NASCAR Winston Cup Pepsi 400 -- #37, Jeremy Mayfield
1 July 1997
#37 Jeremy Mayfield, Kmart/RC Cola Ford Thunderbird NASCAR Winston Cup Series Pepsi 400 Advance Daytona International Speedway JEREMY MAYFIELD NOTES & QUOTES: PEPSI 400 'We're Feeling Great For the Second Half Of The Season' DAYTONA BEACH, FL - No team will head into Saturday's Pepsi 400 Saturday morning at Daytona International Speedway with higher hopes than that of driver Jeremy Mayfield and the Kmart/RC Cola Ford team. A sixth-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500, coupled with the team's Daytona success in 1996 - not to mention the fact Mayfield is sitting 10th in the current NASCAR Winston Cup standings - lead everyone to feel positive in the traditional kickoff race for the second half of the season. Mayfield, crew chief Paul Andrews and the Kmart/RC Cola Ford team appeared to surprised everyone but themselves with a strong sixth-place finish in the Daytona 500. After a solid run in its 125-mile qualifying race, the team moved towards the front, only to be relegated to the rear when debris from a wreck in front of the car caused damage to the right front. From 35th place, Mayfield and the team roared back towards the front again, this time moving to its first of what is now five top-10 finishes. Since the 500-miler at Texas Motor Speedway in early April, only two drivers have completed more laps than Mayfield. Mark Martin has completed all but one, Dale Earnhardt all but four and Mayfield all but five of the 2,745 possible laps. Over the course of those nine races, Mayfield has moved from 20th to 10th in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings by compiling two top-five, four top-10 and six top-12 finishes. Mayfield, 28, and Jeff Gordon are the only two active NASCAR Winston Cup drivers in their 20's to have won more than $1.7 million in a career. That's one of the reasons the Owensboro, Ky., native is considered Ford's probable answer to the Gordon phenomenon. Paul Andrews, 40, is one of just six active crew chiefs with a NASCAR Winston Cup championship on his resume, that coming in 1992 with the late Alan Kulwicki. The thoughts of Kmart/RC Cola Ford driver Jeremy Mayfield heading into Daytona: "We were pretty excited when we left Daytona back in February and I have the feeling we're going to be pretty excited heading back in the place. That was really a great run for us in the Daytona 500, something that really gave us a boost for the rest of the season. Everybody has their absolutely best stuff out for the Daytona 500, and to finish as well as we did in the race proved a lot of things to us. That was Paul's first race as crew chief (Andrews came to the team in December, 1996, at the conclusion of the season) and it was my first Daytona race with this Kmart/RC Cola Ford team. "Of course, this team had a pretty solid Daytona history. They had led the Daytona 500 in 1996 and led the second-most laps in the race. Some bad luck put them behind the eight-ball. They ran really well in the July race last year, too, but had a little trouble that forced them to pit and then the rain ended the day early. They have proven they are pretty solid at Daytona, and I guess Paul and I just fit pretty well in that. "We've had some pretty good runs since then. Really, things started to gel for us after the Easter break. We felt really good going into Texas, even felt like we had a shot at winning the pole there. But it rained out qualifying and we started by points. Then we got caught in that early wreck and that cost us 70-something laps in the pits. Nobody would notice but us, but once we got back out on the track at Texas, we realized we were right about how good the car was. We ended up getting 10 finishing positions back by going back out, and those points have really come in handy. But we learned a lot about the car and about ourselves while we were out there too. Nobody in the world was paying any attention to us but that was really a watershed race for this Kmart/RC Cola Ford team. "We came back with pretty good runs and top 10 finishes at Bristol and Martinsville, and both of those finishes came even though we were pitting on the backstretch. The pit crew really started clicking about then too. Our pit stops have been unbelievable. Seventeen second stops are getting pretty commonplace. At Martinsville, for example, our crew picked up nine positions in the pits during the race. That's incredible! We're picking up positions in the pits just about every week. Track position being so critical, what everybody does in the pits is crucial. And that's working to our favor now. Paul is making really good calls in the pits. The past two weeks at Michigan and California when we were down some on power, Paul made great calls on when to two-tire and when not to, and we ended up with 12th-place finishes. I told some people then: when your bad days are 12th places, then you have some really good days coming. Our fuel mileage has been figured really well - Nick (Ollila, chief engineeer) figures that - and that sure works to our favor. This team has had a history of good fuel mileage, and I think Nick is the main reason for that the past couple of years. "Take away a little bad luck - a loose spark plug wire at Charlotte, a shifter problem at Sears Point and a transmission problem at Talladega - and who knows where we'd be in the points right now? That's the kind of stuff nobody focuses on but us, but by knowing we can overcome obstacles like that, we know what we're capable of doing. I think a lot of people saw some of our potential at Dover (fourth- place finish) and Pocono (fifth) but we are getting better every week. Now that we're starting to hit some of these tracks for the second time this year - and the second time Paul and I have seen them together - we're going to show more and more what we're made of. "Our goals have changed. At the first of the year, we were thinking a top 15 in the points, a pole and maybe a win would be nice. Now, we're revised our thinking. We've set our goals for a finish in the top 10, some pretty solid runs at the pole and a win or two. Most of all we want to continue to improve and continue to learn. We're getting better and better each week, the driver and the team. We're working hard to keep this Kmart/RC Cola Ford team headed in that direction. "Our goals are high but we wouldn't have it any other way." By Williams Company of America, Inc.