FOR SALE: ONE RUINED CAREER

CATAWBA, N.C. _ As NASCAR wraps up its 2009 season in sunny Homestead, Fla., over 800 miles to the north former Sprint Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield held an auction to sell off his personal property and real estate. Nearly 3,000 people showed up on a sunny, fall day to bid on items that ranged from vintage cars to heavy equipment to a 13,000 square-foot home.

Mayfield was suspended in May after NASCAR announced the independent owner/driver had failed a drug test. Involved in numerous lawsuits with NASCAR since, Mayfield has fought to clear his name. Friday served as an opportunity to raise some much-needed cash.

Brian Denne, who lives less than half-a-mile from the property, stopped by for a look at the land he often drove past. Talking with this neighbor, it was clear he felt Mayfield was done wrong. “It could happen to all of us,” Denne said. “He looks like a nice guy with a nice family. It’s really a shame.”

The auction began as a way for the couple to downsize its lifestyle. After more thought, the Mayfields decided to put their private property and real estate on the auction block and start over.

Inside the stables where Iron Horse Auctions conducted the sale, members of the crowd bid as an auctioneer talked a mile-a-minute. Mayfield was in the crowd. In another part of the building his wife Shana had set out some of her clothes and personal items for sale.

With their belongings being sold around them, it would have been understandable for the Mayfields to look down, but that was not the case. Both Jeremy and Shana laughed and joked with friends.

“We’re not going to let it get us down,” Shana said. “We’re fighting and we’re going to keep fighting. I’d rather be here today than in Homestead, to be honest with you. I don’t want to be around people that have treated us the way they’ve treated us and how things have gone down.

“It’s exciting for us. The auction’s fun. We’re having a good time, getting rid of a lot of stuff. It’s fun. It’s just stuff. That’s what we all have to realize. It’s just stuff. What’s important is we’re healthy, we’re happy, we have each other, we’ve got our friends and family and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.”

Jeremy gave up his seat in the crowd to meet with a buyer behind the building. The former driver bent down to sign pieces of sheet metal off his No. 41 car. The buyer won the pieces in the auction and planned to sell them on his eBay store. He said Mayfield still has fans and added that NASCAR was running Mayfield out of the sport.

When I asked Jeremy for an interview, he looked at me and responded, “Man, they’re selling my land. I’ve got to be in there.”

During a break, I caught up with the five-time Cup Series winner. Our conversation touched on a variety of topics that included his lawsuits, his comments about being a scapegoat for other drug users in the sport, NASCAR chairman Brian France and where he goes from here.



Jay W. Pennell: I spoke with you in Daytona at the beginning of the year, with such high hopes for the season – being an owner/driver, putting together the All Sport deal – could you just talk about the highs and lows of the year?

Jeremy Mayfield: It’s been the wildest year I’ve had. Obviously, we’re experiencing things we’ve never experienced before and feel like we got sucker-punched and knocked off our feet from nowhere. It’s definitely put us in a situation we’ve never been in. I’ve never been in lawsuits like this and never been accused of anything like I’ve been accused of. It’s definitely been a crazy year. It’s probably been the worst year of my life, but we’re still here, we’re still standing and we’re going to survive. Every day looks better and better, so I feel like we’re through the hard part and on our way back up and will hopefully be back in a racecar maybe the beginning of the year sometime and get all this stuff behind us.

JWP: Is this auction today to pay off old lawyer bills or is this your plan for the future?

JM: When you’re not doing your job anymore, you don’t have any income coming in. That wasn’t my choice. That was NASCAR’s choice by accusing me of something that is wrong and putting me in a situation where I don’t have any income coming in. So, I’ve got to do something to make a living now. All I’ve ever knew was driving race cars. Well, I can’t do that; they’ve taken that from me. I’ve got to do something, so this is what I do know. When people hear the word auction, they think bottom of the barrel. That’s not the way it is. When you see what’s going on today, how many people are here and what they’re spending, it says a lot.

JWP: With how public your case has been, what does the secrecy of Brian France’s suit against his ex-wife say about Brian France and NASCAR itself?

JM: My whole career, I’ve been my own worst enemy, because I tell it how it is and speak the truth. I’ve gotten in trouble for it. I’ve had problems with different race teams for it, because if my car wasn’t handling right I’d say it wasn’t handling right. If I wrecked it, I’d admit I wrecked it. I have no reason to lie or shoot the bull to anybody. So, everything I’ve always said will sooner or later come out and come true. This is one of those things that is coming out now and coming true.

I don’t think it’s right that they can come and subpoena my phone records and everything they’ve done and we bend over backwards to do it. We give them everything they wanted, which is what you’re supposed to do. Well, if we do that, we expect the same from them. When we go to them and ask for their records, Dr. (David) Black’s records, talk to Brian and his ex-wife, talking to other drivers, they don’t want that. Well, that’s not fair, but that’s how they play and that’s coming out.

For Brian to be wanting to keep his stuff sealed, but yet throw me to the wolves basically for no reason – he wasn’t worried about my reputation or doing me harm or the way I make a living or my family or anyone else. I don’t think it’s fair and I think he should be a man and be like I’ve been. I’m saving face. I’ve been accused of the worst thing, but I’m still here today and standing tall and that’s what being a man is. Why would you want to hide your own records when you want everyone else’s to be public? It’s always double standards with him. It’s just like his cousin (J.C. France, who was arrested in Daytona last month on drug charges), ‘I’m a France and I own this town.’ The public opinion doesn’t like that, I don’t think. To me, it shows arrogance and what are you trying to hide? If it looks like you’re hiding something people are going to be digging into it. I know we are.

Shana Mayfield: I think it says what we’ve said all along. It’s kind of a double standard. If it’s good for one it should be good for the other and it hasn’t been that way. I think that speaks volumes of the mentality of NASCAR and Brian France. It says we can do this to somebody, but when we’re expected of it to be done to ourselves it’s a different standard. Brian France is like every other citizen. If he has something that should be public record, it should be public record. They’ve rummaged through our lives. Jeremy’s laid it out there for them. We’ve laid it all out there for them and I think it’s only fair.

JWP: Have you gone back and looked at the cases of other drivers accused? The only driver to fight back against NASCAR was Tim Richmond in the late ‘80s…

JM: And Tim Richmond was right. If you look word for word at his case, step for step how it happened, and look at mine, it is exactly the same to the T. Here’s the deal. If I was guilty, why would I spend the money I have spent? I could have taken 30 days off and been back racing. It would have been a hell of a lot easier than what I’m doing today. The reason I’m doing it is because I’m not going to go down for something I didn’t do. The easy way out would have been go do the 30 days rehab just because I took Adderall. Once they found out I was going to court with this, that’s when all this other stuff came out. They were going to use me for an example and I’m not going to be used as an example. I’m not going to do that.

JWP: In your ‘Outside the Lines’ interview, you claimed NASCAR used you as a scapegoat to send a message to other drivers in the sport that use drugs. How long has this been going on and could you expand on that?

JM: If my last name wasn’t Mayfield and it just happened to be another name in the sport, would I have been suspended? No. Just because of my last name. Follow what I’m saying? I would not be here today. I’d be racing somewhere. Because I wasn’t that name and my souvenir trailer wasn’t there I was expendable. That’s what I meant by saying I was worth more to NASCAR as a failed drug test.

Sooner or later they had to get someone in the Cup Series. They hadn’t gotten anyone in the Cup Series since Tim Richmond. About a year before, Brian France got on TV and said they’re changing the drug policy because of Aaron Fike – who was caught by the police, not by NASCAR. A year later, they had to get somebody, because remember, they’ve got the strongest, toughest policy in mankind that doesn’t have a list (of banned substances). Why would the crew members have a list, the Nationwide guys have a list, but the Cup guys don’t have a list? It’s because if you’re the right person and you’ve done something wrong, that’s their way out.

One thing we know for sure, what I take Adderall – forget the Claritin D – you can take Adderall and it will show up as methamphetamines. I didn’t know that. I do now. There are not a lot of people that get it. If you’re part of that media group who is in their circle and you won’t get your hard card if you don’t do what we say. I don’t find too many media people that want to talk to me that aren’t in their clique.

JWP: You talk about the last name. Recently, the National Enquirer ran a story saying that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in a drunken spiral.

JM: It could be Earnhardt Jr. It could be (Jeff) Gordon, (Jimmie) Johnson, it could be any of those and they wouldn’t have this problem. Here’s another thing I don’t understand. You look at the worst drug in America is alcohol. A.J. Allmendinger gets a DUI. Michael Waltrip hits a guy and almost gets one. Brian France hits a tree last year or whatever. So, all of this goes on and it’s OK to stay out all night at a race track and drink – I could go to Talladega as a driver and party all night long until the sun comes up and still be drinking and race my car on Sunday and they don’t say a word about it. I could get a DUI and they put you on probation. Because they’ve got Coors Light, Miller Lite – it’s all about the politics again, and they cover up for that.

Taking Adderall, who would you think would be the most dangerous driver on the track? I take Adderall for ADD, adult ADD. I don’t abuse it. I take it once a day, that’s it. Or if I was staying out the night before the race, still have alcohol on my breath and the crew had to help me in the car. That happens every week. I’m better taking my Adderall than I am not taking my Adderall. You’re not better drinking alcohol and staying up all night than you are without it. Yet, there are double standards and that’s OK.

JWP: You mentioned Talladega. This year the race at Talladega was the night after Halloween. With Halloween at Talladega, one of the wildest infields, do you think that had anything to do with the boring single-file racing we saw that day?

JM: You drive around single-file because you can’t do anything. You can’t pull out and pass, whether you’ve been out all night or not. Talladega is one of the wildest places you can go to. You can sit in the drivers’ lot in the infield, where no one but the drivers, crew chiefs and owners stay, and you can watch all night long you can see half the drivers, the top officials in NASCAR, some of the crew chiefs in and out of the motor home lot all night long until the next morning. We walk our dogs at night and you just see golf carts full of people. It could be the head official in NASCAR on down. I’m saying it could be Brian France, Mike Helton, any of them at any time of the night. That’s the stuff they forget that I know.

JWP: What does it mean to you to still have fans and supporters out there despite this situation?

JM: I’ve gotten so much response. I feel like I’ve got a bigger fan base now than I did before. I hear this on a daily basis, they go. ‘You got a raw deal,’ ‘You got ripped off,’ ‘I’m not watching NASCAR anymore because of this.’ You can’t railroad people the way they did me for no reason and get by with it.

When the bidding resumed, Mayfield made his way to the auction room floor. Interested in seeing how much money his property would go for, he watched as hands rose and the auctioneer called the bids.

 
Speaking with Mayfield during the sale of his belongings showed me a side of the former driver that does not come through reading court documents or news articles. He is a man who lost his career, his reputation and now his possessions because NASCAR says he violated its drug policy. For now the Mayfield family is focused on the future. Mayfield plans on buying more land and continuing with the auctions while working to get back behind the wheel of a race car, most likely in drag racing. Eventually the truth – NASCAR’s or Mayfield’s – will emerge in court, but for now it is a game of back and forth between Mayfield and Brian France’s lawyers.
 
(Photos by Jay W. Pennell.)