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Where Are They Now? Catching up with Casey Mears

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There are certain days most people never forget: their anniversaries, their children’s birthdays and for race car drivers, their first win.

These days Casey Mears may live 2,100 miles away from Charlotte Motor Speedway, but he was there in spirit for last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600.

Mears won NASCAR’s longest race in 2007. He was in the right place at the right time, taking the lead from Denny Hamlin late in the race and hanging on for the final six laps – the only laps he led all day – for the win.

Casey Mears celebrates after winning the 2007 Coca-Cola 600. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

“It was definitely the high point of my career, for sure,” Mears told NBC Sports. “I remember everything about that night.

“The one thing – and it’s not a regret – but it’s unfortunate that it ended up being a fuel-mileage race because we had a very fast car that night and ran inside the top 10 and top five the majority of the night.

“We probably weren’t going to win it, but we had a good shot at a top five and were going to be in the hunt. (Crew chief Darian Grubb) made a great call and we won the race, which was amazing for several different reasons.

“I mean, obviously winning in Charlotte, the 600 is the longest race, winning on Memorial Day weekend, which is a huge week for my family and then also being sponsored by the National Guard at that time. It was just a big night.”

While the 600 was his only Cup win, Mears also recalls several other key moments of his career, including runner-up finishes in 2006 at the Daytona 500 and later that year at Kansas.

“That night at Charlotte was a huge part of my career but some of the stuff that I feel like we earned on speed which was really cool were, we sat on the pole at Indy, did well at places like Chicago, Pocono and Michigan, being competitive and leading laps at places like Atlanta and Homestead, going back and forth with Tony Stewart at Atlanta one year.

“Some of those big moments in my career weren’t necessarily the only parts that stand out. The moments I remember the most were when we had competitive race cars and when we were on the verge of getting those wins and getting real close.”

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Mears lives in the Phoenix area with his family. It’s also where he met his wife, Trisha.

“We always said that when the NASCAR things slowed down, we’d like to be back out this way,” Mears told NBC Sports. “So we picked up and moved the kids and came out to Phoenix. We’re loving it, and I’m really enjoying spending a lot of time with them. I’ve also been fortunate to reconnect with some of my off-road racing buddies since I’ve been out here.”

This is the off-road truck Casey Mears co-drove in last year’s NORRA Mexican Baja 1000. (Photo courtesy Casey Mears)

Mears may be gone from NASCAR, but he’s still taking part in other forms of racing part-time, including off-road competition like the NORRA Mexican Baja 1000 last year with Lynn Chenoweth. Casey’s father Roger drove for Chenoweth back in the 1960s and 1970s, and also is part of Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks Series.

“I also hang out with (NBC IndyCar analyst and former racer Paul Tracy) and drive his Lamborghini sports car, just taking it on the track and sliding around, just having fun,” Mears said. “If opportunities come around, I’d love to race some more.

“I really, really enjoyed racing out in the desert, doing off road stuff. I’d also love to get involved in some sports car stuff as well if there’s an opportunity.

“I love what I’m being able to do right now, just dabble. Playing in Robby’s series, that’s been a blast and picking up random off road, desert opportunities. But racing’s racing, it always boils down to the dollars and cents and sponsors or finding some guy that just wants to go racing and spend some money and have fun. It’s few and far between these days.”

Even though Mears has moved on from NASCAR, he admits he misses it.

“I was fortunate to get to do it for about 15 years,” Mears said. “I lived that life and it really becomes almost the opposite. Your family and friends end up being all the people on the road and people at home become extended friends and family, you’re on the road so much.

“For sure I miss a lot of the people that you saw week in and week out. I definitely miss the competition. I don’t think I’ll ever not miss being in a race car because, like so many others in the sport, I didn’t really get to go out on my own terms.

“For so many people, the sport decides it for you before you’re ready to decide not to do it. I think I’ll always have that desire to want to get in a car again.

“But the one thing that helped me make this decision to move to Phoenix is that I didn’t want to be one of those guys that lingered in the sport either. I didn’t want to be with a back marker program and not be able to be competitive and that’s kind of probably what would have happened. I would have stuck around and would have gotten into something I probably really didn’t need to be in.”

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Mears made 489 career Cup starts, his last full-time season being in 2016. He came back for a start last year for Germain Racing in the season-opening Daytona 500. He started 40th and finished 40th, involved in a crash just past the halfway point.

Mears also made 107 Xfinity Series starts, earning his lone series win in 2016 at Chicagoland Speedway.

He still keeps his hand in NASCAR somewhat, just not on a steering wheel. He does promotional work for Phoenix Raceway and visits his former chums each time NASCAR comes to town.

Casey Mears, right, remains good friends with a number of his former teammates, including seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

He also keeps in regular contact with close friends and former teammates and bosses including Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Chip Ganassi, Rick Hendrick, Bob Germain and Doug Barnette.

But moving on from being a race car driver, pretty much the only thing he had known for more than 30 years since being a kid growing up in Bakersfield, California, gave Mears pause.

“This move really forced me to figure out what’s next in life,” he said. “I’m 42 years old and although I’ve done well and been very fortunate, but I need to do something.”

He’s looking at a variety of business opportunities in the Phoenix area, primarily in the automotive industry.

“I feel very fortunate to have the career that I’ve had in the sport,” Mears said. “I drove for a lot of real good teams and programs and learned a lot from a lot of people.

“The people I got to race with and learn from just from the business standpoint is going to help me later in my career with whatever’s next. I had some great opportunities and will always miss it, but at the same time, I’m looking forward to the future and what’s next.”

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Jimmie Johnson to compete in IndyCar iRacing Challenge opener

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Jimmie Johnson, who has expressed an interest in running on a road course in the NTT IndyCar Series after this season, will race against IndyCar drivers in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge at a virtual Watkins Glen International.

The race will be 4 p.m. ET Saturday and streamed at indycar.com and also on IndyCar’s YouTube page and Facebook as well as iRacing’s Twitch. The NBC broadcasting team of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will call the action. The entry list of 25 drivers includes Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.

Johnson stated before this season that this would be his final season racing NASCAR Cup full-time. He was to have tested April 6 for Arrow McLaren at Barber Motorsports Park before that was scrubbed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more on this story go to Motor Sports Talk.

https://twitter.com/IndyCaronNBC/status/1243609810152632320

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. to join NBC’s Indianapolis 500 broadcast

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NBC Sports announced its broadcaster lineup for this year’s Indianapolis 500. Here is the release from NBC Sports:

Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of racing’s most popular personalities and an NBC Sports motorsports analyst, will attend his first Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 26, as a member of NBC Sports’ broadcast team when the 103rd iteration of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing airs on NBC for the first time.

This marks the latest in a series of major announcements for NBC Sports’ first-ever presentation of the Indy 500. Earlier this year, NBC Sports announced that Mike Tirico will host its coverage, and former IndyCar and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick will serve as an analyst alongside Tirico. In addition to Earnhardt Jr., NBC Sports motorsports host Krista Voda and reporter Rutledge Wood will contribute to the network’s Indy 500 presentation.

Earnhardt Jr. made 17 career appearances and registered five top-10 finishes in NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He will serve as a roving reporter on race day, exploring the expansive scene that includes hundreds of thousands of spectators at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and contributing to NBC Sports’ pre-race, in-race, and post-race coverage alongside Wood. Earnhardt Jr. will also be featured on NBCSN’s Indy 500 coverage originating from Indianapolis Motor Speedway during race week.

Earnhardt Jr. amassed 26 NASCAR Cup Series victories during his storied career, including two Daytona 500 wins, and joined NBC Sports’ NASCAR broadcast team following his retirement from full-time racing in 2017.

“Dale Jr. is one of the most popular personalities in racing history, so adding Dale to our inaugural broadcast the Greatest Spectacle in Racing on NBC was a no-brainer.” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President, Production, NBC Sports & NBCSN. “Dale has never been able to attend the 500, and now he will have the opportunity to experience every aspect of this massive event –  from the party in the Snake Pit and the hundreds of thousands of fans in the grandstands, to the key strategic decisions and bold moves on track that will ultimately crown the 103rd Indy 500 champion.”

“I can’t wait. This is an event I have wanted to attend for as long as I can remember,” said Earnhardt Jr. “To get this first Indy 500 experience in this capacity – as part of the broadcast team with NBC Sports – is a dream. That said, I fully understand the responsibility we have of bringing this race to television viewers across the country. There’s no better broadcast team to do it. I’m blessed to be a part of it.”

In addition to his work on NBC Sports’ NASCAR coverage, Earnhardt Jr. has also contributed to the network’s presentations of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Super Bowl LII, and the Stanley Cup Final.

NBC SPORTS ANNOUNCES FULL INDIANAPOLIS 500 BROADCAST TEAM

Leigh Diffey (play-by-play), Townsend Bell (analyst) and Paul Tracy (analyst) will call NBC Sports’ inaugural Indianapolis 500 broadcast on NBC, which will feature a total of 14 commentators, the most-ever for NBC Sports’ coverage of IndyCar. Bell and Tracy have combined to make 19 career Indy 500 starts. Tracy was the runner-up in the 2002 Indy 500, while Bell registered a career-best fourth-place Indy 500 finish in 2009. Diffey, who will call his first Indy 500 this May for NBC, has called many of motorsports’ most prestigious events, including the F1 Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

NBC Sports’ comprehensive Indy 500 commentary team includes host Mike Tirico and former IndyCar and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick (studio analyst). Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rutledge Wood will provide on-site reports from in and around Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Krista Voda will also host pre- and post-race festivities.

Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Kevin Lee and Jon Beekhuis will serve as pit reporters for NBC Sports’ Indianapolis 500 coverage, along with IndyCar Insider Robin Miller and reporter Dillon Welch.

The 2019 IndyCar season is the first under a new media rights agreement that was announced in March 2018 in which NBC Sports Group acquired the exclusive rights to all NTT IndyCar Series races – including the Indianapolis 500 for the first time – qualifying and practice sessions, and Indy Lights races across its numerous platforms. Click here for more information.

NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series continues Sunday, April 7, with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama from Barber Motorsports Park at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app.

NASCAR America begins 6th season today at 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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The sixth season of NASCAR America debuts at 5 p.m. ET today on NBCSN with a new look.

Kicking things off for the one-hour show will be the NASCAR on NBC team of Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett.

The new season of NASCAR America features a number of reimagined features, starting with a new studio. The show’s home has moved from its base the last five seasons in Stamford, Connecticut, to a new studio in Charlotte, North Carolina. The show will air weekdays from 5-6 p.m. ET.

Each weeknight will showcase a different theme focused on the sport of NASCAR, its drivers, teams, fans and the motorsports industry. In addition, select episodes will include opportunities for fans to call in and speak with NASCAR America hosts, analysts, drivers and other guests.

Tonight’s season premiere of NASCAR America will feature discussion among our analysts about Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash (Jimmie Johnson won the rain-shortened race) and Sunday’s 61st edition of the Daytona 500.

NASCAR America Mondays will focus on the previous weekend’s races and include highlights, “Turning Points,” driver interviews, expert analysis, and the signature NASCAR America segment Scan All.

Here’s how the rest of this week’s show lineup looks, with themes that will continue on the same days throughout the season:

Tuesday, February 12

  • NASCAR America Presents The Dale Jr. Download: Every Tuesday, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for an unprecedented 15 consecutive years (2003-17) and winner of two Daytona 500s, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@Dalejr) co-hosts NASCAR America with Mike Davis. Produced on-site at Dirty Mo Media Studios in Mooresville, N.C., episodes on Tuesday will expand to one hour, and feature the same unparalleled perspective, candid commentary, and first-person insight of The Dale Jr. Download that fans have come to love.
  • NASCAR America Splash & Go: In addition to NBCSN’s linear telecast on Tuesday of The Dale Jr. Download, NBC Sports Digital will feature multiple editions of NASCAR America Splash & Go segments, featuring the news of the day, breaking news, race shop reports and interviews. NBCSports.com’s lead motorsports writer Nate Ryan (@nateryan) will host Splash & Go digital segments and will be joined by a collection of NASCAR on NBC analysts. NASCAR America Splash & Go will be available on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Wednesday, February 13

  • NASCAR America Presents Motormouths: Hosted by NASCAR on NBC’s Rutledge Wood (@rutledgewood) and Marty Snider (@HeyMartysnider), alongside auto racing icon Kyle Petty (@KylePetty), Motormouths Wednesdays will feature a light-hearted approach to the traditional show, and include regular opportunities for fans to call in to NASCAR America and speak with hosts, analysts, drivers and other guests live on TV.
  • NASCAR America Debrief: As a compliment to Wednesday’s telecast of NASCAR America on NBCSN at 5 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Digital will present NASCAR America Debrief, a digital exclusive show available on the NBC Sports YouTube Channel beginning at 6 p.m. ET. Nate Ryan will host NASCAR America Debrief, and will be joined by select NASCAR on NBC analysts and guests from that day’s linear telecast. NASCAR America Debrief will follow the same light-hearted approach as Motormouths, with an emphasis on additional viewer and fan engagement.

Thursday, February 14

  • NASCAR America Presents The Motorsports Hour: Featuring NASCAR on NBC host Krista Voda (@kristavoda), with NASCAR drivers and analysts A.J. Allmendinger (@AJDinger) and Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman), NASCAR America’s Motorsports Hour on Thursday will highlight the upcoming weekend’s NASCAR races, and also shine a light on the latest news surrounding IndyCar, IMSA, American Flat Track, Supercross, Motorcross, Mecum collector car auctions, and all of motorsports. Additional analysts will include former IndyCar driver Townsend Bell, former IMSA GT driver Calvin Fish, former IndyCar driver Paul Tracy, as well as Motocross and Supercross legend Ricky Carmichael.

NASCAR America’s Fan Fridays will return to NBCSN in July, live from the site of select NASCAR on NBC races, and will be broadcast from NBC Sports’ Peacock Pit box set located on pit road.

NASCAR America is also available on the NBC Sports app – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TV’s.