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Chicagoland pole goes to Mears, No. 25 team

JOLIET, Ill. (July 13, 2007) – Casey Mears, driver of the No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Chevrolet, won the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at Chicagoland Speedway with a lap time of 29.580 seconds.

Mears teammates were also extremely fast Friday, with Kyle Busch qualifying fifth, Jimmie Johnson eighth and points leader Jeff Gordon 11th.

“I’m happy to get my first pole here with Hendrick Motorsports in the National Guard/GMAC Chevrolet,” Mears said.  “It’s just awesome.”

The performance marks Mears’ third pole in 163 career NEXTEL Cup races. His first came in August 2004 at Pocono Raceway, which was followed the very next weekend with another at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mears was the first driver since 1964 to post his first two career Cup poles in consecutive races.

In four career NEXTEL Cup starts at Chicagoland, Mears has never qualified outside the top 12. The 29-year-old driver’s best Cup finish at the track came in 2005 when he finished ninth after 267 laps.

“I was real proud of the guys because we unloaded off the truck today and the thing just felt awesome,” Mears said. “I told them when I got out of the car after practice, I said, ‘We’ve got a shot at the pole here.  We’ve got a real good shot at it.’

“They made the right adjustments and I put a good lap in and got it.”

Crew chief Darian Grubb made the call to bring Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 357 to Chicagoland.  The car visited victory lane in May at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, and it also produced a fourth-place finish at Michigan International Speedway in June.

Although Grubb earned a pole with Jimmie Johnson last year at Las Vegas as interim crew chief, today marked his first as crew chief of the No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Chevrolet team.

“Obviously, this car is a special one for our No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Chevrolet team,” Grubb said. “It’s been to victory lane twice now—once for our win in Charlotte and now with the pole here in Chicago—and we’re excited for our chances to get it there again on Sunday afternoon.

“Everyone on our team is very focused on the second half of the season and making a run at the Chase. It won’t be easy, but we’re headed in the right direction at the right time.”

Mears has also seen Busch Series success at Chicagoland, including his first-ever NASCAR victory, which came last year, and a pole he earned in 2003.

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway will air live Sunday on TNT at 2:30 p.m. ET.