DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 11, 2007) – Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears kicked off 2007 this week at NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway.
With high anticipation for the season to begin, Johnson and Mears made their presence known as they completed three solid days of testing in preparation for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.
Johnson, the reigning NEXTEL Cup and Daytona 500 champion, posted the second-fastest lap on Monday morning at 183.869 mph before rain cancelled the afternoon session.
On Tuesday, the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet again performed well, placing third in the morning with a lap of 183.925 mph. The team improved its speed in the afternoon session with a lap of 184.570 mph.
“Today the weather conditions have been very predictable and we’ve been able to go out and repeat,” said Johnson on Tuesday. “Yesterday the wind was really changing and messing with us as the storm moved in.”
At Wednesday’s session, Johnson was the fifth-fastest driver at 183.711 mph and closed the day improving his speed to 185.632 mph.
Mears, the newest member of Hendrick Motorsports, drove his No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Chevrolet for the first time this week and posted a lap of 182.697, giving him the 12th spot on the board in Monday morning’s session.
On Tuesday, Mears improved four spots to eighth with a lap speed of 183.490 mph. Later, he landed the second-fastest lap time, driving at 186.440 mph.
“As far as today at the track, things are good,” Mears said Tuesday. “The car is fast. They (the No. 25 team) felt like it’s one of the faster speedway cars they’ve had in the last few years. And for me, it’s been the fastest I’ve been on a superspeedway in a while. So it’s been a good day so far. The speeds have been good. We’re running really well and so far pretty happy with the speed the car is putting out.”
Wednesday proved to be another great day for Mears, who finished second to Johnson in the 2006 Daytona 500. In the morning, he clocked in at the sixth position (183.636 mph) and then ended the third day of testing increasing his speed to 185.479 mph.
With consistent top-10 testing speeds this week, Mears is fitting in nicely at Hendrick Motorsports and couldn’t be more excited about his new surroundings.
“Being with a new team and organization and working with a bunch of new guys at Hendrick Motorsports has been a fairly easy transition,” Mears said. “Going to Hendrick Motorsports and knowing there’s not a question about whether the equipment is there or not, feels good. It allows me to just focus on what I need to improve on and what I need to do. Hopefully Lance (McGrew, crew chief) and I can hit it off good and communication works well and we can take advantage of what’s there.”
The teams of Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch will attend next week’s test at Daytona that runs Monday through Wednesday.