Mayfield misses deadline for own car

Updated: July 3, 2009, 7:40 AM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR officials on Thursday questioned the motive behind Jeremy Mayfield seeking a temporary injunction so he could compete this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

On Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C., Mayfield was granted the injunction by a federal judge, lifting an indefinite suspension handed down May 9 for failing NASCAR's substance-abuse policy.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Mayfield
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonJeremy Mayfield, seen outside court Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C., got the injunction he wanted, but is having a hard time finding a ride.

The injunction would have allowed Mayfield to compete in Saturday night's Sprint Cup race, but he did not meet the 3 p.m. ET deadline for fielding a team at Daytona. Barring a last-minute decision by another owner to put him in a car, Mayfield will not race.

"Jeremy and his legal team asked for a preliminary injunction for emergency relief because it was necessary for him to come compete here in Daytona," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said. "It appears he's not going to compete this weekend, which would raise some questions on how much of an emergency it was."

Judge Graham Mullen, who issued the injunction, ruled that the losses Mayfield suffered from not being allowed to race outweighed NASCAR's safety concerns for its other drivers.

Time and money were major issues behind Mayfield not bringing a car to Daytona. According to court documents, he said he had to lay off 10 employees and lost the support of his major sponsor since being suspended by NASCAR.

Mayfield's only hope of participating in the race is as a relief driver, a change NASCAR must approve.

"That's something that's at the discretion of the series director," said John Darby, director of the Sprint Cup Series.

Whether he's right, wrong or different right now, he's marked, and that's going to hurt him probably for the rest of his career.

-- Car owner Tommy Baldwin

Sources said Mayfield will be at the track on Saturday and that he is doing what he can to get ready for next weekend's race in Chicago.

NASCAR has said Mayfield will be tested before he returns to the track. Poston was unsure if the 40-year-old driver, who has been accused of testing positive for methamphetamine, will be tested this weekend if he does not race.

Former series champion Matt Kenseth does not believe Mayfield will be shunned by other drivers if or when he returns to racing.

"I don't think he'll be treated any different," Kenseth said. "I don't know of any people offhand 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."

One driver said he would be uncomfortable at the prospect of driving against Mayfield, now that NASCAR said he tested positive for meth in a urine sample collected May 1.

"A federal judge releasing someone to drive without clarifying everything, that's not cool," said Ryan Newman, one of the most vocal drivers about drug testing since Mayfield's suspension. "People make mistakes. I hope the judge didn't make one."

Getting work or getting his own team back to the track will be a difficult challenge for Mayfield.

"He didn't have a job prior to this," Jeff Burton said. "I don't think [team owners] Rick Hendrick or Richard Childress were going to call him, anyway. I'm not being ugly; it's just the truth. Without a doubt, there's now an asterisk next to his name, and that's going to make it a whole lot harder."

Larry Gunselman and Tommy Baldwin, two owners who potentially could have given Mayfield a ride for the Daytona race, said they were not considering him.

"Whether he's right, wrong or different right now, he's marked," Baldwin said, "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 after his sample from a random drug test on May 1 came up positive. Poston confirmed Wednesday that Mayfield tested positive for methamphetamine. The driver sued, and Mullen issued a temporary injunction.

One of Mayfield's attorneys, John Buric, said a civil lawsuit also is planned, and the monetary damages they will seek have increased because of the fallout from NASCAR's ban.

"The fact that he can't go race and can't get people to sponsor him to race as a result of what [NASCAR has] said and done is obviously a part of our damage plan,'' Buric said.

Mayfield himself is being sued for more than $86,000 by Triad Racing Technologies for parts, pieces and chassis work that Mayfield allegedly owes the company.

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 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, start-up 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, and 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."

Buric said he planned to meet with NASCAR attorneys, as Mullen ordered, later Thursday to discuss plans moving forward.

Ten teams are trying to qualify for eight open spots in Saturday'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."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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