The Callahan Report: Mayfield's Talent Prevails at Pocono
21 June 1998
By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel
Mayfield fought off challenges from a variety of drivers all afternoon. Jeff Gordon was able to stay with Mayfield through the long runs. Darrell Waltrip was also in the mix late in the race. Waltrip was the leader with less than 20 laps remaining in the show. He fell back slightly at the end.
"This is my lifetime dream,'' Mayfield said. "I wanted to beat the best and that's what I did."
NASCAR didn't make it easy for Mayfield. NASCAR officials made another questionable call in the interest of entertainment. With a handful of laps remaining in the race, Todd Bodine spun. He did not hit anything. Normally, NASCAR will refuse to display a yellow flag in "non- impact" incidents.
Mayfield and Jeff Gordon were running away with the show. NASCAR wanted to tighten the pack for the last few laps. Tight racing makes for a good show, but most accidents occur when the cars are in tight quarters after a restart. In the interest of safety, NASCAR should be consistent throughout the races. NASCAR red flagged the race at Richmond two weeks ago due to a late race single car crash. The move allowed Terry Labonte to pass Dale Jarrett for the win.
Jeremy Mayfield, the Winston Cup leader heading into the race, took the lead from Jeff Gordon before the completion of the fifth lap. He had been the fastest car in the final practice session on Saturday. He proved his strength from the drop of the green flag. Mayfield also benefitted from tire testing. The Penske team was one of only two NASCAR teams testing the Goodyear tire used for the Pocono 500.
"He deserved it," Gordon said. "We had nothing for him at the end. We were strong in the corners, but he was strong in the straightaways."
There are always a few mistakes made in a race. The biggest mistake made prior to the Pocono 500 was not made by anyone involved with a race team. The weather professionals said there would be clear skies and sunny weather for the running of the race. The race was stopped for over an hour due to rain. It was stopped again for a light drizzle just past the half-way point. In between the rain drops, there was some great racing.
Ken Schrader brought out the first of nine yellow flags in the Pocono 500. Schrader and Dale Earnhardt swapped some paint exiting the tunnel turn sending Schrader into the wall. Earnhardt continued his charge to the front of the field. Schrader was complaining of some neck pain. He could not recall the accident.
Earnhardt asked his crew to apologize for the incident with Schrader. The response from Schrader was a frustrated comment. Schrader said, "That's what he said the last time he wrecked me."
Rusty Wallace was black flagged shortly after the start of the race. Wallace crossed the start- finish line ahead of the pole sitter, Jeff Gordon. This was not the first time Wallace had jumped ahead of Gordon. Wallace jumped ahead of Gordon during a late race restart in the Bud Shootout at Daytona. Wallace was not penalized for the Daytona infraction. He went on the win the short race which kicked off Speedweeks 98 in Daytona.
The Wallace bad luck continued. On the "lucky" thirteenth lap, Wallace blew his engine. Wallace was a leading contender in the points race. The engine failure dropped him dramatically in the standings.
"I broke a crankshaft. The whole front end of the engine is tore up," said Wallace. "I really don't know what happened other than there was a major malfunction in the engine department."