Continued from part 1 Q: Any kind of difference you've noticed on the track as we head toward the final stretch here? Mayfield: Yeah, I have. I've noticed that everyone we've been racing has been running well, and we're all fighting for the...
Continued from part 1
Q: Any kind of difference you've noticed on the track as we head toward the final stretch here?
Mayfield: Yeah, I have. I've noticed that everyone we've been racing has been running well, and we're all fighting for the same spot and that's pretty cool. Everybody's just done a great job, I mean, there's a lot of great race teams out there right now that are running good and you can tell that with this new points system, that everybody from all the way back has stepped it up and has their programs running good. That's the biggest thing. I'm starting to notice the cars not racing in points. I mean, wherever they're at during the race, I used to never worry about that. I never even thought about that, but now I keep an eye on them and so do my crew guys, you know? Kenny and them let me know every day that the cars around us were in trouble, and just do the best we could to bring the thing home, and just have a good day, and that's what we did. So I've noticed we been racing a little different in that aspect.
Q: You pushed Ryan Newman out of the top 10 with your seventh-place run this weekend at Watkins Glen. But you know, he's going into this weekend having won the past two races at Michigan, yet you've been hot over the past five weeks. Whose position is the better one, do you think?
Mayfield: We're in the best position because I think it's going to be extra hard for him as far as the bad luck and stuff they've had going on the past couple weeks. They're going to really have to do something big this week to pull out of that, and I think the pressure's really on them now, and not on us. And I feel like going into Michigan and knowing what we know from the last race and what went wrong, that we're going to fix that and race safe. I mean, I know he's won there, and he's going to be great and I'm sure he's going to be very competitive. But I know it's going to be hard to win -- this is just me speaking out loud here -- but I think it'd be hard for him to win that many times in a row there.
Q: What do you think your fans like most in their driver?
Mayfield: I don't know, probably that they're real. You know, that this is who I am, and I'm not one to be totally outspoken, hopefully, but that it's real. I try to be who I am, and the same as I've always been and pretty humble, and hopefully that's what they like. And if they like my driving style, I hope that too, because I'm getting back to where I left off two or three years ago it feels like. Hopefully the ones that have been with me, like me for my driving style, and hopefully like my personality.
Q: You've really found a home like Ray Evernham now it seems like, after you've been around a while. Can you talk about that?
Mayfield: Yeah, I certainly feel that way. Ray and I have become just really good friends in the last year and a half or so, and it's just amazing that we've been through a lot of hard times in the beginning of our career together, I guess you'd say. And then, all of a sudden, things just turn around for us, and I think that with Ray and my relationship, I mean, I'll retire here. I love this place, and I love the direction he's got in going in, and he's just a great guy. We've become super good friends, and hopefully I'll never have to find another ride again anywhere. This is where I want to be, and this is where I want to retire at, and hopefully things we'll keep going as they are and that's what we'll see.
Q: Quite a few drivers are running in the Busch Series on Saturday, as well as the Cup Series this weekend in Michigan, one of them being Kasey Kahne. These guys are right on your heals in the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Does that give them any advantage on Sunday?
Mayfield: Well, if you are outside the top 10, and you're racing like we've been racing, and we're going to continue racing like that, you've got to go all out. I mean, you can't hold anything back, and you've got to put everything on, and everything's got to be dead on -- and that's the pit stops and all. And the race teams that can do that and capitalize on other people's mistakes will be the ones that'll end up in good shape there. But, I think that I like the position I'm in now, we're going to continue what we're doing, and we're going for ninth, eighth, seventh, and just keep moving up. We're not looking back as 10th as being the cutoff; we're just going to keep moving forward and get all we can get here.
Q: Was there a defining moment that changed things for the team for the better, or that changed your relationship with Ray?
Mayfield: That's a good question. Really, I think about probably a year ago. We just got to the point where nothing was really working for us, and I knew that with the direction Ray was going with the race teams, that that was the way to go, that was the right thing to do. I feel like he knew that I could drive the racecars, but we just weren't gelling together. Not he and I as much, I guess you can say we just weren't producing. We weren't really performing, and then, all of a sudden, it was just like a light came on, and I don't really know what it was, but all of a sudden we just started clicking and running better, and Ray's and my relationship got stronger and better, and it was just like a snowball effect. It just took off, and he'd always said that. It's just that the little things would happen that will do that if you've got a good race team. And he's also done a good job putting the right people in place around me. I mean, I'm probably not the easiest person to get along with as far as racecars and all that stuff, but I feel that he's done an outstanding job getting the right people around me that could work with me, and I could work with them. And I think that's probably the biggest turnaround. I mean, just the people, and as far as he and I and the snowball thing, our relationship just keeps getting stronger and stronger everyday and better and, great guy. I mean, I love him to death, and I feel that we've got a strong future together because of that. So, I mean, not really one thing defines that moment, it's just a lot of things that were built up together there.
Q: But was there like one race, or one incident? I remember when you won the pole. Was it soon after that?
Mayfield: Last year? Yeah, it was probably. I mean we'd run good one week, and we'd feel really good about it, but then bad another week, like at the beginning of last year. So, you never were for sure, what that moment was going to be. So every time I had my confidence up, it was all getting down the next week, and I think the team had that same thing going on. Then towards the end of the year, we started really rolling and being consistent, and running in the top five, top 10 every week, and that probably was the biggest change. I want to say the last probably 10 or 15 races last year. Through that whole little period there was a change for everything for me, you know, for myself personally at Evernham Motorsports, and Ray and I, we decided, let's stay together and let's make this thing work, and we've done that. He's done everything he's said he'd do also, and that was all in that range of time.
Q: With you traveling the circuit to new venues, what differences do you see in fans' response? What's the most unique thing you've seen from fans?
Mayfield: It's just unbelievable. I guess you'd say it's the race fans' response we get out there. Not just us, but the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. When you roll into town, whether it's a new place or an old place, the new places are just unbelievable, and by the time you think that that's the most excited you've seen a bunch of race fans, the next week you go back to a place that you've been to forever, and they're the same way. I think that the enthusiasm and the excitement of what NASCAR does... I mean, every show we go and put on now is unbelievable. I think it keeps everybody, not just the new fans, but even the old fans, it just keeps them on their feet, and it keeps them always excited about something. It doesn't ever seem like there's a dull moment in this world, and NASCAR and Nextel have both done a great job this year really promoting and getting fans like that. You know, I can't really say if there's one unique thing other than it just amazes me at how many people enjoy and love our sport.
Q: Any plans to test on the repaved Martinsville Speedway?
Mayfield: Yeah, I'm sure one of the three of us will. You know, Kasey and I tested there earlier this year, and I'm not sure, are they going to have it done for the next race here? (Yes) Man, that's probably the best thing I've heard all year. I hated that surface there. You couldn't get any grip, the racing wasn't very good, and I'm just terrible there. So, yeah, hopefully we'll be able to test there. I know we've saved a couple more for the last few races there. It'd be great to test there, and I'm looking forward to it if we can, but if not, I'm sure we know hopefully enough of what we've got going with our cars that we should be OK there anyway. I'm just really glad to hear that Martinsville's doing that, because that's what they needed.
Q: Last week Kasey was talking about the relationship with Bill and the team. What's Bill's interaction with the team now, and what's the general attitude? He seems to be having a lot more fun.
Mayfield: Bill's been awesome. He's been great this year. He's done a lot of testing for us, and every time I see him he's happy, and I think he's just really enjoying what he's doing. A lot of that, too, is just spending time with his family. I think his son's racing now, or starting to race go-karts, and I think Bill's really got a new outlook on everything. He's just done a great job. He's just done an unbelievable amount of testing for us, and as a matter of fact, I think he's in Kentucky either today or tomorrow testing other stuff. I mean, he's up there all the time testing for us, and I think that a lot of what's helped us grow and make our racecars better has come from Bill testing for us and doing a lot of stuff for us that's really helped Kasey and me both.
Q: After you went to Evernham from Penske, and there were struggles, was there ever a moment when you said, why can't I get it?
Mayfield: Yeah, that was definitely going on. I think we all had so many high expectations of each other. Whether Ray and I, and the team and I, or whatever, and you know when you go into a situation like that and it doesn't work, even the first couple of races, even the test. It's just like the bottom's knocked out from under you, and it takes a long time to prove that and build back up where you need to be, and there's been a bunch of times when I've been like, 'What's going on?' And I couldn't figure it out, and Ray couldn't figure it out. That's when it comes down to people, and we've got great people. Let me tell you, we've got awesome people that work at Evernham Motorsports. But it's the kind of deal where if you don't put them all in the right places, it's like you've got everybody that's great in their positions, but if they're not communicating well, then nothing's going to happen. You don't really get far enough like you need to be, and that's what we've got going on now. I mean, little things I say on the radio that if I were on another team, they probably wouldn't understand for nothing, and that same way with this team here. Now that they understand when I say that it's doing this, or the car's doing that, we already know what the magnitude of that is and Kenny and Josh and the guys know how big of a change to make on the car. And if you don't have that, it's hard to run good anywhere. There were definitely times that I was thinking this wasn't going to work and we'd be parting ways, and we just kept working through it. And like I said, Ray's just done an awesome job and a great job for building that feeling around me that it's all about the people, and we just kept going from there.
Q: Were you concerned about your future or your career?
Mayfield: Oh, definitely. There were points where I was like, 'You know, it's good when everything's going great, and your stock's up, you can get a ride anywhere, you know in a racecar.' But, also, when it's down, you just keep going downhill further and further. And that doesn't matter if that's the driver, or if we're having bad pit stops, or if things are going wrong, or the car's not handling. The driver's still the one that everybody reads in that paper that finished 38th or 23rd or in the back, and it doesn't take long for everything you've gained in your career to lose it all. As far as your credibility and reputation and stuff, as far as being a driver, there's definitely times I was wondering what I was going to do with my future and I'm sure Ray was too, you know, about looking for a driver. So, the good thing about it was that we were both honest with each other and just kept working through it. Now, I'm just thankful everyday for Ray sticking with me and believing in me and putting people around me to get the job done.