NASCAR Winston Cup Series NAPA 500 Preview: #37, Jeremy Mayfield
10 November 1997
#37 Jeremy Mayfield, Kmart/RC Cola Ford Thunderbird NASCAR Winston Cup Series NAPA 500 Advance Atlanta Motor Speedway JEREMY MAYFIELD NOTES & QUOTES: NAPA 500 'We're Racers. We're Supposed To Go Fast' HAMPTON, GA - Jeremy Mayfield and the Kmart/RC Cola Ford team sit on the verge of a top 10 finish in the final NASCAR Winston Cup championship standings. Such a finish would be quite a feat for the 28-year-old native of Owensboro, Ky., who is just in his third full season of NASCAR Winston Cup racing. The undisputed "Young Gun" of the Kentucky Boys - the group of five stock car drivers from the Owensboro area, including Darrell Waltrip, Michael Waltrip, David Green and Jeff Green. Mayfield is easily having the best season of the five. Twelfth in the championship standings, Mayfield is just 32 points behind 11th-place Ken Schrader; 45 points behind 10th-place Ted Musgrave; and 90 points behind ninth-place Rusty Wallace. Mayfield and the Kmart/RC Cola Ford team have distinguished themselves in the battle of seven drivers for positions 9-15 in the NASCAR Winston Cup 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 is the top up-and-coming driver in the sport. 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 Atlanta: "Everybody's back to square one when it comes to Atlanta. I figured it would be a lot like Charlotte but it's not a lot like Charlotte. It's not like anything. It's its own animal, something brand new, something we've all got to figure out. There won't be a lot of time to do that. We have some practice Friday, a little more practice Saturday, and then we show everybody what we've learned on Sunday. It's a quick, quick week on a quick, quick track. "The place is fast but it's always been fast. It's just a little faster than it's ever been. I don't think anybody is necessarily concerned that much just because of the speeds. Sure, you don't want to hit the wall at 193 miles per hour but you don't want to hit it at 90 miles per hour either. It's a question of how comfortable you can be in the car, and you can get the car comfortable at 193 miles per hour. I'd rather go that fast in a comfortable car than a whole lot slower in one that is not so comfortable. "Plain and simple. We're racers. We're supposed to go fast. We spend every second of every week trying to make our cars faster and faster. We're always looking for every possible angle to get just a little more speed. If a driver was able to run 193 and everybody else was running 185, you think he'd complain? No way. Everybody else would be complaining, wanting to go that fast. The difference comes down to about one second in time. The blink of an eye. "Where the problem lies is if you run into trouble. If the guy in front of you turns sideways, you're going to get to him a whole lot quicker. If you get a little loose, you have a little less time to catch the car. I think that's where everybody is concerned. It's not the pain of hitting the wall, it's the pain of losing a race car and losing a race. "I've heard all kinds of things and I'm sure NASCAR will do whatever they think is the best thing to do. That's what they're there for. Restrictor plates or smaller engines or all the other things I've heard, well, I'm not sure that would be the best thing. A lot of the speed will go away by itself. The longer the asphalt is there, the lower the speeds will get. It will harden more and the adhesion won't be as good after we race there some, and the speeds will start falling off. And everybody will still be doing everything they can do to go as fast as they can. "This is going to be one of the most important races this Kmart/RC Cola Ford team has had all season. A lot of the reason for that is the fact that this is the next race. But we want to finish 1997 on a high note. A really strong run at Atlanta and moving into the top 10 of the standings would definitely be a high note That's been a goal of this team, finishing in the top 10. That would really set us where we want to be going into 1998. "A lot of what happens in Atlanta is going to play a big part in what happens in 1998. Some momentum out of Atlanta can carry you through the end of November and December. It can keep your spirits pretty high while you're building cars and working towards testing in January. It can make the difference between whistling while you work until after Christmas and spitting in disgust. "I want to get up on that stage in New York (at the NASCAR Winston Cup Awards Banquet) because that's the place where the best teams go. We feel like we're one of the best teams out here. We've got a great group of people and we've worked hard to get where we are. I guess I ought to be a little more quiet since I don't have the experience all of these other guys have but I think we have a good shot at saluting Kmart with a toast with RC Cola on that stage in New York City." By Williams Company of America, Inc.