It’s been over nine years since Jeremy Mayfield was banned from NASCAR after testing positive for meth. The controversy ruined his career in the sport; despite Mayfield’s repeated denials, some were left thinking the driver was an addict.
But now, recent events have those people starting to believe his side of the story.
Once news broke Aug. 6 NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France was arrested for driving under the influence and possession of Oxycodone, social media was flooded with Mayfield supporters. Dug out from the archives was a 2009 quote in which the driver made some pointed accusations along these lines.
“Brian France out there talking about effective drug policy, it’s kind of like Al Capone talking about effective law enforcement,” he said back then. “That’s the way I feel about it. The pot shouldn’t be calling the kettle black, you know what I’m saying? And I think the world needs to hear that, too.”
It took nine years to prove it, but it turns out Mayfield’s claims were right. The powerful leader who banned him for failing a drug test was using drugs himself.
“This goes way back, and it’s still true today, that I would never say something on the radio or TV or in an article or anything I’ve done for the media… I would never say it unless I was 100 percent sure that it’s the truth,” Mayfield told Frontstretch after France’s arrest. “I wasn’t going to say anything that… people would come back and say, ‘Oh, you lied about that or lied about this.’ I wouldn’t do that.”
Mayfield feels he has been proven right on a number of other accounts as well. A brief summary of claims and supposed proof can be found in the tweet below.
— r/NASCAR on Reddit (@NASCARonReddit) August 6, 2018
“I was telling the truth,” he said last week. “I was telling the media exactly what [was going on] without throwing anybody under the bus.”
But when the news broke about France, Mayfield didn’t respond with joy or attack France’s character. Instead, he said, “God works [in] mysterious ways… He can do more in five minutes than we can do in five lifetimes.”
This from Shana. pic.twitter.com/0YFvJr0Woi
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) August 7, 2018
“My wife [Shana Mayfield] and I have been through a lot over the last nine or 10 years, and throughout all this, we’ve been beat down… We feel like we’ve been on an island by ourselves,” Mayfield said. “When you feel like the whole world’s against you sometimes, there ain’t but one place to turn and one thing that can make a difference, and that’s God.”
Mayfield may be quick to forgive France but that doesn’t fix his tattered reputation. That’s where hope rises these days that the driver will get people to believe the most important part of his story: he has never used meth.
“That was all Brian’s deal that happened the other day… that was all on him, but yet, everybody was able to look back at the comments I’ve made and then connect the dots between us,” Mayfield said. “The only thing I could hope was somebody would believe me one day.”
For those not familiar with the case, in a five-year span, Jeremy Mayfield went from NASCAR’s poster boy to public enemy No. 1.
On Sept. 11, 2004, Mayfield made a late-race pass to win the cutoff event at Richmond Raceway and jumped from 14th in points to ninth. That secured him one of the final spots in NASCAR’s inaugural Chase for the Cup. It was one of the most exciting moments in the sport’s history, temporarily giving hope that Brian France’s unpopular changes to the point system and creation of a postseason would be a success. The following year, Mayfield won in August and made the Chase again as both driver and sport reached their peak.
But it all came tumbling down after that. Mayfield’s crew chief, Kenny Francis, was moved to teammate Kasey Kahne for 2006. A difficult year paired with a public spat involving owner Ray Evernham; Mayfield was released from his premier Dodge ride by midsummer. He struggled mightily after leaving Evernham Motorsports, never again earning a top-10 finish before starting his own team in 2009. Driving an underfunded, single-car effort, the former postseason contender was simply trying to survive in the sport.
Instead, he got kicked to the curb. On May 2, 2009, also at Richmond Raceway, Mayfield failed the sport’s random drug test and competed in what has been the final NASCAR race of his career. According to the doctor NASCAR used for the test, Dr. David Black, Mayfield tested positive for meth.
Opinions still vary on whether or not the test results were legitimate. Mayfield claims to this day that it was a mixture of his prescribed Adderall and over-the-counter Claritin, which he informed Dr. Black of. Mayfield could’ve enlisted in the Road to Recovery program that we’ve since seen AJ Allmendinger and Spencer Gallagher go through. However, he didn’t want to admit guilt and be labeled a drug addict.
Mayfield instead took legal action against NASCAR and he won an injunction, temporarily lifting his suspension. The catch was that Mayfield had to pass another drug test given by Black. Mayfield failed this test, too, but passed a separate one conducted by LabCorp less than an hour later. But this second test didn’t matter to NASCAR; it considered Black’s test to be superior to LabCorp.
That’s right: NASCAR didn’t consider LabCorp, one of the largest and most-used labs in the world for companies’ drug tests, to be a reliable source. And no matter what any expert said on the issue or evidence Mayfield provided, NASCAR would not budge on the issue.
One doctor stated that had Mayfield used the amount of meth the test said was in his system, he’d either be dead or a chronic user. If you’ve ever seen a chronic meth user, then you know its deadly effects. It can take beautiful people and whip them into a zombie within a fairly short timeframe. It’s difficult to believe Mayfield would have been winning races just a few years earlier had he been a chronic user and he would certainly not still be racing now on dirt tracks.
No one will ever know for sure, but one theory is that the Adderall/Claritin combination caused Mayfield to fail the first test and Black or France rigged the second one. NASCAR had just instituted its new drug policy in 2009, so it couldn’t have word getting out that the test might be faulty. Plus, Claritin was a sponsor at the time. It was risky to have word get out that the product might make someone on Adderall fail a drug test.
Mayfield’s NASCAR career was pretty much over in 2009 before the suspension; he was a backmarker for his own team at the time. Still, he spent most of his money in a legal battle against NASCAR. In the end, Mayfield ended up losing on a technicality — NASCAR has waivers for drivers to sign before they race saying they can’t take legal action against the sport.
Now 49 years old, Mayfield claims the evidence remains in his corner.
“That’s something you can always look back on is you can look at my whole career and you could talk to anyone in the garage area that was around me every single day,” he said. “All my team members, all the other drivers, everybody; not one person could ever say I was driving a race car or even in the garage area or been around me where I’ve been impaired on anything, alcohol, drugs, anything. And that’s something that I’m proud to say.
“Brian France painted that picture of me. Not really NASCAR, just him.”
The five-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner said he doesn’t have a problem with anyone else in NASCAR.
“I think it just became personal between [France] and I,” Mayfield said. “That’s all it was, but yet the France family still owns NASCAR. And I don’t see that Brian can just get fired, and he’s gonna go away and everything will be lovely. I just don’t see that happening… I just don’t think he’s going to give his spot up that easy.”
Mayfield said he was shocked when he heard that France was arrested.
“I never saw it coming with him [France] holding a DUI or drug charges because usually he would get himself out of them before anybody heard about them,” Mayfield said. “He’s got enough money to make anything happen.”
It’s notable how empathetic Mayfield is to France’s cause despite their bad blood. He was initially hesitant to talk about the current NASCAR CEO because he said, “I don’t want to knock him down. I know he’s going to get knocked down a lot right now, and I want to be the last one to do that. I know how that feels.”
Of course, those charges have no impact on Mayfield’s current status in the sport. Moving forward, about the only way you would ever see him involved in NASCAR again would be if the Frances sold it, which has been rumored to happen.
In the meantime, the Owensboro, Ky. native can be seen riding the cushion on dirt tracks such as Toccoa Raceway in Georgia, Tri-County Race Track in North Carolina or Travelers Rest Speedway in South Carolina. He still works full-time as a driver, racing most weeks for Safety Plus Racing owned by Taylor Griffith. But Mayfield longs to bring back Mayfield Motorsports and move up to World of Outlaws in sprint cars. One goal specifically is to race in the Knoxville Nationals.
“Now I’m trying to go and win some big races on dirt before my career comes to an end,” Mayfield said. “I’d like to [race in the Knoxville Nationals]. I don’t know when it’d be, but I’m certainly working on it. I would love to do that. We got some things working that could come about that would allow us to do that.”
No matter what else Mayfield accomplishes in his career, he said what people remember him most for is, “Hey, Jeremy!” in reference to this Dodge commercial he was in.
Now, with his comments proven true on France, Mayfield hopes the drug claims fade away and people can focus on those happier memories instead.
Special thanks to Vinnie Bonfigli and GarageTalkLive.com for helping set up this interview.