Giving it another go
Wallace, Mayfield mend fences in Busch partnership
There was a time when Jeremy Mayfield and Rusty Wallace were trading verbal barbs, arguing incessantly and couldn’t agree on the time of day, let alone on a race car setup.
And that was when they were teammates.
Now, four years removed from their pairing at Penske Racing South, the two Nextel Cup drivers — Mayfield at the prime of his career, Wallace in his final season — are enjoying the kind of friendship they wish they had had as teammates.
The relationship now is one of owner and driver, as Wallace has enlisted the help of Mayfield to drive several NASCAR Busch Series races this season for a team Wallace owns.
Mayfield’s next appearance in Wallace’s No. 64 Dodge is the May 28 Carquest 300 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Jamie McMurray, who splits time in the car with Mayfield, is entered this weekend at Richmond, Va.
“We both had hard feelings against each other for a while but then I stopped and thought about it one day and I’m like, ‘Really, he didn’t do anything to me.'” Mayfield said.
Last summer, Mayfield and his car owner, Ray Evernham, chatted with Wallace at Watkins Glen, N.Y. Wallace was looking for drivers for his Busch team.
“Jeremy will drive it,” Evernham said, matter-of-factly.
Wallace turned to Mayfield, “You want to drive it?”
Mayfield replied, “Yeah, I’ll drive it.”
A feud that once dominated NASCAR storylines suddenly became a partnership.
“It started out kind of like joking around, just a conversation, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought, ‘Man that’s pretty cool for him to ask me to drive his Busch car,'” Mayfield said.
“I feel honored, and just to put all the other stuff behind us, that said a lot that he felt the same way I did.
There were a lot of things I did wrong, I could have done better to make that whole deal work, and he probably feels the same way.”
Strangely, Wallace does.
He admits when he and Mayfield were teammates they had a strained relationship that grew from the fact the two had different driving styles and could not come to agreement on one type of car chassis to use, which would have facilitated sharing information.
“We always wanted really bad for all of us to have the exact same cars. The setup he had in his car was always way different from what I thought was right,” Wallace recalled.
“He kept that same train of thought forever and ever. Now you look back on it, and all that stuff that I thought there was no way that was going to work, is normal now.”
Aside from having teams that couldn’t seem to work on the same page, Wallace said the age difference between him and Mayfield also played a factor.
“It was a 20-something-year-old guy and a 40-something-year-old guy,” Wallace said. “I could work all day long with (older veterans) Bill Elliott and Ricky Rudd and guys like that. We could talk turkey forever.”
Wallace said the age difference prevented him and Mayfield from ever really getting to know each other.
“I never held a grudge against him, we were just night and day on our setups,” he said. “Sometimes you have to go through a divorce to figure out what kind of a person people are.
“I like him a lot or I wouldn’t have put him in my car.”
Wallace and Mayfield believe their troubled tenure at Penske made both better drivers and better people.
“I see lot of young drivers do the same thing. You think you’ll drive anything out there and you’re going to win races and run good no matter what it is, not realizing how important the team and the people around you are,” Mayfield said.
“Since I’m gone from there, I said I’ve got to change who I am and the way I do things and Ray (Evernham) has helped me a ton.
“For a while I did what everybody else does and blame it on Rusty. I look back now (and) it’s really not all his fault, if any. I have to admit that and he’d say the same about me.”