Mayfield says owner Evernham not the problem
JOLIET, Ill. -- Two days after sounding as though he was questioning his team owner's commitment, driver Jeremy Mayfield said he was simply frustrated with his team's performance and wasn't criticizing Ray Evernham.
"The problem isn't Ray," Mayfield said Sunday morning in a joint news conference with Evernham. "The problem, and I've said this over and over all year long, it's about us as a team, as 19 being consistent getting chemistry right; it's not about one person. If you think it's about Ray, we're all [kidding] ourselves. I want to clear it all up right now that it's not one person."
Mayfield said Friday that he was struggling to establish chemistry with new crew members on his No. 19 team, and that he was taken aback because Evernham hasn't been at the racetrack to help fix what's wrong.
"I haven't talked to Ray much," Mayfield said Friday. "We don't see Ray much. I don't know. He encourages us when he is around but he haven't seen him much lately."
Mayfield now is making nice with his team owner -- but that doesn't necessarily mean he is sticking with Evernham Motorsports for the long term.
Asked Friday if he would consider moving to another team, Mayfield said he was a "sitting duck" because he had a long-term deal.
Evernham said he wouldn't discuss parting ways with Mayfield before the end of this season, but the question of allowing Mayfield to leave remains open.
"We're going to talk about that," Evernham said. "We're concentrating on this year, on getting this thing fixed, we don't have to talk about that option until August or September. Right now, we want to fix this."
Mayfield said Sunday that he and Evernham would "continue to be great friends no matter what happens in the future."
Evernham, known in the past for his hands-on management style, reiterated that it is common for high-profile team owners not to show up at every race.
Polesitter Jeff Burton failed to get his first victory since 2001, as slight handling problems and an ignition box problem relegated him to a second-place finish after leading 60 laps early.
"We were close, we just never were right there," Burton said. "And in today's game, you can't be almost there. You've got to be all the way there [to] win these races."
Still, it is the ninth top-10 finish in 12 races for the resurgent Burton, who climbed three spots to fourth in the points.
"We've been running well this year," Burton said. "Obviously, we haven't won in a long time. That's no big secret. I wish it was, but it's not. But we're working really hard."
Mark Martin wasn't pleased with his 18th-place finish. "We've got to get our cars better," Martin said. "We got our pit-road thing fixed, we just got to get our cars better now." ... With Sunday's victory, there are only three tracks on the circuit where Jeff Gordon hasn't won: Homestead-Miami Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press