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When drivers switch teams, who fares better? Let's consider Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears and Mark Martin


Casey Mears: Last year matched against Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. This matched against Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Ah, hah! Now we're starting to see some interesting matchups on the stock car tour this spring, head-to-head.
   Last year it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. versus Kyle Busch, a matchup that Busch won going away.
   This year, well, how about the intramural matchup between Richard Childress men Clint Bowyer and Casey Mears.
   Mears has the team and crew chief, Gil Martin, that Bowyer drove for the past two years; Bowyer is now driving for Childress' newest team.
   So when Bowyer and Martin nearly stole the championship show two years ago, was it driver or team?
   And when Mears finished fourth last season on Rick Hendrick's four-man team, driving for the Alan Gustafson operation that Mark Martin now runs for, was it driver or team?
   So maybe we should throw Martin and Gustafson in this mix too?
   At the moment, among those three teams, here are the standings after Daytona, California and Las Vegas:
   Bowyer is second in the overall NASCAR standings, with 441 points, including a second at Vegas.
   Mears is 27th, with 282 points.
   Martin is 34th, with 211 points, and two DNFs.
   Last spring here Bowyer finished sixth, Mears 17th, and Martin 22nd.
   So the pressure would seem to be on Mears: "We're not really happy with our performance…but we've also has some things happen that were outside of our control."
     And this is a track where he almost won a few years back. "I've had really good races at Atlanta and really bad races too," he says.
   "With the current car we've had a really hard time getting the track sorted out, in terms of handling and speed. It's really bumpy and really fast…so trying to find a combination that works well over the bumps and gives you enough support to drive the car off into the corner very hard is difficult.
    "I felt we were lost at Atlanta last year. But my new team with Gil will be very well prepared.
   "The new-style car is heavier and a little harder on tires. So Goodyear has to build a harder tire that's going to be more durable.
    "Without a lot of testing, they had to make something that was going to be really durable…but the more durable the tire, the harder it's going to be, and that makes for less grip for the drivers.
    "Goodyear is in a tough spot right now -- You have the car being heavier, and harder on tires, and drivers complaining about not having any grip.
    "We had way too hard a tire last year, which made the cars very difficult to drive. There just wasn't any grip, and everyone was having a hard time getting hold of the track.
   "When we went back in the fall, it was much better.
    "I would venture this weekend is going to be more like the second race last year than the first."

So does Clint Bowyer really put Jack Black on his Cheerios? Maybe that's the secret. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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