Mears' contract with Keyed Up Motorsports, a start-up Sprint Cup team, was for only the first six races of the season. During those first six races, Mears only made the Bristol race, where he started 34th and finished 30th.
Mears and Keyed Up are still on good terms, but Mears decided to take advantage of the opportunity to be the safety net for Hamlin when Hamlin got the news that he needed to have his ACL reconstructed to avoid further damage to the meniscus and other structural properties of his knee.
Dr. Patrick Conner, who did the surgery on Hamlin's left knee, told ESPN that Hamlin should be able to go the distance Saturday as long as there wasn't any abnormal swelling. Given that Hamlin's rehab is on schedule, it's probably a long shot that Mears will have to get in the car for Hamlin.
If you were Casey Mears, what would you have done? Would you rather struggle to qualify for Cup races with an underfunded team, or become the emergency driver for one of the top three teams in the Sprint Cup Series? Initially, I'd want to be in a car as much as possible, but at the same time, rumors have been swirling about a possible Joe Gibbs Racing fourth full time car for a few years, so that idea probably played a role in Mears' decision. But given the economy, it's obvious that a sponsor is much more important to JGR's potential expansion than resources at this point.
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