Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mayfield sounded sincerely excited at Daytona back in January

I think we’ve discussed the whole issue of whether I have a "favorite" driver or not before, but in case I am wrong I’ll begin here with a quick review.
I pull for the best story. Good stories sell newspapers and get people to look at, which is pretty much the whole point of what I do. They also make this job easier, and after the kind of day I had Monday getting back from Rochester, N.Y., to Charlotte (thanks a pants-load, Delta) anything that makes it easier is fine by me.
Having said that, I am a human being (despite what some of you might think!), so there are some guys you wind up developing better relationships with than others.
One of the guys that I’ve really come to enjoy talking to a great deal over the years is Jeremy Mayfield. I think he’s a good guy and a good racer, and it’s always nice to see somebody like that have success.
In January of this year at Daytona testing, I walked up to Jeremy in the garage and asked him if he was OK with the changes that car owner Ray Evernham had made to his No. 19 Dodge team.
Not only was he OK with it, Mayfield said, he was enthusiastic about it. He told me I’d be wrong, dead wrong, if I didn’t predict his team would make the Chase this year.
"I’ve got a better race team right now than I had last year," Mayfield said at Daytona in a news conference after he and I had talked. "…Look at average finishes, average starts, laps completed. We didn’t lead the most laps. We made the top 10 running like that. If we made the top 10 last year running like that, what’s going to happen this year if we get just a little bit better? That’s where we’re at.
"I understand what David said. Yeah, we switched teams and a lot of people are different, and this, that or another, but from my point of view it’s as good or better as it’s ever been. The 9 and 19 are closer than they’ve ever been. They’re working together. They’re helping each other. Our cars are the same. It’s a tight-knit group right now. …I know we’re quiet and don’t say a whole lot, but Ray Evernham and Dodge and myself and everybody on the 9 and 19 and 10 car, we’re going to win races and we’re going to be in the top 10 in points.
"I told David I just didn’t want to make him look bad. I’ve done it two years in a row and I can do it again. I’d hate to see you (speaking about me) picking odds at Vegas. If you worked out there you’d be in big trouble. I’m just joking, but I’m trying to make a point. We’re a better race team and this year we’ll show you."
Now, Jeremy is saying that he didn’t have any say-so in the changes that were made to his team late last year and that didn’t say anything bad about it earlier this year because he knew it wouldn’t do any good.
One thing about this job is that all I can do is go talk to people and ask them about what’s happening. Sometimes you know people are talking in code, but Mayfield seemed sincere in January and I bought it.
Maybe I was naïve, but I though he was really excited about his team and its chances. Or maybe he really was excited, and then got slapped with cold reality when the season started and things started to not work.
Mayfield’s fans are really upset right now at what’s happened to their driver at Evernham Motorsports. I get that. But when Mayfield spoke up at Chicagoland, questioning Evernham’s commitment to the team, he had to know there would be consequences from that. Mayfield says he wasn’t trying to get Evernham to cut him loose, that Evernham had already suggested Jeremy might want to check out his options before that. Whether that’s true or not, Mayfield is now out of the 19 car and free to look for another ride. It didn’t play out, perhaps, exactly the way he wanted it to, but in hindsight it has played out exactly like it was destined to do from way back in January, when all of that optimism was at best misguided and, at worst, delusional.


Anonymous said...

Any truth that the 19 is owned by Ray's wife and he set the team up for failure because of the divorce

Anonymous said...

Silly season has kicked in! I would bet that Elliott Sadler will improve the overall perfromance of the #19 team from the get go...maybe because Ray will start sharing the goodies again among all three teams. Counter point..EMS is in trouble with Kasey's mid season slump. All those wins and not making the chase sure would hurt. The next 4 races are going to be fun!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of his divorce, how about his "close personal relationship" with Erin Crocker?

That is sketchy man...

Anonymous said...

So, what happens when Elliott finds out Evernhams stuff really is crap?

Anonymous said...

Jeremy just won't shut up. I can't imagine this HELPING his career. And to "take shots" at Ray's personal life? I remember Jeremy leaving his "average" wife for some "hottie" (who turned out to be a real ditz [for those of you who watched the "behind the scenes" NASCAR reality show and hearing her going on and on and on and on about NOTHING but clothes closets, shopping, and credit cards]), and then him parading his new "trophy girlfriend (now wife)" around the track in the back of his truck during pre-race only two weeks after he separated from his wife. Now "ain't that the pot?"

okla21fan said...

Sadler was 'excited' at Daytona as well. pass the salt.

Ray and Sadler deserve each other, as both lack integrity these days.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion Evernham (obviously) and Sadler are the sell-outs here. Evernham has some serious issues for being with Erin Crocker. The man is twice her age. It is just disturbing and unethical honestly. From the America I am from, sleeping with the boss is forbidden.

As for Sadler, he always struck me as a down home kind of guy. Driving for the Wood Brothers and Robert Yates Racing just made sense, because those teams had personality. Well Evernham's teams do not. For that Elliot Sadler is a complete phony. I hope his equipment sucks. And don't be fooled by this qualifying effort today, he is driving a junk car, because his name is not Kahne.

I applaud Mayfield for being honest. Evernham took his team from him and then threw him under the bus. If I were him I would have driven the thing down pit road at Indy and looked Evernham in the face. It would have been great for him to say "put your little girlfriend in the car"!