NASCAR Winston Cup Series MBNA 400 Preview: #37, Jeremy Mayfield
17 September 1997
#37 Jeremy Mayfield, Kmart/RC Cola Ford Thunderbird NASCAR Winston Cup Series MBNA 400 Advance Dover Downs International Speedway JEREMY MAYFIELD NOTES & QUOTES: MBNA 400 COMPILED BY FORD MOTORSPORTS JEREMY MAYFIELD AND THE KMART/RC COLA FORD TEAM ENTER THIS WEEK'S RACE 10TH IN THE NASCAR WINSTON CUP STANDINGS, REMAIN LOCKED IN A TIGHT BATTLE FOR NINTH AND EIGHTH. THE LAST TIME JEREMY MAYFIELD WAS AT DOVER DOWNS SPEEDWAY, HE FINISHED A CAREER-HIGH FOURTH AND HAD A CHANCE TO WIN THE MILLER 500. HE BACKED THAT UP WITH A FIFTH-PLACE FINISH THE FOLLOWING WEEK AT POCONO AND MOVED INTO THE TOP 10 IN POINTS FOR THE FIRST TIME. SINCE THEN, HE FINISHED FIFTH AT INDIANAPOLIS AND HAS EIGHT MORE TOP-20 FINISHES TO HANG AROUND THE TOP 10. MAYFIELD DISCUSSES HIS SURPRISING SUCCESS THIS SEASON AND HIS FUTURE AS ONE OF NASCAR'S RISING STARS: JEREMY MAYFIELD (#37 Kmart/RC Cola Thunderbird) - "The last time we were at Dover, I think we were probably a top-10 car, for sure. That's where we ran all day long, around sixth or seventh or eighth. Then they had some misfortune right there at the end and we wound up fourth. We learned a lot. That was our first trip to Dover together with this team. A lot of people don't see that, that this is our first time around together. This is like a brand-new team and it's the first time we've all been together. I think that going back to Dover with what we know now and the notes that we have, we'll be in even better. We'll take fourth any time. But we ran good. We ran respectable all day long." ARE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW GOOD YOU HAVE BEEN THIS YEAR? - "A little bit. But the reason why is because we were so far down last year. We were about 35th in points, and to do a 180-degree turnaround is amazing. But if you have seen the change I've seen you wouldn't be that surprised. It was a year at Richmond that we have been together, and in that time this team has made a major, major turnaround. I came in on the tail end of it. I'm surprised, but then again I'm not, because I knew that the potential was here. I just didn't know that it would happen this quick. But we've still got a long way to go. The thing that I'm excited about is that this is our first time around for the whole series, and we've got a lot to go yet. We're not maxed out yet. We're running good, but we know that's there another level, and we're working hard to get there." WHAT HAS BEEN THE KEY TO TURNING THINGS AROUND? - "I think it has been teamwork and communication between Paul Andrews and the team and myself. We've got a lot of good people here. We've got good car owners with Michael Kranefuss and Carl Haas and great sponsors. When you've got all that, and everybody is communicating and just gelling together with the team, that is the biggest factor that I've seen that has led to the change. It's given me better race cars so that I can become a better driver and be able to learn more about this." AT WHAT POINT IN THE SEASON DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU HAD SOMETHING GOOD GOING HERE? - "I think it was at Daytona when we finished sixth in the first race of the season. We knew we had a good deal going at Daytona. Once we came out of Daytona good, we said, 'Man, this deal is working good. We all worked good together for the first race (of the season).' Then we went through a string of 17ths and 18ths and middle-of-the-pack type finishes. But we knew what we had going for us for the future was good. There has been a lot of races where things have happened to us that if they hadn't happened, we would probably be sixth or seventh in points. I know everybody can look back and say, 'what if.' But it's not like, 'What if we had run good.' We did run good, we just had things happen to us. I think early in the year we realized we had a good thing going. "We went to Bristol and finished ninth, then turned around the next week and went to Martinsville and finished seventh. We've had a lot of weeks like that. We were fourth at Dover, then went to Pocono and finished fifth. We went to Michigan and ran good, but finished 12th. We had a little misfortune, but we still finished 12th. We went to California and finished 12th. There were a lot of places where we were right there. And we've had our share of bad runs, too. We had a bad run at the second Michigan race. We had a rocker mess up on us and we just ran terrible. But you didn't see anybody get down about it. We just threw it behind us and came back next week and started running good again." HOW BIG WOULD IT BE FOR YOU TO FINISH IN THE TOP 10 IN POINTS? - "Right now, it means everything. We're working real hard on doing that. That's our goal right now. That's what we want. We've got to finish in the top 10 and we want to win a race. If we don't win a race or don't finish in the top 10, it won't be devastating to us. It's going to hurt us, because that's our goal. But from where we came from to now is a big jump. If we can just continue to do that, we know that this time next year we will be a lot better off. We're going to work really hard in the last part of the season to get in that top 10." WHEN DID YOU SET FINISHING IN THE TOP 10 AS A GOAL? - "Our goal at the beginning of the season was the top 15. We wanted to be in the top 15 every week. We knew if we could do that, that would be a big turnaround from last year. But it didn't take long for us to wind up in the top 10. And we've been there most of the year. A couple of times we've fallen out for a week or so, but we would get right back in. At Richmond we had a shot at getting back in the top 10. We were running sixth and had a right rear tire go down on us and we wound up 10th. That would have put us back in the top 10. Early in the season we re-evaluated our team and our goals and decided right then that this was a top-10 team. And that's what we want." HOW MUCH HAS HAVING PAUL ANDREWS AS YOUR CREW CHIEF HELPED YOU? - "It's a big confidence booster for me, knowing that he has been there and done that. Paul has been a tremendous help to me as a driver. He has brought a lot of experience to me. He has helped me understand Winston Cup racing better. I might have one idea and he might have another, and he will explain to me why he has the other idea. And 99 percent of the time, he is right. That's really helped me as a driver. He's given me a good car and he's very organized. He's kept the team organized. I can't even describe how much experience and organization and confidence he has brought to this race team and to myself." YOU SEEM TO FIT TOGETHER PERSONALITY-WISE, TOO. - "Yeah, I think we do. He and I are alike. He's always on an even keel no matter what, and I like that. When you've got a good race team, you've got good people. Our team has a lot of what I call high-profile, experienced people on this team. The hardest thing about building a race team is getting those type of people and the personalities working together instead of butting heads all the time. I think that is the one of the biggest things that Paul has done, being able to organize this team and put people in the right places and make all the different personalities gel together. He is a crew chief first. But the way our team is structured, there is a lot of responsibility on the crew chief. We have a team manager and a crew chief, but our crew chief has a lot more to do with the team than just working on the car and making calls during the race." HOW MUCH DID IT HELP YOU TO MAKE THE SWITCH TO THIS TEAM LAST YEAR AND GET THOSE 10 RACES TOGETHER? - "It did a lot for us. It showed this team where their weak points were and it showed me where mine was. It showed us as a team together what we need to do for this year. What would have happened had I jumped in this car this year? Without any changes last year, it would have been another learning year. The most important 10 races of my career was jumping over there with this team early, even though our performance was terrible and we didn't run good. But not running good allowed us to learn each other and led to us running good like we are now. Not running good then has paid off." WE'RE STARTING TO SEE SOME OF THE YOUNG GUYS MOVE UP. DOES SEEING A YOUNG GUY LIKE JEFF BURTON WIN GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE? - "Definitely. And I tell you something else that makes us feel good. We look at the 99 team and the 24 team a lot. We feel like right now we are a year behind. We are running just like they ran last year. This is the same way Jeff Burton ran last year and this is the same way Jeff Gordon ran his first or second full season with the 24 car. That has added a lot of confidence to our team. I feel like in the future I'm going to have a better race team than they've got. I feel real good about that. I feel like I've already got the team they've got, or better. And I feel like the resources we're going to have in the future, and we've got a lot of stuff going on as far as research and development and resource-wise, that we're going to have just as much, or more, than those teams have." ARE YOU AT A DISADVANTAGE RIGHT NOW WITH A SINGLE-CAR TEAM? - "I see a lot of disadvantages. I don't wish that we had another team, by no means, but I wish we had the resources of two teams instead of one and that we could combine two budgets instead of one and have two teams' test sessions instead of one. That's where we're at a disadvantage. But if you start a new team, where are you going to get the people? Where are you going to get the driver? You can't just start a second team up and it be a first-rate race team. To have a two-car team, you'd need to have an A team and a B team. You need to have two A teams. There are advantages and disadvantages. But if you are going to do it, you need to do it right. If we ever do decide to have a second team, I guarantee you it's going to be right and it's going to be first-rate. There's been talk about it. Michael has talked about it since he started this team. But I don't see it any time soon." SOME GUYS LOOK LIKE THEY ARE ON THE VERGE OF WINNING, THEN IT NEVER HAPPENS. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU NEED TO IMPROVE ON TO MAKE THAT NEXT STEP? - "I need to keep doing what I'm doing right now, and that's getting the experience that I'm getting and building the relationship that I'm building with the team. The only thing that I can say is that if they haven't won races, they didn't want it bad enough. I want it, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get it. Three or four years from now, if I'm in that situation, I would just as soon not be here. If I feel like I'm just here running taking up a spot in the field, I don't want to be here. It's all about winning. But I realize it takes time. I'm 28, and I realize that I've got some time. When I get to the point when I feel like I'm running out of time, then I need to do something different."