When the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series last raced two weeks ago, Casey Mears earned his third career pole position after turning a fast lap of 182.556 mph at Chicagoland Speedway.
Mears turned that qualifying effort into a fifth-place finish at the 1.5-mile oval, giving the 29-year-old driver four top-five finishes in his last eight Cup races. He currently sits 17th in points, 230 markers out of the final spot in this year’s Chase for the Championship.
Since winning the annual 600-mile race at Lowe’s on May 27, Mears has gained 18 positions in the point standings.
Prior to Chicago, Mears’ last Cup Series pole award came in August 2004 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of this weekend’s NEXTEL Cup race. He set a new track record in the process, turning a lap time of 48.311 seconds around the 2.5-mile oval at a speed of 186.293 mph.
The record stands as the fastest lap ever turned by a stock car at Indy, making Mears the most recent member of his family to etch his name in the Indianapolis record books.
In 1979, the Bakersfield, Calif., native was only a year old when his uncle, Rick Mears, captured the first of his four career Indianapolis 500 victories. Additionally, Casey Mears’ father, former off-road racing star Roger Mears, competed in two Indianapolis 500s and qualified eighth for the 1983 race.
"Obviously, Indianapolis is a very special place for me," said Casey Mears. "My dad raced there and my uncle won four Indy 500s there.
"It’s a track with a lot of history and heritage, especially in the open-wheel world, and with me racing in NASCAR, it has become my Indy 500 in some ways. I can’t think of a place where a win would mean more to me."