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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Jeremy Mayfield
September 20, 2005


DENISE MALOOF: Today we're joined by Jeremy Mayfield, who is one of the 10 drivers competing in the Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup. He finished 16th last week at New Hampshire, the first event in the 10-race Chase, and he is eighth in the standings, 95 points for Tony Stewart. The field was set two weeks ago following that race at Richmond, International Raceway. This week the Chase will resume at Dover. It's the second event in the Chase. That's a place where Jeremy excels. Seven top 10 finishes in 22 career events there. Jeremy, what challenges does Dover present for you at this point in the Chase?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: You know, for us it's like a breath of fresh air really because we knew that Loudon was our weak link of the top 10 races there. Going to Dover for us really is a challenge in itself, but it's a good challenge. I mean, I like the place, I love going there, I love racing there.

DENISE MALOOF: Definitely a heightened sense of "Let's get something done this week," not only for you guys, but the nine other guys in the Chase. Do you feel that?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Oh, yeah, for sure. We feel it big time. We have to go to Dover with the attitude of we got to win the race, do the best we can, hopefully leave there with a good, strong top three, if not winning the race, a good top three or top five finish would be great.

DENISE MALOOF: We'll take questions now.

Q. In light of the retaliatory crash last year that took your chances out of the Chase, or hurt them severely, in light of the penalties that came down, do you think NASCAR needs to do something more to prevent retaliatory bumps that could also take out other people that aren't involved directly?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, first of all, that's a good question, you know. But I don't really know how they would do that. You know, what would be retaliatory or whatever. I think a little bit -- I'm only saying this for myself, but a little bit of that doesn't hurt the sport either. There's all kind of stuff that goes on in baseball and football, and the fans like a little bit of excitement. I'm not saying that that's a good thing, what happened last week. But, yeah, there's a fine line there. I don't know where you would draw that at. I think that's where NASCAR is kind of stuck at, too. You know, where do you draw the line at? Racing is something that you're going to, you know, beat and bang a little bit, you're going to rub fenders, smoke is going to fly off the tires, all that stuff. I really don't know how they would police it any different than what they are. I think as far as the fines are, they're doing a pretty good job of the price of the fines right now. I'd hate to, you know, be in Robby Gordon's shoes right now and pay the fines he's got to pay. On the other hand, maybe I would have handled it a little different also. I think they're doing a good job with it. I don't know how they would do it any better or worse.

Q. Did you breathe a sigh of relief you made it through without getting caught up in any of that and, like you said, a middle of the pack finish at New Hampshire also probably pretty good for you entering Dover?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, it is. You know, we feel like getting through New Hampshire, yeah, wasn't the finish we wanted, but we were looking at, say, 30 to go, we were running third. If everything would have played out right, we would have had a top five finish or maybe even a win the way it was looking towards the end of the race. Things changed real quick with 20 to go when the 5 car knocked the cone down on the racetrack. Very easily could have been a great day for us, too. We're going to take 16th, not look back, and look at it that that was our worst track on the top 10 tracks here that we're going to. To come out of there with a 16th-place finish isn't so bad.

Q. Do you think more of this rough and aggressive driving might be seen throughout the Chase, and if you think that some of it might be tied to maybe the anger or frustration of the drivers who are not in the Chase?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, I think it could be a little bit of the fact that it's created such a competitive atmosphere, you know, just to get in the Chase, and then all of a sudden you're seeing the first race, all that stuff happened the other day. You got to almost say a little bit of that contributed to it. On the other hand, I don't see it getting any worse because I'm sure at the driver's meeting this week, we're going to hear a pretty powerful voice tell us this isn't going to continue on. You know, I don't see it happening any more. I mean, things are just going to happen. We're going to have races where everybody is going to get carried away. We're going to get to Talladega, something is going to happen there, it's going to be wild there. Martinsville is going to be wild. You kind of almost pretty much know the tracks that stuff like this is going to happen. I don't see it getting too far out of hand, for sure.

Q. You mentioned Talladega. After Richmond, it seemed most of the drivers were pointing to Talladega as being the wildest of the wildcards in the chase. How much can you do to stay out of trouble at Talladega or can you do anything to stay out of trouble at that track?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, I've come to figure out over the years you kind of just got to run hard, be as smart as you can be as careful as you can yourself, you know, and just hope that you make it through the wreck that does happen, if it happens. You know, I've tried two or three different things. I've tried laying in the back, waiting till the end. That works sometimes but you can also get caught up in a bigger mess back there if you're not careful. You see two different styles of strategies going on there. You either try to run way up in front and stay up there or you fall all the way to the back or you just get stuck in the middle. You just hope that you make it through in any one of them. I haven't really found that one is better than the other. As long as you're leading, you're fine. But it's so hard to lead every lap there and to just run up front there is pretty tough. Really I'm going to go there with an open mind and just stay in the pack or lead or whatever I got to do all day and hopefully I don't get in trouble, and that's all you can do.

Q. I think you were one of the guys said this is the wildest track or would you say that would be Martinsville?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, as far as tempers and stuff, it's going to be Martinsville probably. But who is to say about Talladega. Talladega is going to be one of those ones you don't never know what can happen. All top 10 cars could go out at Talladega. Who knows? Or we could all run in the top 10. It's just one of the those tracks, you go into that race, you really don't know -- not only do you not know where you're going to stack up at, but you really don't know where the outcome is going to be. We all know there's usually pretty wild stuff happening there. We all know that going into it. It's up to us as drivers to be better judges of what we're doing and when we're passing and how we're racing. If everybody does a good job of that, we'll be fine. If not, it could get wild for everybody.

Q. Could you discuss the importance of pit stops during the Chase.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah. That's a real good subject and real good question. A lot of people look at the drivers, the Chase, they made it in the top 10, this guy is going to run here, this guy is going to finish there. It is so important to have good pit stops before anything else can happen. It's probably one of the most important things that gets so overlooked in our sport. If you don't have good pit stops, you're not going to have a successful season anywhere. You got to have everything -- all the elements have to be put together. The pit stops are probably more important than anything we do. They're as important as the bodies we put on the cars, the motors we put on them. You can have all that stuff, and if you don't have good stops, you're not going to beat anybody. I think it's very important to have them and probably if you had to ask me do I want a better motor, better downforce or better pit crew, I mean, they're all right there together. You have to have them all to win races here.

Q. You mentioned just a topic of the pit stops, but how are things different at the shop being into the Chase mode at this point?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Everything's really business as usual. Our team stays just pumped up all the time and they're excited, you know, that they want to win. They're just unbelievable, the attitude that stays around our shop. You know, it's kind of been that way all year. I haven't seen it change. Sometimes you see teams go through these little slumps where everybody's kind of down for a while and then they're back oh back up. Our team just stays excited and wanting to win and wanting to get better. I think a lot of that has to do with everybody's attitude. You know, we all -- it all bleeds off on everybody, to be able to -- you know, when you walk in the shop, everybody's positive. That just keeps that momentum going. I feel like we've had it all year. I'm going there today. I don't know about today, because I wasn't there last week, but every time I've been there, it's been great. I'm looking forward to getting up there today.

Q. You started this conversation off by saying you're going to Dover and it feels like a breath of fresh air. I'm not real sure that I've ever heard a driver say that. Why is it a breath of fresh air for Jeremy Mayfield?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, I think for one, you know, leaving Loudon, like I said earlier, Loudon is one of the tracks, it's a great place, a great area to race in, all that, it just hadn't been that good for us as a race team. We just haven't had the finishes we feel like we needed there. Leaving there with a 16-place finish, I'm like relieved because last year I was 30 something or 40th, whatever it was. I'm just looking forward to Dover because we run well there. It's one of my favorite tracks. Heck, we had two poles there last year and we might have had another one this year, a third one, if it hadn't rained qualifying out. It's just a place we run well at. Some reason, I like it a lot. The gambling is not too bad there either, the casino. It's just been a great place for us, and we're excited about getting there and just can't wait really.

Q. Do the surrounding areas help you mentally prepare for a race?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: I mean, I think they do. I think that's a question I've never been asked before, but if you think about it, I believe they do, because you go to some places that have things to do, the people are excited, all that stuff. I mean, it puts everybody in a better mood. This past weekend it seemed like it was kind of rainy most of the weekend at the beginning. You know, everybody's kind of down. Not down, but the garage area was just kind of there. I believe I feel a difference in it when there's places that you love to go to. It makes it better for you.

Q. Before the Chase started, Rusty Wallace was talking about being in the Chase last year, racing in the Chase races, not being a part of the Chase. He said one of the things he did was he found himself sort of subconsciously giving the Chase drivers a little bit more room. I was wondering if you've noticed that in the races that you've been in?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: You know, last year you kind of feel like you notice it sometimes, but different drivers are different. You know what I mean? Some drivers will help you out. Some of them won't, you know. It's something I really haven't noticed a big difference in, to be honest with you. The guys that usually help you help you anyway, whether you're in the Chase or not. The guys that don't, usually don't anyway. Rusty will figure that out probably if he hadn't already figured it out last weekend, he'll figure it this weekend. There's really not a lot of difference in it. He might have helped some goods last year and vice versa. But you don't really see a lot of guys trying to help you out just because you're in the Chase. I think everybody's still trying to win. The guys that are usually good to race with are the ones that are still good to race with.

Q. In light of Tony Stewart's amazing run, lots of top fives, near victories, do you think the guys in the garage are starting to say, "Let's put a hex on this guy?" It seems like he is the guy to beat before and he's the guy to beat now. Y'all can have good runs, but it's like what can be done almost to kind of slow this guy down?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, I think you're right. I think the 20 team and Tony definitely has been the car to beat. What's funny, at the beginning of the year, you know, he was having a terrible year, the first few races, just wasn't going. His cars weren't handling that well. All of a sudden that team really got on to something. You know, pretty much unstoppable. The 16 car kind of got like that a little bit throughout the season. Not a little bit, a lot. But nothing like the 20. The 20 seems like they're solid, they're going to be there week in and week out. I'd say definitely that's going to be the guy you'll have to beat to win the championship.

Q. Do you think someone is going to have to go on a run like Jimmie Johnson did last year and put a whole bunch of victories up there to kind of mitigate his very top five, top five, top five, the way he's been running?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, he probably will. It's going to take that to win the championship. To do that, you're going to have to win races and be up there every week. I don't see any signs of the 20 car letting off, you know, so I'm sure everybody is going to have to step it up to beat him. That's pretty much the deal. I think he's definitely the one to beat. Even though you seen Jimmie do that last year, he still didn't win. That just tells you how being consistent it's going to be so important throughout this 10-race stretch here. Whether it's a win or top five, just every week is what it's going to take.

Q. You had the pole at Dover last year. I think you've had three overall there. You also started near the rear of the field there, too. How important is it to start up front at Dover?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: You know, anywhere we go any more, it's so important to start up front. Everybody's going to every week try to get all they can. That's not to say that you can't win that race or run good there starting in the back. Sooner or later, just about every race we go to, everybody has different strategies and all that stuff going on. You'll find yourself up front, in the back, in the middle of every race just about. Dover ace good place to pass at. You can definitely come from the back to the front there, no problem. The No. 1 thing for us is first of all get qualified, get a good pit spot because pit road is so narrow there, they go from there. It's not to say you can't win the race from qualifying bad.

Q. Teammate of Kasey Kahne, have you talked to him since the race? Any clue what he was thinking?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: No, I haven't. I know he was pretty upset by getting taken out, obviously. You know, just frustrated. But, you know, I'm sure that Ray will talk to Kasey and get him calmed down pretty quick. Kasey is just a competitor. He wants to win, wants to run good. When he don't, he gets mad, you know. That's part of it. I think he probably regrets saying anything that he shouldn't have or whatever. But, you know, he'll rebound from it. He's strong. He'll make sure that he's doing the right thing in the future here.

Q. Has Ray warned you because you're in the Chase, don't even think about doing that?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: He don't have to. I've been doing this for a little while now, and I know what's right and what's wrong, you know, when to handle things. I say that now. I'll probably be in trouble this week. I try to do my best to handle myself the right way when I am mad, and things are not going my way. It's something I pride myself on is trying to be pretty much normal all the time, whether it's you're mad or not mad, just do the best you can and hopefully I won't get myself in that situation. I already know what the outcome's going to be if I do something like that. Ray's going to be on me, I promise you.

Q. Can you talk about Talladega a little bit.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Just a little bit (laughter). Talladega, it's a place that, it's fun when everything's going good and you got a great car, you can pull away and pass and all that. But that's not the case very often for anybody there. You got to -- you go to Talladega open-minded and just try to get all you can, at the end of the day hope you completed all the laps and you got the finishing position that you wanted or tried to get, and you go home. It's about pretty much all you can do. The place, Talladega itself, it's awesome. I mean, the fans are unbelievable and everything else. Just tough to race there when you're bunched up like we are.

Q. What kind of car do you have for Talladega?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Man, we got a great car. Our Speedway program is really come on strong there. We finished fourth there in the first race, feel like going back there we're going to have an even better car. I'm pretty excited about it, more than I ever have been about going to Talladega, doing any Speedway racing. Our Speedway program, like I said, has done a complete 180. The engines are great. Everything's just going great on our Speedway stuff now. It makes it a lot easier when you know you got good stuff to go with.

Q. I wanted to ask about the dynamics of multi-car teams, Joe Gibbs Racing, when you have a multi-car team where one team doing so great like Tony, and everybody else isn't even close or in the ballpark, what does that say? To somebody who knows racing does that suggest that it is really all driver? How do you view that? I don't know if there are experiences to draw on at Ray Evernham.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, that's a great question. I think first of all if you ask Tony that, just by me sitting here listening to what you just said, it's not all driver, and I think Tony would tell you that. It's about, you know, first of all I think it starts at the top. You know, I came from the Penske organization when we first did the two-car deal, it didn't work out very well. I came with Ray's deal. What I've seen and what I've experienced over the past and seen out of other teams like the Gibbs racing teams, our deal now with Ray is we're a one-car team with three cars next year, two cars now. If one car is out-running the other that bad, our leader will sit us down and we'll figure out why, you know what I mean? Whether it's the drivers, whether it's the differences in the drivers or the teams. It looks to me like teams that are not working that well together, not running pretty close to the same, there's something wrong with either, the cars aren't the same, the people are not the same. They're not getting the same out of their equipment, if the equipment is the same, which is probably not, I'd say. Our stuff, you know, where I'm at, we have an open-book deal. Kasey's cars and my cars are pretty much all the same chassis. I say "pretty much" meaning, the crew chief has an overall preference of what they want, little things, pivot points, where the body is, all that stuff. But if one is running better than the other, trust me, we're going to get like the other one. We're not going to sit there and struggle all year because we're going in our own way. It seems like the Gibbs organization has got one car that's just awesome, and Bobby is kind of there every week, you know, the 18 car is, but then the 11 hasn't done anything. It doesn't make sense. Really from the outside looking in, if you weren't a part of these teams, you know, or a multi-car deal like this, it's hard to understand that as a fan and people looking in. I understand exactly what your question is. I wish I could give you a better answer than what I'm giving you, other than I know it sounds to me like whoever is running the whole organization, needs to pull the deal together somehow, and whatever that means, I don't know. I know that's what happened at our deal. If we're out getting out-run every week, and we're doing something totally different than the 9 and the 9 is just beating us every week, outrunning us, Ray is going to make sure the following week we're going to be close to the 9. That's the best car right now, you know what I mean? Or maybe vice versa. Maybe it's us, then Kasey has to get like us. He wouldn't let it go that long, I can tell you that.

Q. You mentioned earlier about you've been doing this for a while so you know kind of the right way, wrong way to respond to situations on the track when somebody has angered you. What is the right way? What is the wrong way in dealing with a driver on the track that you feel has wronged you, wrecked you or put you in a bad spot?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Some of it I feel like it's self-inflicted, you know what I mean? If you notice yourself getting in wrecks all the time, somebody wrecking you, somebody wrecking you, somebody wrecking you, sometimes you got to stop and say, wait a minute, maybe it ain't their fault. Maybe a little bit my fault and I need to do something different. You know what I mean? You don't see Jeff Gordon getting caught up in those type wrecks. We try our best, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, you don't see those guys on a weekly basis getting into the wall, hitting somebody or wrecking. When you see that going on, you know, if I'm out there running, I see a driver coming up on me that I know is a little bit different, a little bit wild or whatever, I'm just going to let him go. I'm not going to jeopardize a good spot or good finish because he's running good right now. You don't have to worry about passing him, because he'll take care of himself later. That's the way you kind of look at things like that from the driver's point of view. That's the things I've learned in the past is you don't have to -- these are 500-mile races, most of them. The other day was 300. They're long races. They're long enough, if a guy's catching you, let him go. Don't hold him up, because he's probably going to wreck you or spin you out. That's what happens that these guys, it seems like they find theirself in trouble all the time and sometimes they need to stop and look at maybe they need to change their way of driving and quit blaming everybody else on TV. That's what I meant by that. If you wreck and wreck and wreck, you can't just keep telling everybody in the world that it's everybody else's fault but your own.

Q. Basically with these penalties, do you need more discreet in getting your point across if letting them go isn't an option at times?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: I'm not going to say I haven't been wrecked in the past, but I'm not going to go right back out on the racetrack, like the 10 or 97 had going on the other day a little bit. They don't have to worry about me going out and wrecking him right then. If I'm under the same guy, he comes down on me, I'm not going to treat him the way he treated me. He'll wreck his-self. That's the way I look at it. Usually we don't get messed with a whole lot maybe because of that. You just know who on the racetrack to race and who not to pretty much.

Q. Kind of a strange and different look at everything that happened last week. All Sunday and Monday, I saw Robby Gordon throwing his helmet, but I also saw something else, his sponsor logo. In a sense, the sponsors want that exposure. That's a lot of money that his sponsor made over the weekend in exposure. Does that ever come to play?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, I don't know. As far as exposure, I'm going -- I'm sitting here thinking the way you're thinking and I got to ask myself, if I was a sponsor of that car, yeah, the only time I'm on TV now is because I'm throwing -- my driver's throwing his helmet. You go, okay, does that help me or hurt me? You got to look at both sides of that. Then you look at the guy he threw his helmet at. He's got a lot of race fans, too, you know. They could very easily, a lot of the fans who did not like that, may not buy that sponsor's product, you know. I'm not sure if it helps you or hurts you. Race fans are loyal. When they see something they don't like, they back up what they do like. If that means changing products or doing something different, they will. That's why I try my best not to get myself in that position because it's not good at the end of the day for your sponsor, no matter what. I know that some good publicity and some bad publicity is still the same or could be, but it's hard for me to believe that bad is doing anybody any good.

DENISE MALOOF: Jeremy, we'll let you go today. We want to thank you for joining us. Good luck on Sunday at Dover.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Thank you.

DENISE MALOOF: Thanks, everybody, for your participation. We will see you next week.

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