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 Jeff Gordon, he did show 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 Tennessee and worked as a fabricator for Sadler Brothers Racing. After some time, he became their driver 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.
His first NASCAR Cup Series race took place in his Ford Thunderbird at the Mellow Yellow 500, and he brought in his first career win at the Pocono 500. 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 career.
Jeremy Mayfield’s Controversies
Back in 2006, Jeremy Mayfield was let go by Evernham Motorsports and replaced by 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, Evernham went on to marry Crocker, who 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. 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.
These events in Mayfield’s life were extremely unfortunate, but it goes to show you how making the wrong choices can take you from promising star to cautionary tale.
This post was originally published on December 15, 2020.