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Driving Today

Mayfield’s Sad Tale Continues

Former Sprint Cup driver is arrested for drug possession.

It’s a sad story, and what makes it even worse is the fact that it could’ve been such a happy one. Former Sprint Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield raced BMX bicycles as a kid, just as millions of other boys did, dreaming of a big-time racing career. And for him, it happened. After a stint in karting, he landed a job as a car-builder at Sadler Bros. Racing and -- in Hollywood movie fashion -- he finally got to drive the car, becoming Rookie of the Year at Kentucky Motor Speedway. Six years later, he graduated to the ARCA Racing Series, and he was named Rookie of the Year there too. By the late 1990s, he was a driver in NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series, but despite having several successful years on the track -- for example, in 2000 he won two Cup races, turned in 12 top-10 finishes and won more than $2 million -- he bounced from team to team, sometimes being replaced midyear. Still, as recently as 2005, he had nine top-10 finishes and captured more than $4 million in race winnings. Like we said at the top, this should have been a happy story.

But it’s not. Last week Mayfield was arrested in his home state of North Carolina for drug possession. Police said he was holding 1.5 grams of methamphetamine, the same drug that was reportedly in his system in 2009 when he famously failed two NASCAR-administered random drug tests. At that time, Mayfield claimed that the drug test failures must have been the result of taking the over-the-counter allergy drug Claritin D along with an unnamed prescription drug, but the NASCAR doctors said that was impossible to believe. As the result of the failed drug tests, Mayfield was immediately suspended from participation in NASCAR events, and he hasn’t raced in any top racing series since.

In addition to last week’s arrest for drug possession, the former race driver might also face charges of grand theft and burglary. Detectives who participated in Mayfield’s arrest say that when they searched his home, they discovered about $100,000 worth of heavy equipment -- like welders and other shop gear -- that had gone missing from local businesses.

As he did when he faced the NASCAR-related drug allegations, Mayfield has denied everything. Says Mayfield’s attorney, Daniel Marino, in a statement: “Mr. Mayfield has no knowledge of either stolen property or methamphetamine being present on his property and denies the accusation that he was in possession of methamphetamine or any other illegal drug, and he denies any suggestion that he knowingly received or possessed stolen property.”

It is another sad turn of events in the career of a promising driver who seems, from reports anyway, to be unable to fend off the lure of drugs. We wish it had a happy ending, but at the very least it should be a cautionary tale to all those BMX riders out there who dream of a racing career.