Mayfield keeps distance, wins pole

Starting in front at Dover should go long way toward avoiding 2nd wreck in row

Auto Racing

September 25, 2004|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

DOVER, Del. - Nextel Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield won the pole for tomorrow's MBNA America 400 and emerged from his No. 19 Dodge with a bright orange T-shirt just visible under his driver's suit.

"I want you," was all that could be seen.

What's that you're wearing, he was asked.

"It's just a funny little joke," Mayfield said as he unzipped the top of his suit and pulled it open to reveal the rest of the message:

"I want you ... to stay far, far away from me,"

"You probably know who the `you' is," said Mayfield, who was caught up in a wreck last weekend that was intentionally caused by Robby Gordon, who drives the orange No. 31 Chevrolet owned by Richard Childress.

Asked if fans could buy the shirt at his souvenir trailer, Mayfield smiled, "Yes, but we only have 31 of them."

Last week, in the first of the final 10 races that make up The Chase to the NASCAR Nextel Cup, Mayfield and Tony Stewart finished 35th and 39th, respectively, after Gordon tried to get even with driver Greg Biffle, who Gordon felt had spun him out intentionally.

He radioed his team he was going to wreck Biffle and, when he carried out his plan, the spinning cars inadvertently collected Mayfield and Stewart.

"I thought we'd have a little fun," said Mayfield. "I know Robby has had a tough week. I think he's learned a valuable lesson. But that's behind us and we just thought we'd have a little fun with it."

Earlier in the day, Gordon, who was penalized two laps during the race and then put on probation by team owner Richard Childress for the remainder of the season, held a news conference to formally say he was sorry for the incident.

"What happened last weekend, obviously, I'm sorry for," Gordon said. "I'm more sorry to Tony Stewart and Jeremy Mayfield, putting them behind the eight-ball leading into this 10-race championship. I hope they have an opportunity to climb back up into the championship. I'm sorry we got to this situation. I didn't intend for it to be like this at all."

The result of the crash was that Mayfield wound up 10th in the points race, 142 points behind the leader, and Stewart wound up at No. 9, 136 behind.

If anyone can handle hard luck, it's Mayfield. His team went into the race at Richmond International Raceway two weeks ago needing a win just to make the field for The Chase, while knowing it had gone 209 races over seven seasons without one. And what did Mayfield do? He won the race.

Yesterday, Mayfield again did what he could to regain his footing. He outdrove everyone to pace the field at 159.405 mph.

Ryan Newman put his No. 12 Dodge on the outside pole at 159.018 and three other of The Chase drivers - Elliott Sadler, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson - also qualified in the top 10, at fourth, eighth and ninth, respectively.

"We've got to come back fighting every week," said Mayfield. "And that's what we're going to do this week. Whether it's the pole or not, we're still going to be strong and we're going to be good here. This is one of our good tracks.

"I think it's very important to start up front anytime you can," he said. "That's going to keep us out of trouble that might occur. ... You have a better shot at not getting into a wreck or whatever. That's all we can hope for and doing the best we can.

"Last week is over. We're not going to dwell on it. We're at Dover now, and what we've got to do is go out and win the race and try to make up the points we got taken away from us last week."

Mayfield was also on the pole here last June and finished eighth.

Current points leaders Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch qualified 13th and 16th, respectively, and Jeff Gordon, who is third in The Chase, qualified 21st.

At Dover, Del. Lap length: 1 mile

1. (19) Jeremy Mayfield, Dodge, 159.405 mph. 2. (12) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 159.018. 3. (25) Brian Vickers Chevrolet, 158.346. 4. (38) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 158.249. 5. (15) Michael Waltrip, Chevrolet, 158.200.

6. (18) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 157.985. 7. (2) Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 157.743. 8. (17) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 157.701. 9. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 157.680. 10. (42) Jamie McMurray, Dodge, 157.639.

11. (88) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 157.611. 12. (6) Mark Martin, Ford, 157.604. 13. (97) Kurt Busch, Ford, 157.473. 14. (21) Ricky Rudd, Ford, 157.439. 15. (99) Carl Edwards, Ford, 157.157.

16. (8) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 157.089. 17. (0) Ward Burton, Chevrolet, 156.965. 18. (10) Scott Riggs Chevrolet, 156.815. 19. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 156.719. 20. (9) Kasey Kahne Dodge, 156.692.

21. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 156.678. 22. (32) Bobby Hamilton Jr., Chevrolet, 156.563. 23. (20) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 156.515. 24. (01) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 156.454. 25. (77) Brendan Gaughan Dodge, 156.250.

26. (41) Casey Mears, Dodge, 156.060. 27. (45) Kyle Petty, Dodge, 155.858. 28. (43) Jeff Green, Dodge, 155.817. 29. (22) Scott Wimmer Dodge, 155.682. 30. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 155.615.

31. (49) Ken Schrader, Dodge, 155.514. 32. (31) Robby Gordon, Chevrolet, 155.273. 33. (30) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 155.273. 34. (40) Sterling Marlin, Dodge, 155.246. 35. (37) Kevin Lepage, Dodge, 155.025.

36. (4) Jimmy Spencer, Chevrolet, 154.613. 37. (51) Tony Raines, Chevrolet, 154.328. 38. (5) Terry Labonte, Chevrolet, 154.235. 39. (50) Jeff Fuller, Dodge, provisional. 40. (09) Joe Ruttman, Dodge, provisional.

41. (98) Geoffrey Bodine, Ford, provisional. 42. (89) Morgan Shepherd, Dodge, provisional. 43. (72) Kirk Shelmerdine, Ford, provisional.

Failed to qualify 44. (02) Hermie Sadler, Chevrolet, 153.984. 45. (00) Carl Long, Ford, 152.452. 46. (92) Stanton Barrett, Ford, 151.899. 47. (13) Greg Sacks, Dodge, 151.337. 48. (35) Kenny Hendrick, Chevrolet, 149.161.

49. (80) Derrike Cope, Ford, 145.085. 50. (75) Mike Garvey, Dodge, DNF.

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