Despite being handed his walking papers from Hendrick Motorsports when the team announced at the end of June that Casey Mears would no longer be the driver of the no. 5 car in 2009, it’s not exactly the end of world for Mears. Really, if it had to happen, it couldn’t have happened in a better year with seats still remaining open at Richard Childress Racing, Penske Racing, and technically, even Stewart-Haas Racing for next season.
With Roger Penske and Ryan Newman recently announcing their split at the end of the year, the no. 12 ride at Penske has now become one of the more highly touted rides available for ’09. Though early signs have indicated that the team may opt take the easy and less negotiable route by signing their current Sprint Cup test driver, David Stremme, to drive the car, one has to wonder if it doesn’t actually just make too much sense for Roger and company to head in another direction and start focusing on a potential deal that would land Mears in that car next season.
For starters, Casey’s uncle – 4-time Indy 500 winner, Rick Mears – spent more than 15 years driving for Penske in the open wheel ranks, and still works as a consultant for the organization. Casey’s father, Roger Mears, also competed in 4 Indy 500′s running a Penske chassis, so there’s definitely some family ties between Penske and the Mears family.
Additionally, upon his retirement from the Penske organization and racing altogether in 2005, the legendary Rusty Wallace petitioned for Roger to look at Casey as a candidate to fill his shoes in the famed no. 2 “Blue Deuce”, though the team ultimately decided to go with 2004 Cup champion, Kurt Busch.
At that time, Mears was still racing for Chip Ganassi Racing, which also runs out of the Dodge Racing camp – the same manufacturer of choice as Penske. Casey failed to put together a winning effort while running for Ganassi as he didn’t reach that pinnacle until 2007 with Hendrick, but he did experience his best points season with them in ’06 when he finished 14th overall in the points standings.
Mears could arguably be the most established driver on the free agent market available to Penske, pending a fallout in the ongoing negotiations between Martin Truex Jr. and DEI, though the rumor mill there has Truex potentially joining the ranks of RCR should he happen to leave.