Casey Mears signs deal with Hendrick

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Casey Mears was hired Wednesday to drive
for Hendrick Motorsports, earning a seat with one of NASCAR's

The move had been widely expected since last week, when Mears
informed car owner Chip Ganassi he would not be coming back in 2007
on the same day Brian Vickers asked to be released from his
Hendrick contract.

Mears and Vickers will finish this season with their current

Before that, Mears had insisted he wanted to renew his deal with
Ganassi. But when the No. 25 Chevrolet opened up, he quickly
changed his mind. His new job will team him with four-time series
champion Jeff Gordon, points leader Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.

Mears is very close friends with Gordon and Johnson -- he served
in Johnson's wedding party two years ago -- but has a season-long
feud running with Busch. That didn't deter owner Rick Hendrick from
snapping him up to a multiyear deal.

"Casey is a talented driver and a high-character person who is
going to be a great fit with our organization," Hendrick said.
"He has the ability to win races and ultimately contend for
championships, so we're thrilled to welcome him to Hendrick

Hendrick did not disclose terms of the deal, but said Mears would be
with the team at least through 2009.

The 28-year old Mears is the nephew of four-time Indianapolis
500 champion Rick Mears and followed that path into open-wheel. But
he eventually changed course and moved to NASCAR, where he spent
one season in the Busch Series before Ganassi hired him to drive a
Nextel Cup car for the 2003 season.

He's shown steady improvement over the past three-plus seasons,
although he is winless at all of NASCAR's levels. He's won two
poles -- including one at the Brickyard 400 in Indy -- and has 21 top
10 finishes.

Mears finished second to Johnson in the season-opening Daytona
500 this year, and has been hovering right around the top 10 in
points most of the season.

He also became the first full-time NASCAR driver to be part of a
winning Grand American Rolex 24 team when the Ganassi team won that
race in February.

"I'm committed to winning races and going after championships
with the No. 25 team," said Mears. "This is an opportunity for me
to work with close friends and start fresh with one of the top
organizations in all of sports. It's an exciting situation for me,
both personally and professionally."