NASCAR Winston Cup ITW DeVilbiss 400 Preview: #37, Jeremy Mayfield
13 August 1997
#37 Jeremy Mayfield, Kmart/RC Cola Ford Thunderbird NASCAR Winston Cup Series ITW DeVilbiss 400 Advance Michigan Speedway JEREMY MAYFIELD NOTES, QUOTES: ITW DEVILBISS 400 'Consistency is crucial, and we've had plenty of that' BROOKLYN, MI - Eighth in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings and with eyes on seventh, Jeremy Mayfield and the Kmart/RC Cola Ford team enter Sunday's 400-miler at the two-mile Michigan Speedway as the most consistent team in the sport. With nine consecutive finishes of 17th or better, Mayfield has the longest such current streak in NASCAR. After passing Ricky Rudd to take over eighth in the standings following the Bud At The Glen at Watkins Glen, N.Y., Mayfield and the Kmart/RC Cola Ford team maintained an unparalleled streak of consistency that dates back some 14 races at 13 different tracks - all since the Texas event in April. In that time period, Mayfield has completed 3649 of a possible 3655 laps, second only to Mark Martin (3653). Since that Texas race, Mayfield has moved from 20th to eighth in the NASCAR standings -- by far the greatest leap in positions in that time period by any driver. Mayfield, 28, is one of just two active drivers currently under the age of 30 to have won more than $1.9 million in a career. The Owensboro, Ky., native moved into the Kmart/RC Cola Ford less than a year ago, taking the wheel for the first time in September's race at Richmond, Va. Crew chief Paul Andrews, one of just six active crew chiefs to have won the NASCAR Winston Cup championship, joined the team in December. The thoughts of Kmart/RC Cola Ford driver Jeremy Mayfield heading into Michigan: "Everybody on this Kmart/RC Cola Ford team has really worked hard to get where we are right now, and we're pretty excited to be here. We feel we've found the consistency we've wanted all along and it's really paying off for us. I like to think I can stay out of trouble on the race track, and I've done pretty well with that so far this year. By the same token, I like to think I can be aggressive and smart at the same time. I think the last lap at Indianapolis showed a lot of that. We were anywhere from sixth to eighth going down the frontstretch to the white flag depending on who was doing the counting. Kyle (Petty) was inside me and Bill (Elliott) was on the outside. We were able to get through that and get under Mark Martin in (turn) one for a fifth-place finish. "The last thing I want to do is go from a really solid position on the race track to 'Jeremy's wild ride.' Everybody on the whole team, from driver to crew chief to crew, really busts it to get good track position. I don't want to give up what we've worked so hard for by doing something stupid. I don't want to give up opportunities either. My judgement has been pretty good in those situations. I'm not saying I haven't made mistakes because I have. But I think as I am getting more experience my judgement is growing too. "A good spotter can make the difference there too. 'Red Dog' (spotter Buddy Barnes) has been great. I had always heard he was one of the best and I can see why. He is more than just a pair of eyes on top of a roof somewhere. He is part coach too. (NOTE: Buddy Barnes said, "A good spotter is 40 percent eyes, 40 percent coach, 15 percent inspirator and 10 percent perspirator ('chief worrier')." When suggested that added up to 110 percent, Barnes replied, "Well, you have to include sales tax, I guess."). More thoughts from Kmart/RC Cola Ford driver Jeremy Mayfield: "The best drivers seem to always have the big picture figured out. There is no doubt in my mind Mark Martin or Darrell Waltrip could, if you asked them in the middle of a race, tell you where just about every car on the race track was in relation to their car and which ones were in the same lap. They might not consciously go through that every lap but they know...and you know that they know. I guess there are a couple of drivers who drive just over the nose of the car but most are pretty savvy on what's going on and can instinctively tell you what's going to happen. So much of getting experience is developing that instinct. The more I race, and especially the more I race with guys in the Winston Cup Series, the more I think that instinct is developing for me. "That's what makes consistency so important. This probably sounds weird but I think we've been consistent because we've been so consistent. I can be more consistent as a driver the more laps I turn. I learn more the more laps I turn. I learn more about myself and I learn more about the guys I'm competing against. Let's face it, there isn't a lot to learn looking at a torn up race car in the garage. There is plenty to be learned by racing with a Bill Elliott or following a Dale Earnhardt through traffic. Don't get me wrong, I want to beat Elliott and Earnhardt and Darrell and Mark and everybody else out here. But while I'm racing against them, I want to take advantage of the free education they are offering me. It's as good as a basketball player getting a University of Kentucky scholarship, and I'm sure not going to turn this 'grant-in-aid' down! "I'm learning, too, how to run a couple of races at one time. I'm not just racing the guy behind me and the guy in front of me for track position. I'm racing Ricky Rudd and Bill Elliott and Ted Musgrave and Bobby Labonte for points positions. What they do directly affects this race team in the points. We have to keep all of that in mind week in and week out. We've enjoyed being in the top 10 of the points standings and we're going to fight tooth and nail to stay there. Plus, we're thinking there is a win in this Kmart/RC Cola Ford team before this season is out and a pole or two too. "At the first of the season, we thought a top 15 in the points would be a good year. Well, it might but we've adjusted our goals. We're ahead of where we thought we would be and we're looking to stay there. We've had good cars on every kind of track - short tracks, superspeedways and road courses - and that certainly is going to continue. Our goals are pretty high right now but it doesn't come from cockiness. They are high because we wouldn't feel right setting them any lower. "Can we hold onto eighth through Michigan? Darn right. If we win the race, we know we can. We know we had a not-so-great day in the spring and still finished 12th. With a couple of breaks, we would have easily been a top-five car. To win races, you have to be top-five material, and we think we will be this time through. This Kmart/RC Cola Ford team has a pretty good history at Michigan, and I feel really good about what we could accomplish once we get there." By Williams & Company, Inc.