Loudon: Dodge - Jeremy Mayfield interview

JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Mayfield has scored three straight top-10 finishes and five straight top 15s. "It seems like the last six or seven weeks we've kind of turned the corner. I think we had a career...

JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid)

NOTE: Mayfield has scored three straight top-10 finishes and five straight top 15s.

"It seems like the last six or seven weeks we've kind of turned the corner. I think we had a career low at Charlotte when we got in a wreck in the Winston Open. That's about as low as I've ever been in my Winston Cup career. We came back for the 600 and thought we were going to be good again, and we got in a wreck there. It seemed like we woke up and everybody started pulling in the same direction after that. Nothing changed except everybody on our race team stuck together. Everybody on the team felt they could get the job done. It was just a matter of putting our heads together and doing it."

IS IT IMPORTANT HOW A TEAM ACTS WHEN THINGS ARE GOING BAD?

"It's hard to get that. The hard part is when you go through stuff like that, and everybody on that team has been on a winning team before. Ray (car owner Evernham) has done everything. Everybody who works on the team has been on winning race teams, and I've been on winning race teams. To go through what we went through has made us stronger than ever I feel like. We stuck it out and stuck together. When you go through times like that, I think it's going to make us a team to be reckoned with in the future. I'm real confident in that now. We understand what's making our team better, what's making our cars better. I guess you could say it's brought our performance up where it needs to be. We understand what's going on. We understand what makes our cars fast. From that, hopefully we can be competitive week in and week out because of what we've been through."

HAVE YOU BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS PART OF THE SEASON?

"The tracks that are coming up are good for us. Loudon has been good in the past, but I've had a lot of bad races here, too. We're not saying that Loudon is going to turn the corner this week, but we know we're going to come here and run good and still have a shot at it. From then on, you go to Pocono, which is still one of my favorite racetracks. Indy after that and then Watkins Glen. We've got a lot of good races coming up. I certainly feel like we can turn the corner. I was excited when I heard they paved the track here because my problem here has always been I run good at the beginning of the race and then it gets slick and I get in trouble. Hopefully if the grip stays there, we'll be good here. We certainly feel like we've turned that corner for sure. If you can go through what we went through, between the rumors and running bad every week and getting kicked while you're down every time you think you're getting up and you get knocked down again and all that stuff, there's nothing that can get worse than that. We made it through all of that so everything else is just a breeze from here on out. It can turn the corner starting to win races like Bill and them last year. I think that can happen any time now."

COMMENT ON SOFT WALLS

"I feel like the soft wall technology needs to be applied everywhere. We keep tightening our heads in the car with the HANS and Hutchens. We made our seats stronger, better. The cars are stiff. We've done all this stuff. The potential for head injuries is still there because the walls are so hard. You're never going to change that unless you make them softer. I think they need to build soft walls everywhere, probably more than Indy has done. I know Indy has got so-called soft walls, but I think that's just the first step of it. I think that's the only way you're ever going to fix this is to absorb the energy when we hit the wall. The only way you're going to do that is soften them up. You can still tie your heads down and make the seats strong, but your brain is still moving in there and somebody's got to do something to make 'em softer. I think it ought to be every race track we go to."

DO YOU STILL THINK ABOUT BEATING EARNHARDT AT POCONO

"After it happened you kind of think about it a little bit and then it goes away. When you start running bad again, you start thinking about it a lot. That was definitely the highlight of my career, to race all day with Dale Earnhardt. That's definitely something I'll never forget. I think about it a lot lately. I've been thinking about doing that to Gordon and a lot of people a lot lately. I'm excited about it. I tell you what. If we get in that position, it'll be worse than that this time. I'll tell you that. We're going to race harder than ever to get back in victory lane, but it's something I think about a lot to keep my confidence up. It's definitely been an inspiration for me."

DOES IT MAKE IT HARDER KNOWING YOU HAVE A GOOD TEAM?

"It's a little bit of both. You know you can do it, and I think that's one reason we did stick it out together. I feel like I know I can get the job done. I feel like Ray knew he put a good car out there. It was just a matter of putting it all together really. Any more, it's like the little stuff, the details you don't think about.... Another good example is the 88. Dale Jarrett didn't forget how to drive, for sure. He's a Winston Cup champion and he's running terrible right now. He's just going through one of those spells. You know Robert Yates can win races. You know the team can win races. They're not doing it right now. I'm using it for an example because that's as good of a race team as you can take. They're not running good, so it's all about people communicating and getting the best out of their stuff no matter what. I think that's what inspired us, knowing the potential is there. It's just a matter of sticking it out and finding what we need. I think another thing, too, is that Ray was very open-minded about allowing this race team to give me what I wanted and not really worry about what Bill is running or what so-and-so is running. We just kind of focused on what we were doing and what I like in a racecar. I think that's a big turnaround, too."

WHEN DID IT TURN AROUND?

"When a lot of the rumors started and I was in the hot seat and I was going to be going to the 1 or 30 and all this stuff, Ray and I had a meeting. We sat down and decided it was in both of our interests to make it work and finish it out - at least do all we could until the end of the contract. He felt like he was going to give me the best equipment and do everything he could for me, and I felt like I was going to give him 110 percent like always. We said no matter what happens to us and no matter what they say, no matter what the rumors are out there, we're going to stick together and make it work. I feel like that was the turning point. We both trusted each other to make this thing work."

WHAT'S THE BEST PART OF BEING A WINSTON CUP DRIVER?

"Winning races and being competitive and being a part of the sport as it is today. Sometimes I think everybody gets so hung up in this deal of being so competitive, and it's such a hard drive every week on everybody. If you stop and look how fortunate we really are and what we do have in life and being able to do what we do for a living is probably the neatest part of it. I try my best to help a lot of other people, little things. I see someone on pit road that looks like they can't get an autograph, I'll walk over and talk to them. I feel like being able to inspire a young kid or somebody that's not as fortunate to have a great day or life, I try to do that also."

IS A RAINY DAY TOUGH ON THE TEAM?

"It's pretty tough. It's not as tough as on a Sunday when you have to go through tech, get the car on the line and you get in the car and it rains you out again. Yesterday was tough because you just sit around. You don't do a lot, but if you know Ray, we always do something. We were talking about setups, Pocono and Indy. We're already thinking a couple of weeks ahead of time. We thought about this race, too."

DOES RAY ALWAYS LOOK A STEP OR TWO AHEAD?

"For awhile, I didn't understand what was happening. Different things were happening, and it's the way Ray runs his race teams. It's his philosophy and the way he structures his process. After I started to get a clear picture, I realized it was all for the big picture. It's not a quick fix. He's setting this thing up for when we do get competitive. That's why I was saying earlier we're going to be competitive week in and week out. He's done an awesome job of that. By doing that he's always looking ahead and trying to stay focused on the future and the big picture. I want to win now and run good now. Sometimes you can throw stuff together and not know what you've got and not win the next week. That's not the way you build a championship Winston Cup team. I think he's done a super job and that's probably his best quality, always looking at the big picture and the future."

DO YOU LOOK AHEAD TO POCONO?

"I'm really excited about Pocono, and we had a great test at Indy. We had one of the fastest cars in race trim there. We never did any qualifying runs. I can't wait to go to Pocono and apply some of the stuff we did at Indy. In 1998 when I won my first race there (Pocono), I remember having a great test like we did here at Indy. We applied a lot of stuff to Pocono and ended up winning the race. Right now we're going to focus on Loudon and come out of here with a top 15 or top 10 then go from there. That's been our goal. Every week we're approaching it as qualifying in the top 15 and finishing in the top 15. That's been our goal. Then we start moving up that ladder and focus on top 10s and top fives. Anything better than a top 15 is a bonus, and that's what we've had. That's what has our team headed in the right direction. So far we've been ahead the past two or three weeks. Hopefully we'll move our goals up the next two or three weeks and maybe say top 10s from here on out."

COMMENT ON SECOND RACE OF SEASON AT SOME TRACKS

"I think you've got to have a good baseline, and I think that's what you're seeing us establish here with the 19 car. In '98, we won the first race. You hear these stories about coming back to the shop and covering up the car. That's what we did. We went back and got our butts kicked the second race that year. Everybody catches on real fast in this business. If you're not improving every week, but you've got to have a good baseline to improve off of or you'll go back and go the other way. I feel like that's what we did with the 19 car for a year and a half. We never had our good baseline, so we were always searching. If you're searching, you're not going to beat these guys. The guys that have the baseline and notes and are working off top fives and wins. I feel like now we've got that. I think from last Pocono to this Pocono there's going to be a big difference in the 19 car just because of what we've learned since then."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Jarrett , Jeremy Mayfield , Robert Yates