Note: As the Sprint Cup Series returns to Daytona this week the hottest story in the garage area undoubtedly surrounds Jeremy Mayfield after his indefinite suspension for a failed drug test was lifted by a federal judge Wednesday. Ironically, the last time the series was at the famed 2.5-mile speedway Mayfield was the subject of another story as he attempted to qualify for the Daytona 500 with his upstart team, Mayfield Motorsports. At the annual NASCAR Media Day on Feb. 5, Mayfield spoke to a table of journalists and opened up about everything from his problems with the politics of high profile teams to the personal fallout from his father’s untimely passing.
Here are some of the excerpts:
Mayfield on forming Mayfield Motorsports
It was a huge undertaking to do this, but I’ll tell you what I did. We about had it all put together and we had a guy that was going to be the owner of it and put the money up, but it just wasn’t happening and he wasn’t coming through. It just kind of fell apart. I drive up to what was gonna be our shop; it’s the Stavola Brothers now, and we all knew it wasn’t going to happen at this point. This was about 16 days ago (less than one month before the Daytona 500). I knew when I pulled in, and they knew, we didn’t have a deal ready, we didn’t have anything put together this time.
I thought, man they’re still working and trying hard, and there were a lot of people who wanted to work with us on this deal; I kept telling the guy (the preliminary owner), you’d be crazy not to do this, it’s the best opportunity you’re going to have coming into the sport and he didn’t do it. I was like why am I telling him that and not myself that, I’m crazy if I don’t do it. When I saw the effort they were putting in and not getting paid a dime, I said we’ve got to figure somewhere to go. We didn’t get anything ready for Daytona. So we go in and sit down and talk and didn’t have anything, and then all of a sudden I was like there’s only one way we can do this and that’s to go talk to Triad [Racing Technologies]. I know they’ve got the cars and the trailers and all the stuff we need. We go up there and two hours later we sit down and I said ‘let’s do it.’ I bought all the stuff and Tony [Furr] started working the next day and now it’s about 15 days since we started working on cars.
On providing an opportunity to others in the same situation
I’m big-hearted on seeing guys who work all their lives in this sport, and due to the economy and stuff which has enabled us to do this, you see guys get laid off and don’t have a chance, and I was right there with them. If I wasn’t going to Daytona this year, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to run in and out of races. If we miss it, it’s one thing, but I don’t want to run 10 races or 12 races, you don’t gain anything like that. If we’re going to do it, let’s run the whole series and go for it. It provides an opportunity for those who need it right now and I can’t thank NASCAR enough. And I’m not just saying this, if it weren’t for them doing what they did with the cars, if you look at it right now they made it so a guy like me can come in and do this. I’m not sure if that was their intentions or not to start with, but it opened the doors for me to be able to do this now and finance and start the deal on my own.
On his crew
It’s probably the best over the wall team I’ve seen. We don’t have anybody whining because they have to drive to Daytona. They want to drive to Daytona; they want to be known as the underdogs and fight for everything we’ve got and that’s cool. When you’ve got that right there, that’s something 90 percent of the teams don’t have.
On why he didn’t have a ride going into 2009
Here’s what’s kept me motivated through all of this. If the media would help me one time and just look at the facts and say, ‘Was it his ability, is that why he’s not in the sport today?’ If you compare the field, with the stats they’ve got and the stats I’ve got, it wasn’t my ability to drive a racecar that got me here. It’s the best shot for me with the desire and the passion I have of not wanting to be a ‘B’ team or being the ‘B’ guy. The last two places I was at with big organizations, no matter what they say, I was not the ‘A’ guy. We all know that. Was it my ability to drive a racecar? No. It was the fire I had made. I wanted to be the best, I fought for everything we had to fight for to get what we needed to race. Was that the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do? I couldn’t see myself sitting there and taking an ass-whoopin’ every week and not fighting for what I believe is right. I could have done a lot of things differently. I could have not opened my mouth when I realized I was the ‘B’ team.
There’s nothing wrong with a driver wanting the best, and a good example of that is Juan Pablo Montoya last year with Chip Ganassi. The same thing that happened with them happened with me. Juan was unhappy with the way things were going, he said it to the media – he blatantly said it straight up and they had a war going on. But they were able to work through that and continue on. It was his desire to be the best and tired of getting beat every week. It’s all he wanted and that’s all I ever wanted and that got me in trouble. So me sitting on the sidelines had nothing to do with my ability, it was about how I handled the situation I was in and I’ve learned from that.
On fighting through his personal problems
Then that time I went to Haas, the deal with my dad happened. That was more devastating, and that’s how I look at it every day. No matter what happens to me in this world, what I went through for that year with my dad’s situation, passing away, that was harder than anything I ever went through. So the racing stuff was easy. I could sit here and tell everybody, ‘Feel sorry for me I lost my dad.’ Well, a lot of people have lost their dads, but mine was in a different way than others and that got me more than anything.
That’s probably why I couldn’t maintain myself and do the things I needed to do at the time, because personally I lost my spirit in all of it. I fought a lot of things for a year. That’s all behind me now, but that’s something nobody ever knew. So while I was getting beat up on the racing side of it, nobody knew what was happening personally. I should have never brought that up, but that was something, I know why I wasn’t racing. I could have run trucks, I could have run other things and chose not to do that. I wasn’t in it anymore, but now I’m fired up.
On this season being his last chance
This is the last chance I want… it may be my last chance, but it will be the fairest chance I’ve gotten. My whole team’s like that. The good thing is we have nothing to lose, and we have everything to gain. I can already tell you we’re a team that doesn’t have as much money as any of the bigger teams. I can tell you we’re probably going to miss races because it’s going to rain and we don’t have the points and we’re not going to buy the points. I can tell you the negatives right now, let’s lay those out on the table.
I can tell you this right now. I’m not a bad guy, Tony Furr is not a bad guy, none of the guys on our team are bad guys, but they’re all guys who believe in what’s right and will stand up for what’s right no matter the situation they’re in. I don’t get caught in the political battles of anybody because if you say ‘that’s black’, that’s black, it’s not white. A lot of that happens within organizations in any business.
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