Mayfields Status Is Secure

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Now, maybe all of the talk surrounding Jeremy Mayfield’s situation at Penske Racing South can subside.

Rumors have swirled around Mayfield and his job status through the past several months, but team owner Roger Penske put those to rest Thursday when it was announced Mayfield, the driver of Penske’s No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus, has been signed to a new multiyear contract. The deal extends what was already a multiyear agreement.

“We’re very pleased to have extended Jeremy’s contract with Penske Racing and are looking forward to a bright future,” Penske Racing LLC President Walter Czarnecki said. “Penske Racing and Jeremy Mayfield together is the best thing for both of us, the best thing for a great sponsor like Mobil 1 and a definite winning combination.”

With new teammate Ryan Newman in the fold at Penske Racing South, and with the season Mayfield endured in 2000, the driver of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus may have been hearing footsteps in recent months.

Mayfield won two races and four poles last season, but was plagued with inconsistency and wound up 24th in the Winston Cup points standings. He finished the season with a whopping 11 DNFs, leaving him and his team scratching their heads after many races.

Despite the rumors, Mayfield said he was confident all along he would be sticking around at least a couple of more years.

“One of the first things Walt and Roger (Penske) did last fall was start talking about extending my contract,” Mayfield said. “I wanted to do it, and the team wanted to do it too. We have some really good things going here, and we all want to stay together to win races and win championships.

“We’ve got to build consistency with our race team. One good thing about it is the performance side is there. There are a lot of (multicar) teams where it’s hard to get both of them or even one of them to run well.

“We feel the performance side is there and we have got to make it work every week. We have worked hard all winter to do that. We have really evaluated the whole season, what went wrong and what we can do to make it better, and we’re going to do everything in our power that we can to finish these races.”

Newman, who will drive a limited schedule of Winston Cup, Busch Series and ARCA Series races for Penske Racing South this season after coming over from the sprint-car ranks, said the last thing he wants to do is cause Mayfield to look over his shoulder this year.

“I'm not here to take anyone's job. I’m here to get experience and seat time,” said Newman. “I know a lot of people have placed a lot of confidence in me, and I’m just going to go out there and do the job I was hired to do. Hopefully sometime down the line there will be another full-time Cup ride at Penske and I’ll be the driver to take that ride.”

Newman, who won two ARCA races in 2000, said he expects Wallace and Mayfield to both be sources of information to help him make the adjustment from the open-wheel ranks to stock cars. In return, he hopes he can bring some new insight to his experienced teammates.

“It’s great to be working with these two guys and knowing that week-in and week-out, I’ve got somebody I can go to and ask questions of,” Newman said. “It’s a great deal for me to bring in some new ideas to experienced drivers like Jeremy and Rusty.”

Newman qualified 10th in his first Winston Cup race at Phoenix late last season, giving Mayfield more reason to be concerned. Newman encountered engine failure and finished 41st, but it was apparent Newman had made a huge impression in the garage area.

Mayfield is looking to put last season behind him. It was truly a year where, if something could go wrong for the Mobil 1 team, then more often than not it did.

In April, the team was caught using an illegal fuel additive at Talladega. NASCAR stripped the team of the points it earned and suspended crew chief Peter Sospenzo for a month.

The next week, Mayfield went out and won the NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway, and it appeared as if things were back on track. At Dover in June, however, Mayfield experienced his first DNF of the season, starting a chain reaction. He didn’t finish three of the next five events and dropped to 19th in the points.

At Indianapolis in August, Mayfield crashed in practice and was injured, forcing him to miss the Brickyard 400. He also missed the next race at Watkins Glen. A top-10 finish in the points, which he so dearly coveted at the beginning of the season, was no longer a reality.

The Mobil 1 team rode out the remainder of the 2000 campaign – setting its sites on 2001 – but with some distractions. For a stretch, Mayfield was considered the frontrunner to take over the driving duties of the No. 4 Kodak Chevrolet of Morgan-McClure Motorsports.

Once the rumors were dispelled, Mayfield was able to get back to business. Heading into the 2001 season, which is less than a month away, Mayfield is looking for one thing – consistency.

“If it comes to putting a front clip on a car, we’re going to finish all of the races this year one way or another,” Mayfield said. “We might put an electric motor in it if something happens to the motor, but we aren’t going to have that many DNFs, I guarantee you that.”

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