Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mears Gang enjoyed Baja Off-Road race season

It is exactly 14 minutes before drivers introductions at Phoenix International Raceway last year, but Casey Mears was nowhere near the stage. He was 500 feet away in the PIR infield, test-driving his newest toy. His Baja racing toy.

Mears woke up on race day at Phoenix and was greeted by his recently finished Super Dual Sport dune buggy, which he runs in Baja Mexico for some off-road fun during the Baja racing season series. Casey Mears took his dune buggy to Baja California in Mexico this offseason.

"It is just to play, Mears said. Mears will spent his winter riding motorcycles and other off-road vehicles in the Baja section of Mexico with friend PJ Jones, a part-time Busch and Nextel Cup competitor. "They got it done late last night and got it out for me so I can check it out before I have to take off," said Mears, who will store the $100,000 buggy at Jones' house in Phoenix. "PJ is going to meet me down [in Mexico] and we are going to do a motorcycle ride like we did last year."

Mears purchased the normally aspirated, 600-horsepower buggy from Phoenix-based Tatum Motorsports, owned by driver/off-road enthusiast Rich Ronco. Ronco's operation, named after his daughter, sells 100 of these high-end machines a year. Tatum Motorsports employs 40 people and counts Robby Gordon Motorsports among its clients. The buggies use the 427-cubic inch engine block commonly found on Corvettes.

"It will go anywhere you want to go," Gordon said. "That car right there is probably 130 mph. They are pretty tough. They are made for it." Ronco delivered Mears' dune buggy late Saturday night and parked it outside the tent that housed the drivers' meeting. Everyone from Jeff Gordon to Brad Parrott stopped to examine the machine, which took Ronco three weeks to build.
"It is a full-blown racecar," Mears said. "You could put numbers on this thing and race it. It will do about 110 through the rough stuff. It's unreal. One hundred-ten through the rough stuff feels like 200."

Dune buggies are not known for their comforts, but Mears worked with Ronco to create a buggy that features a helicopter-style audio system that allows a driver and three passengers to communicate. "It has a GPS, full-blown stereo system and a two-way radio were you can talk to another car," Mears said." Plus, you can listen to your iPod or the radio through your headsets."

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The Casey Mears SPIN MACHINE (not really, its just an interview)
1. What's the best advice you've ever received, and who was it from?
Mears: The best advice I ever got was from my parents. They told me to find something in life that I love and make a career out of it. They never pressured me to go racing, just to have goals and go after them.
2. What was your first car?
Casey Mears:
Mears: My very first car was a Dodge Dakota, but I didn't have it long. I drove a Chevy half-ton pickup for most of high school.
3. What was your favorite memory of playing high school football?
Mears: Probably the camaraderie we had on the team -- it was a fun group of guys. Plus, back then it seemed kind of cool being able to knock the hell out of somebody and not get in trouble for it.
4. Where's the one place you go to "get away from it all?"
Mears: I usually go to Baja. No cell phone service, no computers -- just open water and beautiful weather.
5. What was your first job?
Mears: When I was 12, I worked at an auto detail shop over the summer.
6. What's the one thing you do that drives your family crazy?
Mears: Man, you'd have to ask them. That's a tough question. Hopefully I don't do anything too annoying.
7. What's your favorite video game?
Mears: There's a game called DiRT that I like a lot. It's pretty accurate when it comes to off-road racing.
8. What was the last book you read?
Mears: I made it through the first half of The DaVinci Code. It was a good book, but I don't have a great attention span when it comes to reading. One of these days, I'll finish that one up.
9. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Mears: Anywhere with a white sandy beach, blue water and some palm trees.
10. What's the most exciting thing about growing up in a family with so much racing tradition and history?
Mears: One of the best things about growing up in my family was having the opportunity to travel at a young age when my dad was racing. I saw a lot of places and met a lot of great people. It was pretty exciting, especially to a kid.
In the old days, Mears Gang pits were the best in the business in Baja Mexico off-road racing. Baja Racing will be telling more of the MEARS GANG BAJA STORY. GO TO BAJA SAFARI FOR YOUR BAJA ADVENTURES