Mayfield hopes to maintain high ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 18, 1998) Jeremy Mayfield can't remember when he's been so excited coming home from Daytona. After his performance in last Sunday's Daytona 500, it isn't difficult to determine why. But...
Mayfield hopes to maintain high
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 18, 1998)
Jeremy Mayfield can't remember when he's been so excited coming home from Daytona. After his performance in last Sunday's Daytona 500, it isn't difficult to determine why.
But following that high, he's already set to head to this weekend's GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400 at North Carolina Motor Speedway.
"The season sort of starts with Rockingham," Mayfield 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.
"Of course, we spent some time celebrating Daytona. Rusty (Wallace, his teammate) and I had great runs down there. Our teams did great jobs and we ended up with some fantastic finishes. Both of us are eligible for that Winston bonus now ($1 million 'No Bull 5 Bonus' if any driver in the top-five of the Daytona 500 can win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May) and, as good as we ran at Daytona, maybe they shouldn't slide that money back in the bank quite yet. Bobby Labonte came pretty close to winning it at Daytona (second to winner Dale Earnhardt), and both Rusty and I could have been in real contention to win that race. "It's not a 'where do we go from here?' situation either. We had a great run at Daytona but we're expecting a great run at Rockingham too. Last year was something of a rebuilding year for us. This year is a year that could be a real breakthrough season for us.
"We have a very strong commitment from a brand new sponsor in Mobil 1. We have a very strong commitment from Roger Penske and Michael Kranefuss. We have a very strong commitment from our teammates at the Miller Lite team. And we have a very strong commitment to ourselves to be at our very best all the time.
"Our goals are high. A year ago, we were looking to finish the year in the top-15. This year, we're looking at a top-10, looking to win some races and looking to win some poles. We're setting a lot of 'one-step, two-step' goals.
"For Rockingham, for instance, our first goal is to practice well on Friday. Then our goal is to qualify so we can start on the frontstretch. Then it's to win the pole. Then it's to run really well in the race. Then it's to win the race. We can set our goals high because we feel we can reach goals we set high.
"I'm excited. I'm really excited. I'm excited not just because we ran so great in the Daytona 500 and because we had a really good finish, but because we're going to have a really good year. There are a lot of great things ahead of us, for this Mobil 1 team and for the Miller Lite team. We're working together and we're working together really well. Everybody has the same goal in mind, and that's to win.
"I started racing when I was 13 years old and that's all I wanted to do - to win. If I was racing go-karts, I wanted to win every go-kart race I could get into. When I set my sights a little higher, I did whatever I had to do to get where I wanted to go. I worked as a fabricator for Earl Sadler to get my first Winston Cup ride, and I did a lot of the fabricating work when I drove for Cale Yarborough. "That's what it took to get me where I wanted to go. Now I'm here. I'm where I've always wanted to be, with a top-notch team that is going places. This is a dream come true for me. I worked hard to get here and I appreciate what I have. I think that's one of the reasons Rusty and I get along so well - he worked really hard to get where he is, and appreciates what he has.
"We've got some big things coming with these race teams, some really big things. I'm still grinning over Daytona but we're going to Rockingham planning on being as tough as we can possibly be."
Mayfield brought his No. 12 Mobil 1 Ford Taurus home in third place in the Daytona 500, his best career finish in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, and was actually a challenger for the victory during the last 45 to 50 laps of the 200-lap event before watching Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Labonte cross the finish line ahead of him in the 1998 season opener.
"I can't begin to tell you how great the Daytona 500 was. The whole week was great," Mayfield said. "It was a dream week for a driver. We went down there with a really good car and it was a really good car the whole time we were there. We tried a lot of things but we didn't change a lot of things. (Crew chief) Paul Andrews and the guys were on top of their game the whole time we were there. We ran the entire race without turning a screw, and we could have won the thing."
The third-place finish at Daytona came as a bit of a mild shock to Mayfield, whose best finish at the 2.5-mile trioval was sixth in 1997.
"It really didn't hit me until I got to the gas pumps (after the Daytona 500)," Mayfield said. "There were like a ton of television cameras there and they were all coming at me. Man, I looked behind me to see who they were after because I wanted to get out of their way! But they all crowded around and we did interviews for an hour and a half. Rusty (Wallace) fought his way through them and hugged me. So did the guys on the team. It was a great, great feeling.
"A year ago, I finished sixth at Daytona and was so excited I could hardly stand it. I was excited this year but it's a different excitement. Finishing sixth in 1997 was a real accomplishment, a really big deal for me and for the race team."
Mayfield and his new teammate, Wallace, worked well together throughout the race. The two ran second and third, respectively, for a huge chunk of the last half of the event. Wallace finished fifth in the same race, an event which saw both drivers make a very strong run for the win.
Mayfield, 28, is the youngest member of the "Kentucky Boys," the group of drivers from Owensboro, Ky., which includes Darrell and Michael Waltrip, as well as Jeff, David and Mark Green. He is one of only two active drivers under the age of 30 to have won more than $2.7 million in his career (the other is Jeff Gordon). In 1997, he finished 13th in the final NASCAR Winston Cup standings but missed the top-10 by just 29 points - the difference of as few as six finishing positions in a single event.
Courtesy of NASCAR Online