The bizarre and often adversarial relationship between NASCAR and Jeremy Mayfield took an unexpected turn on Tuesday night, when Mayfield called in to a radio show to speak directly to NASCAR CEO Brian France to discuss the driver’s reinstatement process.
Mayfield, who has been suspended from NASCAR since 2009 following a failed drug test for methamphetamines, called into “NASCAR Live!” with Eli Gold and asked to speak with his guest, France, on the air. After approving it with the NASCAR executive, Mayfield was patched through, where he asked France if he would be open to the idea of the driver someday returning to the track.
"I thought I would just call in and see how you guys were doing, Brian, Eli," Mayfield said. "I haven't been around much to talk to you guys lately, and just wanted to ask Brian if he's willing to accept the fact I'd like to come back racing and if we could sit down and talk about it and figure out what we need to do to make that work."
France appeared somewhat unprepared but was diplomatic in his response, saying that Mayfield would be allowed back as soon as he completed the NASCAR Road to Recovery rehabilitation program.
"Well, Jeremy, you know the path back for you — it's the path back for anybody," France said. "I've always hoped you would choose the right path and not litigation and a bunch of other things, but that's up to you and you have a welcome mat out anytime you want.
"There's a stated process that A.J. Allmendinger just went through and we welcomed him back -- and it's terrific. That's up to you."
Allmendinger became the most recent driver to be suspended for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. He tested positive for amphetamines in June at Kentucky, but he completed the Road to Recovery program in time to return to the sport by in October.
But Mayfield chose a different route, opting to sue NASCAR for “baseless charges” instead of completing the rehabilitation program and continued down that path until he ran out of money.
A court-ordered search of Mayfield’s home in November 2011 found 1.5 grams of methamphetamines in a gun safe and property that was previously stolen from the Team Red Bull and Fitz Motorsports’ race shops. As a result, Mayfield now faces one felony count of possession of methamphetamine, three felony counts of possession of stolen goods and one felony count of obtaining stolen goods by false pretenses.
Those charges are still ongoing across three North Carolina counties -- Catawba, Caldwell and Iredell. The combined charges carry a maximum penalty of 43 years in jail.
Mayfield won five Sprint Cup Series races in 433 career starts and made the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2004 and 2005.