Daytona Pepsi Jeremy Mayfield Confident

Mayfield heading to Daytona with confidence By Shawn A. Akers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 13, 1998) In February, Jeremy Mayfield gave a strong indication of just how well he'd do this season by running third in the season-opening Daytona 500...

Mayfield heading to Daytona with confidence By Shawn A. Akers

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 13, 1998) In February, Jeremy Mayfield gave a strong indication of just how well he'd do this season by running third in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

The driver of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus also earned his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory this season, and is currently sixth in the series standings.

Now, he wants to prove that the first run at Daytona, in February, wasn't a fluke. He'll take a lot of confidence into Saturday's running of the Pepsi 400 at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, the first-ever series race ever to be held there at night, under the lights.

"We feel pretty good right now," Mayfield said. "Not only are we coming off a great finish at Talladega but we're heading to a track that's been pretty good for this Mobil 1 bunch the past few years. We've had some really good cars and some really good runs at Daytona, and we think we can do that again."

Mayfield is coming off a fifth-place finish Sunday at Talladega SuperSpeedway, a race that saw him run with the leaders much of the day and lead some of the race. He passed Bobby Labonte on the last lap to take fifth and to move into sixth in the standings, two points ahead of Labonte. He's just 45 points behind fifth-place Jeff Burton.

The run at Talladega was an especially encouraging one for Mayfield and the Mobil 1 Taurus crew. So much so that Mayfield superstitiously changed his hair color for the Winston 500 last weekend.

"We changed our luck a little bit at Talladega," Mayfield said. "I just felt like it was time to do it (Mayfield, following the lead of many of his crew members, dyed his hair platinum blonde the week of the Talladega race). I had said I would dye it if we won a race and we won at Pocono in June. At the time, the thinking was to keep everything the same, not to change anything. Well, we ran well most of the time but our finishes weren't quite what we wanted.

"I figured it was time to try something different, and maybe it worked. Fifth was a pretty decent finish at Talladega. Four guys were happier than we were but we were a happier than 38 other guys. Yeah, it will stay dyed for Daytona. It's not like there is an off-on switch for my hair color. I'm not sure I'm going to leave it this way forever. I guess I'll let it grow on back to its regular color.

Mayfield has fared well at Daytona in recent races. In addition to his top-five in the Daytona 500 in February, he was sixth in the 1997 Daytona 500 and 13th in the Pepsi 400. He'll need another strong finish to keep pace with the contenders in the point standings.

"Like everybody else, Daytona is going to be a really important race for us as far as the points are concerned," Mayfield said. "Bobby (Labonte) is right behind us, just like we were right behind him going into Talladega. Jeff (Burton) isn't that far in front either, and Bobby and I both have our eyes on that spot, too.

"It looks like (Jeff) Gordon pretty much has the championship wrapped up but that doesn't mean the rest of us aren't going as hard as we can go for as many positions as we can get in the final standings."

Preparing Mayfield's car for a strong run is the job of Paul Andrews, the crew chief for the No. 12 team. And Andrews says Daytona is about as tricky a place as they come, especially with the added wrench of running at night.

"The car has to be just right for a Daytona or a Talladega," Andrews said. "There isn't room for much error, if any at all. As tight as these cars run and with hundredths of seconds separating as many as five or six positions, the littlest thing can make the biggest difference. Everything from your chassis to your engine to the wax on the body has to be just right.

"The start of the race is like sending your kid to school. There isn't a whole lot you can do once that race starts at Daytona. Sure, if you're off on the chassis or something you can do some things but, for the most part, you go with what you have. The hardest part is the 'body English' while you're watching them on the television or down the frontstraight. You can actually be physically sore the morning after a plate race from all the leaning you're doing, trying to 'drive' the car while you're watching it run."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Bobby Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield