Casey Mears will be looking for a new ride in 2009.
Hendrick Motorsports said Friday that Mears, who has been with the team since 2007 and moved to the No. 5 Chevrolet to replace Kyle Busch, will be released at the end of this season.
"We've put a ton of emphasis on the No. 5 program," team owner Rick Hendrick said in a release. "It's been a total team effort, and Casey has worked as hard as anyone to help us improve. We've tested more than we ever have, but the results just haven't come.
"None of us, Casey included, have been satisfied with the situation this season. But he's confident there are other options out there for him in 2009, and we feel like Hendrick Motorsports will have some opportunities, too."
The Hendrick team is one of the most powerful in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, but the performance of the No. 5 has not kept up with his teammates. Heading into Sunday race at New Hampshire International Speedway, Mears has only three top-10 finishes and is 24th in the season standings, while teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are all in the top seven.
"I know the effort has been there, but we haven't had the finishes to show for it," said Mears, whose only Cup victory came in May 2007 at Charlotte. "I've never tested this much or put more energy into racing. But, for whatever reason, we just haven't been able to make it click. It's certainly not for lack of dedication on anyone's part.
"I'll talk to people about opportunities and get my 2009 plans wrapped up soon, but I'm also focused on the next 20 races and finishing 2008 on a positive note. We ran well the second half last year, and I know we can do it again. I want to close this season the right way."
There have been unconfirmed reports that longtime NASCAR star Mark Martin, currently running a part-time schedule with Dale Earnhardt, Inc., will replace Mears in the No. 5 and take one last shot at a Cup title in 2009. Hendrick said the team's plans for replacing Mears will be announced later.
Busch, the hottest driver in Cup this year with five victories for Joe Gibbs Racing, was dropped from the Hendrick team at the end of last season when Earnhardt joined the team.
Mears moved out of the No. 25 car, which became Earnhardt's No. 88. The nephew of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears moved to the No. 5, in which Busch had a win, 20 top-10 finishes and finished fifth in the points.
Asked Friday about Mears being released, Busch said, "It's tough. That team may be expected to run somewhat what we ran last year. Hopefully, Casey can find another deal."