Fontana Jeremy Mayfield on the race and his season

Jeremy Mayfield, driver of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus, is the defending champion of the NAPA Auto Parts 500 and will start third in tomorrow's race. He spent some time in the infield media center this morning talking about this year's race and his...

Jeremy Mayfield, driver of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus, is the defending champion of the NAPA Auto Parts 500 and will start third in tomorrow's race. He spent some time in the infield media center this morning talking about this year's race and his season to date.

JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus

HOW DO THINGS LOOK FOR TOMORROW? Real good. I think this is probably the best we've been here. I don't think I was this good the last time we were here, but you've got to keep working. We've got another practice to go yet and I still feel good about it. I feel like it's a place that we like, a race track we like to run at -- it's big and smooth and it's good racing, so we'll just have to play our cards right and be there at the end and, hopefully, have a shot to win."

HAVE YOU GUYS REDEFINED YOUR GOALS? "I think you've got to do that quite a bit. It's not really losing focus as much as making sure every week you have all of your ducks in a row. You've got to keep everything going right. You can drive as hard as you want to drive and run as hard as you want to run and still not finish where you need to at the end of the day just because somebody wasn't focused on their job. It is a total team effort and you've got to keep it all in perspective week-in and week-out to be consistent."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE RACE HERE LAST YEAR? "Last year was quite a bit different. We got a lap down early and got hot -- everything in the world was happening, but we were still able to come back and win the race. That's what makes the difference when everybody is doing their job because you can make up for when things go wrong. They were able to keep me in that position all day and, luckily, kept Matt (Kenseth) down there for a while on that last stop. We came in for only two tires, but I think he had the best car all day. We were just able to capitalize on our deal at the end."

WERE YOU SURPRISED TO WIN AFTER GOING A LAP DOWN? "Yeah, pretty much but when you've got a good car and you have good stops, you've got to gamble a little bit like putting on two tires instead of four. When you do that, it'll enable you to be in that position to get a lap back."

CAN YOU GIVE US AN OVERVIEW OF THE SEASON? "So far it's not as good as we want to be. We're 28th in points, but we have the potential to be a good, up-front race team week-in and week-out. We've just got to build consistency and keep the team focussed on what our direction is, but right now I'd say I know the potential is there to be wherever we want to be, but as a team we've just got to take advantage of that."

DO YOU HAVE AN ADVANTAGE HERE? "Yeah, a little bit because this is a place I like and we come in here with a lot of confidence. I was pretty excited about getting here and, like I said, it's a place we like to start with. It's a good race track and we were confident when we rolled in. That makes a difference. Between last year and this year with all the controversy, to come back this year is a pretty good feeling."

AFTER QUALIFYING HERE YOU TALKED ABOUT THE NEW CARS YOU'VE BEEN WAITING ON. IS THIS PART OF RUNNING THE SAME CHASSIS AS RUSTY? "Well, just new cars in general. I mean, every car I've been racing all year -- except for the car I had at Vegas and wrecked, which is the one I have here -- they were all really '98 model cars. My 9 car, 10 car and 12 car (chassis numbers used by the team), those are my favorite cars and that's all we really had. Those were all pretty much built in '98 and we've just been working on racing them. We've built new cars since then, but they've been road course cars and things that haven't really showed up. This is a new car here, which has only one race on it. Everytime we run a new style car, we run good and that's shown up again. It's not hard to do that when you've got brand new stuff every week. This is 19 and we've got to 20 and 21 and 22 coming, so I'm gonna say that from mid-season on we should be in good shape. We had good cars and we knew we were gonna have to bite the bullet a little bit, especially when you hear these guys are showing up with new cars every week. You don't hear that out of us very much. All of a sudden you hear (another driver say), 'Well, we qualified good and we've got a brand new car.' That tells you something."

DOES THIS NEW CAR RUN BETTER HERE AT CALIFORNIA THIS YEAR THAN THE CAR YOU WON WITH LAST YEAR? "Definitely. This is a great race car, I feel like it is. It could be the tire. I'm not sure what times are, it could be the tire or track conditions or whatever, but it feels good. It's handling good, running good and we have to capitalize on everybody else's mistakes, instead of giving ours up and letting them capitalize on it."

YOU BUILT SOME MOMENTUM AT THE END OF LAST YEAR, BUT DO YOU GET STUNNED WITH THE BEGINNING OF A NEW YEAR DOESN'T GO RIGHT? "Oh yeah, it definitely stuns you, especially when you've got the potential to win races and you know the team can do it. It's not like you're searching for what it takes to win. We know what it takes to win and run fast, we've just got to keep our stuff together. We came into the year thinking we were gonna be better than what we were and I think sometimes you get yourself in a position where you take for granted what's really going on. You take for granted that, 'Yeah, we can run good and we've got good stuff.' When, in reality, 'No, we don't. We need to built better stuff. We need to be better in every area.' It takes a reality check and that's what we got."

DOES IT TAKE MORE SKILL TO DRIVE THIS TRACK THAN LIKE A DAYTONA OR TALLADEGA? "Yeah, definitely as far as Daytona and Talladega. It's a track where you have to be smooth and you've got to be fast and aggressive. You've got to have everything here. It's pretty amazing. You've got to have good fuel mileage and good pit stops, the driver is just another part of the equation. It all goes back to you've got to have everything going for you that day."

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE SPORT SHOULD DO ABOUT DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA? "If you asked everybody in the garage area you'd get a different opinion. Everybody wants what's good for them, so I'm glad I don't have to make that decision on what to do because it's tough. NASCAR has done a great job of basically keeping us where we are. We've had a good show and they've done a good job in the past in keeping the rules fair and everything else. That's their job. I drive the race car and, as a team, we come here to race under the conditions set, but I wouldn't want to be the one making those decisions."

HAVE YOU STARTED USING THE HANS DEVICE IN YOUR CAR? "I've used a couple of other different devices. I think everybody right now is looking at different things and I want to make sure I've got the best. I do have a HANS system, but I'm having trouble getting used to it right now. I'm pretty happy with the Simpson-type decelerator. It seems like that's gonna be pretty good for us just because it's more comfortable, but there is still a lot of testing going on. I'm gonna run what's best and let the engineers for the different safety divisions worry about that."

IS SIMPSON A HEAD RESTRAINT? "Yeah. He's got a new one that just came out last week, I think. It seems pretty good. There are these nylon straps that when you hit, it doesn't come to a sudden stop. Even the HANS and some other devices out there, when you hit you're head just stops -- your brain is gonna keep going. That's what we've got to think about, and this deal here slows down the movement of the head. Your head still goes forward, but it slows it down and, yet, there are still probably plusses and minuses to all that too. If you could imagine running into a wall wide-open and your head stays still while everything else is still going forward. Your brain does move around and that's why you get concussions, so you've got to look at all sides of that and make sure that you've got the right device for you."

ARE THESE TEAM MEETINGS YOU'VE HAD MORE LIKE A PEP RALLY? WHO TALKS? "We all have, myself, the crew chief, the owner -- Roger Penske -- and Walt. Everybody has been involved in it. You've just got to keep everybody pumped up because we know we can get the job done. That's what is probably the most frustrating is that we do have a great race team and we just need to pull it all together. What does that take? Maybe that takes one guy standing up and pulling everybody together and rallying everyone together. We're not sure yet, but we definitely need something. You can only go so far. We get up there and get pumped up, and then something else will happen because there are so many areas in racing that can go wrong. Yet, we're still running better than a lot of cars out there."

IS THERE ANY BIG DIFFERENCE IN THESE NEW CARS YOU'RE BUILDING NOW? "We have a little bit newer design. It's hard to explain, but it's just little things you make better like pivot points and just fine-tuning the way they're built. It's that type of stuff. I'd definitely say our new style cars are better."

-Ford Racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeremy Mayfield , Roger Penske