Just The Beginning

Jeremy Mayfield won arguably the most pressure-packed race of last season. The year's 26th race at Richmond in September was the last chance for drivers to qualify for the inaugural "Chase for the Championship." At the end of the long and stressful night, there was Mayfield standing in victory lane with a win as well as a berth in the title chase.

Unfortunately for Mayfield and the Evernham Motorsports team, the storybook season ended there as he was knocked from seriously contending for the championship early on in the "Chase."

But the Kentucky driver is using the experience as a starting point for his 2005 strategy.

"Last year we learned we need to get all we can early and not give up anything when we do have a bad day, meaning, I don't think we can try to run any harder or make our stuff any better," Mayfield said after this week's "Pre-Season Thunder" test session at California Speedway.

"That's going to all stay the same. The thing I see changing for us will be the days you do have bad days you're going to get back out and do whatever you can to gain a couple of spots here and there. What might not look like much, one spot on Sunday, if you do that five or six times a year it equals to 30-50 points maybe."

Mayfield and teammate Kasey Kahne are a potent 1-2 punch for team owner Ray Evernham. After driving for several other owners during his NASCAR Cup Series career, Mayfield landed at Evernham two years ago and hasn't regretted a minute.

"I've been honored to drive for Ray and Roger Penske and Cale Yarborough and Michael Kranefuss and Earl Sadler way back," Mayfield said. "I got to see the way they do things and run their businesses. Roger is a first-class business guy, racer, every thing else, but Roger was more of a hands off owner. Kranefuss, same way. He was more involved in the day-to-day basis, but he still didn't understand the cars and the total aspect of what it takes to run things."

"Then you get with Ray and I thought he'd be lacking on the business side of it and be right there on the car side," he continued. "That's not what it's turned out to be. Ray has turned out to be a great spokesperson for the team, Dodge and NASCAR. As an owner, he's done a tremendous job from the business side of it. He's turned out to be a great car owner that understands everything about the car but lets us do our job."

After making last year's Top 10 and qualifying for the "Chase," Mayfield has already positioned himself as a contender again in 2005. And that's just fine with him.

"We feel like our team is just beginning," he said. "Even last year being in the top 10 in points, everything was awesome, but we feel like we're just beginning. If you know where we're going and what we've got going at our race shop and the future of Evernham Motorsports, then you'd know it's just the beginning of a great thing. I'm real excited about that."

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