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Mayfield's battle is racin', not a movie

- sfowler@charlotteobserver.com
Thursday, Jul. 02, 2009

If the Jeremy Mayfield saga was a movie, you know how it would turn out.

The bad guys and good guys would be far more clear-cut. Mayfield would be cast as the hero, fighting the corporate “Man” in the person of NASCAR.

The newly free Mayfield would haul his No. 41 Toyota down to Daytona Beach, enter Saturday night's big race and win it with a last-lap pass. A NASCAR official would sheepishly admit in Victory Lane that maybe Mayfield's positive drug test did have some problems. Mayfield would announce a huge new sponsor during his post-race press conference, kiss his wife and scream, “Just say no to drugs!”

The truth?

Oh, it's out there somewhere, but it's not going to work like that.

Mayfield won a big battle Wednesday – getting a temporary injunction that will allow him to race again immediately – but his war with NASCAR will continue. This legal fight still has many more scenes (and aren't you tired of it already?) And I doubt there are any Hollywood endings in store for anyone.

The lesson in this for NASCAR is that your drug-testing system must be both transparent and foolproof. That's far easier said than done. I'm glad NASCAR is randomly testing drivers and crew members, but their system obviously has some legality issues.

As for Mayfield's driving dream: He's 40 years old and was racing on a lug nut and a prayer already this season long before the infamous drug test of May 1 – the one that concluded he had tested positive for methamphetamines.

In the five races Mayfield ran in NASCAR's Sprint Cup in 2009 before he got suspended, he finished 32nd or worse every time. The guy has won only five races in 17 years in NASCAR's top series. He averages a finish of 21.5. Mayfield was deep in the supporting cast of racing's weekly traveling circus until the positive drug test shoved him front and center.

Mayfield had to fight that result – to do anything else would have been career suicide. Can you imagine any sponsor hiring a guy with that stain?

So Mayfield fought – declaring his innocence all the way -- and he fought very well. He hired one of Charlotte's best attorneys in Bill Diehl. Mayfield and Diehl argued that NASCAR's drug-testing process was flawed and got a federal judge to grant that temporary injunction Wednesday to Mayfield, trumping NASCAR's suspension and allowing Mayfield to go racing again.

NASCAR, of course, is well within its rights to drug-test Mayfield again. And again. And again.

Mayfield, of course, is within his own rights to scrape up money, go racing as many times as he can and make NASCAR eat its words about how dangerous it would be to allow him back in a racecar.

It's an interesting battle – to a degree. I still don't know exactly what to believe.

But watching NASCAR when everyone is wearing a business suit rather than a racing suit gets old quickly.

I wish this was over.

But it isn't even close.

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