CART Media Conference
June 22, 1999
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART media teleconference. We'd like to thank you for taking the time to be with us today. Our guests today, driver Gil de Ferran and owner Derrick Walker of Walker Racing will join us in a few minutes. In the mean time, we are going to spend some time with current PPG Daytona Indy Lights Championship point leader, Casey Mears. Thank you for joining us this afternoon. Casey, the driver of the Sooner Trailer/American Racing Wheels Lola for Dorricott/ Mears Racing holds a 62,53 points lead over both Airton Idareya and Oriol Servia as the series heads to Round 6 this weekend at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland. In his fourth season of Indy Lights competition, Casey has built his Championship lead by finishing among the top five drivers in each of the five Indy Lights events contested to date highlighted by podium finishes of second at Milwaukee and third at Nazareth. In addition, Casey is the only driver to have completed all 343 laps in 444.944 miles of Indy Lights competition to date. He returns to the site of his first career Indy Lights start this weekend having driven to a solid 8th finish after starting 18th in his series debut in Cleveland in 1996. With that, we will open it up to questions for Casey.
Q. Could you kind of compare and contrast how things were going for you this year as compared to last year?
CASEY MEARS: Between this year and last year there really is no comparison. I can't say enough for the experience I got the last couple of years. But this year, doing everything right, having the right budget, testing, and it has just been ten times better.
Q. What is it like to have probably one of the most famous oval drivers and one of Champ Car Racing's legends, kind of like a driver/coach and does he get you in back of the trailer after the race and say, hey, you might have done things a little bit different? Talk about racing with you uncle Rick Mears?
CASEY MEARS: It is obviously a huge help. There is never too much you can say for experience. He has taught me a lot the last few years and having him there by my side at each practice and each test, it just has been a huge, huge opportunity. There are so many details that you tend to forget and he will get focused on a certain thing and he will bring you back to earth and say, hey, don't forget about this part. And is has been a great help and I really appreciate that.
Q. Well, you dad has great success in the off road category and of course that is a test of man to machine to. How does he assist in that situation?
CASEY MEARS: My dad has been there for me ever since I first started racing when I was real young. He is really the one that taught me the entry of the apex and the exit of a corner. My dad just helped me a lot. Between that and Rick having their experience and also like I did early on, I think it really benefited me where I am at now.
Q. You are one of the up and coming American drivers to get ready to make the move into the Champ Cars. A lot of the talk has been said how the drivers don't come from America. Talk about that. How important would that be for you to get in there and get into a good competitive ride. You will get running start here you are one of the up-and-coming American drivers to make the perhaps the move into the champ cars.
CASEY MEARS: Obviously it would be real important. The whole reason why I am in Indy Lights now is because it is a proven series that makes a driver capable of moving up to Champ Cars. So far this year the consistency has been paying off. To be an American driver and Champ Car and to do well would obviously be my ultimate goal. I hope that opens it up some doors and some opportunities. This year really has been good to me. We have been consistent. And, being American, hopefully it will give me a little bit of an edge if some teams are looking for that. We are going to ride the rest of this year out. Hopefully things will work out and will move on.
Q. Do you have any sort of a timetable in terms of when you would feel ready to step up one? Two, can you update me on Clint's whereabouts and what he is doing right now?
CASEY MEARS: Sure. Right now, first of all, with Clint, he is running with the Jim Holly Hendrix (phonetic) school in California. He has opened that school right now and actually is looking forward to running some late model stuff on the weekends. I guess the main reason for that opportunity is just because they are -- looks like there is some future in it; with maybe some other stuff down the road with maybe Busch or something like that but that is kind of where he stands right now.
CASEY MEARS: Well, now what we are doing -- I'd love to move up next year. But in all -- when I put together the experience that I have had, because of the fact of the lack of budget we had the last couple of years, I like to think that this year is really my second full year, when I talk about actual track time. I'd like to do well this year; finish off this year; evaluate it a little bit better when it comes forward to end of the season, I would love to move up next year, but if I have opportunities to run Lights again I will and just gain more experience before the next move tape.
Q. Can you talk a little bit with your thoughts from last season and did you think that you would be able to be in a position to even race for any team at all this year and could you also just elaborate a little more; how many days you have gone testing in comparison to last year, that kind of thing?
CASEY MEARS: Okay, there was a point in offseason where I really didn't know what direction I was going. I have been talking to everybody and because of the last couple of years we have had some success on the ovals and we really struggled not having the testing to do well on the road courses, and I kind of got named as being an oval guy. And, also having Rick in my corner that has totally been something we has kind of gotten labeled with. So it was always hard -- talked to a lot of Indy Lights guys, hey, you did really well on the ovals, I don't know about the road courses. It was tough. I didn't know if we were going to get an opportunity this year and it worked out. Team Mears and Dorricott to create Dorricott/Mears Racing and it has been a great opportunity for me. Hopefully I can now show everybody what I can do on the road courses and so far it has been paying off.
Q. How many days did you test at all last year and how many days have you done so far this year?
CASEY MEARS: Well, including the preseason stuff before the season even started, I think we had a total of four days last year. We took the first couple days just to get back in the seat again and get used to things; then I think we had two other days where we actually had to go out and tried to test a little bit but we didn't get too far. Shoot, I think we have already done about eight days this year - eight or nine days - and we have more scheduled and I don't know what to do. I have been talking to the guys and every time we have a test, it is like I can't believe all the time I am getting and it has just really brought me up to that next level. I have seen gains in myself and gains in the car and it has just been a great thrill this year.
Q. Does it seem almost like a lifetime since that very first start at Cleveland or has time flown by faster than you have liked?
CASEY MEARS: I tell you what, during the season it seemed like things are taking quite a while but now that I look back on it, it just seems like yesterday I ran at Cleveland in 1996 and I really look forward to it again. Cleveland is a really fun track, it is wide open. A lot of fun and I can't wait to get there again.
T.E. McHALE: At this point we are going to thank Casey Mears for his time this afternoon. Best of luck this weekend in Cleveland and the remainder of the PPG Dayton Indy Lights Championship.
CASEY MEARS: Thanks a lot, appreciate it.
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