NASCAR Winston Cup Series ACDelco 400 Preview: #37, Jeremy Mayfield
21 October 1997
#37 Jeremy Mayfield, Kmart/RC Cola Ford Thunderbird NASCAR Winston Cup Series ACDelco 400 Advance North Carolina Motor Speedway JEREMY MAYFIELD NOTES & QUOTES: ACDELCO 400 'Experience is the trophy for second place' ROCKINGHAM, NC - The youngest of seven drivers locked in a torrid battle for positions nine through 15 in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings, 28-year-old Jeremy Mayfield and the Kmart/RC Cola Ford team have taken and received as well as any long-time veteran. Though 13th in the standings following a 26th-place finish at Talladega, Ala. - a finish mired by an inopportune caution flag and a 15-car crash not of his making - Mayfield is still well within reach of ninth-place Ted Musgrave, and even closer to 10th-place Rusty Wallace. Just 25 points separate Mayfield and Wallace, three spots in the standings that could turn on as little as five finishing positions in the 400-mile race at Rockingham, N.C., on Oct. 26 - the ACDelco 400. A mere 142 points separate ninth-place Musgrave and 15th-place Ricky Rudd. The seven drivers in the group have a combined total of 60 years of full-season experience coming into this year: Mayfield represents just two of those years. Mayfield, youngest of the group, is easily having the best season of the famed "Kentucky Boys," the group of five drivers from Owensboro, Ky., who compete on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. He is one of just two active drivers under the age of 30 to have won more than $2 million in a career and will, at some point this year, become the second-youngest driver to ever win more than $1 million in a single year. 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 Rockingham: "The next three races are going to be the most important ones we run all season. Of course, you can pretty much figure the next race is the most important race no matter when you run it, but these could really make or break our year. They will make the difference in whether we finish the year in the top 10 or not. "That's pretty important to us. This is our first year with all of us together. A lot of these guys were with this team from the very beginning but, even then, that's not a lot of time (the team ran its first full season in 1995). I came here in September of last year, just over a year ago, and Paul Andrews came in in December of last year, not even a full year yet. Like anybody else, we've had our ups and downs, some really great moments and some not-so-great moments. But looking back, we've had a lot more good moments than bad ones. "That's why these next three races are going to be so important to everybody on this Kmart/RC Cola Ford team. At the first of the year, we figured finishing in the top 15 of the points would be a pretty solid season, and something to be proud of. I guess it's shows how far we've come this year because a top 15 now would be something we'd have to settle for. We ran into some bad luck at Talladega and we've fallen out of the top 10 for now, but I don't know of a guy on this team who won't do everything he can do to get us back up there. That's too important to us. About the midway point of the season that became our biggest goal, and we still have plans to do just that. "I guess most of the attention will be on Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett the rest of the season. You can't blame anybody for that. We'll be watching it too. It's going to be pretty interesting to watch. "But a real battle is the one we have going on right now. There are a lot of guys fighting for essentially two spots in the standings, ninth and 10th. Don't tell me it doesn't mean a lot to get up on that stage in New York City (at the NASCAR Winston Cup Awards Banquet). Maybe I haven't been up there before but, believe me, I'm hungry for it. Talking to and watching guys like Rusty Wallace and Ken Schrader, Ernie Irvan and Ricky Rudd, well, there's a lot of hunger there too. We might not be in the thick of the championship battle but here is a group of drivers and teams who would do anything they could legally to finish the year in the top 10. By 'legally,' I mean anything that's OK in Algeria or somewhere. "For me, it's great experience. To be honest, I'd trade all of this experience for sitting in 10th place with a 400-point lead over 11th right now, but since I'm not it's great experience. 'Experience' is the trophy for second place, but I'll take all I can get and maybe that top 10 finish too. We plan on being in the thick of a Winston Cup championship battle pretty soon, and the things I learn and the team learns this year will help us when that time comes. "We have guys on this team who have been in these things before and that makes a big difference. Paul Andrews came from nowhere - nowhere! - to win that championship in 1992 with Alan Kulwicki. You know, you start looking around the garage and there aren't a whole lot of crew chiefs right now to have won a championship in any way (Andrews is one of six active crew chiefs with a NASCAR Winston Cup title). He's been down this road before and he took the unpaved one. They came back from over 200 points down against some great teams to win that thing. He knows what it takes because he's done it before. That's a pretty good advantage for this Kmart/RC Cola Ford crew. "We're going hard these last three races. We feel we can run well and finish well at all three tracks. That's what it's going to take, good runs and good finishes. I might not have all of the experience these other guys do but I know it's all going to come down to what we do on the track, what we do in the pits and how we finish. "The cream always rises to the top in Winston Cup racing. Maybe if we shake things hard enough, we can make some RC Cola bubble up there too." By Williams Company of America, Inc.