Mayfield has arrived as superstar By Shawn A. Akers MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Jan. 19, 1999) Jeremy Mayfield doesn't have to answer any more questions about when he is going to win his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series race. He took care of that last...
Mayfield has arrived as superstar By Shawn A. Akers
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Jan. 19, 1999) Jeremy Mayfield doesn't have to answer any more questions about when he is going to win his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series race. He took care of that last June at Pocono Raceway, when he took the checkered flag in the Pocono 500.
The questions for Mayfield this year could be, "What now," or, can he win multiple races each year from here on out, and, has he matured enough to contend for a championship.
For the answers to those queries and more, stay tuned to Penske-Kranefuss Racing's No. 12 Mobil 1 Ford Taurus team in 1999.
Although the team's performances fell off in the latter part of last season, Mayfield still finished seventh in the points race, his first-ever top-10 finish. He even had a chance to lead the points early on in the year, getting a taste of what he expects to be a long run up front for him and his team.
In short, Mayfield said he feels he's finally arrived as a NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver.
"I really do think that's the case," said Mayfield, who ended the 1998 campaign with 12 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 33 starts. "Last year was a great year for me. I went through some times and some things I needed to go through as a driver to mature into a Winston Cup champion someday. I'm sure this year I'll go through more of that.
"But, you have to be able to get yourself in position to be able to do that, and I was very fortunate to be with a team that could get me to that position. I feel like now that I am here, I know what I want in a race car, and I know which direction I'm headed in. We just have to go through '99 and hopefully this time next year and I can here and say, 'hey, I learned a lot in '99, and I'm ready for 2000.'"
First things first. The upcoming season brings a lot of promise for the Mobil 1 Taurus team. Mayfield and crew chief Paul Andrews have put a year of blood, sweat and tears behind them, a year that produced the desired results.
Now it's up to the entire team, Andrews said, to build on those results and improve upon their standing.
"There's no doubt we had a solid year last year, but there's still a lot of things this team has got to learn, me included as well as Jeremy," Andrews said. "We're very pleased with how well we've progressed to this point, and we feel like we're a top-five contender if not a legitimate championship contender. We're going to continue to work hard and strive to reach for the height of the bar that the 24 team (the DuPont Refinishes team with driver Jeff Gordon) has set. Knowing where they're at makes us work even harder."
A huge factor in the Mobil 1 team's success last season was its association with the No. 2 Miller Lite team and driver Rusty Wallace. The veteran Wallace's role as a teammate to an up-and-coming youngster like Mayfield proved to be a tremendous asset.
The working relationship between the two also seemed to help Wallace, who wound up finishing fourth in the standings in 1998.
"Our relationship has been great from the get-go, and I think now it's a lot better than it's ever been," Mayfield said. "We gained a lot more respect for each other as the year went along. Rusty and I worked very well together, and we never once had a single ounce of problems. It's just gotten better.
"We've gotten comfortable around each other. His team chemistry is as good as it's ever been, and ours is very good, probably the best I've ever seen on any team. We didn't lose any employees. So now, we're all pumped up and focused on the same thing, and that's winning races and a championship."
The road to a championship always begins in Daytona, and Mayfield certainly has cause to be optimistic headed there in February. Last year, he led part of the Daytona 500 before eventually finishing a respectable third.
He also finished fourth in the October Pepsi 400 at the 2.5-mile tri-oval, as well as 13th and fifth in the other two restrictor-plate races at Talladega Superspeedway. Mayfield said he was also pleased with how well test sessions went earlier this month at Daytona International Speedway.
"We feel really good about our chances there," Mayfield said. "We were fourth-fastest in (Ford) testing, and Rusty was the fastest. You take a look at our record down there last year and we had some great performances. So yeah, I think we've got a great shot at winning that race. I know from a personal standpoint it would mean a lot to get a win down there early in my career."
That way, he won't have to answer questions about it much later on.
Source: NASCAR Online