Friday May 22nd, 2009

Two weeks after NASCAR suspended Jeremy Mayfield indefinitely for failing a random drug test, the star-crossed Cup driver appears to be girding himself for a legal showdown with the lords of racing. After initially saying that he planned to work with NASCAR to clear the matter up, Mayfield -- with a microphone and cameraman in tow -- showed up in the infield at Lowe's Motor Speedway last Saturday to watch the All-Star Race.

In a conversation with reporters, he displayed pretty much open contempt for the men in charge. He has obviously decided to begin his fight in the court of public opinion. He's also retained the services of Charlotte attorney Bill Diehl (as of Friday morning, the pair had yet to take any legal action). And the plot thickens

Before he was escorted off the grounds last Saturday, Mayfield reiterated his claim that the positive test result was caused by a combination of Claritin-D, an over-the-counter allergy medication, and an unnamed prescription drug. He also said that NASCAR had never told him what drug came up hot in his test result. That's a charge the organization directly refutes, saying that it had given Mayfield that information three times.

At this point, that's about all we know. Publicly, NASCAR is taking a beating, mostly because it maintains no list of specifically banned substances -- frankly, a problem that needs to be fixed. Operating without a list certainly leaves plenty of wiggle-room for the organization to ban drivers it deems unfit to race, but it seems patently unfair to drivers who want to play by the rules. It also just looks bad.

NASCAR has also been criticized for not releasing the name of the drug for which Mayfield tested positive. To be fair, reporters who want to be the first with a scoop have done most of the griping in this vein. But there's little doubt that Mayfield has been making hay with conspiracy theorists by hammering on this omission of fact -- which really isn't that unprecedented. As Viv Bernstein notes in the Charlotte NASCAR Examiner: "It is common practice for sports leagues to decline to reveal the drug found in an athlete's failed test. Most recently, Major League Baseball never disclosed the substance that led to a 50-game suspension for Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez."

Never mind the fact that Mayfield himself refuses to divulge what prescription medication he was supposedly taking. Claritin-D comes in a box printed with a warning that users should contact a doctor if they experience "nervousness, dizziness or sleeplessness." Two of those three things are pretty bad for racecar drivers. And what were the warnings on Mayfield's prescription bottles? That information -- information that he has yet to divulge -- seems pretty relevant to me.

So, Mayfield is posturing and NASCAR, in its own lumbering way, is simply sticking to its story. That means that in the brewing P.R. battle between the two, Mayfield is getting the better of things now. But if he keeps pushing -- and he's giving every indication of doing just that -- the time for specifics is going to come around pretty quickly. Only then will we see who's bluffing and who holds the real winning hand.

5: Career victories, in 15 starts, for Jimmie Johnson at Charlotte

43: Months since Johnson's last victory at Charlotte

0: Number of wins at Charlotte for Johnson in each of his three championship seasons (2006, '07, '08)

A cool pic I found today on the blog From The Marbles over at Yahoo! Sports -- pretty impressive scene considering the sheer size of the Daytona complex.

You can find more photos of the flooding at Flickr.

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