Mayfield looking to begin rebound in Texas
After two seasons of genuine success, it's good to see Jeremy Mayfield hasn't lost his ability to remain impossibly optimistic even when the wheels are falling off a campaign.
Mayfield, a talent since entering the Cup Series in 1994, has struggled for much of his career to match his style with the personalities and equipment around him.
Through it all, though, he gained a reputation for keeping his spirits up. All that optimism paid off with a couple of smart choices, foremost of which was his decision to team up with owner Ray Evernham. Mayfield made the first two Chases for the Nextel Cup and, though finishing the final 10 playoff races out of contention for a title, things were at least headed in the right direction.
This season, his best result is 16th place two weeks ago at Bristol. His average finish is nearly 28th. His post in the points standings: a lowly 33rd.
Enter that old optimism.
"Things haven't gone our way this year, but I'm still pumped," Mayfield said. "We have a great team and just need a run of luck at the next couple of races to get on track again. Good things are ahead for the No. 19 Dodge team."
This is no dig on Mayfield's optimism. On the contrary, with the state of the sport being so ultra-competitive and with parity among multi-car teams, anybody can hit a rough spot for a variety of reasons. The key: Figure it out, but stay upbeat.
For Mayfield and Co., they've got the upbeat. It's the figuring things out that's been tough.
"We've just got a monkey on our back and can't get it off for some reason," he said. "I don't know why. The guys have worked hard, so you really can't complain."
Except for last week at Martinsville, where the No. 19 finished 38 laps down after blowing an engine, Mayfield has at least been on the track to finish races. That said, he met enough obstacles in the first two races to finish four-laps and one-lap down, respectively.
"We've dug ourselves a hole," he said. "Now, we've got to dig ourselves out."
Mayfield is looking to Texas Motor Speedway this Sunday to start the climb.
"We can do that and Texas is a good place to start," he said. "The No. 19 ... Dodge Charger should be very competitive there. Our team has faced adversity this season. Now, it's time to turn things around and start performing the way we're capable. My guys want to run up front, win races. They're hungry. We expect our best finish of the season at Texas and to start our climb back up the ladder where we belong."
It's not historically Mayfield's best track, though. In 10 tries, he's finished eight times outside the top 10. Indeed, six times he's finished outside the top 20. And his two top 10s, a fifth and a sixth, came in 1999 and 2000.
Still, having gone from playoff racer to also-ran, Mayfield is convinced now more than ever that anything can happen.
"The guys have been doing a great job," he said. "Everybody has been working hard, and we're going to get this thing turned around. We'll get headed in the right direction and get back up there in the top 10 in points like we've been the past two seasons."
Rupen Fofaria is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.