Woody: Mayfield Case Doesn’t Make Sense
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
I became acquainted with Jeremy Mayfield when he moved from Owensboro, Ky., to Nashville as a teenager, following the career path of his hometown hero Darrell Waltrip.
Mayfield, like Waltrip, began racing at historical old Fairgrounds Speedway while working at Sadler Racing. He swept floors, did body work, handled odd jobs around the shop in exchange for getting to drive one of Sadler’s ARCA cars.
Mayfield was obviously a talented driver, a star in the making. In 1994 he joined Cale Yarborough’s new Cup team – being hired to drive for Cale Yarborough was a pretty stout endorsement – and his career took off from there.
One summer I visited Mayfield’s hometown and visited his mom at the hardware store she operated. I toured the famed old Owensboro racetrack where Mayfield, the Green brothers and the Waltrips earned their stripes. I talked to several of Jeremy’s high school buddies and old racing rivals.
I didn’t find a critic among them. Mayfield was an All-American kid, clean-cut, dedicated, hard-working. He was always friendly and out-going; once when I wrote a story criticizing his then-team-owner Ray Evernham, Mayfield sought me out in the garage to make sure “everything is OK between you and me.”
I assured him that it was; my complaint was about how Evernham had treated young driver Casey Atwood and was in no way a criticism of Mayfield who had been chosen to replace Atwood.
I’ve said all that to say this: I’ve known Jeremy Mayfield, 39, for almost half his life, and the Jeremy Mayfield we’ve been reading about in recent days doesn’t fit the description.
Mayfield last week was suspended by NASCAR for violation of its substance abuse policy. Mayfield said he is innocent of any wrong-doing and believes he may have mixed some combination of legal prescription drugs that resulted in a positive test.
I’ve always supported NASCAR’s tough drug policy – I think others sports should be equally tough – but I have one problem with it: NASCAR declines to specify what drugs are banned.
Its position is that even legal prescription drugs, if abused, could cause impairment and it retains the right to ban any participant it feels might be so impaired.
That’s fine in theory, but it’s easy to see how it could lead to confusion and problems. If a driver doesn’t know if a specific prescription drug is illegal, how is he supposed to know not to use it for a legitimate ailment?
Another part of NASCAR’s drug policy is to not disclose or comment on what drug a participant tested positive for. If I were a driver charged with violating the policy, as is case with Mayfield, I would insist that NASCAR make my lab test public. Make it public, and show exactly what I’m guilty of and why I’ve been suspended.
I suppose NASCAR is leery of lawsuits, but it seems it would be equally vulnerable to legal action by announcing a participant’s ban for “substance abuse” and supplying no further details.
Maybe Mayfield is guilty as charged. Maybe he knowingly used an illegal substance. But it’s hard for me to believe that the bright, hard-working young man I’ve known for so long could be so reckless.
Mayfield has devoted his life to his racing dream, and it has often been a struggle. This year he founded his own team from scratch. Every week has been a battle to get into the race, then another battle to keep up with the big-bucks teams.
Nobody has worked harder to get where he is, and to earn what he’s got, than Mayfield. Knowing full well that under NASCAR’s stated policy he could be drug-tested at any moment, would he risk flushing all his work, his dream – his life — down the toilet?
Maybe he did. Maybe he played Russian Roulette with a banned substance and lost. But it’s hard for me to buy it.
If it’s true, it’s certainly not the young man I’ve been so fond of for so many years. That’s not the Jeremy Mayfield I know.7 Comments