In NASCAR, you tend to hear a lot about the successes of big-name drivers, but not so much about those racers who had serious struggles. Former NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield is a perfect example of the latter, and while he was no Tony Stewart or Dale Earnhardt, he did actually show serious talent in a race car before finding himself in some trouble.
Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Mayfield grew up racing BMX bikes, before making the switch over to go-karts. By the age of 19, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee and worked as a fabricator for Sadler Brothers Racing. After some time, he raced for the team and took home Late Model Rookie of the Year honors in 1987, qualifying him to move up to the ARCA Series, where he was named Rookie of the Year in 1993.
Mayfield's first NASCAR Cup Series race was the '93 Mello Yello 500 in Charlotte, and his first Cup win would come five years later at the Pocono 500. While Mayfield would have stints in the Truck Series and Xfinity Series, he showed real promise as a Cup driver. Racing for nearly 15 years at NASCAR's highest level, Mayfield racked up five wins and 96 top-10 finishes out of 433 Cup Series races. This wasn't an easy road, however, as Mayfield was in trouble more times than not.
Let's take a look at the series of unfortunate controversies that ultimately ended Mayfield's racing career.
Jeremy Mayfield's Controversies
After stints with Cale Yarborough Motorsports and Penske-Kranefuss Racing, Jeremy Mayfield joined Evernham Motorsports in 2002. Despite having four solid years with the team, Evernham let Mayfield go in 2006 and replaced him with Bill Elliott. The original claim behind Mayfield's firing was that he dropped out of the top 35 in point standings, however, with a little digging, it was uncovered that the real reason he was let go was because he made negative comments about the team owner. He stated that Ray Evernham was more focused on a developmental racer, Erin Crocker, and lacked attention toward his team. Although that was part of why Mayfield got fired, he wasn't wrong. Three years later, Evernham went on to marry Crocker, whom he had been having an affair with beforehand.
Mayfield's biggest problem was the constant substance abuse violations. 2009 was a rough year for him, following a positive drug test in Richmond, which was reported by ESPN. NASCAR didn't say exactly what the drug was at first, but labeled it a "drug of concern." Mayfield was suspended indefinitely from NASCAR, though he was dead set on his innocence and pleaded his case on multiple occasions.
Around a month later, NASCAR announced that the drug Mayfield tested positive for was methamphetamine. He still denied all allegations, and stated he only took adderall and OTC drugs, but was unable to truly convince NASCAR of that. Then-NASCAR CEO Brian France, who would later have drug publicized drug problems of his own, held that if Mayfield ever wanted to come back to stock car racing, he would be required to complete NASCAR's Road to Recovery program.
Then, there was another major incident 2011. Mayfield owned five dogs that had attacked a mail carrier in his yard, leaving her with numerous scratches and bite marks on her legs. All of the dogs were euthanized, but Mayfield dug the hole deeper after he tried to dodge the lawsuit by failing to respond. By 2012, he was ordered to pay $1 million to settle.
Also in 2011, Sheriff's deputies searched Mayfield's home in Catawba, after receiving tips that he was robbing places to support his drug addiction. Along with 1.5 grams of meth, authorities also found $100,000 worth of stolen items on Mayfield's property. This included heavy machinery that had been reported stolen, and a variety of audio/visual equipment taken from racing teams.
Over time, most charges were dropped or thrown out, but he did plead to two counts of misdemeanor possession of stolen property and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.
Where Is Jeremy Mayfield Today?
After years away from the public eye, Jeremy Mayfield made his return to motorsports when he and his wife Shana attended the final race of the Superstar Racing Experience season in Nashville back in July 2021. The Super Racing Experience, or SRX, was founded by Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham in 2020, and Mayfield's attendance marked the rekindling of his relationship with Evernham. On an episode of The Frontstretch Podcast, Mayfield explained what it was like to be back at a high-profile racing event after all these years.
"There was extra anxiety for all the things that went on in the past," Mayfield said. "A lot of stuff happened back then. To be able to put all that behind you and walk in and start off fresh. I knew it was going to be tough and didn't know what to expect."
"From the time we got out until the time we left there, we felt nothing but welcomed," Mayfield continued. "Felt right back at home. Going into it, I didn't know what to expect, wasn't sure. People can always look at you different ways, and think different of you, and judge you, and I didn't feel that at all. Feel like it was right back to where we all left off. Just good to see our friends again."
Though Mayfield said that it was unlikely that he would return to NASCAR, he's continued to race late models on the dirt and short track, and has expressed interest in even joining the SRX, if the opportunity presented itself. Who knows what the future holds for Mayfield in 2022, but we could very well see him return to racing at a high level once again.
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This post was originally published on December 15, 2020.
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