DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) ‚ Four team owners won't put Jeremy Mayfield in their cars this weekend at Daytona International Speedway, one because of sponsor concerns and the other because Mayfield is "marked" following his legal battle with NASCAR.
Mayfield faces a Thursday afternoon deadline to bring Mayfield Motorsports to Daytona in time to join the 45 other entrants. His indefinite suspension for a failed drug test was lifted by a federal judge Wednesday, allowing him to race this weekend.
He can drive for someone else or bring his own No. 41 Toyota to the track, but the $5,005 late entry fee is daunting for the cash-strapped Mayfield. He said in an affidavit last week that he laid off 10 employees, borrowed money from family and had to sell personal assets to cover his living expenses.
He's also being sued for more than $86,000 by Triad Racing Technologies for parts, pieces and chassis work that Mayfield allegedly owes the company.
Mayfield said outside court Wednesday he would travel to Daytona, but wasn't sure in what capacity. His suspension covered both his roles as driver and owner of his car, and he wasn't sure he could put something together in time.
Former series champion Matt Kenseth doesn't think Mayfield will be shunned by other drivers if he returns.
"I don't think he'll be treated any different," Kenseth said. "I don't know of any people off hand or any people that have ever really had a problem with Jeremy. I don't know if we'll ever know or if there's a way to really find out or not if it's right or wrong. But certainly, if for some reason it was wrong, you feel bad for the guy because he's been kind of crucified already."
And getting back onto the track may prove difficult.
Larry Gunselman and Tommy Baldwin, two owners who potentially could have given Mayfield a ride, said they weren't considering him for Saturday night's race.
"Whether he's right, wrong or different right now, he's marked," said Baldwin, "and that's going to hurt him probably for the rest of his career."
Phil Parsons said he'd keep Dave Blaney in his No. 66 car, and Joe Nemechek said he had no intention of giving up his seat in his No. 87.
"No way," said Nemechek, who has given his seat to Red Bull Racing twice this season after rookie Scott Speed failed to qualify for races. "He's got his own stuff."
NASCAR suspended Mayfield on May 9 after he tested positive in a random drug test on May 1, and spokesman Ramsey Poston confirmed Wednesday that Mayfield tested positive for methamphetamines. Mayfield sued, and U.S. District Court Judge Graham Mullen issued a temporary injunction that allows Mayfield to return to NASCAR this weekend.
Driving Gunselman's No. 64 was believed to be Mayfield's best opportunity at Daytona, but Gunselman said Southeastern-based discount store Fred's, which signed on to sponsor his car this weekend, did not want to associate itself with Mayfield.
"They probably would choose not to be involved at this particular time," said Gunselman, who added he had not had any direct conversations with Mayfield about replacing Mike Wallace in the car.
"For being a small, startup team that's struggled, I have to consider every potential scenario for our race team. Everybody's feelings are kind of sensitive at the moment, and I'd have to be very aware of everything involved."
Gunselman said he'd be willing to work with Mayfield going forward. With no sponsor lined up for next week's race in Chicago, he wouldn't have the Fred's conflict. He also said NASCAR told him Mayfield is clear to drive.
"They said their position is Jeremy is an approved driver, so it was kind of left at that. I don't know where it's going to go from here," Gunselman said. "I've been involved in NASCAR for a long time, and I'm hoping all parties can put this thing behind them and move forward in a positive manner. If I can help mediate that or be somehow involved in that, that would be wonderful."
Ten teams are trying to qualify for eight open spots in Saturday night's race, but only a handful likely would consider making a driver change to accommodate Mayfield.
Told Mayfield had potentially sold a portion of his inventory to raise money, Nemechek said "I don't think anybody bought it. Not these days."
Baldwin, who was briefly crew chief for Mayfield at Bill Davis Racing in 2006, said he was sticking with Patrick Carpentier this weekend.
"We all like Jeremy, there's no doubt about that," Baldwin said. "The unfortunate thing is the last couple months here, he's gone through his struggles and it's not going to help him in the business world of racing. That's for sure."
AP Sports Writer Mark Long contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
|< Prev||Next >|