NASCAR: Judge rules Mayfield can race
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó Two months after a positive drug test for methamphetamines, Jeremy Mayfield is getting ready to return to NASCAR.
U.S. District Court Judge Graham Mullen on Wednesday issued a temporary injunction to allow the driver to get back behind the wheel at Daytona International Speedway this weekend.
“This is huge for us,” Mayfield said. “This means more to me probably than any race I’ve ever won or anything.”
Concluding the “likelihood of a false positive in this case is quite substantial,” Mullen said as he ruled in Mayfield’s favor after about two hours of arguments, including NASCAR’s contention that Mayfield is a danger to the sport after testing positive for high amounts of a dangerous, illegal drug.
But Mullen sided with Mayfield’s attorney, Bill Diehl, who argued the test results would only be accurate if Mayfield were a habitual meth user. If Mayfield used the drug at the levels the NASCAR test indicated, Diehl suggested Mayfield would be “either a walking zombie or he’s dead.”
“His teeth were never rotting out, his eyes were not sunken,” Diehl said. “He never displayed any characteristics that are commonly seen by everyone among people who use meth.”
In an affidavit filed last week, Mayfield denied ever using methamphetamines and said he didn’t know how he failed the May 1 random drug test. He was suspended eight days later.
Mullen ruled the “harm to Mr. Mayfield significantly outweighs the harm to NASCAR” in issuing the injunction, which doesn’t settle the larger civil suit filed by Mayfield or NASCAR’s countersuit.
“We’re disappointed, but we’ll honor the court’s wishes. That’s where we stand,” NASCAR chairman Brian France said. “I’m not going to comment on what we’re going to do yet on the next legal process.”
To address NASCAR’s concerns of allowing someone who tested positive for an illegal drug back on the track, Mullen said NASCAR can test Mayfield constantly and ask for a hair sample “to determine if he’s been a meth-head or not.”
“If they want it, I cut it about once a week so we can do that,” Mayfield said. “Whatever we’ve got to do.”
NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Mayfield will be required to undergo a drug test if he attempts to qualify for Saturday night’s race. Mayfield said he gladly would submit to any tests.
He also might have to win over some drivers. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson submitted affidavits last week as part of a NASCAR filing. In the court documents, the drivers said they are not “willing to put my life at risk driving a race car on a NASCAR track with drivers testing positive for drugs that diminish their capacity to drive a race car.”
Mayfield said he understands drivers won’t hesitate to share their feelings.
“We heard Jimmie also say during the week in one of the interviews that it wasn’t directed at me, it was the policy,” Mayfield said. “I understand that. That’s what they feel. It’s part of it.”
But it’s still unclear whether Mayfield will be able to secure the money needed to bring his low-budget car to Daytona ó considered one of the most dangerous NASCAR tracks because of speeds upward of 200 mph and bunched-up racing on the superspeedway.
The deadline to enter Saturday’s race was June 23. Mayfield, however, still can join the race as a late entry until the garage opens at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
Mayfield also suggested he might attempt to drive a car for another team.
“It’s kind of late in the game right now, but we’re able to go,” Mayfield said. “That was our goal, to be able to go back to work and race cars.”
Mayfield broke into a wide smile after the ruling was his announced after a 20-minute recess following about two hours of testimony. His wife, Shana, sitting near the back of the courtroom, briefly jumped out of her seat, puts her hands to her face and started crying.
“The truth came out,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield has blamed his positive test result on the combination of Adderall for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Claritin-D for allergies, an explanation repeatedly debunked by NASCAR’s program administrator.
NASCAR attorney Paul Hendrick added the “massive amounts” of methamphetamines in the drug sample indicate Mayfield’s claim is a “statement that’s simply not true.”
Added another NASCAR attorney, Helen Maher: “This is not a case about chocolate milk or orange juice. This is about public safety.”
“Who will protect the drivers? Who will protect the fans?” she asked, if Mayfield were allowed back on the track.
He was, after Diehl successfully argued there enough inconsistencies in the testing system ó including failing to get his backup “B” sample tested by an independent laboratory ó to create the possibility that Mayfield was wronged.
“Now we’ve cleared the air,” Mayfield said. “Hopefully everybody will think different of me now.”