All right Casey Mears fans and apologists, here's your chance to defend him.
I'm not as down on Casey Mears as some are, but after his exile from Team Red Bull on Wednesday, that's now four (legitimate) Cup teams that Mears has driven for, and he's gotten mediocre results with all four of them.
In his first four years in the Sprint Cup Series, Mears had six top 5s and 26 top 10s while never reaching victory lane. He did grab two poles in 2004, but finished 18th and 26th in those two races.
After finishing 14th in the points in 2006, he moved to Hendrick Motorsports in 2007, where he got his first win, a fuel-mileage race at the Coca-Cola 600. (As an aside, the top four finishers in that race were Mears, J.J. Yeley, Kyle Petty and Reed Sorenson, the man who is replacing Mears at TRB. Is that the most irrelevant top four in recent Sprint Cup Series memory?)
Mears started the Chase that year with four top-10 finishes and finished 15th in the final standings. That, combined with a switch to the No. 5 car, made Mears a sleeper candidate for a Chase berth in 2008. That year started disastrously with a 35th-place finish at Daytona and an upside-down crash at California. After a 42nd-place finish at Bristol, Mears was even on the cusp of falling out of the top 35.
He rebounded for a 20th-place finish in the points standings, but was off to Richard Childress Racing for 2009, which was a bad idea for all parties involved. RCR struggled with the expansion to four teams, and Mears — replacing Clint Bowyer as the man in black for the 07 car — finished 21st and was a nonfactor.
When Jack Daniel's left RCR, Mears was without a ride, leading him to startup Key Motorsports, then to being a backup driver for Denny Hamlin, and now to this point after being Brian Vickers' replacement at TRB. Sure, four races with TRB isn't much of a sample size, and I realize that despite being a Chase team in 2009 the No. 83 hasn't been anywhere near the top 5, but Mears finished on the lead lap only once, and that was at Pocono, where you've got to be pretty bad to get lapped.
Mears is 32 and has driven for the best of the best. Why should he be considered for that possible fourth spot at Joe Gibbs Racing or any other good rides that may open up? Are seven-plus Sprint Cup seasons enough data to consider that — famous name and all — Mears is nothing more than a mid-pack Sprint Cup driver? Heck, Mears doesn't even bring that much marketability to the table.
A lack of Sprint Cup success and marketability coupled with being on the wrong side of 30 is usually a terrible combination for a driver. Time will tell if that's true for Mears, too.