Edwards, Allmendinger, Gordon and Ryan Blaney highlight storylines
Chad Norris with Trevor Bayne after their Texas win in 2011. (ASP, Inc.)
Carl Edwards, winless in his last 52 races and fighting to make NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship, has a new crew chief, Roush Fenway Racing announced Tuesday.
Chad Norris will replace Bob Osborne as Edwards’ crew chief immediately. Osborne was with Edwards when Edwards made his Cup debut in 2004 and ran the final 13 races that year. The following season, their first full season together, Edwards won four races and finished third in the points.
Osborne and Edwards parted in May 2006 in what is Edwards’s worst full season to date, before being reunited in 2007. They had been together since, winning 18 races and finishing second in the championship twice.
Their split this time comes as Edwards is 11th in the point standings, 46 points behind the 10th and final points-qualifying Chase spot. He is not in position for one of the two wild card spots at this time since he doesn’t have a victory. Seven races remain until the Chase field is set.
“At this time in my life, however, concerns with my health have necessitated that I change my role within the organization,” Osborne said in a statement issued by the team. “This transition is not an easy one, but I’m thankful to have the full support of Jack (Roush), Carl and the entire organization. I also have every confidence in Chad Norris, and I look forward to working with him as we continue to pursue a championship in 2012. I also appreciate the privacy and respect that the community will give me and my family during this difficult time.”
Osborne will remain with Roush Fenway Racing and be a senior member of its management team and steering committee.
“I cannot say enough good things about Bob Osborne,” Edwards said in a team release. “I’m so thankful for what he’s done for me as a driver, and he is without a doubt one of the smartest guys in the sport. I’m also appreciative of the fact that he’ll continue to be a resource for me and our team as we focus on these final races.
“We’re very fortunate to have Chad Norris as part of our organization to take over for the No. 99. I’ve known Chad for a long time and he is a fierce competitor. We’ve got our work cut out for us over the next seven races, and I’ve got every confidence Chad can lead our team to where we need to be.”
Norris has been with Roush since 2005, when he scored his first win, a Nationwide Series victory, in his fifth race as crew chief for Matt Kenseth. He’s led the company’s research and development test program since last year. Norris most recently oversaw wins in the Nationwide Series for Marcos Ambrose and Trevor Bayne in 2011. He has also served as Bayne’s NNS crew chief this season.
“Our commitment to winning a championship with the No. 99 in 2012 has not wavered,” owner Jack Roush said in a statement. “I’m committed to providing the resources to Carl and to his team to do that, and this restructuring of Bob’s role and the introduction of Chad Norris as the crew chief for the No. 99 will put us in the best possible position for these final seven races before the ‘Chase’ begins.”
’DINGER’S DATE SET A date has been set to test AJ Allmendinger’s “B” sample following his failed random drug test prior to the July Daytona race weekend.
Allmendinger’s business manager, Tara Ragan, released in a statement that, “We now have a confirmed date for the testing of AJ's “B” (split specimen) sample. The test will take place on Tuesday, July 24 at 8:00 a.m. CDT and be conducted at the Aegis Analytical Laboratories in Nashville.
“Pursuant to the 2012 NASCAR Rulebook and in line with the procedures, we have elected to have a designated independent toxicologist present on AJ's behalf. Along with everyone else, we are looking forward to hearing the results as quickly as possible.”
A NASCAR statement indicated that the date was selected by Allmendinger. According to an ESPN report, Allmendinger’s “B” sample test is expected to be complete by the Brickyard 400 on July 29.
Martin Truex Jr., shooting down rumors of a departure. (ASP, Inc.)
GETTING CLOSER Martin Truex Jr. says he’s “getting close” to a contract extension with Michael Waltrip Racing. Truex’s contract expires after this season, along with sponsor NAPA. Both are expected to remain with Waltrip’s team.
“We're kind of finalizing some details, but I've been obviously extremely happy with the performance of the team this year,” said Truex, who is eighth in the point standings. “It's been so great to be a part of MWR, not only this year, but the last three seasons to really be a part of where we've kind of come from as a team and where we're heading. To be a part of that building process and be a part of the performance of the team increasing and kind of feel like I've had a little bit to do with the team's success has been very fun for me and it's something I want to continue doing.”
Truex and his No. 56 team have scored four top-5 and nine top-10 finishes in 2012.
LETTER CAMPAIGN A letter on behalf of NASCAR, IndyCar, NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball was sent this week to Rep. John Boehner, Speaker of the House, urging his continue opposition to an amendment that would ban military sports sponsorships.
“Given the success of the military’s use of professional sports to reach out to the American people, we encourage you to support the U.S. Armed Forces and enable them to continue to have the same access to media and venues as world leading businesses and nonprofits,” part of the letter states. “Please work to remove the Kingston-McCollum Amendment from the House DOD Appropriations bill.”
ROAD TRIP Jeff Gordon is using his time off this week to return to Rwanda for the opening of a cancer center on behalf of the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation. He went there in December to look at what was being done there for children.
“We had already made a commitment to fund a cancer center there,” Gordon said. “Now, we are actually doing the grand opening and the ribbon cutting ceremony of it actually starting. It took a little while to get … the hospital is there, but to get the cancer center, which is the part that we're helping to fund. It also took a while to get some pretty important people scheduled there. I am excited that Paul Farmer, he's kind of master-minded it all, will be there. But we'll also have President Clinton there, and the president of Rwanda, President Kagame. I'm excited.
“I'm able to be a part of something that is ground-breaking in rural East Africa. This is the first of its kind of any cancer center. When they look at the projections in a developing country like East Africa, cancer is on the rise there, and can be very curable and treatable in many cases. It's just not happening. This is a big step, and I can't wait to get there and be a part of this event.”
PIT STOPS Penske Racing announced Tuesday that 18-year-old Ryan Blaney will drive for the team in at least three Nationwide races this season. Blaney, the son of Cup drive Dave Blaney, is scheduled to make his team debut Aug. 4 at Iowa. Ryan Blaney also is scheduled to drive in the Nationwide races at Richmond and Kentucky. ... The Cup Series is off this weekend before running the next 17 weekends. The Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series are both at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend.
It’s been a little over 48 hours since Jeremy Mayfield’s final NASCAR chapter — filled with drugs, guns, allegedly stolen equipment — and the stench of an ugly lie has been revealed. It’s the last bit of content for what will be a 500-page, tell-all book someday, but now with the wounds still fresh I can only summarize two years of Mayfield mayhem in just one word:
I’m sorry for fans, hundreds of thousands who put this athlete on a pedestal he never deserved. Competing in the number one racing series in America, Mayfield drove for some of the sport’s best car owners (Roger Penske, Ray Evernham) while racking up five wins and making the Chase for the Championship twice. You don’t accomplish that without inheriting the role model tag, as kids sitting at home watched this Kentuckian muscle his way to the front and labeled him a hero. When you move Dale Earnhardt, of all people, out of the way to earn a trip to Victory Lane (see: Pocono, 2000) you’re going to earn a degree of admiration and respect. When vaulting from promising youngster to public figure, living up to lofty expectations becomes a necessity.
Instead, it’s all too often the first chapter that hooks you through admiration while the athlete starts a tragic play. Fans attached to that quirky, aggressive personality, tricked by the hallmark of Mayfield’s career on the circuit to the point they never thought it would bring him down. Yes, speaking out led to pink slips along the way for Mayfield, but to those who loved him they were battle scars for brutal honesty in an age of political correctness.
Perhaps the greatest example is his departure from Evernham’s car in 2006; as a parting shot, he blew the car owner’s cover concerning a romantic relationship with another driver within the organization, Erin Crocker. For months, the media had kept it quiet, as fear of retribution (Evernham was divorcing, Crocker was half his age) drove their silence. But Mayfield, pushed by poor performance and alleged mistreatment, had no problem blazing his own trail without fear.
So it was no wonder, then, on the heels of a positive test for methamphetamine so many bent over backwards to believe him. Since that fateful May day in 2009 when one failed urine sample led to an indefinite suspension by NASCAR, Mayfield has been trumpeting his innocence loud and clear. “It was a setup,” he claimed, accusing NASCAR chairman Brian France of being out to get him while alleging the sport’s drug handling methods were so sloppy, kindergarteners could do a better job. Claiming a combination of over-the-counter mediation, Claritin-D and an ADHD drug, Adderall, caused the mix-up, Mayfield came up with a plausible story that Joe Fan on the street could believe. It was the classic tale of the blue-collar worker trying to start his own business, but being railroaded by the big, bad, greedy white-collar men in suits.
Even when his own stepmother backed up NASCAR’s claims, Mayfield was able to turn the public court of opinion in his favor. He was the double-jeopardy victim, haunted by an unwanted family member. Hanging on every word, fans’ hearts were broken and a select few even turned their back on the sport over a punishment many felt was simply unwarranted.
How do all those people feel now? Sick to their stomach, as their loyalty was repaid by lies. It’s hard enough to handle mistrust when it happens within your day-to-day life. But when a role model breaks the code? It’s somehow harder to handle, your version of a perfect example turning forever flawed.
I’m sorry for Jeremy’s wife, Shana, who may be facing a reality check she can’t turn away from, although it’s uncertain whether she was an accomplice or unknowing victim. Even on her Twitter feed this week, Shana Mayfield was alleging a set up. But 50 guns, 1.5 grams of meth and a potential $100,000 in stolen items — all found on Mayfield’s property — don’t just magically appear. Call me crazy, but if the big, bad NASCAR men tried to haul gigantic pieces of metal onto the property and plant drugs in the house, I don’t think she and Jeremy would sleep through it.
Let’s hope the wife, of all people, wakes up before it’s too late. Sometimes, for drug users it’s the main enabler screaming, “Stop!” that makes the difference between abuse and recovery.
I’m sorry for many of the media, including myself, along with several garage insiders who read of Mayfield’s arrest and wondered what, if anything, we could have done differently. Journalists are taught to report without bias, but the degree of 50/50 reporting, in hindsight, showcases how many of us were sucked into this mythical web. From May 2009, when Mayfield filed a lawsuit to try and get his indefinite suspension lifted, to early July, when Judge Graham Mullen granted a temporary injunction, many in NASCAR’s garage area came out in support of the driver. Even the judge appeared sold in his initial ruling, concluding the possibility of a false positive “was quite substantial” based on the way NASCAR’s drug lab, Aegis Laboratories, handled the sample. How could you not have seeds of doubt in your head, to the point you’re asking people if the sport is ready to change their drug policy in light of a possible mistake?
Weeks later, a second positive test for meth caused Mullen to quickly reverse that ruling, but the Mayfield damage had already been done. For some, no amount of positive testing would alter his innocence, as the driver became a symbol of the one man that stepped up to fight the establishment.
And that’s where I’m sorry for NASCAR. In a two-year span, its drug policy — instituted with the best of intentions — was publicly dragged through the mud. David Black, the head of Aegis for a time, was made out to be an arrogant fool, mishandling samples while accused of ignoring others to persecute the NASCAR-selected guilty. The sport’s CEO got it worst of all; Mayfield tried to out anything and everything about France, from his divorce to financial issues to insinuating he had his own past history of drug use. As the mainstream media caught on to the madness, it was nothing less than a black eye during a time when attendance, TV ratings and a sport’s reputation were already taking punches from other sources.
It took two years for closure to come, but the knockout punch landed squarely on Mayfield himself. But who can trump victory here? Ugly wars don’t come with squeaky-clean finishes. Instead, it’s the victims who are left to clean up the mess and move forward. And while you’re sorry and I’m sorry, the only person not apologizing is the one who stirred up all these feelings in the first place.
“Mr. Mayfield has no knowledge of either stolen property or methamphetamine being present on his property,” says Daniel Marino, the latest attorney for the driver (some of his predecessors still haven’t been paid, yet another sign ignored through the strength of Mayfield’s lies). “He denies the accusation that he was in possession of methamphetamine or any illegal drug, and he denies any suggestion that he knowingly received or possessed stolen property.”
Here we go again. In the face of certain disaster, Mayfield goes back to the one tried-and-true method he feels has kept him afloat these past two years: lying, straight-faced to the public.
The problem is no one believes him anymore. That means Mayfield can no longer win … and neither can anyone else.
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