#aftermarket – Casey Mears and Robert “Bootie” Barker, driver and crew chief, respectively, of the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS, earned one of the final spots in the starting grid for Sunday’s Daytona 500 thanks to another driver’s last-second pass in Thursday’s 150-mile qualifier. On Sunday evening, they were celebrating an impressive top-10 finish in NASCAR’s most prestigious event as well as Barker’s career-first “Problem Solver of the Race” award from Moog, Official Steering and Suspension of NASCAR.
The Moog award is presented following each Sprint Cup contest to the crew chief whose car has posted the greatest second-half improvement in average lap time while finishing on the lead lap. The Moog-equipped No. 13 Chevrolet, owned by Germain Racing, delivered a race-best 0.112-second improvement as it picked up 35 positions overall to finish sixth at Daytona.
Mears and Barker, who blew an engine early in their 150-mile qualifier, edged into the Sunday’s starting field based on 2014 Cup Series points as well as Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s final-lap pass of Brian Scott in the Thursday night event. Regardless of how they qualified for Sunday’s “Great American Race,” the 13 team made the most of the opportunity, with Barker’s strategy focused on staying clear of contact in the early going and then driving toward the front over the final 40 laps. With the help of precise adjustments to the car’s Moog-equipped chassis, Mears was running strong in 18th position on Lap 161. The 13 car improved to 12th just five laps later and cracked the top 10 with 18 laps to go. Mears was closing in on the top five when the field was frozen following a final-lap accident.
“Bootie and Casey had a perfect restrictor plate strategy and when the time came, they had the power and handling to make a strong move toward the front,” said Tim Nelson, director of motorsports for the Moog brand and Federal-Mogul Motorparts. “A big part of the problem solving process at tracks like Daytona and Talladega is to stay out of trouble early and focus on making your car better through smart chassis adjustments and great pit performance. Bootie and the Germain racing crew were outstanding today.”