Long way from the track, suspended Mayfield holds large auction to help pay for court fight

By Mike Cranston, AP
Friday, November 20, 2009

Far from track, suspended Mayfield holds auction

CATAWBA, N.C. — Jeremy Mayfield sat in the back of his large barn Friday morning about 800 miles from where NASCAR’s season-ending weekend was kicking off. Several hundred people surrounded him, listening intently as a fast-speaking auctioneer sold dozens of items.

Banned from driving by NASCAR after testing positive for methamphetamines, Mayfield has become an auction fanatic. Only this time, he was selling his own stuff, ranging from a second home, land, cars, dirt bikes and bulldozers to weed-whackers, humidifiers and sunglasses.

If it was all sold by the end of the day it would be worth about $5 million, money needed to help his ongoing court fight to be reinstated to the sport.

“Obviously, this will help financially,” Mayfield said. “But it’s also what I like to do.”

And for a guy who claims that, “All I’ve ever known was racing,” it was an odd sight. Most of the crowd consisted of auction veterans. Few paid any attention to Mayfield’s presence, instead staring at their seller sheets and fellow bidders.

And besides a few old pieces of sheet metal for sale and the racing hats worn by some of the visitors, there were few signs of NASCAR on the premises.

“Sold for $15! What’s your number?” the auctioneer yelled after selling a circular saw blade.

Mayfield walked around his land with a smile, but also determined to prove that he’s not a drug user. His wife, selling clothes and shoes in another section of the facility, took a harder stand against how others in the sport have treated them.

“It’s hurtful when you’ve been with people who you thought were your family for 17 years and then you’re kind of left out here,” Shana Mayfield said, referring to other drivers and their wives. “You kind of feel like you’re out in the middle of a field and the vultures are after you. Nobody is standing up for you or trying to help you. That’s a hard feeling, and it hurts.”

“And everyone will know the truth before it’s over with.”

Mayfield has been suspended since failing a May 1 random drug test. NASCAR says he tested positive for methamphetamines then and in another test on July 6. Mayfield claims a mix of the prescription drug Adderall to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the allergy medication Claritin-D created a false positive.

Mayfield won an injunction July 1 to lift his suspension, but did not attempt to make any of the three races before the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the suspension on July 24. A hearing on the injunction appeal is tentatively scheduled for the first week of December.

Mayfield has since hired prominent attorney Mark Geragos, while NASCAR has been trying to delay the case by filing a motion that would prevent the discovery phase from continuing until a new motion could be heard. Mayfield acknowledged they’ve been rebuffed in their efforts to depose NASCAR chairman Brian France, Dr. David Black, who heads NASCAR’s drug testing program — and even France’s ex-wife. France has filed a secret civil complaint against her.

“Nothing surprises me with trial lawyers in the 21st century,” France said Friday. “They are an amazing group of people.”

But France said NASCAR will continue to try to keep Mayfield off the track.

“It’s regrettable because our preference is never to be in litigation,” France said Friday. “We make the rules and we hope that everybody abides by them.”

The legal fight has cost Mayfield his race team and has put him into debt, although he disputed claims that he owes his former attorney money.

“I’ve paid Bill Diehl a lot of money,” he said. “We’ll get it worked out.”

The auction helped Mayfield’s finances. On farmland in this rural town about an hour north of Charlotte — not far from where race shops dot the landscape — business was brisk. An auction official said about 500 people had registered and another 400 were making bids online.

“I love it, man. I buy a lot of stuff,” said Mayfield, who indicated he goes to an auction every couple weeks. “That’s how I got all this stuff. I had one last year and I was going to have one this year and I kept saying, ‘I’m going to take it to a new level.’ It’s a great crowd, a lot of people, and it’s pretty neat.”

But Mayfield’s top priority remains to clear his name.

“It’s obviously very expensive, especially going to trial like that,” Mayfield said. “But I’m committed and I’m going to do whatever it takes.”

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