Jeremy Mayfield - Driver, No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge New Hampshire International Speedway September 17, 2005 Jeremy Mayfield made the NASCAR Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship for the second year in a row. He is currently seventh...
Jeremy Mayfield - Driver, No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge
New Hampshire International Speedway
September 17, 2005
Jeremy Mayfield made the NASCAR Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship for the second year in a row. He is currently seventh in the points standings. This weekend at New Hampshire, Mayfield will be driving a special "Back in Black" Dodge Charger. He had always wanted to drive a black race car, and Dodge Motorsports designed a special paint scheme for him for the Richmond and New Hampshire races in honor of his win at Michigan in August.
What is your approach to the Chase?
"You've got to function one week at a time, one race at a time and get all you can that weekend. You've just got to make the best of it. When you walk out of the racetrack at the end of the day you know that you've given 100 percent, 110 percent really, and that everyone has done their jobs. If you do that, that's all you can do. That's going for the win -- you've got to try to win if you can. If you put yourself in position to win, you'll at least be in the top five, or if not, the top 10. If you get all you can every race, you take your bad days and try to turn them into good days."
What element has the second year of the Chase brought to the season?
"I think so. It seems like it's broken the season down into two parts now -- the first 26, the first part of the season where your goal is to get in the top 10 -- and after that the goal is to win the championship. So it does seem like it's two seasons now, or not two seasons but two different parts of it. You've got to do the first one to be able to be a part of the second one. It's broken down a little bit, but it has definitely added excitement for the fans and for the sport itself."
How do you approach the first race of the Chase here at Loudon?
"You've got to go out every lap and get all you can. That's what I said earlier. There's no laying back, there's no being cautious, no being safe. You've got to run hard every week. If you're going to win the Championship, you've got to run up front."
Why do you think people like NASCAR so much?
"I don't know. I think it's the way the sport has been brought up, the way it has been approached. We're fan-friendly. Fans can walk in here and be right beside the trucks and see the haulers and the drivers and everything else. I guess it's just exciting. When you stand out there and you've never been to one of these things and they go to the green flag, it's an unbelievable feeling up there in the stands. I remember going to Talladega a long time ago when I was little and it was just an unbelievable feeling. I'm sure you go have your tailgate party and come to the racetrack and have a good time, or watch it on TV, whatever you want to do, but you'll pretty much see it all."
Is your mindset different than last year based on the way you got into the Chase or is it pretty much the same?
"No, not at all. This year is a totally different feeling. It seems like we're going into this year with a more confident feeling. We've got some experience behind us knowing what it takes to get in the thing now and we've done that twice. We feel like we know how to handle the pressure of all of it. Last year there was a lot of pressure going into it, a lot of media, and nobody knew what to expect. There was stuff going on everywhere. Now, we're more relaxed and we're more confident with what we've got going on. We've been together as a team now for several years and that helps a lot. Everybody is confident and ready to go. For somebody that's never been in it, like Rusty, he's all jacked-up and we were like that too a little bit last year. Now, we're more calm and we know what it's going to take to get the job done. I feel like this is our best shot."
Do you feel like you beat the odds since some people picked you to finish 11th or 12th?
"That's better than most of them, because most of them had us around 18th or 19th. I don't understand that, because we're a good race team. Yeah, it didn't look like we performed the last 10 races but we really did, we were running up front before something happened. That's what fuels our fire. The more we get knocked down and drug out, the more we come back. I think we showed that. We're a team that can handle the pressure like that. It's pretty cool. My whole career has been like that. I'm not worried about all that.
"I know that to overcome all that stuff, everybody saying you can't, you can't, you can't, you're not, you're not, you can't do this, you can't do that, I mean we've proven time and time again that we're a pretty strong race team. It's just a matter of time and we're going to be there. If you know our owner up there, you know he's not going to lose. You're betting against the wrong person, I can tell you that."
Do you feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of the NASCAR garage?
"I'm more like Muhammad Ali -- we run our mouth and now we've got to back it up. Along the way we have talked a lot. Last year, I was talking a bunch of stuff when we went into Richmond. We backed it up somehow, I don't know how, but we got lucky on that deal. That's just part of the sport. That's what makes it go around. If there weren't rumors, wasn't something to talk about.... What I'm wondering is what's going to happen when we do win the Championship? What's everybody going to say then? 'Well, they'll be 25th next year.' But we're prepared for it."
What do you see in the crystal ball at Homestead?
"I see the Championship. Man, that's all we're looking at. I know that at the end of this 10-race deal we're all going to be sitting there going we gave 110 percent. That's all we can do, you know. We've got a shot at it, we've got experience at it. We feel like, now, our leader has done been there and done that, so that's our groove to do it. It's not like we go out and wreck every week or run bad. There's no reason why we can't."
What about disadvantage of not having a test left?
"I think it could be an advantage to us because we tested a lot and a lot of the stuff we tested recently will help us in this 10-race stretch. I think that testing could, just 'cause we're out I'm going to say it like this, is it could hurt you because it's going to be a tight stretch here and everybody's kind of worn down anyway. A lot of the teams are and it's going to give us a break when they're off testing. So while Mark Martin is off and gone every week, we're sitting there resting up and ready to go. So he's got a lot left. It can help you or hurt you, you know. We're looking at the positive side of it. We've already learned all we can do. We know as much about our cars as we can know right now, besides wind tunnels and stuff like that we're still testing. We've done all we can do, we're prepared for it and we're ready to go."
Are you predicting a 100 point lead going into Homestead?
"No, not really. That's what Muhammad Ali would do. I predict a little bit of a lead and coming out of there with a strong lead. That's the main thing. Maybe going in as the underdog, no, he wasn't an underdog. Well, picture this. During the 10-race stretch, he talked a lot of stuff, battled his way, won a few, lost a few. All of a sudden everybody thought he was down and here he comes back. What would Muhammad Ali do? He'd be talking a big game, wouldn't he? That's what he'd do going into Homestead and he'd come out of there with a knockout."
Are you going to do the rope-a-dope to get there?
"He bounced off the ropes a couple of times. But the 10th round, that's what it is, here he comes back. They've got him up against the ropes and here he comes with that big right-hander he had, or whatever he had. It would be pretty cool. They always classify this like football -- we've got the playoffs and all that -- but it is a little bit like boxing. We've got 10 rounds here and that's what we've got to look at."
Will you throw one in below the belt?
"We're not afraid to do that. We've got a little bit of Tyson in us, too. Not a lot, but a little bit, we'd bite somebody's ear off, anyway. Not the physical bite the ear off, but it's maybe a cheap shot here and there. Ali wouldn't do that either, would he?"
For Talladega, how important is a drafting partner?
"It's important if you can find one. That's the problem, you know. If you've got a fast car there and you're running pretty good, you've always got drafting partners. You never hear that when the guy is running up front -- 'Well, he lost his drafting partner' -- you don't hear that. But when you've got a car that's a middle-of-the-pack type car, you'll never find one. You'll have one for just a few seconds until you get him up to where he needs to be then he's gone. That's just the way it works. If you've got a good car, I've found out that a drafting partner is not as important as it is if you don't have one. You can sit there, if someone hangs you out, you can sit there and hold your own. If you don't have a good one, you don't have a good car, you go to the back."
Is Talladega the one place where qualifying doesn't mean a thing?
"Yes, except than pit selection. But really, it doesn't mean anything. I hate to say that because we've got a couple of poles there. It really doesn't. The drivers don't really have a lot to do with it. You can qualify wherever. Most of the time, the good cars qualify up front most of the time there. At Daytona you'll see some of the good cars qualify in the back because they've got good downforce. That's the difference. At Talladega, if you've got a good car you're going to be towards the front, anyway. That kind of determines about where you're going to stack up in the field. You don't take a high-drag car, or a car that's got a little more drag to it, to Talladega and qualify good with it. At Daytona you can do that and get by with it."
Do you think we're going to see a streak by a driver in the 10-race Chase?
"I think you're going to see one here shortly. I'm hoping that, and I'm just going to tell you the truth, that you've seen the 20 car peaked out, they got on a streak there, Biffle did, Johnson did, and I feel like we haven't reached that potential yet. I feel like we're still getting better as a team going into the Chase. I do feel like we're getting better and better and we haven't reached our potential yet. So I'm hoping that we'll peak out about the time the top 10 comes around. We usually, like last year, the last 10 races we ran pretty good, we just had bad luck. Stuff happened to us. If we can get through the luck part of it, I think we're going to be in good shape. Hopefully, we'll get on a 10-race winning streak here. It would be pretty good."