The Jeremy Mayfield saga gets weirder by the minute and sadder by the moment. Guilt or innocence, by now, is moot. He's done racing. He said so himself this week. This story meanders like a remote mountain path, twisting and turning through weeds ever-thicker, toward an unforeseen crescendo.
Question is, where's the summit? And how sharp and slippery is the other side slope -- for both sides?
Mayfield's career as a driver was better than average. It is over. It was likely over already, even before NASCAR alleged he tested positive for meth again. His recent comments about NASCAR and his stepmother, Lisa Mayfield, are national headlines.
I did about 7,000 phone interviews Thursday, and as I sat down to watch "Big Brother" with my wife that evening, I wondered aloud: What does his attorney think about all this?
"I don't have any response to Jeremy's recent comments," Bill Diehl, Mayfield's attorney, said Friday. "Jeremy is a grown man, and can say what he wants to say about his situation. I understand where he's coming from. I'd be very frustrated if I were Jeremy."
Diehl said he and John Buric, also part of Mayfield's legal team, didn't direct Mayfield's comments. They were aware that Mayfield wanted to defend himself, and Mayfield told them he wanted to comment.
"It's not Bill Diehl. And I don't believe it was John Buric. So, whatever Jeremy has said, Jeremy has said -- on his own merit. From his own brain. From his own heart," Diehl said. "That's Jeremy talking, and if you've heard him, you know what he said. There's nothing for me to comment on. He's pissed off. I don't blame him."
Diehl also said he's spent no time reading Mayfield's comments on the Internet, and had seen only a few comments Mayfield made to Charlotte local news stations. Diehl said he's been more worried about what he can control.
"I tell you one thing I haven't done. I haven't told him to shut up," Diehl said. "He's had to listen to NASCAR with their abusive discussions of him and statements of him and mean-spirited criticism of him, ad nauseam.
"And I guess he's just fed up with it. [Mayfield said] 'I don't do methamphetamine.' That's the premise. I bet he's said it a hundred different ways. And he's said 'I'm not guilty of what I'm accused of doing, and doing a drug test doesn't make it so.'"
Even two failed drug tests?
"Even 40 of them," Diehl said. "Who knows what NASCAR is? Are they legitimate? I'm not in the position to say they aren't legitimate, but I'm not in a position to say they are legitimate. What they've said and what they've done is abusive. And they're power hungry. And they got their nose rubbed in the dirt with regard to the injunction.
"They're upset and they're grasping at everything they can grasp to make their role in this seem OK, seem like they're really trying to protect the world. It may be they're trying to cover their own butts. I don't know. I think that's something that maybe will turn out as we go down the road."
In the short term, Diehl is fighting to keep the July 1 injunction allowing Mayfield back at the track -- if he so desires -- in place. He said his team filed the required paperwork with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday despite Mayfield's failed drug test on July 6. Diehl said he and his team are waiting for more drug test results to come back and may speak further once they receive the data. His long-term goal, he said, is to prove Mayfield's innocence.
"Isn't that funny that I have to prove somebody innocent?" he said. "But maybe so. What we want to show is that they deprived him of a legitimate test, took away his ability to drive a race car and they damaged him severely. If we prove all those things we're going to get a bunch of money from NASCAR."
NASCAR's response was simple.
"We will continue to let science and sworn affidavits do our talking," said Ramsey Poston, managing director of corporate communications.
Mayfield maintains his innocence, vehemently denying ever using methamphetamine. His stepmother, Lisa, signed a sworn affidavit that said she'd seen Mayfield use at least 30 times as far back as 1998. NASCAR recently submitted that affidavit as evidence against Mayfield, in requesting the judge rescind the July 1 injunction.
In turn, Mayfield lashed out this week at his stepmother, including accusing her of killing his father and being a "gold digger." He visited an attorney Thursday in Salisbury, N.C., to discuss filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Lisa Mayfield.
So what does Danica's trip to Stewart-Haas really mean? Are teams really giving her a serious look for Cup?
-- Cindy Mathesson, Indianapolis
Danica Patrick's recent visit to Stewart-Haas Racing has NASCAR fans more hot 'n' bothered than any GoDaddy ad ever could.
But what people don't seem to know is that SHR isn't the only place she visited during a daylong skip-hop in Charlotte.
She went to Roush Fenway. She went to Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing, too. And her day began at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Yes, Cup teams are most certainly interested in discussing a stock car future with Danica, Cindy. She's infinitely marketable, and money talks. But don't expect her to jump directly into a Cup car. That would be the worst thing she could do.
She needs years -- yes, years -- of stock car practice before she jumps to Cup full-time. I wouldn't be surprised to see her run a full IndyCar slate next year, and maybe a partial Nationwide program. The IndyCar season is 17 races total. It's feasible.
As I was driving to work today, Wednesday, July 15, the one day of the year where there is absolutely nothing going on as far a major sport is concerned, it occurred to me -- why doesn't NASCAR schedule an annual race on this day?
Just move the race we just had from Saturday night, to Wednesday night. You could hype it as, "The Midsummer Night Shootout" or something to that effect. It would give the drivers two weekends off, and allow the fans to get to see the same amount of racing over the same amount of time.
The schedule could be set so it becomes the first race ESPN broadcasts and they could put the hype machine behind it to spread awareness, and you could get tons of ads in to hype the upcoming The Brickyard. Make it a short 300 miler (broadcast 8-10:30) at a track we only see once a season to give it a unique feel we only see at this time.
It could expose the sport to people who might not normally watch, given how weak nighttime summer TV is, and people would be hungry to watch some type of sports competition. To me it seems to have a ton of upside, but I'm probably missing logistics problems. Could this work or am I completely off my rocker?
-- Eric, Harrisonburg, Va.
I wrote recently that shorter races and Wednesday night shows during the summer may be something for NASCAR to look at, Eric. So no, you're not off your rocker. Or we both are, possibly. I'm not sure Chicago is the right venue, either, given that attendance wasn't stellar last Saturday night. Its location is … well … remote.
But I agree: There's nothing on television in the summer, so NASCAR could possibly capitalize if there was some way to work out logistics. Granted, that would be quite an undertaking, given pre-existing agreements with tracks and television.
You'd likely have to sell tickets for a portion of the current price, too, in order to get people to the racetrack. But it's a nice thought. I know I'd like to watch racing on Wednesday nights.
That's my time this week, Six. Mayfield was the overwhelming topic of discussion this week, along with Kevin Harvick's wanting to leave Richard Childress Racing. More on that later … Keep 'em coming.
Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.