Casey Mears spent the past two years driving for Hendrick Motorsports and was a teammate of Jimmie Johnson for two of his three straight Cup championships.
Mears is now the driver of the No. 07 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, but he had a unique perspective on Johnson's team for the past two seasons. He was asked if Johnson gets proper credit for what he has accomplished in NASCAR.
“I think that’s a good question," said Mears, a driver from Bakersfield. "I think the people that know, for the most part, I think he gets great credit. He’s such a damn good guy. I think he gets overlooked a lot, probably. Here’s a guy who has done something that nobody has done in a long time in an era that isn’t even close to how it was in the past."
Johnson and Cale Yarborough are the only two NASCAR drivers to win three straight championships in stock car racing's highest level. The difference between the two feats is that Johnson accomplished his during the Chase era, when NASCAR implemented a 10-race playoff. Some argue that Johnson wasn't the best driver over the entire season, just during the Chase. Kyle Busch won the most races of any driver in the series last year, but stumbled when the Chase started and fell out of contention. Jeff Gordon, Johnson's teammate at Hendrick, emerged as the Chase favorite in 2007, but Johnson put together a better Chase than Gordon and won his second championship.
Mears said the level of competition is greater now than it was when Yarborough was winning his championships.
"Obviously it was competitive in the past, but not near as competitive as it is now," Mears said. "And to do what he’s done in these days, it ridiculous, you know? But I think he’s not one of those guys who is jumping up and down and saying look at what I did. He’s not asking for that attention."
Even though Johnson has won the past three Cup championships, Carl Edwads, a driver for Roush Fenway Racing, has emerged as the favorite to win the Cup championship this year.
"No offense to Carl, and I don’t want this to be taken in a bad way, but when Carl wins, everybody is looking for a back flip," Mears said. "Jimmie does a burnout like everybody else and goes to victory lane. It’s different people get different attention in different ways. And I think Carl is obviously very talented. The fact that he’s picked to win the championship this year is probably just because somebody wants to see something different happen. And he was the next best guy.”