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Murto: Mayfield a comedy or racing tragedy?


Jeremy Mayfield is either a comedy or a tragedy, but it's doubtful he'll ever call himself a racer again.

The 43-year-old winner of five NASCAR Cup races hasn't been behind the wheel since NASCAR suspended him in May 2009. In fact, he spent much of the last four years in litigation, claiming the drug test was false and fighting his suspension.

Meanwhile, he was arrested on felony charges of possession of methamphetamine, as well as 18 other felonies including breaking and entering and possession of stolen goods. Reportedly, parts stolen from the former Red Bull Racing team were found on Mayfield's property, and police found the drugs during the course of their search.

After going through some high-priced, high-profile attorneys, and after his own stepmother claimed he was a drug user, Mayfield seemed to have disappeared. His wife claimed bankruptcy, they lost their 400-acre spread due to foreclosure - it seemed Jeremy Mayfield was finally fading into the past.

But then last week as Eli Gold hosted his NASCAR radio talk show with guest Brian France, Jeremy Mayfield made a surprise call and was patched through to ask France how he could get back into racing.

The answer was simple: Get into the original NASCAR rehabilitation program originally offered you, just as A.J. Allmendinger did to compete again after failing a drug test. Mayfield and France both were surprisingly calm. And now word is out that Mayfield is actually considering the program. It's amazing how people's behavior changes when they're broke and desperate.

And there's a rumor that an ARCA team may actually be interested if Mayfield passes the NASCAR drug rehabilitation program. There may even be sponsors willing to take a chance on such a comeback story.

But can we trust Mayfield? Obviously if he goes through the program, he'll be tested frequently, and the moment he fails another test could be banned for life. NASCAR will be very careful as to how it proceeds.

Somehow, despite all Mayfield's talk of making a new life for himself, he's ready to put all this in the past, blah blah blah blah blah, it's hard to believe. He's busy working on plea deals for 19 felony charges which could carry 40 years jail time, and expects those deals to be done soon. He already stated in court he will not accept jail time as part of any plea deal; doesn't it make sense that taking an active role in NASCAR's drug rehabilitation program and publicly stating his desire to return to racing may look good before a court?

There's just something about a guy who's allegedly caught in possession of parts stolen from race teams, as well as caught in possession of the very drugs he denies taking. There's just something about the almost four years of litigation against NASCAR. There's just something about the fact that his own stepmother - whom Mayfield accused of killing his father, though there is no evidence - signed an affidavit that she watched Mayfield use drugs. There's just something about the fact that Mayfield's stepmother was arrested on his property, intoxicated, and charged with assault and trespassing. And it's much more than just the entertainment value of it all; there's something untrustworthy about Jeremy Mayfield.

It's especially suspicious that it wasn't more than six months ago he mouthed off against A.J. Allmendinger and essentially questioned A.J.'s manhood for allowing himself to become the "poster boy" for NASCAR's drug policy.

If Jeremy Mayfield truly wants to rehabilitate himself, more power to him. I hope he successfully turns his life around. And if he ever does step behind the wheel of a racecar again, let alone race at NASCAR's top level, it will be a comeback like we've never seen, and worth high praise.

But this story is the story that won't go away, the train that keeps on wrecking. It's been tragic, yet comical at the same time. Just when you think you've heard the last of Jeremy Mayfield he's back in the news, reliving another episode of the Jerry Springer Show. Let's hope it's not so, but don't be surprised if this turns out to be just another twist in the Jeremy Mayfield saga, a deception to help get the court to grant the plea deal he seeks on those 19 felony charges.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.


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