NASCAR Winston Cup Pennsylvania 500 Preview -- #37, Jeremy Mayfield
16 July 1997
#37 Jeremy Mayfield, Kmart/RC Cola Ford Thunderbird NASCAR Winston Cup Series Pennsylvania 500 Pocono Raceway JEREMY MAYFIELD NOTES & QUOTES: PENNSYLVANIA 500 LONG POND, PA - Jeremy Mayfield and the Kmart/RC Cola Ford team head to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway this week in the midst of a strong run. Over the course of the last 11 races (since the start of the Apr. 13 Bristol [Tenn.] race), Mayfield is sixth in NASCAR Winston Cup points behind Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Burton.Completing 3199 of a possible 3205 laps over the span of races, Mayfield ranks second only to Martin (3203) and Earnhardt (3201). Over that span, Mayfield has moved from 20th to ninth in the standings, and was as far back as 17th just seven races ago after the 600- miler at Charlotte, N.C. Mayfield, who just turned 28, is considered by most knowledgeable racing observers as Ford's probable answer to the Jeff Gordon phenomenon. He and Gordon are the only active drivers in NASCAR racing under the age of 30 to have won more than $1.7 million in a career. Crew chief Paul Andrews, who has won nearly $9 million in his career, is one of five active crew chiefs with a NASCAR Winston Cup championship, that coming in 1992 with the late Alan Kulwicki. The Kmart/RC Cola Ford team was one of the strongest cars five weeks ago at Pocono, coming home fifth in the 500-mile race at a track considered one of the strongest driving challenges on the circuit. Mayfield led part of that event. The thoughts of Kmart/RC Cola Ford driver Jeremy Mayfield as the series returns to Pocono: "When you have as good a run someplace as we did a few weeks ago at Pocono, you're bound to be pretty excited about getting back. I guess it would be an understatement to say we feel that way about Pocono. That was a really good run for us back in June. We stayed with the leaders all day long, had a really good car, led some laps, were great in the pits, and came home with a fifth-place finish. We feel we're capable of improving on that this time by. "You figure a track isn't going to change much over five weeks' time but Pocono is a different kind of animal. I've seen every kind of weather up there but snow and I even kind of expect to see that hit sometime. It was beautiful there in June and we're hoping it's that way again this week. But the weather there is capable of being just about anything and just about any temperature. That can have a tremendous bearing on what the track is like. "It's hard to describe Pocono. It's just Pocono. This sport has all kinds of records, like how drivers have done on short tracks or road courses or superspeedways. Maybe they ought to include Pocono as a separate category too. It's close to being the other three types of tracks and it's like its own deal entirely. It's a road course. . . but it isn't. It's a short track. . but it's isn't. It's a superspeedway. . . but it isn't. It is definitely a Pocono. "So much of the speedway is that front straightaway but you can't really set up for that alone. If you gear the car to get down that straight really well, then you can't get off the corners. That's why everybody shifts into overdrive for that long straight. It doesn't sound right, shifting on a superspeedway, but it's about the only way around the place. The shifting has changed the way teams approach Pocono. Before the overdrive, you heard of guys trying short track cars or thinking about road course cars or all kinds of weird stuff. With the overdrive, you attack the place in a totally different manner. "We're getting closer and closer to where we want to be with this team. The races, for the most part, have been pretty good for us. We're still working on qualifying but we're starting to get a little better there too. Even though the qualifying hasn't been exactly what we've wanted yet, we still think we're looking at this the right way. A NASCAR weekend isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. A lot of people come out of the box pretty good each week but sometimes you have a hard time finding them at the end of the day Sunday. We want to be a team that comes out of the box good, too, but we're a whole lot more intent on being somebody to watch on Sunday. "I feel we've approached things intelligently. We feel like we're really close to that first win but we've been more intent on building a strong foundation, a strong base. Where we are in the points shows a lot of that. We've been consistent and that's what you have to do in this sport. If you're going to win often and if you're going to be a championship contender, you have to be in the hunt week in and week out. That's what we're looking to do. This is a long term thing. Championship teams don't come together in just six months, they take some time. But we feel like we're definitely headed in the right direction. "This is a winning team but it's pretty new too. I think people forget that sometimes and they forget how far we've come in a really short period of time. I came over here in September of last year, and I think those nine races gave us a real headstart on 1997. Paul (Andrews) came in here at the beginning of December and we've got most of the guys back from the two previous years. We have a good group here, a real good group. We have big plans and we feel we're moving closer and closer to being the type of team we want to be on a weekly basis. "This Kmart/RC Cola Ford team is pretty excited about getting back to Pocono." By Williams Company of America, Inc.