NASCAR Infineon diary: Toyota's Casey Mears

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NASCAR Infineon diary: Toyota's Casey Mears

June 2, 2011NASCAR PAGE NASCAR STANDINGSCASEY MEARS PROFILEEditor's Note: As part of the buildup to the June 24-26 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Weekend at Infineon Raceway, CSNBayArea.com will feature exclusive diaries from some of stock-car racing's biggest stars. This is our first entry.

Programming Note: Get set for the action on the track with Race Week, Thursday at 4 and 10 on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Casey Mears
Toyota Motorsports

Ive really enjoyed this year with my Germain Racing team. Bob Germain is a great owner, and our sponsor GEICO has just been awesome. Weve seen some huge steps of improvement with our No. 13 Toyota Camry since the tail end of last year and going into this season. I really enjoy working with my crew chief Bootie Barker.

Later this month, well be heading out west when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma. I like road courses. I grew up racing mostly road courses when I ran open wheel stuff. Theyre a lot of fun and I enjoy driving them. Its fun to do something different throughout the year. Its a very difficult course to pass on, so thats a little bit frustrating at times. One of the things I like about this road course -- that we dont see at the other road courses we visit -- are the elevation changes. It is a very technical course. It gets very hot and slick, so it takes a good driver to really get around that place.

One of the trickiest turns at Infineon Raceway is Turn 11. Thats the corner you come around and see all those tires that everyone piles into and you try to stay away from those. Going into Turn 11 is the hardest braking youll do all day long. Its a pretty critical corner -- you can have a very fast lap going into Turn 11 and miss it just a little bit and really blow the whole lap. You try to maximize your braking as much as you possibly can and then get up against the tires as low as you can through the center, because thats where all the grip is and then head back down the front straightaway. Ive had times where Turn 11 is just the killer all day if the car wont turn -- it just kills you. Then again, if the car doesnt have forward bite, you cant get off of Turn 11.

The esses can also be tricky -- just the timing of those and hitting them properly. If the car rolls a little bit too much, you can get really sloppy through there. Ive had very different cars there over the years and various parts of the track have given me a bigger headache than others.

We only race at road courses twice a season, so we typically we have gone to VIR (Virginia International Raceway) and run a few laps before heading out to Sonoma. I have also gone to the Bob Bondurant school -- I went with Jimmie Johnson one time just to go through gears and just to do it. Just to get a few more laps and get a little more prepared for a road course.

I think it usually ends up being pretty hot out in Sonoma when we race, so you need to hydrate well and eat right so youre good until the end of the race.

While Im from California, I dont have too many friends and family that come up to the Sonoma race. Being from Bakersfield -- a six hour drive from Sonoma -- I typically get to see family when we go to Fontana, or even Vegas with it being a little closer sometimes because everybody wants to come to Vegas -- I catch up with them a lot there. But, I do see some friends and family that come up to Sonoma as well.

Fortunately, Ive been in the series now for quite a while, so theres been a lot of fun things that Ive done when we compete at Infineon Raceway. Just being in the Sonoma and Napa Valley area is nice. Its fun to have a little bit of wine tasting, but clearly were there to race during the weekend, so I dont get to indulge in a lot of that. I enjoy the area.

Infineon Raceway is one of those race tracks where we typically try to treat it as a vacation. We get a nice hotel and bring the family. We only have three off-weekends, so when you can treat a race a little like a vacation, it kind of helps. Thats been a lot of fun. My family wont get to come out this time. Im out there on my own this time because its too soon after the new baby. Theyll be holding down the fort at home.

Theres one place -- I believe its called, Press -- I really like to eat when Im out there. Its in St. Helena and its been my favorite.

Im planning on winning. Im going to do something a little different and were going to win there and have a good day. Its been a big focus this year with this team to just improve. I think anytime you go to a place like a road course, it adds enough variables where if we feel like we have a 10th-place car, we can make a call to win the race. Thats one thing I like about the road courses as well -- you dont always have to be the best car to win there. If you do your strategy right and you make the right decisions, the right calls and be smart -- you have an opportunity to win.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's loss despite five home runs

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's loss despite five home runs

BOX SCORE

Hit five home runs, and a team has to like its chances of winning.

The A’s simply couldn’t keep up with the Houston Astros’ bats, however, in an 11-8 loss Wednesday night that snapped Oakland’s four-game winning streak. Khris Davis went deep twice, and Ryon Healy, Jed Lowrie and Matt Olson all went deep as the A’s set their season high for home runs.

But Houston racked up 17 hits against Jesse Hahn (3-6) and four relievers and evened this three-game series at a game apiece. It was the second time Hahn has gotten knocked around by Houston inside of a week.

The A’s took an early lead, 5-4, in the third on the second of Davis’ two homers, part of a four-run rally for Oakland. But the Astros answered right back with five runs in the bottom half, and the A’s never recovered from that momentum swing.

Hahn’s struggles continue: Hahn was trying to rebound after the Astros hung nine earned runs on him last Thursday at the Coliseum. Things didn’t improve Wednesday at Minute Maid Park, as the right-hander lasted just two-plus innings and allowed six runs on nine hits. Is this a case of one team simply having Hahn’s number or do the A’s make a move and try someone else in the rotation? It bears watching.

Krush Davis x 2: It was apparent early this would be a slugfest, with Khris Davis homering twice within the first three innings as the A’s tried to keep pace. He led off the second with a shot to left field, then came back with a three-run blast to left in the third that put Oakland up 5-4. The homers were his team-leading 20th and 21st.

Reddick-ulous night: Josh Reddick filled up the stat sheet against his old team in every way imaginable. He went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs, and twice caught the A’s by surprise by stealing third base. For good measure, he turned in an excellent running catch in right field to rob Yonder Alonso.

Strange offensive night: What to make of this night offensively for the A’s? They hit a season-high five homers but also struck out a whopping 17 times. No matter … you can’t hang this one on the offense, because …

The pitching staff just couldn’t hold things down: Josh Smith was called upon to hold down the fort after Hahn departed in the third, but Smith was tagged for three runs on four hits. Daniel Coulombe and John Axford also got touched for runs. Rookie Michael Brady did turn in 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

Cubs outfielder vows he didn't give Trump the middle finger at White House

Cubs outfielder vows he didn't give Trump the middle finger at White House

WASHINGTON – Albert Almora Jr. didn’t use Wednesday’s Oval Office photo op as a subtle form of political protest, but it did sort of look like the Cubs outfielder gave President Donald Trump the middle finger, at least from that angle in an image that went viral on Twitter.    

“There was two fingers! Look closely, there was two fingers!” a veteran player yelled across the room as reporters gathered around Almora’s locker inside the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park. 

“Guys were giving me a hard time about it,” Almora said, “but I pointed out the second finger. We’re all good.”

In another White House visit that didn’t look nearly as unofficial or informal as the Cubs said it would be, one snapshot became Almora with part of his left hand in his pocket. Almora stood near Kris Bryant – who held a 45 Wrigley Field scoreboard panel – and Trump at his desk with the World Series trophy.

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate,” Almora said with a laugh. “I’m getting ready to take a picture and I’m posing there. But you guys know that I would never do that to the president of the United States. 

“I respect everybody. It is what it is. We laugh about it now, but there’s definitely two fingers out there.”

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