JEREMY MAYFIELD: At the head of the pack
My biography of NASCAR race driver Jeremy Mayfield comes from Chelsea House
Publishers as a beautifully printed, colorful library edition, in hardcover and paperback.
Thirty times a year Mayfield
races bumper to bumper against the toughest and best stock drivers in the USA. From his Kentucky boyhood to his latest competitions
on the NASCAR circuit, JEREMY MAYFIELD traces the life and times of this former mechanic, who truly did come up the hard way.
Now an ace driver for the famed Penske-Kranefuss racing team, Mayfield is a competitor who makes his presence felt
every time he gets behind the wheel of his number 12 Ford Taurus.
Smart, level-headed, and utterly devoted to motorsports,
Mayfield does not win every race. But he is almost always in the hunt, and when it counts the most Mayfield comes away a winner.
Also recommended: DALE EARNHARDT, by Michael Benson
FROM JEREMY MAYFIELD:
Jeremy Mayfield gripped the steering wheel of his Number 12 Ford Taurus Mobil 1 stock car.
Thundering down the straightaway at the Pocono 500, Mayfield kept to a steady pace. He knew from past experience that the
big front stretch at Long Pond's 2.5 mile track was exceptionally tough on engines. He also knew that he needed to drive his
Taurus perfectly to win the race.
The roar of the Taurus's high performance engine drowned out the sounds of
the other cars on the track. The loud noise drowned out practically everything but Mayfield's single-minded desire to win
the race, for himself and his team.
Racing fans knew that the blond, crew cut, 28 year old Mayfield would make
a last second grab for the lead. Since the 1998 racing season began, Mayfield had crept up in the National Association for
Stock Car Auto Racing Winston Cup rankings, until he reached the number one spot.
But Mayfield had not yet won
a big race. He had come close to winning several times without quite making it. In two of the past three years it was Chevy
driver Jeff Gordon, not Jeremy Mayfield, who had won most of the big races. Up to Pocono, bad luck dogged every step Mayfield
At the TranSouth 400 in Darlington Mayfield was leading with 43 laps to go. A caution flag let all the
other contenders drop off at their pits half a lap earlier than Mayfield. He wound up coming in fourth.
in the Lonestar state, Mayfield was the class of the show at Fort Worth's Texas 500. A sudden blowout halfway through the
race took him clean out of contention. The Texas 500 saw Mayfield finish a dismal 23rd.
After an exhausting
series of weekly races, the Pocono 500 was the next stop on the circuit. The tricky, triangular 2.5 mile course at Pocono
International Raceway would be an ideal arena for a faceoff between driving aces Gordon and Mayfield.
he hadn't come in first, Mayfield could claim four 1998 top ten finishes, earning more points than any other driver. Having
gotten his chance at the stocks because of his mechanical ability, Mayfield drove with a cool, deliberate style. After all,
when his car broke, it was usually Jeremy Mayfield who had to fix it.
As much as anything, Mayfield's driving
style accounted for his current Winston Cup lead. Going into the June Pocono 500, Mayfield said he counted himself lucky to
be leading Gordon by 26 points in the standings. Mayfield praised his crew, especially chief Paul Andrews, for keeping his
car raceworthy. Andrews already had a 1992 national championship under his belt.
"We're going to be ready
for Pocono because we know Pocono is going to be ready for us," Mayfield said before the race.
Mayfield at Pocono was the usual collection of NASCAR veterans, rookies, and superstar drivers.
First and foremost
was the flashy and successful Jeff Gordon. Younger than even Jeremy by a couple of years, Gordon was the darling of many newcomers
to the Winston Cup scene.
Some long time NASCAR racing fans resented the new people who were flocking to the
sport. To them, Gordon was the emblem of a crowd that cared more about glitz and glamour than it did about driving skill.
Given half a chance, the old timers booed Gordon mercilessly.
Mayfield, on the other hand, was a pure car guy.
A regular working fellow who could not only race cars, but build them as well. Gordon was the product of a wealthy racing
syndicate, Hendrick Motorsports. Unlike Gordon, Jeremy Mayfield had come up the hard way, working in a variety of car shops.
During the qualifying, the coveted pole positions at the Pocono 500 were won by Gordon and 51 year old Darrell
Waltrip. Mayfield lined up just behind them in third place. The green starting flag dropped and the drivers hit their accelerators.
Gassed, tuned, primed, and ready, the colorful stocks bolted forward. One after the other they screamed down
the long front straightaway at Pocono, shooting into their turns.
Averaging well over 100 miles per hour, around
and around the stock cars went, lap after nail-biting lap.
The heavyweight racing tires on the cars held the
asphalt pavement like black rubber claws. Stock car racing is a very dangerous sport. Men have died doing it. Like the other
drivers, Mayfield steered a fine line between success and disaster, racing bumper to bumper at breakneck speeds.
Copyright 2001 by Mike Bonner