Mayfield speaks out SONOMA, Calif. (June 27, 1998) The following is a transcript of a press conference held with NASCAR Winston Cup Series points leader Jeremy Mayfield, the latest first-time winner in the series: HOW HAS THIS WEEK BEEN?...
Mayfield speaks out
SONOMA, Calif. (June 27, 1998) The following is a transcript of a press conference held with NASCAR Winston Cup Series points leader Jeremy Mayfield, the latest first-time winner in the series:
HOW HAS THIS WEEK BEEN? "It's been phenomenal. The whole week has been super for me. It's been a week that I've looked forward to my whole life. The whole race team has felt that way. We feel really good about what we've got going on and about our chances for the championship now. Not only just running week-in and week-out and being competitive, but knowing that we can win. It's just been a whole different week for us. It's been a fun week, yet we know we've got to get back to work. I think probably starting Tuesday we were right back on our program really working hard.
"I couldn't wait to get here. This is one of the first times because I don't run on road courses a lot, this is one of the first times I've come to Sears Point on a Friday morning and feel happy. I'm not going, 'Man, I'm gonna take a provisional. I'm gonna run bad.' I feel really good about it. We tested here and had a great test and it feels great. Right now everything feels good and if we come out of here, even with a mediocre finish, I mean we're gonna come here and run hard, but if we come out here not maybe running as good as we want to because I don't have a lot of experience on road courses, we're still gonna feel great about going into Daytona the following week the rest of the year right now."
ANYTHING THAT STANDS OUT IN YOUR MIND THIS WEEK? "I've had a lot of experiences this week that have been super. The fan support. I did an autograph session Tuesday in Louisville, Kentucky and it was just phenomenal. The fan response, the family, the friends, the racers. If you walk into the race shop right now it looks like something big went on there. There are flowers. Everybody sent flowers. A lot of the drivers have called me. It's been a super week and it's made me feel more respected. I feel that now I'm not just a little bit accepted in this sport, but really accepted by all the drivers by the support I've gotten from them.
"My answering machine was full (when I got home Sunday night). I'm gonna say we had like 70 or 80 calls. Not all of them left message because it would have wore my answering machine out, but it's been like that all week. I just didn't realize that I had this much support, not only in the series itself but outside the series as far as the fans and everybody involved.
"Probably the biggest thing that's made me feel the best are the drivers. The drivers, crew chiefs and car owners that supported me. I thought most of the time when a guys wins everybody's like, 'OK, he won.' Because they didn't win. Man, everybody that I know of that I've seen has been just totally supportive and that's something I've been proud of most is knowing that these guys care about what I've done here."
DOES THAT SURPRISE YOU BECAUSE OF THE AGE DIFFERENCE WITH SOME DRIVERS? "A little bit, but when we're all in this series the ages really don't matter. When we get in the race car we're kind of all the same. You think that sometimes, I do personally, because I am younger than a lot of the veteran guys that have been here. But I've got so much support from all those guys, not only the younger guys in the sport that have not won yet. I really thought that they wouldn't say a lot, but I've had everybody come up to me. The veteran drivers are the ones I felt best about. When you've got Earnhardt, and Waltrip. Jimmy Spencer stopped me this morning. Just everybody that has seen me. Sterling Marlin has called my house. Bobby Hamilton. Everybody."
WHAT DID DARRELL WALTRIP SAY TO YOU? "When I was growing I always looked up to Darrell. I guess the first time I talked to him was on Eli Gold's show and he was totally supportive. I was very supportive of him and I'm glad to see him running good again, just like he's glad to see me running good. The things I've heard from somebody was that Darrell said he was handing over the torch. He told that to me the other night and that's pretty good. When you hear that from Darrell Waltrip saying he's handing the torch over to me, that's definitely a confidence booster and something I'm very proud of that it would come from him."
DIDN'T HE WANT YOU TO DRIVE FOR HIM AT ONE TIME? "Some people have thought that. I think at one time Darrell really didn't know for sure what he was gonna do and I was already driving for Cale (Yarborough) and then started driving for this team. About the time he wasn't really sure what was going on. I thought at that time it would be great to be able to drive for Darrell Waltrip, but I knew that he had to get his deal straightened out for himself. He wasn't sure how much longer he wanted to race, so I had to go on and do what I had to do. We didn't really talk or negotiate anything. He was kind of hearing some stuff and I was hearing the same thing. It would have been a good deal for both of us, but at that point in time I think we both did the right thing."
DID THE WIN RELIEVE A LOT OF PRESSURE ON YOU? "The best part as far as the feeling I've got right now is relief. It's a great feeling. This is the way I always felt when I was running short tracks because I was winning races. I guess it's when your confidence is up so high, it's like nothing can stop that. Nothing can slow your confidence level down. It's hard to get that when you haven't won. When your in this series and you haven't won. 'Yeah, we're running good. We've been running in the top five.' But that only carries you so far.
" At the time we were leading the points, but I really wasn't satisfied with that. I think if I had went all year and won the championship without winning a race, and if I had to stand up in front of the whole crowd at New York I'd be disappointed within myself because I hadn't won. I don't feel like that would be representing the sport as well as I need to be representing it as a champion. But now that all of that's behind me, I feel super. It's just a great feeling to know I can come here to Sears Point and be free and open and race hard and not have to worry about winning.
"I'm gonna be straight up with you. I've been saying a lot, 'The win will come. I'm not worried about it.' But I have been worried about it. Not worried, just concerned that we needed to win and didn't know how to do it because we came up short so many times. It was like we just could never get the full deal going where we could pull it off and now we know what it takes."
DO YOU BELIEVE NOW YOU CAN WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "Oh yeah. There's no doubt in our minds. We feel that way. The reason we couldn't win is because we beat ourselves. All we've gotta do is keep doing what we've been doing that has gotten us here to this point right now. I don't see that changing for a long, long time, for years to come. This whole team is solid. We've been solid all year long. I've never been in that position. I've led points in the ARCA Series and led at Nashville and everywhere I've been, but I only got to run there one year. Everywhere I've been I've only gotten one chance at it. Now we know we've got several chances at it. We've got nothing to lose.
"If we finish second or third, that's great. But it's a good feeling knowing that we're going into it, looking at the rest of the season with nothing to lose. Jeff Gordon, the guys who have won it, they're the ones that has everything to lose. He's won a championship and he wants another one. If he doesn't win another one, they feel like they've lost. If we finish second, that's still a pretty good win-win situation for us. When you go into open-minded like that, like we have been all year long, I think we're gonna be pretty tough. I think it's gonna come right down to the end and we just have to maintain what we have going on right now and not change."
DOES IT TAKE A WIN TO HAVE A YOUNG DRIVER FEEL LIKE HE'S ACCEPTED IN THE FRATERNITY? "I think so, especially when you've got everybody around you in the top group. We all know there are certain cars that run up front week-in and week-out and all those guys have won. To be leading the points or even be second, third or fourth in the points, when you look in that win column. You've got this many top fives and this many top 10s, but zero wins. That's not really a good feeling because you're up in that group where you're supposed to be winning. Yeah, I think definitely, from a driver that's never won that you really feel a lot better about yourself, about your race team, and I think that everybody around you feels better knowing that you are part of that group now."
HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED SINCE DAYTONA? "It's changed for all the better. Even before we went to Daytona my confidence level for some reason was high. I had a feeling over the winter because everything was going well for us. Everything was perfect. This is gonna sound weird, but I felt like I used to feel eight or nine years ago when I was winning in Owensboro (Ky.). I'd go into every season with the confidence level of, 'I'm gonna win and be in the top three every week.' I don't know what the deal was, but something before we started racing, my confidence level was there. I had that feeling. I'm not just saying that now because I've won. I honestly had that. I guess it was the feeling that I knew I had the team, the sponsor, the car owners, the crew chief. Everybody around me was there. I had everything. That's the first time in my Winston Cup career I've had that. Last year we had a decent race team, but it wasn't near what it is right now and I knew that going into this season.
"It's a lot busier, but every year it's gotten a little busier. I've been able to kind of ease into it. It's not like I went from not running good at all or not dealing with the media to, all of sudden, boom, here it all is. I've been real fortunate to be able to have taken the steps I've taken throughout my career to be able to ease up to this point. This is just another step for me instead of maybe five steps at one time. That's something I appreciate. If we would have won at Daytona, it would have been from step five to 10 real quick. Well now, I went from eight to nine, so it hasn't been that big of a jump. If I could look back and say, 'Would I change my career in any way and the way I've done things.' I wouldn't change a thing."
WHAT WAS YOUR WEEK LIKE? "There wasn't a lot of sleep going on (Sunday night). I waited for the car because I fly with the team everywhere. I waited on the guys to make sure the car went through tech and everything was perfect there. Nothing was off. Then we went back to my motorhome and all of us just kicked back and took it in. It was like, 'Man, we just won this thing.'
"After that, I got home around 12:30, 1 o'clock, and when I got there I had several friends and family waiting on me at the house. I didn't get to bed until about 5 o'clock Monday morning, but got right back up and felt like I slept about 15 hours. I didn't have any problem at all even though I only got about three or four hours of sleep. I guess I was still running on adrenaline.
"I guess Tuesday night after I got back from Louisville, I was dead. I died and slept and don't even remember moving around that night."
DID YOU HAVE A PARTY AT THE SHOP? "Yeah. That was something I think everybody should have seen. We had all the top people from Mobil 1 were there. Roger Penske came in, Walt Czarnecki. Everybody was there. That was probably one of the best things of the whole win was having everybody involved and seeing the smiles. Probably one of the best things about Monday night. We had a lot of people from the 2 car. A lot of guys came from Penske South came to our shop and that says a lot about our race team. As bad a day as they had on Sunday, for those guys to come celebrate with us on Monday, that says a lot about both race teams and our organization."
THE BET WITH YOUR TEAM WAS YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO DYE YOUR HAIR BLOND. WHAT HAPPENED? "We were gonna do that Monday. It was pretty neat because I had all the guys come up to me and said, 'We don't want you to change nothing. We want to keep everything just like it is.' That was a great feeling because I was gonna do it. I had no problem with it. I thought it would be pretty cool with this hair sticking straight up and white. They said, 'Let's just keep doing things the same way we've been doing it. Then, when we win the championship you're gonna do your hair.' I told them, 'No problem.' If we win the championship, man, I'll put red, white, blue, whatever color they want."
WHAT ABOUT MICHAEL? "We need to put his black. He's already white. Speaking of Michael Kranefuss, he's been on cloud nine all week long. It's been super. One thing I didn't know until yesterday that really got to me a little bit was I read that Alan Kulwicki's last win was at Pocono six years ago. For us to come back and have our first win be at Pocono in the same race, that really is pretty neat for Paul Andrews. I think we all know how close Paul and Alan were and to be able to that says a lot. That whole win, there was a lot of emotion. Not only Darrell Waltrip, not only our first win, but for Paul Andrews as crew chief."
RUSTY'S HAD SOME ENGINE PROBLEMS, WHAT'S BEEN THE DIFFERENCE? "Early in the year, Rusty had problems with our own engines and then switched to Larry Wallace's engines. Then he had some problems at California with one of Larry's engines and again at Pocono, but we have not had any trouble whatsoever out of ours. I don't know what the reason is. It's not like they're doing anything wrong. The engines aren't blowing up for the heck of it. They're having part failures. It's not like you miss a shift and bend a bunch of valves. This is like pieces breaking. I don't know why. I know they're looking into it. Everybody's concerned about it. We're concerned because we don't want it to start happening to us. Other than that, we've had a perfect engine program. We take a lot of credit as a race team about the way we've been running and one of the reasons we've been running like we have is because of Larry Wallace and Power Tech Engines. I feel like we've got the best engines on the Winston Cup circuit."
IS IT GOOD FOR THE SPORT TO HAVE ANOTHER YOUNG DRIVER WINNING RACES? "I think so. I think it's great for the sport. You've not only got the veteran drivers running good, now you've got some younger guys like Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, myself, and Bobby Labonte. It's a mix and I think the sport needs that. It certainly doesn't hurt anything. We've got a good combination of drivers and it's a mix that brings a lot of different fan types into the sport. I think it covers just about everyone it can cover."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO GORDON SINCE THE RACE? "I haven't seen him since then personally. I know all week long he's given me good comments on different interviews he's done. Jeff and I have a good relationship. We race good together just like we do everybody. I've got nothing but total support from every driver out there. That's probably one of the best feelings I could ever have."
HAS ANYTHING SURPRISED YOU ABOUT THIS WHOLE EXPERIENCE? "I think after the race on the cool down lap when every single car came by me with thumbs up. That was probably my biggest surprise. And then to come down pit road with nothing but race teams lined up to congratulate us. That was probably the biggest surprise. I didn't realize that I had that much support within the garage area."
Source: NASCAR Online