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Saturday, May 29, 2010
Ekstrom considered to replace Mears

By David Newton
ESPN.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- Mattias Ekstrom, who won the Race of Champions for Red Bull in 2009 and is considered one of the top road course drivers in Europe, is being considered to replace Casey Mears in the June race at Infineon Raceway.

Red Bull Racing general manager Jay Frye said Ekstrom was impressive in a road course test at Virginia International Raceway this past week.

"We were worried about getting him up to speed," Frye said on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "He was up to speed in an hour. Ask Juan Pablo Montoya, some of the other guys that were there. It was impressive."

Ekstrom was at CMS for Saturday's Nationwide Series race. He said he would love to drive at Sonoma and may one day get into stock car racing fulltime, but reminded it would take a team willing to let him develop.

Frye said Ekstrom would not be available for the Watkins Glen road course event because of a scheduling conflict.

Mears replaced Brian Vickers three weeks ago at Dover after blood clots were discovered in Vickers' legs and lungs. With Vickers out for the rest of the season taking treatments that involve blood thinners, Mears was signed to a deal with provisions that would allow Red Bull to use other drivers if performance warranted.

Frye said there are no plans outside the road courses to replace Mears, but said the organization wanted to keep its options open.

Vickers was at CMS on Saturday helping Mears better understand the car.

"Do we love to have him out here? Absolutely," Frye said. "But his main goal is to get well, especially these next few months. We don't expect him to be at places such as Pocono next week and Sonoma. It's important he gets everything in order and off to a good start."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.