Mayfield struggling to keep pace in Chase

Updated: October 13, 2005, 10:26 PM ET
Associated Press

CONCORD, N.C. -- The second time around has not come any easier for Jeremy Mayfield, who has been toiling along in obscurity through the first four rounds in the Chase for the championship.

Mayfield made the Chase last season, had early troubles in the first few events and never recovered. He finished the year 10th in the standings.

This version hasn't gone much better -- although he hasn't had any on-track problems, his finishes haven't been terrific and Mayfield heads into Saturday night's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in ninth place in the points.

"We've got to step it up a little bit and we all know that," Mayfield said. "We're trying hard to do that. It's not a one person deal -- the whole team has got to step up and do more than we ever have and dig deeper than we've ever dug."

The problem for Mayfield is not that he has run poorly since the Chase began, he just hasn't been strong enough. He hasn't been lower than 16th, but has notched just one top-10 finish.

His Chase rivals, meanwhile, have racked up top-10s, leaving Mayfield 157 points behind leader Tony Stewart.

"Everybody is running strong every week," Mayfield said. "That's the way we've got to get. A little bit will take us a long way. We could get top five finishes the rest of the way and not move up, or we could get top five finishes and win the thing.

"But the other guys are going to have to have trouble, too. That's something you haven't seen yet -- but it's coming."

On second thought
Car owner Ray Evernham has changed the schedule Erin Crocker will run next season, pulling her out of a planned attempt to run a full Busch Series schedule.

Crocker will instead compete in the Craftsman Truck Series and run a handful of Busch and ARCA races next season. Evernham said the decision was made to give Crocker more time to develop.

"Erin not having raced on pavement a lot and not having raced traffic and things like that, we felt this would be a better way to get more experience racing without having all the pressure," Evernham said. "In fairness to her, I want her to learn without people running all over her all of the time."

Crocker has competed in two Busch races this season, at Richmond, Va., and Dover, Del., and finished 39th and 35th. She was in accidents in both events, and suffered a cracked rib in the Dover wreck.

Crocker said she's looking forward to running in more than 40 races next season, but admits she is disappointed it won't be in the Busch Series.

"I am not going to lie, I was a little disappointed when we first talked about it because I am a competitive person and we had plans," she said. "But in the long run, this is better for me."

Moving up?
Richard Childress Racing is expected to replace Dave Blaney in the No. 07 Chevrolet next season with Clint Bowyer.

Bowyer currently drives in the Busch Series for Childress, and will continue to do so next season as he attempts to run both a full Nextel Cup and Busch schedule. The official announcement is scheduled for Saturday at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Bowyer is currently second in the Busch points with one win and 25 top-10 finishes. He trails leader Martin Truex Jr. by 49 points entering Friday night's event.

Blaney, in his first full season with Childress, is currently 31st in points with one top-10 finish.

Texas tryout
Texas Instruments is using Friday night's Busch Series race as a tryout for its entry into full-time Nextel Cup racing next season.

Texas Instruments will sponsor the Hall of Fame Racing car scheduled to debut next season under ownership of Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. To gain experience, the company is fielding a Busch car for Tony Stewart to test everything from the viability of the paint scheme to learning what kind of commitments the company will have during a race weekend.

"This is a one-race sponsorship because we are big believers in learning as much as we can for the future," spokesman Jon Van Scoter said. "Tony wants to use this race as a tune up to the Cup race and we as a company want to do the same for what we're going to be doing next year."

Hall of Fame Racing has yet to name a driver for the 2006 season, but Texas Instruments said the team should have one in place before the year is over. The team is running with support from Joe Gibbs Racing and recently began assembling its management crew.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press