By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
I have had many heated debates over the past couple of days with disgruntled fans on Twitter. The thing they are all bent out of shape about is the dismissal of Casey Mears from Red Bull Racing effective immediately after last week’s run in with his teammate Scott Speed at Michigan.
In case you missed it Mears, who is filling in for Brian Vickers, made contact with his teammate during the race which spun each of their days into the sewer. Then just days later it was announced that Mears was out.
However here is my question…. why is everyone so shocked?
Not meaning any disrespect towards Casey Mears at all, in fact I believe if you are in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series you are one of the 43 best drivers in the entire world. However that being said, he is in the bottom half of those 43 in performance, always has been his entire career.
His shaky performances in the past, have paved his current unsteady future where he is destined to bounce from team to team. This latest stop produced less than stellar results (best finish of 22nd in five starts), which is another reason Red Bull had to pull the trigger as soon as possible. They had to make the move to save their 2011 season.
What do I mean? Well since Mears took over the 83 car, the team has plummeted to 25th in the owner standings. If Red Bull didn’t do something soon they could be staring from the outside of the top-35 in owner’s points looking in. If that were to happen, then Brian Vickers (who made the chase in 2009), wouldn’t be guaranteed a spot in the first five races next season. If the team were to miss any of those five races, their shot at the chase would most certainly be gone.
Fans on Twitter cite the fact that Mears has lacked a steady crew chief throughout any extended period of time in his career as a reason for him failing. Well this simply isn’t true. In fact for the first three years of his career he had the same crew chief… Jimmy Elledge. This three year run of consistency on the pit box actually resulted in the least consistent performance on the track for Mears of his entire career thus far… Well at least until this season that is.
Mears in 2006 swapped from the No. 41 car at Ganassi to their No. 42 car. This paired him up with crew chief Donnie Wingo for one season. This actually produced the best season, points wise, of Mears’ career. He finished 14th in the final standings. However since that season it has all been downhill.
In 2007 he was paired with Darian Grubb which did result in a victory in the Coca-Cola 600, fuel mileage or no fuel mileage it is still a win! However they could only muster a 15th place spot in the point standings at the end of the season.
In 2008 Mears moved to Hendrick’s No. 5 car and had Alan Gustafson atop his pit box. Mears struggled all season long, and a 20th place showing in the points was all it took for Hendrick to cut him loose.
The best average finish Mears has ever ended a season with was 18.6 in 2006… That’s not too sporty, especially when you consider the fact that the low average finish wasn’t because of DNFs. Mears only failed to finish two races that season.
I’m not saying that Mears lacks talent, I’m just saying he is not, and will not ever be an elite driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
I know it sounds harsh, but sometimes reality can be harsh. I do want to explain that I don’t blame Mears for his struggles. I really honestly believe he could of been a great driver. In my opinion he is a product of being brought to the Sprint Cup Series too quickly. Just as has happened to others such as Casey Atwood, he was placed in the pack of wolves before he was truly ready.
I also don’t want you to think that I am trying to discourage anyone from rooting for Mears, I’m not doing that at all. There are more reasons to be a fan of a driver than average finishes or wins. Some may love his driving style or personality. I respect his fans who have stuck by him, all I am saying is that the move Red Bull Racing made actually made a lot of sense.
It will now be Reed Sorenson’s turn to attempt to revive his career, as he will step into the No. 83 car starting at New Hampshire. Good luck Reed, but if things don’t pan out for Sorenson you can basically copy and paste this article as the reason why for him.