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Casey Mears #25 National Guard Car

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Casey Mears Trackside at Lowe’s

Concord, NC 05/27/2007

Intro by: Jeff Kluss/ Sports Image Times

Photos by: Jeff Kluss/ Sports Image Times

Well it appears that congratulations are in order for Casey Mears first win in NASCAR Nextel Cup, and the Hendrick cars just keep winning.  It was an exciting evening of racing and most of the front runners either got knocked out of the race or came up short on fuel.  It seems as though fuel strategy plays a major role in at least one race per Season, and this was definitely one of those races.

Comments on the Race from the Dodge Boys

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Coke Zero Dodge Charger) – 3rd

NOTE: Petty turns 47 on June 2. He made his 797th career start Saturday night and his 51st start at LMS. Petty finished third Saturday night and move up spots in the series standings to 26th. Petty has one victory, six top fives and 12 top 10s at LMS.

“Our car was good when the sun was out. We started so far back because of my stellar qualifying performance. We were 36th and then dropped back to last and then worked our way up to 27th when the sun was out under green just passing people, so the car was really, really good when it was slick. One of those corners got the shade first and when that happened we got out of balance. We were good in one corner and bad in the other corner and as the track cooled off we got really unbalanced. Billy (crew chief Wilburn) and I kept working with it and Billy made a couple of shock adjustments during the race and a couple of wedge adjustments and we probably didn’t get it right until I got the Lucky Dog. When I got up front that set of tires and the way the adjustments came, we were probably 160-170 laps to go. Through the middle 120-130 laps of the race we were out to lunch. We just kind of hung in there all day. We had some really good pit stops. The pit crew has been down the past five or six weeks. We’ve really struggled with our pit crew and they stepped up huge today. They’re the ones that put us in position to have the Lucky Dog. They’re the ones that put us in position to have a good run there at the end. I can’t say enough about that. The fuel mileage was good.”

COMMENT ON CASEY MEARS “I couldn’t be more excited for Casey Mears if his name was Adam Petty. I can tell you that. I’m tickled to death for Casey Mears. That kid is a great racecar driver. He’s very underrated. People don’t pay a lot of attention to him. He’s jumped in a Hendrick car and he’s struggled some this year. There’s going to be a lot of good things from him. He’s going to be somebody to reckon with.”

WHAT DOES A THIRD-PLACE FINISH MEAN TO YOU AND THE SPORT? “I think when you look at the top three or four tonight, I would say they’re all team efforts – engine tuning to car handling to drivers to kind of saving fuel. We had nothing to lose. We had top 10 cars – me, J.J., Reed Sorenson, we had top 10 cars all night long. We could race with those guys and be in the top 10. I couldn’t run with Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart. There was no way. It took a team to beat those guys and our team beat ‘em. I think when you look at it a 600-mile race is a long race. Nobody does it by themselves. I think this is a great example of why this is a team sport and how important the teams are.”

We knew we could run ninth or 10th. We had got away from the 1 car and 88 and those guys and had about a straightaway on those guys. I could still see Tony and those guys but really I was focused on that Interstate Batteries car because that was my gauge. Billy started telling me the lap times I needed to run. He said you need to run 31.80s and then in the last 15 laps he said you need to run 32 flats. I thought we’d finish fifth or sixth. The last time I looked at the board we were fifth or sixth.”

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE TEAM? “I know for myself and Casey this is huge. I was 31st in points and Casey was 35th in points. We gave ourselves a little bit of a cushion. We’ve had good runs only to have them fall flat in the last third of the race whether it be a cut tire or stuff breaking. For us that was big. I think when you look at it, especially for Casey and myself, that part was huge. If you look at these cars, the 25 and 18 and 45, we were good top 10 cars all day long and it took a good team effort to do it.”

IS THIS AS STRONG AS PETTY ENTERPRISES HAS BEEN IN AWHILE? “I would like to think we’re as strong as we have been. When you look at what Bobby has done and the amount of laps he’s led and the finishes and the amount of times he’s got a lap down and made it back up on the racetrack, that’s big. I’d like to think we’re getting stronger. I’d like to think six months ago we were stronger than we were six months before that, so yeah, there’s not a good time to step out (of the car). I’m 46 years old and I’ll be 47 on June 2. I’m just at that stage of my life where I want to do what I want to do and right now I want to do TV for a few races, so I’m going to step out. If we were winning races, I’d still step out. That’s just where I’m at in my career. I think it gives John (Andretti) a chance to step into a car that’s competitive. It gives Chad McCumbee a chance to step into a car that’s competitive, and I know it’s a big boost for the guys at the shop.”

“We knew we could run ninth or 10th. We had got away from the 1 car and 88 and those guys and had about a straightaway on those guys. I could still see Tony and those guys but really I was focused on that Interstate Batteries car because that was my gauge. Billy started telling me the lap times I needed to run. He said you need to run 31.80s and then in the last 15 laps he said you need to run 32 flats. I thought we’d finish fifth or sixth. The last time I looked at the board we were fifth or sixth.”

“Our pit crew has struggled and they stepped it up tonight. We beat people out of the pits every time. The guys with the Evernham engines and everybody has worked on fuel mileage, and it really paid off tonight. This is big for us. I don’t know how much gas is let in the car. I drove it in, so I figure I’ve got plenty left. If I get it from here to the truck that’s all that matters. All I was praying for was no green-white-checkered at the end. That would have killed us. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain and that put the Coke Zero car in the top three. Bobby has been able to do it and we haven’t been able to capitalize on it. Casey Mears had a great race tonight. I congratulate those guys. He’s a great racecar driver and he’s going to be a great racecar driver. For us this is like I’m 21 again and I’m driving for Felix Sabates in the Mello Yello car. I like the long races. I’m not much of a sprint racer. Bobby has been able to do it on some of the big tracks, but we just haven’t been able to do it. It just comes. In all honesty it’s just a race. We didn’t change the world tonight. It feels good to come back and race with these gjuys. I would have took that and gone to the house tonight. I guess third place was just the cherry on the sundae.”

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#43 Bobby Labonte at Lowe’s

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BOBBY LABONTE (No. 43 Betty Crocker/Chocolate Chex Dodge Charger) – 13th

“Kyle had a good car yesterday in practice, and he got a lap down tonight. I think he had a little trouble in that wreck. He was able to come back and stay out there at the end and make up a few spots. That was good for him. We were terrible all night long. We just missed all the wrecks. We just weren’t good enough.”

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REED SORENSON (No. 41 Target Dodge Charger) – 4th

“One of the few buddies I have out here won the race, so I’m pretty pumped up I had a good run and my boy won, so I’m pretty excited right now. We took a little gamble right there at the end. We’d run in the top 10 all day. We might not have had a fourth-place car, but we had a 10th-place car. The last four laps I wasn’t even going full throttle, maybe half throttle trying to save a little fuel, and as soon as I crossed the line it ran out. We got lucky, but the numbers came out right. I was very worried about the fuel lasting. When we first started they said we were two laps short. It was going to be close, but I’m pretty happy we made it.

“We need a boost. We needed to win, but this is close enough right now. It was a good run. We had a top 10 all day, so we’ll take fourth. Luck finally fell our way a little bit. I can count on my hands my number of friends out here. Casey and I are pretty good friends. He was my teammate last year and we still talk a lot, so I wanted to go congratulate him.”

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 alltel Dodge Charger)

“We had a good car. We got the Lucky Dog, and we were going to be one of 15 cars on the lead lap. The car was good from the start. There was a little give and take. We fell back track position wise and worked our way back up. We just had a bad set of tires there at the end. We chunked out a right rear which never should have happened. It just shouldn’t have happened. I don’t know what happened with that tire, but either way, we had a good run with the alltel Dodge. We were back on the lead lap with a bad set of tires and the engine let go. Streaks always end (Newman had recorded three straight top 10 finishes entering the Coca-Cola 600). They never really begin. Everybody at Penske Racing has been doing a great job. We’ve just got to keep it up and stay focused. This is something that could get us down, but it shouldn’t. I’m looking forward to Dover. It’s one of my favorite race tracks. Our car of tomorrow program has been strong, so it’s something that can be very positive for us. We’ve just got to make it happen. I don’t think anything was out of character tonight for the 600. There was one big accident and it was because of a cut left rear tire on the 48 car. That’s just going to happen sometimes.”

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)

“We had a really good car early on and every time I came in it was like roulette. What tires are we going to get? How’s the car going to handle? I was in position for the Lucky Dog and the car just jumped out from underneath me. Truex was on us, but I just lost it I guess. I just can’t wait to get to Dover. I thought we had a really good car early on. It just didn’t stick for us when the track got better for everybody. It’s funny how we just ran the same lap times all night. We were really good in the daytime but horrible at night “

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