 703; Career best – 1,431 (2015)

Brad Keselowski – 549; Career best – 1,540 (2014)

Denny Hamlin – 524; Career best – 1,380 (2009)

Kyle Larson – 379 (career best)

Other notes of interest

 

Sprint Cup pole winners list after 2016

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 22:  Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NNASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hellmann's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 22, 2016 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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The 2016 Sprint Cup season saw three veterans set career marks for poles in a season and two drivers earn their first poles.

Carl Edwards (six), Martin Truex Jr. (five) and Austin Dillon (two) achieved personal bests during the 36-race season, which had 14 different pole winners.

Chase Elliott started the year with his first pole in the Daytona 500. Then in the fall race at Phoenix International Raceway, Alex Bowman, substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88, won his first pole in the Can-Am 500.

Despite not having won a pole since 2013, Ryan Newman still has a huge lead over active full-time drivers with 51 poles. And despite saying multiple times this season he’s not very good at qualifying, Jimmie Johnson added to his second best total with his 35th pole.

Tony Stewart ended his Sprint Cup career with 15 poles.

Here’s a look at how the list of active full-time drivers with poles looks after 2016.

Ryan Newman – 51 poles; Last – 2013 Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire

Jimmie Johnson – 35 poles; Last – 2016 New Hampshire 301

Kasey Kahne – 27 poles; Last – 2015 Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan

Denny Hamlin – 24 poles; Last – 2016 Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond

Carl Edwards – 22 poles; Last – 2016 Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire

Kurt Busch  21 poles; Last – 2016 Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas

Kyle Busch – 19 poles; Last – 2016 Brickyard 400

Matt Kenseth  18 poles; Last – 2016 Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas

Joey Logano – 17 poles; Last – 2016 Pure Michigan 400

Kevin Harvick – 17 poles; Last – 2016 Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead

Greg Biffle – 13 poles; Last – 2016 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 13 poles; Last – 2013 AAA 400 at Dover

Martin Truex Jr. – 12 poles; Last – 2016 Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville

Brad Keselowski –  12 poles; Last – 2016 Axalta ‘We Paint Winners’ 400 at Pocono

Jamie McMurray – 11 poles; Last –  2014 Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville

AJ Allmendinger – four poles; Last – 2015 Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen

Casey Mears – three poles; Last – 2007 USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland

Austin Dillon – three poles; Last – 2016 AAA Texas 500

David Ragan – two poles; Last – 2011 Brickyard 400

Clint Bowyer – two poles; Last – 2007 Sylvania 300

Chase Elliott – two poles; Last – 2016 Geico 500 at Talladega

Danica Patrick – one pole; Last – 2013 Daytona 500

Paul Menard – one pole; Last – 2009 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – one pole; 2013 AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta

Kyle Larson – one pole; 2014 GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono

Aric Almirola – one pole; 2012 Coca-cola 600 at Charlotte

Drivers, crews with most pit road penalties in 2016

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 23:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hellmann's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 23, 2016 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Here is a look at who ranked among the leaders in various pit road penalties this season in the Sprint Cup Series.

SPEEDING ON PIT ROAD

10 — Denny Hamlin

7 — Austin Dillon

7 — Kyle Larson

7 — Paul Menard

7 — Ryan Newman

7 — David Ragan

7 — Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

6 — Greg Biffle

6 — Jimmie Johnson

6 — Michael McDowell

6 — Jamie McMurray

6 — Brian Scott

6 — Regan Smith

5 — AJ Allmendinger

5 — Chase Elliott

5 — Casey Mears

5 — Tony Stewart

4 — Michael Annett

4 — Carl Edwards

4 — Kevin Harvick

4 — Kasey Kahne

4 — Brad Keselowski

4 — Martin Truex Jr.

PIT CREW OVER THE WALL TOO SOON

5 — Reed Sorenson

4 — AJ Allmendinger

3 — Aric Almirola

3 — Michael Annett

3 — Greg Biffle

3 — Michael McDowell

3 — Paul Menard

UNCONTROLLED TIRE

5 — Aric Almirola

4 — Denny Hamlin

3 — Josh Wise

2 — AJ Allmendinger

2 — Clint Bowyer

2 — Chris Buescher

2 — Matt Kenseth

2 — Joey Logano

2 — Ryan Newman

2 — Ricky Stenhouse Jr.