Jeremy “Whistle Blower” Mayfield
2006 Ride: No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Dodge (Feb.-Aug.)/No. 09 Miccosoukee Resorts Dodge (Nov.)
2006 Owner: Ray Evernham (Feb.-Aug.)/James Finch (Nov.)
2006 Team Director: Chris Andrews (Feb.-Aug.)/Marc Reno (Nov.)
Stats: 22 races, zero wins, zero top fives, zero top 10s, 39th in points.
Best Finish: 13th, Talladega (May)
High Point: Well, looking at the stat line, you know there weren’t many high points for Mayfield in 2006 as a strong relationship with Evernham Motorsports fizzled quickly into a nasty divorce. He did manage to score two front row starts in a row at Lowe’s and Dover to start the summer, briefly bringing hope that a longtime marriage could be salvaged in the face of disappointing finishes. For most of his fans, though, his departure from Evernham Motorsports became the true high point after he was stripped of his team in the offseason, setting the tone for a miserable 2006.
Low Point: Where to start? Losing your crew to another team within Evernham in the offseason, and watching your crew chief move over to Kasey Kahne‘s team – and then see that team catch fire while yours slumps. Not earning one top-10 finish a year after making the Chase. Pitching a fit about how much your boss is not around, and being accused of not driving 100% in return. Getting fired and then outing your former boss’s relationship in court. Simply take your pick as to what hurt Mayfield the worst over a tumultuous year… the hits just kept on coming even when he returned to the track in November with James Finch’s part-time No. 09 effort. He failed to make the race at Phoenix, and left the race early at Homestead with mechanical failure, ending his year on the same sour note.
Summary: 2006 wasn’t a banner year for Mayfield in any respect. Depending on who you ask, Mayfield is an above average driver who got a raw deal at Evernham, or he is a whiner that ruined another job with a high-profile team (see his final years at Penske Racing in 2000-01). Not everything that happened with the No. 19 team can be put squarely on Mayfield’s shoulders, but he didn’t do himself any favors, either.
2007 Outlook: In need of a fresh start, Mayfield joins Bill Davis Racing for 2007 driving the No. 36 360 OTC Toyota. Like many of the other Toyota teams, Mayfield will have pressure to qualify on speed early on in the season, with no provisionals from 2006 to fall back on. There is an upside, though; Toyota will be throwing a lot of money and factory support to the teams to ensure that they are up and running right from the start of the year, giving Mayfield a fighting chance to be competitive.