It isn’t NASCAR — it’s ARCA — and these are old Cup cars anyway, so close enough. Ever see a stockcar Ollie a wall like Tony Hawk on a skateboard? Buster Graham might want to go X-Games if the racecar thing doesn’t work out, that is, if he can reliably and repeatedly execute this move, as seen in last August’s Pennsylvania 125.
by Vito Pugliese
9. Kyle Petty ... Born Entertainer
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Before he became a color commentator, Kyle Petty was one of the top contenders in NASCAR in the early 1990s (arguably the best era in the series’ history). He won the 1993 Champion Spark Plug 500 over Davey Allison, with an “AK” embroidered on his uniform in memory of Alan Kulwicki, who perished in an air plane crash in April of that year. Petty video taped his 1,700-mile journey from Charlotte, up the Eastern Seaboard, and had the camera in his car during the race – even capturing a fan who ran across the track on lap 106. Petty and Allison narrowly missed the man who dove over the wall once he realized there were cars bearing down on him at over 160 mph.
by Vito Pugliese
8. Elliott Walks Away from a Nasty One
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Ever wonder why Kurt Busch had so much animosity towards Jimmie (“Five-Time Chump”) Johnson at Richmond last year? Find out here, as Johnson triggers a massive double-impact (sans Jean-Claude Van Dame) with Busch’s Miller Lite Dodge and Elliott Sadler — in what may be the most devastating impact in NASCAR history. It isn’t often that you go from 190 mph to dead stop in three feet and live to tell about it – or eject your Roush Yates powerplant, depositing it onto the Long Pond straight. Sadler’s impact into the earthen embankment is the highest G-reading measured since NASCAR began installing black box data recorders in the cars.
by Vito Pugliese
7. As Does Gordon
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A testament to improved car construction, safety devices, and perhaps most importantly, the SAFER barrier, saved Jeff Gordon’s life in this severe impact at the June 2006 event. Gordon experienced brake failure going into Turn 1 at over 190 mph. He was able to scrub off some speed (but not much) by angling the car into the grass. Had he hit the wall without the current protections in place, things may have ended much worse for Gordon, who is ranked third on NASCAR’s all-time wins list.
by Vito Pugliese
6. The Tunnel Turn Claims Allison
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Bobby Allison’s career and nearly life-ending crash on the opening lap in the June race was the first of many sad chapters in the life and times of the 84-race winner. Allison suffered brain damage, a bruised heart and a broken leg in this incident. A cut tire sent him head on into the wall and was then T-boned by driver Jocko Maggiacomo. It would take more than two years for Allison to get back on his feet – literally. He would continue further trials and tribulations, including a divorce from wife Judy and the death of his sons Clifford and Davey. Clifford lost his life on August 13, 1992, in an ARCA crash and Davey at Talladega on July 13, 1993, while landing his helicopter. The story does have a happy ending of sorts: Bobby and Judy remarried in July 2000, reuniting and reconciling following the death of Adam Petty.
by Vito Pugliese
5. The Youngster vs. The Vet
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Many bemoan the absence of rivalries in NASCAR today. However, this video might serve as a fitting reason that may not be such a bad idea. Darrell Waltrip and Davey Allison had a lot of back and forth in the 1991 and ’92 seasons, with Davey coming out on the short end of the stick, first suffering broken ribs at Bristol, and this ridiculous wreck at Pocono in June 1992. Larry McReynolds, Davey’s crew chief, remembers hearing the radio traffic of drivers passing the scene, catching Mark Martin saying, “They better just go get a body bag for Davey …” Waltrip went on to win the race that day, and this wreck essentially cost Allison the 1992 championship. A bit reminiscent of the retaliatory strike by Carl Edwards on Brad Keselowski in Atlanta in 2010, Keselowski is often heard to say, “Man up and drive the damn racecar.” And Allison did just that a week later, with two black eyes (literally … like Beetlejuice) and a shattered wrist. The Robert Yates team had to velcro it to the shifter, as he gutted out a third-place finish, essentially driving one handed.
by Vito Pugliese
4. Junior Rushes to Teammates' Aid
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Steve Park’s 2002 return to Cup competition following an incident at a Busch Series race at Darlington in September 2001 did not go so well for his 16th start of the season. On the opening lap, Park was blocked by Rusty Wallace, which turned him across the track and into the path of DEI teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. Park’s Pennzoil Chevrolet began a series of tumbles and flips after going head-on into the backstretch guardrail. Earnhardt sprinting to his stricken comrade’s crumpled car is one of the most indelible images in Pocono’s history. For a team and organization that had been through so much the previous year and a half, it was a welcome site to see Park exiting the car and walking arm in arm with Junior to the ambulance.
by Vito Pugliese
3. Dale Earnhardt: One Tough Customer
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Perhaps one of the reasons “The Intimidator” also received the nickname “Iron Head” – this lap 134 crash with Tim Richmond at the 4:35 mark. Earnhardt ended up with a broken knee in the crash, and was helped across the track by Richmond. Pocono seems to be the track where if you wreck, the other guy feels sorry for you and helps out. Lots of great things in this video: Richard Petty with a massive lead, Earnhardt driving a Ford and mustachioed Mark Martin in his rookie season, with foppish hair getting a relief driver after the shifter boot melted and started sucking 800-degree exhaust heat into the cockpit. Marin later would have to relieve relief driver Ronnie Thomas. Bobby Allison would go on to win both events at Pocono last year, ironic considering it would also end up being his final race just six years later.
by Vito Pugliese
2. Mayfield Rattle’s the Intimidator’s Cage
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Before he started testing positive for meth and getting caught with $100,000 in stolen property in his now-foreclosed upon home, Jeremy Mayfield was a pretty fair racecar driver. Clearly second in the pecking order at Penske, Mayfield was one of the Ford contingent’s up-and-coming drivers in the late 1990s and early 2000s before he defected to Dodge. This rain delayed race, run on a Monday afternoon, was a bit of a snoozer, with Dale Earnhardt poised to notch his second win of the season – that is until Mayfield decided to “rattle his cage.” While some Earnhardt fans cried foul, it was actually pretty clean and quite representative of what is considered fair in NASCAR these days. Perhaps more memorable than the win, was The Intimidator Mayfield know he was “No. 1” during the cool down lap.
by Vito Pugliese
1. The Late, Great Tim Richmond
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August 13, 2012, will mark 23 years since Tim Richmond passed away, yet he lives on in the hearts and minds of fans who were around long before “Five Time,” “Green-White-Checkers,” “Lucky Dogs,” and even restrictor plates. As quickly as he burst onto the scene, Richmond was gone, a victim of his own rambunctious lifestyle, the ignorance and excess of the 1980s – and NASCAR. The first driver who failed a NASCAR sanctioned drug test for what was legitimate medication, Richmond was suffering the effects of HIV and AIDS, which would eventually claim his life in 1989. He was hospitalized from December 1986 through January 1987, missing the first half of the ’87 season. After winning seven races in ’86, the following year should have been the one when Richmond contended for a title. Instead, he was in a fight for his life. Making his season debut — looking drawn, gaunt and with a persistent cough — Richmond held on for the final 47 laps, hounded by Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott and Kyle Petty, despite a damaged transmission which was highlighted (as much of his life was) in the film Days of Thunder. Richmond also would win the following week at Riverside, the last of his career. He made one final start at Michigan the week after, coming home fourth.
NASCAR's toughest questions and the politically incorrect answers
In celebration of Athlon Sports' upcoming 10th annual Racing magazine, we've dug into the archives to uncover some of the most memorable features, profiles and Q&As that have graced our pages. Visit the site daily for more retrospective looks at NASCAR throughout the decade.
Article originally published in 2010 Athlon Sports Racing annual
1. Should NASCAR “Jimmie-proof” the Chase by rotating the venues that host the events?
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.
Agree with Tom? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Tom on Twitter@NASCARBowles