NASCAR Infineon diary: Toyota's Casey Mears


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.

Roger Craig, Terrell Owens, John Lynch among Hall of Fame semifinalists


Roger Craig, Terrell Owens, John Lynch among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Former 49ers running back Roger Craig, in his final year on the modern-era ballot, is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the 10th consecutive year.

Craig is among 27 semifinalists announced for the Class of 2018. The list includes six first-year eligible candidates and four other players who have been eligible previously but are semifinalists for the first time.

Wide receiver Terrell Owens and safety John Lynch, currently 49ers general manager, are among the return semifinalists. Lynch was among the final 10 players last year, while Owens made it to the top 15.

The list of first-year eligible semifinalists includes wide receiver Randy Moss, defensive back Ronde Barber, guard Steve Hutchinson, linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

The four previously-eligible players who are semifinalists for the first time are safety LeRoy Butler, defensive ends Leslie O’Neal and Simeon Rice, and cornerback Everson Walls.

In January, the list of modern-era candidates will be trimmed to 15 individuals. There will be a total of 18 finalists, including contributor finalist Bobby Beathard and seniors finalists Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer. Hall of Fame rules stipulate from four to eight new members will be selected every year.

Beathard, Brazile and Kramer will be voted on separately and, like all other finalists, must receive 80-percent approval from the full selection committee at the annual selection meeting on Feb. 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, the day before Super Bowl LII.

Craig's teams made it to the playoffs in each of his 11 NFL seasons, including his first eight years with the 49ers. In 1985, he became the first player in NFL history with 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

Owens, who played his first eight seasons with the 49ers, was a first-team All-Pro performer six times. He ranks second all-time in receiving yards (15,934) and third with 153 receiving touchdowns.

Lynch, a hard-hitting safety with Tampa Bay and Denver, was selected to nine Pro Bowls in his 15-year career. He recorded 26 interceptions, forced 16 fumbles and recovered nine in his career.

Steve Atwater, S – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2012-18)
Ronde Barber, CB/S – 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Tony Boselli, T – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve) | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Isaac Bruce, WR – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
LeRoy Butler, S – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Don Coryell, Coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2005, 2010-18)
Roger Craig, RB – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2009-18)
Brian Dawkins, S – 1996-2008 Philadelphia Eagles, 2009-2011 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2017-18)
Alan Faneca, G – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Torry Holt, WR – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Steve Hutchinson, G – 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Joe Jacoby, T – 1981-1993 Washington Redskins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 8 – 2005, 2008, 2013-18)
Edgerrin James, RB – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Jimmy Johnson, Coach – 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2014-18)
Ty Law, CB – 1995-2004 New England Patriots, 2005, 2008 New York Jets, 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Ray Lewis, LB – 1996-2012 Baltimore Ravens | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
John Lynch, FS – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2013-18)
Kevin Mawae, C/G – 1994-97 Seattle Seahawks, 1998-2005 New York Jets, 2006-09 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Karl Mecklenburg, LB – 1983-1994 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2012-18)
Randy Moss, WR – 1998-2004, 2010 Minnesota Vikings, 2005-06 Oakland Raiders, 2007-2010 New England Patriots, 2010 Tennessee Titans, 2012 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Leslie O'Neal, DE – 1986, 1988-1995 San Diego Chargers, 1996-1997 St. Louis Rams, 1998-1999 Kansas City Chiefs | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Terrell Owens, WR – 1996-2003 San Francisco 49ers, 2004-05 Philadelphia Eagles, 2006-08 Dallas Cowboys, 2009 Buffalo Bills, 2010 Cincinnati Bengals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Simeon Rice, DE – 1996-2000 Arizona Cardinals, 2001-06 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2007 Denver Broncos, 2007 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Richard Seymour, DE/DT – 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Brian Urlacher, LB – 2000-2012 Chicago Bears | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Everson Walls, CB – 1981-89 Dallas Cowboys, 1990-92 New York Giants, 1992-93 Cleveland Browns | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Hines Ward, WR – 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2017-18)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area is one of 48 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

With new posting system reportedly agreed to, Giants can soon chase Ohtani


With new posting system reportedly agreed to, Giants can soon chase Ohtani

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Giants continue to wait for a resolution to the Giancarlo Stanton chase, they may soon find themselves bidding on another superstar talent they have long coveted. 

According to multiple reports, Major League Baseball, the Players Association, and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization agreed to a new posting system that should allow Shohei Ohtani to be made available in about 10 days. Joel Sherman of the NY Post reported that MLB owners must ratify the agreement next Friday and Ohtani would then be posted that day or the following day. 

The Giants have made no secret of their desire to jump feet-first into that process, and general manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley visited Japan in September to scout Ohtani, a potential two-way star. Ohtani wants to be a starter and a hitter in the big leagues, as he was in Japan, and after watching tape of the 23-year-old, Bruce Bochy said he would be on board. 

"He's good," Bochy said after a game at Dodger Stadium late in the season. "I absolutely would play him every day."

There has been little clarity over the past two months as MLB teams have waited for the negotiations to play out. Per Sherman, there will be new posting rules in future years but Ohtani will operate under the old system. That limits the Giants to a $300,000 bonus because they went over their spending limit in 2015, but club officials don't believe that will disqualify them. Very little is known about Ohtani's preferences, but by coming to the United States in 2017, he is potentially forfeiting a $200 million deal as a free agent. That alone is enough to validate the fact that the Giants can safely chase Ohtani, knowing that the signing bonus won't be a deal breaker.