CONCORD, N.C. (Oct. 11, 2007) – After five years and 156 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series starts, Casey Mears captured his first victory in the sport’s premier division on May 27 in Lowe’s Motor Speedway’s annual 600-mile race. And he will be the first to tell you that it was worth the wait. "It was definitely an emotional victory and a lot of relief lifted off my shoulders," Mears said. "It was pure reality. I wasn't putting on a show. It was all natural what was coming out. "I was very excited when we won, and it couldn’t happen with a better group of guys." As Mears heads to Lowe’s Motor Speedway this weekend, it will mark the first time in his NEXTEL Cup Series career that he will be returning to a track as the defending winner. "Anything else I’ve ever raced in my whole career, I’ve won races in," Mears said. "To be in a series for four years and not win a race was difficult. "Crossing (the start-finish line) and getting that checkered flag for the first time, whatever came out was going to come out. I didn't really have any control over what I said or how I said it." After claiming his first career win during Memorial Day Weekend, Mears and the No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Chevrolet team continued their momentum, posting 13 top-15 finishes, nine top-10s and five top-fives in his past 19 races. Only four NEXTEL Cup drivers -- Jeff Gordon (14), Tony Stewart (14), Jimmie Johnson (11) and Denny Hamlin (10) -- have been able to record more top-10 finishes during that span. "It was a good boost for everybody," Mears said of the win. "But the next weekend it was back to reality. We backed it up with a couple good finishes at Pocono and Michigan right after the win." Had Mears and the No. 25 National Guard/GMAC team made the 2007 Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, they would currently be ranked fourth in the standings, just 73 points behind leader and teammate Jeff Gordon. Impressively, Mears is the only driver to have scored a top-10 finish in each of the first four Chase races this season. With six races remaining on the 2007 schedule, Mears sits a mere 116 points back of 13th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the NEXTEL Cup standings. After the season’s 11th race, the No. 25 team was 35th in points with just one top-10 finish to its credit. “We are working real hard at picking it up,” Mears said. “We keep gaining in the points as far as who we are racing and trying to get to that 13th spot. We just have to continue to make progress.” The NEXTEL Cup race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway will air live Saturday on ABC at 7:30 p.m. local time.