Jeremy Mayfield Has No Second Thoughts on Daytona

No second thoughts for Mayfield By Brett Borden ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 16, 1999) The way NASCAR Winston Cup veteran Jeremy Mayfield sees it, there is only one goal left worth pursuing, and that is a championship. He has entered the 1999 season...

No second thoughts for Mayfield By Brett Borden

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 16, 1999) The way NASCAR Winston Cup veteran Jeremy Mayfield sees it, there is only one goal left worth pursuing, and that is a championship. He has entered the 1999 season with the words happy-to-be-here expunged from his vocabulary.

"Our goals are pretty high," he said. "We're not cocky but we've pretty well decided that 'the best' is all we want to be. A couple of years ago, our goals were to finish the year in the top 15 of the points standings (he finished 13th). Last year, we were hoping to finish in the top 10 and win a race and a pole (he finished seventh in the final standings, won a race at Pocono Raceway and a Bud Pole at Texas Motor Speedway). This year, we're looking at the top.

"We want the championship. That's not cocky, it's realistic. First of all, I think this team is capable of doing that. Secondly, we're just not going to be satisfied with anything else. Why would your goal be to finish second in anything?"

Jeremy Mayfield was in contention to finish first in the Daytona 500 last Sunday. A cut tire with only eight laps to go relegated him to a 20th-place finish, after he had run in the top five virtually all day long.

He has a million reasons to be disappointed he was one of five drivers eligible for the Winston No Bull 5 million-dollar bonus in the race but instead he is focusing on North Carolina Speedway, site of this Sunday's Dura-Lube/Big Kmart 400. Mayfield says that the NASCAR Winston Cup season really begins in earnest with this race.

"The season sort of starts with Rockingham," he said. "Daytona is the first race but it's a totally different deal. You are down there for two weeks, you spend the whole winter preparing for that one race, and it's just a totally different animal than anything else. Rockingham is where the NASCAR season really begins.

"Every year you see guys who have a great Daytona 500, and then you couldn't find them on a milk carton the rest of the season. They put everything they have into the one race, and then they go away. The Daytona 500 is important, no doubt, but no matter how well you do - or how bad you do - it doesn't make or break your season. It's a long, long year and every single race is crucial."

Daytona delivers more prestige, but doesn't give a driver any more points in the championship chase than the next track. Mayfield believes that is the right mind-set of any team that wants to win the championship.

"No, Rockingham isn't the Daytona 500, but they still give you the exact number of points to win it," said Mayfield. "That means Rockingham is just as important as Daytona. We're all racing for points out here. We're trying to win races and trying to win championships. If we get this Mobil 1 Taurus in victory lane at Rockingham then, believe me, the race there is just as important - probably even more important - than the Daytona 500.

"We had a really good test at Rockingham a couple of weeks ago. A year ago we had a great car for this race but I think the one we tested with a couple of weeks ago was even better. We went back to the same car as a year ago and that made a difference. The car we used for the second Rockingham race last year just wasn't as good as this one."

The one the team used for the first one ran up front all day long a year ago. Mayfield, then still an overnight-sensations-in-progress, actually led at the Rock before a late wreck damaged his car enough to drop him to 14th.

"We felt we could have won this race last year," said Mayfield. "We led the thing and ran up front all day, and we felt we were as good as anybody out there. We missed staying out of the wreck by just a couple of inches. It's hard to believe three or four inches could make that big of a difference but that's one of the things about NASCAR racing. I felt we were as good as anybody and better than most. I feel even better this year, and I think we have a shot at winning the thing.

"I can't think of a race this year where I feel we'll be struggling some. We should go every week feeling we have a good shot at winning. I'm not sitting here predicting we'll win these last 33 races but we'll be capable of doing it. Week in and week out, we're going to be pretty good. We'll have our ups and downs just like everybody else but I'm really confident about what we can do."

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeremy Mayfield