France: NASCAR will fight Mayfield suit

Updated: May 24, 2009, 9:00 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- Chairman Brian France says NASCAR has no plans to settle the dispute with suspended Sprint Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield out of court if a lawsuit is filed.

"We'll defend the policy," France said before Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "We're very confident about the policy."

Mayfield hired Charlotte-based attorney Bill Diehl to challenge his positive test that resulted in an indefinite suspension as a driver and owner for violating the substance abuse policy.

Diehl has indicated that a suit might be necessary. He can file no earlier than Tuesday because the courts are closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Mayfield contends that he did nothing wrong, that his positive test is the result of mixing a prescription drug with an over-the-counter drug, which he has identified as Claritin-D. Dr. David Black, who runs NASCAR's test program, has said that is not a possibility.

France said it was a "serious infraction," defining serious as a recreational or performance-enhancing drug. Sources have ruled out performance-enhancing. France made it clear that the governing body is not looking to settle the issue out of court if suit is filed. Earlier this year, NASCAR reached a settlement on the sexual harassment and racial discrimination suit filed by former NASCAR official Mauricia Grant.

Mayfield's denial has raised many questions among drivers about the policy. France said the mandatory meeting that NASCAR called for drivers and owners on Tuesday at the Research and Development Center in Concord was scheduled before the suspension.

"It's not related to the drug issue or the substance-abuse policy, although we'll take questions on that," he said.

France said the meeting will be a town hall atmosphere where a variety of issues will be discussed.

"Including what the economy has done, the sponsorship component, what's happening with the manufacturers, the new car on the track ... a lot of different things," he said.

France said the goal is to improve the overall quality of the sport. Under consideration will be double-file restarts by the leaders as used in the All-Star race but a part of point races.

"There's many things we're going to look at, that being one of them, and see if we can make the sport better," France said. "It's to open up our communication lines with team owners and drivers. "It's just something we've wanted to do for a while."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

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