Ever since the Jeremy Mayfield meth controversy surfaced two and a half years ago, I have been one of the few writers to give him the benefit of the doubt. I did not necessarily takes sides with Mayfield or NASCAR, but I refused to pass judgement until one side was proven guilty.
Well, unfortunately, it appears that Mayfield was guilty after all, and it pains me to say that. I have always liked Mayfield, and not just because we share the same first name. He was genuinely one of the most amicable and fan-friendly drivers in the garage area.
Not only was he friendly, but he appeared to be one of the up and coming drivers of the late 1990’s. He displayed signs of top tier talent on a few occasions with Penske Racing, but just when we thought Mayfield was on the cusp of becoming a true championship contender, something would get in the way. A string poor performances or results, a rift with Penske Racing teammate Rusty Wallace, or even calling out his team owner seemed to keep Mayfield in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
His tenure at Evernham Motorsports also produced a few shining moments on the track, including two wins and two Chase for the Championship appearances. However, the tenure ended even uglier than five years earlier with Penske. So, twice in five years, Mayfield lost his ride before season’s end.
His driving career entered a downward spiral, and in May of 2009, he failed a drug test, which, therefore got him suspended from NASCAR. Mayfield has doggedly denied the allegations, and has spent boatloads of money to clear his name. So many fans wanted to believe him.
After months of silence on the Jeremy Mayfield front, the saga resurfaced early in the week when the former driver was arrested for a plethora of violations including possession of meth, as well as stolen property valued at least $100,000. This pretty much erased all of the Mayfield believers, though there may be a select few who still believe in him.
Through his lawyer, Mayfield again denied the claims.
Looking back on Mayfield’s driving career, I always wondered why he could never take that next step into NASCAR stardom. He was so close a couple of times. Was it simply lack of talent or determination? Was it lack of commitment? What did he lack that Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon and other stars his age possessed?
Or was it the fact that he was a drug addict? Was his alleged addiction and his intentions to hide the addiction more important than being a successful race car driver? After what took place on Tuesday evening, I will guess the latter. I believe Mayfield could have been a star in NASCAR if it were not for his drug habit. He had the natural talent and personality with some edge to it. It is a shame to see a career damaged due to drug addiction.
If Mayfield his indeed an addict, which the evidence supports, I truly hope that he receives extensive help.