NASCAR Winston Cup Series UAW-GM Quality 500 Preview: #37, Jeremy Mayfield
1 October 1997
#37 Jeremy Mayfield, Kmart/RC Cola Ford Thunderbird NASCAR Winston Cup Series UAW-GM Quality 500 Advance Charlotte Motor Speedway JEREMY MAYFIELD NOTES & QUOTES: UAW-GM QUALITY 500 "We won't do anything but everything we can do" CONCORD, NC - Jeremy Mayfield and the Kmart/RC Cola Ford team head to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway this week, feeling they aren't far from a first victory and right in the thick of a battle for a top 10 in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. Heading into a speedway where they qualified third a year ago and appeared to be one of the stronger cars before getting caught in the oil of another car's blown engine, Mayfield is looking forward to a return to Charlotte. The 28-year-old is 11th in the standings with 3050 points, just 29 points behind 10th-place Ricky Rudd (3079) and just 30 points behind ninth-place Ted Musgrave (3080). As a point of reference, 30 points represents the difference between as few as four finishing positions in a single event. He is still well within range of eighth as well, and stands in the middle of a seven-car battle for positions 8-15 in the standings. Bill Elliott leads the "Gang of Seven" with 3266 points. Among the seven drivers, there are a total of 66 full seasons of experience coming into 1997 - Mayfield accounts for just two of those. Mayfield might be the youngest but also is the undisputed leader of the "Kentucky Boys," the group of five NASCAR Winston Cup drivers from Owensboro, Ky., and is, by far, having the best season of the group. The driver is one of just two active drivers under the age of 30 to have won more than $2 million in a career. Even with his lack of comparable experience, Mayfield has enjoyed a solidly consistent season. Led by crew chief Paul Andrews - one of just six active crew chiefs with a NASCAR Winston Cup championship - the Kmart/RC Cola Ford has had three top fives and eight top 10 finishes. Mayfield had two top fives and three top 10s in his career prior to this season. The thoughts of Kmart/RC Cola Ford driver Jeremy Mayfield heading into Charlotte: "Charlotte's been a pretty good track for this team since it started, even long before me or (crew chief) Paul Andrews got here. This team has a history at Charlotte and it's a pretty good history. The Kmart/RC Cola Ford qualified third for both Charlotte races in 1996 and, even though we didn't end up with a great finish, we had one of our best cars in the first half of the season in the 600. "Right at the start of the 600 in May, I knew we had a problem. The engine was missing and it wasn't pulling at all. Well, a spark plug wire had come loose. Paul and the guys fixed that pretty quickly in the pits but there is no way you can lift the hood, do the work and latch it back up without losing a lap. And we lost one lap. "We spent the rest of the night trying to get it back and we were as close as you could come. We just couldn't get the cautions to fall right. We ran with the leaders all night long. In fact, we ran in front of the leaders for almost all of the last 60 laps of the race but, without a caution coming at the right time, there was no way to come on back around. Still, we knew when we left Charlotte that, with a little bit of luck, we could have had a great finish. All we needed was one caution to fall at the right time. "We were on a pretty good roll then. Remember, we went on to Dover the next week and finished fourth, and then finished a really strong fifth at Pocono the week after that. "The run at Charlotte proved some things to us. That was the first race we'd run with a car built by Kranefuss-Haas Engineering, and we knew we were onto something there. We've continued to build good cars and we've had really good runs. We've only fallen out of two races all season long. That shows we're consistent. We've run with the leaders most of the time. We're really moving in the right direction, and everybody on this Kmart/RC Cola team is excited about that. "It's important for us to finish the season strong. There are five races left, and we need five good runs. We're in the thick of this thing for the top 10 in points, and we're racing some really good teams and some really good drivers. They aren't going to do anything but everything they can do. We know we have to do the same thing. "I know I don't have as much experience as a Bill Elliott or a Ricky Rudd, but I've got some good experience behind me. Paul Andrews has won the Winston Cup championship. (Engineer) Nick Ollila and (car chief) Buddy Barnes have won Winston Cup championships. A lot of the guys on the crew have been in these things before. They are really good coaches. They keep their cool. They are professionals through and through. They know what it's going to take and they do whatever it takes to do that. This is the kind of experience a younger driver needs. "I'm learning a lot. I think that's as important as anything right now. We're planning on being in a lot of these points battles over the years, and I figure everything I can learn now is just something more to help us in the future. We're going to work hard to finish in the top 10 and to finish as high in the standings as we can. But we're planning on being in points battles that are even higher in the future. "We'd like to win a race before the season is out. We'd like to win a pole before the season is out. We'd like to finish the year in the top 10. That would really put us on a level to make a really serious charge in 1998. There is a really bright future for this Kmart/RC Cola Ford team. The way we look at it, this year is just another positive step in that direction." By Williams Company of America, Inc.