July 3, 2009 in Sports

Drivers see a yellow flag

Many take swipes at Mayfield after injunction allows his return
Mark Long Associated Press
 

Motorsports

Doug Pace’s column looks at area racing/B7

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Bump-drafting, slingshot passing and restrictor-plate racing weren’t the buzzwords being thrown around Daytona International Speedway on Thursday.

There was way more talk about affidavits, B samples, false positives and a judge’s temporary injunction that reinstated suspended NASCAR owner-driver Jeremy Mayfield.

A federal judge in Charlotte, N.C., lifted Mayfield’s indefinite suspension Wednesday, allowing him to race at Daytona this weekend.

“The situation that we had, when somebody tests positive, is something to be seriously considered, and there’s a lot of responsibility that goes along with that,” driver Ryan Newman said. “People make mistakes. I hope the judge didn’t make one.”

Mayfield missed the deadline to enter his No. 41 Toyota into Saturday night’s race. He still could drive for another team, although no owners seemed ready to offer him a ride.

“Everybody out here wants to race, and they want to race hard and race with people that are in the same state of mind that you’re in,” former teammate Kasey Kahne said. “If people are into other things, they should go do those things by themselves and not be on a race track going 200 mph with other racers.”

Mayfield failed a random drug test May 1 and was suspended eight days later. Outside court Wednesday, NASCAR said Mayfield had tested positive for methamphetamines. But in an affidavit filed last week, Mayfield denied using the illegal drug. He has blamed the positive test on the combination of Adderall, prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Claritin-D, used to fight allergies.

NASCAR attorney Paul Hendrick argued that the “massive amounts” of methamphetamines in Mayfield’s sample suggest his defense was “simply not true.” But U.S. District Court Judge Graham Mullen ruled in Mayfield’s favor, saying the likelihood of a false positive was “quite substantial.”

That decision shocked many in the sport.

“Either Jeremy or NASCAR is wrong, and I don’t know which one, but whichever one is wrong is really hurting the other,” said veteran Mark Martin, adding that his biggest concern is that NASCAR doesn’t have the final say in who can and can’t drive.

Three-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was simply baffled by the whole mess.

“I don’t even know where to start, because you hear one rumor that it’s one way and another that it’s another way,” Johnson said. “Now, next thing you know, there’s a chance for him to come back to the racetrack and makes you believe maybe there’s something wrong with the system and then you hear the rumors. It’s just a confusing mess right now. I look forward to the day that it’s all laid out plain and simple.”

For some it already is.

“If he’s out there on the racetrack with me, it doesn’t bother me,” Kyle Busch said. “Normally, we’re ahead of him anyway.”

Kahne, too, took a shot at Mayfield.

“As far as racing with Jeremy, I don’t ever race with Jeremy,” Kahne said. “He’s at one end; I’m at the other.”

Even so, some drivers have expressed concerns about being on the same track.

Johnson and four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon both signed affidavits, part of a recent NASCAR court filing, saying they didn’t want to be on the same track as someone who tests positive for a banned substance or has drugs in his system.

“It’s almost a ‘duh’ statement when they say they don’t want drivers using drugs on the racetrack. Who does?” Mayfield’s attorney, Bill Diehl, said in court.

The two former champs are among those having a hard time keeping track of all the developments.

“I’m so confused right now at the whole thing that I’m going to let it all play out,” Gordon said. “I haven’t been following it enough to know what’s going on, so leave me out of it. I support NASCAR in what they’re wanting to do and what they’re trying to do with the drug policy. I think it’s the right thing to do.”

“We just want people on the track that are sober and not under the influence of anything,” Johnson said. … “If he passes the test, then put him back on the track. It’s hard to know with all that’s gone on over last few months what is what. It’s just getting more confusing as every day unfolds.”

Jeff Burton had a better feel for the details.

“Ultimately, unless there is some agreement prior to that, it will eventually go to trial and that decision of that trial will be huge,” Burton said.

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