NASCAR Winston Cup Series Dura-Lube 500 Preview: #37, Jeremy Mayfield
29 October 1997
#37 Jeremy Mayfield, Kmart/RC Cola Ford Thunderbird NASCAR Winston Cup Series Dura-Lube 500 Presented by Kmart Advance Phoenix International Raceway JEREMY MAYFIELD NOTES & QUOTES: DURA-LUBE 500 PRESENTED BY KMART 'I'm hoping the Halloween goblins will be on our side' PHOENIX, AZ - Locked in a torrid battle for a final top-10 finish in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings, Jeremy Mayfield and the Kmart/RC Cola Ford team head to Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway this week carrying a great deal of optimism. Eleventh in the standings, Mayfield trails 10th-place Rusty Wallace by just 16 points -- the difference of as few as three finishing positions in a single event -- and trails ninth-place Ted Musgrave by just 54 points -- the difference of as few as 12 finishing positions in a single event. In fact, just 176 points separate ninth from 15th (Ricky Rudd) in the standings. 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. Only the top 10 in the final NASCAR Winston Cup standings will be invited to the stage at the annual NASCAR Winston Cup Awards Banquet in New York City. Mayfield, youngest of the group, is easily having the best season of the famed "Kentucky Boys," the band 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 Phoenix: "We're thinking points just as hard as Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and those guys. That's the first thing on everybody's mind on this Kmart/RC Cola Ford team right now. Our goal, plain and simple, is to finish the year in the top 10 of the points standings and make it up on the stage in New York. That might look like a short walk up those stairs to the podium but, believe me, it can be a tough climb. But I can't think of a team hungrier to get up there than this one. "There's not a whole lot we can do in regards to strategy. We're racing six other guys, so we can't spend a whole lot of time watching what they do. Even if we could, we'd need a team of computer programmers and mathematicians to figure out what we'd need to do. The only thing we can do is finish the best we can at Phoenix and finish the best we can at Atlanta, and figure that will be enough to do it. As close as things are right now, a couple of really solid top fives by anybody would pretty much take care of finishing in the top 10 in the points. "There's a lot of really good teams right there. Ted Musgrave is ninth, and Jack Roush has run for the championship before, so he knows what to expect. Rusty Wallace is 10th, and he sure knows what it takes, especially since he's won one before. Ken Schrader is right behind us in 12th, and he is as hungry as anybody to finish the year in the top 10. Then Ernie Irvan is right behind him, and finishing the year in the top 10 would mean a whole lot to him too. We're in some really good company, some really experienced company. "I wonder about the fact that Phoenix is running on the Halloween weekend. Strange things have happened in NASCAR racing, especially at the end of the year with everybody working so hard to get as many points as they can. I'm hoping the goblins will be on our side the last two races. So many little things can play such a major part in how you finish any race but you always seem to see more of it right at the end of the year. Maybe everybody just pays a whole lot more attention to it. You always seem to hear about some ten-cent part failing or something like that. This late in the season, those ten-cent parts can cost you a whole lot of money in the long run. "Just because I'm appreciative of the experience I'm getting by being in this points thing, it doesn't mean we aren't working as hard as we can to finish in the top ten or the top nine. What I'm seeing is experience, is knowing when to race hard and knowing when to be patient. Man, it can be hard to be patient a lot of times but running with guys like Rusty and them, I get a whole lot better idea of how important it is. What I see from people like the guys I'm racing with and guys like (crew chief) Paul Andrews (1992 NASCAR Winston Cup champion with Alan Kulwicki) is that the closer you get to the end of the season and the greater the pressure, the fewer mistakes they make. They seem to thrive on the pressure. The more they feel, the calmer they get. "At the first of the season, we thought a finish in the top 15 of the points would be a pretty good year. There's just no way this Kmart/RC Cola Ford team could settle for that now. Our goal is the top 10, or even the top nine if we can get it. We're still wanting to win a race before the year is out, and I don't think that's out of the question at all. Phoenix and Atlanta have been pretty good tracks for me, and they've been pretty good tracks for Paul and the guys on this team. Shoot, at Phoenix a year ago we qualified 10th and worked our way into the top five before we had some problems with the engine. It was a short race for us but it proved to us that we can be really good at Phoenix. "Our sponsor is presenting sponsor for the Phoenix race, and a bunch of their top brass will be there too. We're happy to have them, too. They have been really supportive of everything this team has done, and we're going to do everything we can to give them a good run in their own race. This Kmart/RC Cola Ford team is really excited about these final two races." By Williams Company of America, Inc.