Stakes are high for Mayfield in 600 Shawn A. Akers CONCORD, N.C. (May 19, 1998) Jeremy Mayfield is always anxious to race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But considering the circumstances surrounding Mayfield heading into Sunday's Coca-Cola 600,...
Stakes are high for Mayfield in 600 Shawn A. Akers
CONCORD, N.C. (May 19, 1998) Jeremy Mayfield is always anxious to race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But considering the circumstances surrounding Mayfield heading into Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, one can understand why he's even more excited than usual this week. There's a lot at stake for Mayfield, 28, driver of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus.
For instance, for the first time in his career, he leads the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings. He's also coming off a pair of victories this past weekend at Charlotte, in his No Bull 25 qualifying race, and the Winston Open, the preliminary to The Winston all-star race.
And then there's the matter of the $1 million he has a chance of pocketing should he get to Victory Lane in the Coca-Cola 600, via his participation the "Winston No Bull 5," courtesy of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. It adds up to the biggest weekend to date in Mayfield's young NASCAR Winston Cup Series career.
"Every year the 600 is a race you look forward to, but I think we're looking forward to it more than ever," Mayfield said. "A lot of the reasons are pretty obvious. We're leading the point standings, we've been running well and, if nothing else, it's the next race.
"It's exciting. The media is going to be right there, and I'm just excited to be a part of the Winston No Bull 5 and NASCAR in its 50th season. We're going to do everything we can to win the million."
Mayfield had a lot of fun last weekend during the festivities leading up to and including The Winston. After leading the entire way in his No Bull 25 qualifying race on Friday, Mayfield dominated the field in the Winston Open Saturday night and won the event for the first time to transfer into The Winston.
He wound up having engine problems in The Winston, but that couldn't put a damper on Mayfield's spirits.
"We had a great weekend," Mayfield said. "To be honest, we felt we had a great chance for making a strong run in that last race Saturday, but we had a little bad luck that put us out. Still, we felt like we had a pretty strong car. It was a pretty wild night, but I sure would have liked to have been a part of that deal at the end."
Should Mayfield take the checkered flag first, the $1 million payoff, plus his race winnings, would rank among the most profitable first career victories in motorsports history. Mayfield has posted five top-five and six top-10 finishes in the first 10 races of the season and leads the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings by 36 points over Terry Labonte.
Mayfield, however, is only one of two Penske-Kranefuss drivers with the opportunity to take home the Winston No Bull 5 million. Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford, also finished in the top-five in the Daytona 500 and can win the cash prize with a win at Charlotte.
If he does win, Wallace will snap a 39-race winless streak, dating back to the Pontiac 400 at Richmond last March. The current drought is the second-longest of his NASCAR Winston Cup career. He went 72 races to begin his career before posting a win.
"We were close to winning this race last year," Wallace said. "We led a ton of laps, but Jeff Gordon came on strong and we had to settle for second. We'll be shooting for the big pot of gold this time around, and we can't wait to have a shot at it. We're gonna give it everything possible to make the Winston guys pay off."
Wallace is currently fourth in the standings, 73 points behind Mayfield.
Ken Schrader, Bobby Labonte and Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt are the other three contenders for the $1 million prize at Charlotte. The top-five finishers at Charlotte are then eligible to win the $1 million at the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis in August, and then likewise the top-five at Indianapolis for the Southern 500 at Darlington in September, and then the top finishers at Darlington can win $1 million at the Winston 500 at Talladega in October.
With so much on the line at Charlotte, Mayfield is especially thrilled to have Wallace as his teammate now.
"I feel like having Rusty in the race will help us," Mayfield said. "Charlotte is a place where we both run well and we're going to be able to race together. You won't ever see the No. 2 and the No. 12 race each other unless it comes down to a win. With this million dollars, though, we might just have to work something out."
Source: NASCAR Online