You remember those Dodge commercials Jeremy Mayfield was in back in 2002 where the girl puts car wax in her hair and daubs on gasoline like it was fine perfume? “Hey Jeremy,” she says as she hops into Jeremy’s #19 Dodge Dealers Dodge. And Jeremy asks, “Is that Octane 93 you’re wearing?” Yep…those were the good old days for Jeremy. Grab life by the horns and all that. But in the intervening 10 years, life has grabbed Jeremy by the horns and taken him for a ride of his own devising.
10 years ago, Mayfield was climbing to the top of his game ((top for HIM anyway)). Racing for Ray Evernham. Making what was the funniest commercial of 2002. He finished 26th in the points in 2002, and finished 39th in the 2002 Daytona 500. He improved to 19th in the points in 2003. And in the 2004 he “pulled a Jeremy Mayfield” and made the inaugural Chase on the final race at Richmond. He finished 10th in the points. He made the Chase again in 2005 and finished 9th. But after that life had grabbed him by the horns and it was all down hill.
He was dropped by Evernham for sarcastic remarks he made about Everham dating one of his drivers, Erin Crocker in the Truck Series. He then busked about in a various series of go-nowhere rides, and in 2009 he bravely announced he would race his own #41 Toyota. He made the Daytona 500 and finished 40th, but after 10 races and only 5 starts it was all over. Mayfield had tested positive for methamphetamines, and was suspended by NASCAR in May 2009. He challenged NASCAR and sued them for damages and a whole host of white trash dross followed therefrom. His stepmother said he’d been using meth since 1998. Mayfield called his stepmother a whore. His case was thrown out of federal court. And now he’s been arrested and indicted on several counts of robbery, theft, possession of stolen property, and possession of methamphetamines. In addition to the Novemeber 2011 indictments, new indictments were handed down this past week.
Despite promises to the contrary and against all common sense sense and reason, I was actually going to reprise my Twittered Version of a race for my Daytona 500 coverage. Not quite as twittered, as much as de-twittered. The little skit about Jeremy was originally intended to be part of my pre-race de-twittered coverage. A little bit of jocular banter while waiting on the obligatory convocation, National Anthem, and flyover.
The 2nd round of Jeremy Mayfield indictments brought ten years ago to mind. The Daytona 500 in 2002 was the first Daytona 500 following the death of Dale Earnhardt, and 9/11. So there was a lot of sadness and patriotism in the air.
But the Daytona 500 in 2002 is memorable for it’s improbable and humourous ending….
In 2002, Sterling Marlin was none too popular with the emerging Junior Nation.
After the Daytona 500 in 2001, Junior and Senior fans took to calling him Murderin’ Marlin as they blamed him for the move that sent Dale Earnhardt to his death at Daytona that year. This was, ofcourse, very unfair, cruel, and inaccurate. And sadly, in one form or another, this fucktard thinking continues to this day. While probably not NASCAR Hall of Fame worthy, Sterling Marlin is still one of the legends of NASCAR, and when he retired in 2010, he left in his wake a racing career most most kill for. The Daytona 500 in 2001 still haunts him. But 2001 was the best season of his career. He came on strong at the end of the season and finished 3rd in the points behind Tony Stewart and Champion Jeff Gordon. If the Chase has been in effect then, he would have won the Championship.
Sterling Marlin started the Daytona 500 in 2002 on the outside of row 7 next another NASCAR legend, Wausau Wisconsin’s Dave Marcis who starting his final Daytona 500. Marcis blew an engine on lap 79 and was long done when the race was red flagged for wreck with 6 laps to go and Sterling Marlin in the lead. Now during a red flag, the driver CAN get out of his car, but….no work of any sort can be done on his car. So with the field stopped on the track, Sterling gets out of his car to take a look at his right front fender. He notices that the fender appears to rubbing on the tire, so he innocently pulls on the fender to so it doesn’t rub.
Funny as hell, yes? As stupid as Juan Pablo Montoya speeding on pit road at the Brickyard 400 in 2009 with the win in hand? Most definitely! What the fuck he was thinking I really don’t care to imagine, but the bonehead move cost him the race, as NASCAR moved him to the back of the lead lap cars and he finished the race in 8th place. But the funniest thing was not that he handed the victory to Ward Burton…now yes, that was amusing on it’s own level, but better still for laughs was Ward Burton’s appearance on The Today Show the following morning. Katie Couric and Matt Lauer were absolutely befuddled by Ward and his patrician southern accent which probably requires English subtitles on the best of days. It was a great television moment, never to be repeated again.
In 2002, Smoke went from dead ass last to dead ass first. His Daytona 500 was finished on lap 2 when he blew an engine. And he got to sit back and watch the aforementioned amusement unfold. Last in the points to start 2002.
But next week at The Rock, the late great Rockingham where finished 4th behind winner Matt Kenseth, he started his climb back to the top. Sterling Marlin despite his Daytona faux-pas held the points lead and kept the points lead until the 27th race of the season, at Loudon where Mark Martin took over the lead with Stewart hanging on in 4th. Two weeks later, Marlin cashed hard at Kansas and broke a vertebrae in his neck and was out for the season ((Jamie McMary replaced him in the #40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid)). The following week, Smoke took the points lead at Talladega, and never looked back, though Mark Martin was running him down at the end.
2002 was also significant for two rookies who burst onto the scene. Ryan Newman, who won The Winston, and the rain-shorted fall race at Loudon and finished 6th; and some cat named Jimmie Johnson who probably wouldn’t go on to amount to much despite 3 wins and a 5th place finish….since not every Rookie of the Year amounts to much, ya know.
Smoke only had 3 wins, but his consistent performance after Daytona with 15 top 5 finishes, garnered him The Winston Cup. Hmmm….consistent performance. Anyway…the aforementioned Ryan Newman had 14 top 5’s and 22 top 10’s to go with 6 poles (he won Loudon wire to wire). And thus, unbeknownst to us at the time, the makings of a little shitstorm was set up. Stay with me on this, as the driver who had the most wins in 2002 was none other than Matt Kenseth who finshed in 8th with 5 wins. His teammate Kurt Busch had 4 wins. Hold that thought.
Consistency should be a good thing. Something to applauded and admired. In 2003 Matt Kenseth was the model of consistency. He won only 1 race, the 3rd race of the season at Las Vegas. The following week, after a 4th place finish at Atlanta, he took the points lead, and never relinquished it the rest of the season. Matt held on to win the The Winston Cup with consistent top 10 finishes…25 of them to be exact. Meanwhile, the aformentioned Ryan Newman had the MOST wins, 8 of them in fact for those of you keeping score at The Crown in Trunch, Norfolk, UK. Newman also had the most poles, 11. So much for the dreaded sophomore slump. And that other sophomore, that Jimmie Johnson we thought wouldn’t amount to much finished 2nd to Matt clocking in with 3 wins and 20 top 10’s.
Behind the scenes the was much hue and cry about this. How could someone who only wins one race dominate the entire season the way Matt Kenseth did and win the The Winston Cup. Suddenly SOMETHING had to be done about this horrible consistency. We need to reward WINNING races more. And thus, the Chase was born. To this day, I think the Chase is nothing more than a big slap on the face to Matt Kenseth. A fake post season playoff. No one seemed to complain when Matt won the most races and finished 8th.Or Kurt BUsh won the 2nd most races on only finished 3rd. But Newman does it and finishes 6th and all of sudden it’s the focking ending of the world as though the Soviet Communists are taking over. That’s what it seemed like top me back then. And It still drubs me to this day.
Matt has yet to get one over on the Chase, though he’s come mighty close. But the 2nd best laugh of the last decade is that the Inaugural Chase for the Championship was won by none other than Matt’s teammate, Kurt Busch. Kurt won the Chase despite a wheel coming off as he was heading onto pit road in the final race at Homestead. He won that Chase with only 3 wins. The 2nd place finisher in 2004 was that good-for-nothing Jimmie Johnson who won 8 fackin’ races all season and still lost the Chase that was supposed to reward wins over consistency…Junior won 6 races that season and Jeff Gordon won 5. Kurt Busch’s Championship win in 2004 was in my view a big FUCK YOU to NASCAR ((something Kurt has been doing pretty much ever since…but that’s a story for another day)).
Well enough of the pre-race rain delay. On with the show. Ladies and Gentlemen, START YOUR ENGINES!!
Now I suppose you can thank God, or Mother Nature, or Hercules, or Charles Darwin, or Socrates (the soccer player, not the philosopher), or Mr. Acker Bilk, or Mrs. Ethel Shroake that the Daytona 500 was rain-delayed to Monday night, since I actually WOULD have done a twittered version of the race. I would have been at THE FIREHOUSE in Mt. Horeb with the trademark Hello Kitty notebook and a pink pen and it would have been a stunning spectacle of something, the twittering of the race, as opposed to the actual race itself which in and of itself was much MORE than a stunning spectacle.
Instead, I watched the race, sans pen and notebook, at one of my old Milwaukee NASCAR haunts, NORINE’S on Oakwood Road in Oak Creek. This is the quintessential old school hardcore NASCAR bar. NOTHING but NASCAR from the green flag at the Daytona 500 up until the checkers drop at Homestead in November, and fock the Green Packers….if you want to watch the Green Bay Packers you are cordially invited to watch the Green Bay Packers at THE DUGOUT across the street…they have the game on there.
So I drank PABST and cheered for Matt Kenseth and the only regret I have is that didn’t put ALL of my Mother-in-law’s money on Matt to win as I knew he would. I can offer no pithy lap by lap commentary, nor can I summerize the repartee, but I must say that it was good to see Jimmie Johnson put down early by a wreck on lap 2. It was not good to see Danica get swept up in it, but her crew got her back on the track and she got her laps in and kept pace despite being 64 laps down.
No rain to deal with, but plenty of the usual mayhem.
And….mayhem I’ve never seen before, ever. During a caution with 40 laps to go, Juan Pablo Montoya, who’s been complaining of a vibration was racing to catch up with back of the pack…perfectly normal even with jet-dryers out on the track. But then something went wrong, something broke in the back of his car and suddenly he went sailing sideways into one of the jet dryers. And a towering inferno of flame filled the dark Daytona night with it’s horrible brilliance. Montoya’s car was totally destroyed…but miraculously he walked away from it. The jet dryer driver was pulled from his vehicle and helped down the track to the ambulance, sore, shaken and scared to death. Meanwhile, the fire raged and the track crew worked furiously to put the fire out and then clean and repair the track.
For 2 hours and change the red flag flew. Dave Blaney was in the lead at time since he, and three other back markers stayed out under the caution. IF NASCAR had to call the race before the track was not fit to race on, Dave Blaney would have won the race. Freakin’ Dave Blaney!! Needless to say NASCAR worked furiously to get the race started.
Matt Kenseth was in 5th, and when the race was finally restarted, the front four either went to pit road or were swept aside. The last 40 laps were worth the wait….several more cautions. And finally a thrilling green-white-checkers finish which Matt held on to win going away. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. But that’s probably more because it’s late and I’m out of beer, and I’m drubbed that I didn’t get this done in time to publish on February 29th.
I’ll survive the lateness, the lack of beer, and the dodgy timing of the calender. What I will not tolerate however, in regards to the 2012 Daytona 500 is any mention whatsoever of James Taylor’s song Fire & Rain. If anyone so much as mentions that song, I swear to god I will physically shoot them. And burn them.