The Incredible Revolving Drivers

You know the ones I’m talking about. The guys who, despite a lack of any spectacular on track performance, continue to find quality rides. More specifically I am talking about the Reed Sorensons and Casey Mears of the world.

Casey Mears joined Richard Childress Racing this season after stints at both Hendrick Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing. In the previous six seasons and 216 starts Mears collected one win, 12 top-5s, 42 top-10s and three poles. So far this season Mears has one top-15 finish and not much else.

Let me remind you that just last season (literally a couple of months ago) with this exact same team, Clint Bowyer won a race, scored seven top-5s and 17 top-10s. He ultimately finished the season 5th in the points; one of three Childress cars to make the Chase in 2008.

This season with a completely new team Bowyer currently sits second in points behind Jeff Gordon. Mears is back in 25th.

I think Casey Mears has talent. He wouldn’t be where he is if he didn’t. But in his third opportunity to prove himself, Mears only continues to show why he does not deserve the opportunities presented to him.

Reed Sorenson has three full Cup Series seasons under his belt. During his time in the Cup Series, a total of 109 starts (prior to this season) Sorenson has five top-5s, 14 top-10s and one pole. That boils down to an average career finish of 25.3.

With the newly formed Richard Petty Motorsports (or Gillett Evernham if you like) Sorenson has one top-10 at Daytona, a 21st, 34th and 33rd in the races that followed. He is 27th in points, firmly behind his teammates AJ Allmendinger, Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne (who is in 9th).

While Sorenson’s previous ride at CGRFS wasn’t championship caliber, he certainly should have been competitive, and he just wasn’t. In fact his average finish has gotten worse every year he has been in the Cup Series.

It is hard to justify having Sorenson in a car full time while AJ Allmendinger, who has run better, is stuck with only a part time deal.

It is rare in life that people get second chances to prove what they can do. It is especially rare in a business that is all about performance and results. Reed Sorenson is now on his second chance and he isn’t doing much with it. Casey Mears squandered his second chance, and is now on opportunity number three.

The season is still early so both of these guys have time to turn it around, and I really hope they do. If something doesn’t happen for either this season though, their respective team owners seriously need to consider their value to the organization as a whole.

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16 Responses to “The Incredible Revolving Drivers”

  1. Dave says:

    “Casey Mears squandered his second chance, and is now on opportunity number three.”

    OK, using your own words, Mears first chance was not championshop caliber (Sorenson’s previous ride at CGRFS wasn’t championship caliber – same ride) and his second shot he showed a 20th in points where “the great fan favorite and America’s best driver never to win a title, Mark Martin” is presently 34th in points in the same ride. Lastly in ride number 3, Mears is presently tied in points with the great Dale Earnhardt Jr. Adding this up, Rick Hendrick should probably close up the 5 and 88 shops to I guess?? Find some better logig pal. Mears has had 5 rides and 5 crew chiefs in 5 years. Give him some consistency and he’ll do fine (and thats what RCR plans on doing). In 2007, he had the most points in the chase of non-chase drivers so Hendrick rewards him with the boot to the 5 team so Junior can move in. He loses Darien and gets Alan G as a crew chief. Alan couldn’t help Kyle Busch and he’s not showing much with Martin but look what Grubb is now doing with Tony? Maybe sometimes things are deeper than the surface??

  2. KP says:

    Maybe Tony and Grubb make a better pair than Casey and Grubb. Maybe it is the driver.

    Martin would be much higher in points were it not for 2 blown engines and a blown tire.

    Maybe sometimes things are deeper than the surface.

  3. T.C. says:

    Dave: While I understand your reasoning, you cannot compare Mears time in the 5 car with Mark Martin. Mears had two seasons at Hendrick, Martin has had four races. I understand Martin is 34th in points, but that is because of two engine failures and a blown tire. If we are going to do comparisons, lets not do apples and oranges.

    Also, while Dale Jr. and Mears may be close in points currently, again you can’t compare these two drivers. Jr does struggle at times, but you can’t argue with 18 Cup wins and two Busch championships.

    So to your question, no, Mr. H should not close the 88 and 5 cars.

    And don’t you think that five rides and five crew chiefs in five seasons is a knock against Mears? He’s had a lot of different combinations and chances, and yet still produces the same result. And if one of those combos was all that great, they would have kept them together.

    I also don’t think you can complain about getting Alan Gustafson as a crew chief. You say he couldn’t help Kyle, yet he had four wins and two top 10 points finishes with him in three seasons. That sounds like a pretty good crew chief to me, especially working with a very young driver.

    So while things might be deeper as you say, the stats don’t lie. Maybe Childress can be the place where Mears turns it around, but if history is any indication, we are in for much of the same from him.

  4. windowlicker says:

    Clint finished 5th in final points, not 12th last year.

  5. Neon says:

    Secured yet underperforming drivers have been around for a long time (whether in be family money-Menard, a namesake-Waltrip/Mears/Etc or simply PR-Waltip) and long before NASCAR instituted the top 35 rule. That’s part of the business and not only in NASCAR. Check out Milka Dunno in IRL taking her CITGO backing to the famed Newman-Haas-Lanigan team…now that is a travesty. I do, however, think that the top 35 rule paves the way for underperformers. Use a talent to secure points position, switch with the money driver at the strategic moment and hope that the talent once again secures one for the team. Trust me, all of these teams have think-tanks, in one form or another, trying to hit on a workable scenario. And you thought race startegy was the key?

  6. windowlicker says:

    Also, Mears finished 15th not 12th in 2007 behind Newman & Biffle of the non-chase drivers. 97 points out of 12th. His best season was in 2006 where he peaked at 14th & has declined since. A nice driver but not even close to deserving the entire team, equipment, & points of the 5th place 2008 chase finisher.

    Mears has a high profile sponsor & if he doesn’t produce the results that Jack Daniels is accustomed to, his stay at RCR will be a short one.

  7. Dennis says:

    I wonder if there are not some intangibles at play here as well. How good is a driver at personal appearances for the sponsor? Does he come across really well in sponsor meetings or does he come across as surly? I don’t profess to know the answers concerning these two drivers, but it is something to include in the equation. There are a number of journeyman drivers in NASCAR that seem able to hang onto rides only because of their value to the sponsor.

  8. Dave Exner says:

    So who is having the better season, Mark Martin or Casey Mears?

  9. Bobby#7fan says:

    I’ts about time someone in Nascar stood and said this!!! Casey Mears is a joke. Having the surname Mears will get you quite a bit if leeway is seems. Lets not forget to add Paul Menard to this list. If his daddy were not writing huge checks he’d be trying to finish at a tiny dirt track in Wisconsin instead of trying to finish a race in Nascar.

    It’s good work if you can get it though, if someone offered me millions of dollars to finish 40th every week I’d take it.

  10. T.C. says:

    Dave: At this point, wouldn’t you have to say Casey Mears? Martin has failed to finish a couple of races. But you can’t judge a team or a season on four races. If you did, the schedule would only be four, not 36. But which driver is having a better season doesn’t change anything about the argument…

  11. Zieke says:

    This driver deal is interesting. At least Mears and Sorensen are young guys and could possibly get something going. Face it people, there are only so many really good ones out there, and NASCAR has 43 cars to start every show. They need all the the talent they can get, and unfortunetly the sponsors have alot to say about who those drivers are. Most sponsors can’t tell a good driver from a good dustmop, but they have the money and know what they want to do with it. Speaking of Mikey, I hope Reutimann out does him big time this year so he can fulfill his retirement statement. Then Toyota can go out & hire their dream driver, and NAPA can actually see what they can get for a buck.

  12. Lyn says:

    Omg, you’re seriously Dumb. Reed Sorenson has not gotten worse all three years.. He improved his 2nd year.

    2nd off all , HE CANT DO S— when his CARS ARE CRAP.. YOU can not be competitive.. He was hardly competitive because his cars wouldnt allow him to do so, and im not saying this just because i am a fan, I have listened to his team radio the last three years, going on four. and Let me tell you, when you cant turn your car because its too lose and you’re team is to dumb to know how to fix it there is a problem! noones EVER been competitive at Ganassi.

  13. DJones says:

    My roommate and I have this argument all the time about Mears and Sorensen in CUP. He defends them. After an incident with either of them, I say “and he has a ride?”

    You can’t compare these drivers with JR and Mark. JR and Mark have had their shining moments, Mears and Sorensen, not so much.

    Journo, I agree with you about Dinger. He deserves a full time ride.

  14. Graceann says:

    Although I agree about AJ deserving a ride, I also think Reed deserves a chance to adjust. There was never any focus put on Reed, no chance for development. IMO there is no confidence in the young man, with a little time he just might turn things around. Mears? I dunno, he is just a like able guy.

  15. Chelsea says:

    Reed’s first full year in Cup (2006) was his best, average finish wise.

    2005 (2 races) – 34.5 avg finish.
    2006 – 23.1 avg finish.
    2007 – 24.4 avg finish.
    2008 – 28.0 avg finish.
    2009 (4 races) – 24.3 avg finish.

    He’s dropped every year, aside from going from 2005 to 2006. It could be an equipment issue, it could be a crew chief issue, or it could be a driver issue. I don’t know.

    Ganassi was far from competitive when Reed was there, but even now he isn’t really shining at RPM either like a lot of people thought he would be. Aside from Daytona, he’s finished 20th or worse in the last 3 races. Granted though, the last two weeks he has had issues (wrecked at Vegas and a mechanical failure at Atlanta).

    As for Casey, I don’t think he’s really gotten an opportunity to develop a driver-crew chief relationship. It seems like whenever they get it just right, he switches teams or they switch crew chiefs on him. Casey’s a good driver – he just needs a real chance to form that bond with a crew chief and not be shoved out because the next “better” driver in on his way in.

    And AJ – I totally agree that he deserves a full-time Cup ride. He’s been proving that ever since he got to RPM @ Martinsville last year. He had a rough two races at California and Vegas, but he rebounded nicely at Atlanta – probably would’ve finished better had he not been caught 2 laps down during that “running gasman” caution. Once he’s locked inside the top 35 after Bristol, the sponsors will probably be more willing to jump in and sponsor him. I have full confidence that they’ll find a way to run him the full season.

    Wow, that was long…haha sorry if I bored anyone!

  16. T.C. says:

    Lyn: This may be the first time we’ve been called dumb…

    First, see Chelsea’s comment above for a little stat info regarding Reed NOT improving.

    Second, easy on the profanity. We can’t allow language like that in the comment section.

    Third, drivers have had success in Ganassi equipment since Reed has been there. Montoya has been solid including a win in 2007. They might not be on level with a Gibbs or Hendrick, but they’ve got a lot of smart folks working there. In terms of Reed not being able to drive a loose car, unfortunately for him, that’s what it takes for a COT to be fast. Ask Kyle Busch…

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