By admin | December 27, 2009
By Richard Allen
Since the drop of the checkered flag at the Miami-Homestead Speedway in November much writing has been done to review the major stories of the 2009 NASCAR season. With that said, over the next several days this website will attempt to take a look ahead into 2010 and ponder the potentially big stories that could come from the year ahead.
One story that will take place off the track but may well the be the biggest attention getter of all will be the case of Brian France and NASCAR vs. Jeremy Mayfield. Few stories in NASCAR history have delivered or have the potential to deliver such soap opera type drama as this.
As has been well documented, during the week of the Darlington race this past May NASCAR announced that Mayfield had produced a positive test for a banned substance. The driver vehemently denied the allegation and in turn took another test provided by a facility he had contracted that showed he was clean. NASCAR then administered a second test which he again failed.
Mayfield insisted he had only taken a combination of an allergy reliever and a drug for ADHD which caused the NASCAR tests to show false positives. He further claimed that NASCAR knew the combination of legal drugs had caused his false positive but the organization was covering for one of its sponsors so that the drug company which produces the allergy medicine would not receive bad publicity.
NASCAR went so far as to bring in Mayfieldâ€™s step-mother, who claimed she had seen her stepson use illegal drugs on numerous occasions. Mayfield countered by claiming that his step-mother was a liar and that she murdered his father, a death that has been ruled a suicide by authorities.
And so on the drama continued. Throughout much of the summer of 2009 this story and its twists and turns dominated the coverage of this sport. Do not be surprised if that continues in 2010.
Believe it or not, the real drama may be just about to begin. Mayfield has sued NASCAR claiming the sanctioning body was grossly negligent in the conducting of its drug testing policy. A court date in that suit has been set for the fall of 2010.
The reason for titling this piece France vs. Mayfield rather than NASCAR vs. Mayfield is due to the fact that it has seemed to take a very personal tone between NASCAR chairman Brian France and Mayfield. Accusations and innuendo have flown as the situation has intensified over the course of the months since the initial positive test results were released.
Earlier this year, Mayfieldâ€™s attorneys had sought to make public sealed documents from an ongoing case between the NASCAR chairman and his ex-wife. France and NASCAR argued that those documents not be made public because the contents could prove to be â€˜damagingâ€™. Mayfieldâ€™s attorneys have since changed their stance on those documents. The judge in that case has ruled as moot requests by NASCAR and Franceâ€™s ex-wife Megan France, that they not be forced to produce documents under seal in litigation between her and Brian because Mayfieldâ€™s attorneys indicated they would not seek those documents. He did grant a motion stipulating that in Megan Franceâ€™s deposition, she cannot be asked about the documents in that lawsuit or about the divorce agreement.
No doubt, many detractors of Mr. France are disappointed that those documents will remain sealed.
Whether the contents of those particular documents ever become public knowledge or not, this case will stir plenty of emotion throughout the NASCAR world. Many fans have clearly taken sides one way or the other and will pay considerable attention as events continue to unfold.
The case of France, or NASCAR, vs. Mayfield garnered plenty of attention in 2009. For that matter it may well have been the story of the year, even with Jimmie Johnson winning a fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title. But even as big a story as it was in 2009, it promises to only get bigger in 2010.
It will be interesting to see if Mayfield can hang in there and see this case to its actual court date or if NASCAR can bury their opponent in a sea of red tape. The racing organization has deep pockets while Mayfieldâ€™s funds are almost certainly more limited. Or, if it appears as though Mayfield can hang in there, NASCAR could seek to settle the case just to make it go away. If this case does make it to the courtroom it could make for quite a show.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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