NASCAR Winston Cup Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400 Preview: #37, J. Mayfield
3 September 1997
#37 Jeremy Mayfield, Kmart/RC Cola Ford Thunderbird NASCAR Winston Cup Series Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400 Advance Richmond International Raceway JEREMY MAYFIELD NOTES & QUOTES: EXIDE NASCAR SELECT BATTERIES 400 'Short track or not, horsepower is the key' RICHMOND, VA - Locked in a battle with Bill Elliott, Ricky Rudd and Ted Musgrave for the last three positions of the top 10 in NASCAR's Winston Cup standings, Jeremy Mayfield and the Kmart/RC Cola Ford team head to Richmond (Va.) International Raceway this week looking to break back into the elite top 10 and to celebrate an anniversary. One year ago this race, Mayfield joined the Kmart/RC Cola Ford team, hoping to gain a headstart on the 1997 season. While the switch wasn't officially made until virtually hours prior to Mayfield making his first appearance at a Kmart - an autograph session at one of the stores in Richmond, Va. - the results have been very positive for both Mayfield and the team. Crew chief Paul Andrews, one of just six active crew chiefs to have won a NASCAR Winston Cup championship, came on board in December. Mayfield, 28, is one of just two active drivers in his 20s to have won more than $1.9 million in a career. The Owensboro, Ky., native is the youngest member of the "Kentucky Boys" - the racers from Owensboro who include Darrell and Michael Waltrip, and David and Jeff Green in Winston Cup - but he is the undisputed leader and enjoying the most successful season. The thoughts of Kmart/RC Cola Ford driver Jeremy Mayfield heading into Richmond: "In some ways it's hard to believe I've been with this Kmart/RC Cola Ford bunch for a whole year now, and in other ways it seems like I've been running here all of my life. We're comfortable together and we work well together. It's been like that since the beginning. We have a great group of people on this race team who are dedicated to being the best they can be and who are dedicated to winning. That is showing every week. "I didn't have much question of what the right thing to do was a year ago. I could see Michael Kranefuss and Carl Haas had put together a really good group of folks. They had solid backing from Kmart, financially and personally. There wasn't a whole lot of question as to where I was going but more of a question as to when I was going to get there. We worked things out and were able to make the change in September instead of waiting until November. That helped a lot in getting everyone in tune. We had some good times and we had some not-so-good times those last nine races of 1996 but the important thing was we were learning more about each other and learning more about our cars. "Paul Andrews came over in December and that's been a really positive experience. RC Cola came on board in a stronger role at the beginning of the season, and we're really glad they are part of what we have here. Everything we've done since this race a year ago has pointed towards better things for all of us, and those things have been coming. "At the first of the year, we figured a top 15 in points, being in position to win a race and maybe getting a pole would be a great year. In January, those were probably pretty realistic goals. We've come further faster than even we thought we would. I don't believe we'd be satisfied with any of those goals. We're battling to get back into the top 10 of the points and to stay there, and we feel we're capable of doing that. There are some pretty big names and a lot of experience in those 10 teams in front of us but we think we can give them a real run for their money. We want to win a race before the year is out too. And the way our qualifying has picked up the second half of the season, we just might have a pole in this Kmart/RC Cola Ford team too. "Richmond could be the place that starts. We had pretty decent runs going for this race last year and again in the spring this year but cautions came out at the wrong time for us in both races and cost us some laps. I don't envy Paul at a place like Richmond because pit strategy can really be a tough call. The place isn't known for a lot of cautions but most of the ones they have just jump up at you. It's not like you watch a car smoking for 15 laps and know he is going to blow up sooner or later. There's usually some trouble off that second turn that nobody expects. Anytime you pit at Richmond you cross you fingers and hope everybody else pits pretty soon. Good luck with cautions have won a lot of races there. "Even though it's a short track, horsepower is a real key to Richmond. It's definitely a handling race track but, when you look back over the winners in the past, the guys with the best horsepower are usually the ones you find in victory lane. You have to gear the car for that long, sweeping frontstretch. You need the horsepower to carry you down the backstretch. The third, four and first turns are pretty much what you see at any oval. The frontstretch is a long bend from the fourth turn to the first turn. The second turn is something of a harder left than anywhere else on the track. You need to get a really good jump off of two and then let that horsepower carry you down the backstretch into three. That's where guys gain a lot of time. "I'm fortunate to have a crew chief that has won at Richmond before and has had his cars run well there a bunch of times. I know I'd sure like to be his next winning driver there." By Williams Company of America, Inc.