|Shana and Jeremy Mayfield|
Jeremy Mayfield’s legal problems are now behind him. A return to NASCAR, however, remains in serious doubt.
The former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges of possession of stolen goods and possession of drug paraphernalia in North Carolina Superior Court Monday, ending a two-year legal battle resulting from a Nov. 1, 2011 search of his home that prospectors say uncovered large amounts of illegal drugs and property stolen from local businesses. He originally faced 21 felony counts including possession of methamphetamine, possession of stolen goods and obtaining property under false pretense; allegations that if proven, could have sent him to jail for more than 20 years.
Mayfield received a 45-day suspended sentence and 18 months of unsupervised probation, and was ordered to pay $88,124.41 in victims’ restitution, along with $1,100 in fines and court costs. In return for Mayfield’s guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop all remaining charges.
Mayfield benefitted substantially from the death of alleged former accomplice-turned state’s witness John Franklin, who died during a 120-mph police chase in Granite Falls, NC in September of 2012. District Attorney Jay Gaither said this week that Mayfield’s plea deal was a direct result of “…the unavailability of the State’s key witness due to his death and the likely result should these cases have been presented to a jury without this witness.”
With their star witness deceased, prosecutors had little choice but to offer up a deal. With Monday’s Alford Plea, Mayfield admitted that the evidence against him – including shop equipment and electronics belonging to the former Red Bull Racing team and plastic bags containing 1.3 grams of methamphetamine – were real and likely to result in multiple felony convictions. He did not, however, admit to the crimes themselves.
He is now free and clear in the eyes of the law. In the NASCAR garage, though, his conduct will not be easily explained.
Mayfield continues to insist that he was railroaded by NASCAR and its substance abuse testing agent, Aegis Analytical Laboratories. He maintains that his positive drug test in May of 2009 resulted from a combination of Adderall taken to control Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and the over-the-counter allergy medication Claritin-D.
Those allegations have been denied by NASCAR and Aegis. Dr. David Black, who oversees the sport’s substance abuse program, said at the time, “In my many years of experience, I have never seen a violation like this due to the combination of over-the-counter or prescription products."
NASCAR has repeatedly stated that the only way back for Mayfield is to complete its substance abuse “Road To Recovery” program; a step the driver has steadfastly refused to take. As recently as this week, Mayfield told reporters that while he would agree to the random drug testing required of all NASCAR drivers, he will refuse to take part in any NASCAR-mandated rehab.
Make no mistake about it, NASCAR will not allow Mayfield to dictate the conditions of his own return. He will either do things the sanctioning body’s way, or remain banished from the sport forever. Even if he agrees to undergo NASCAR’s Road To Recovery protocol, however, there are significant road blocks barring his way
Prior to his suspension, Mayfield endured messy splits with both Penske Racing and Evernham Motorsports; splits that included allegations of preferential treatment by team management and the intentional crashing of at least one race car by Mayfield. Many observers believe those disputes – and Mayfield’s handling of them – negatively impacted his ability to secure rides with other teams. At the time of his 2009 suspension, the Kentucky native was reduced to fielding his own Sprint Cup Series entry, failing to qualify for five of the first 10 races of the season.
Mayfield was arguably nearing the end of his competitive NASCAR career at the time of his substance abuse suspension. Now, at age 44 and without a competitive lap since May of 2009, it is difficult to imagine him appearing on anyone’s competitive Wish List. There are simply too many question marks, too many black marks and too many glaring discrepancies between statement and fact.
Mayfield remains defiant, insisting that he is not now (and never has been) a methamphetamine user. This week’s admission that a substantial amount of the drug was found in his home, however, will be difficult for even is supporters to ignore.
In a sport wholly dependent on corporate sponsorship, it is unlikely that any NASCAR team owner or sponsor will be willing to put Jeremy Mayfield back behind the wheel, ever again.