From the Marbles - NASCAR

Guess who's back?

Jeremy Mayfield, the did-he-or-didn't-he driver who's done more time in courtrooms than tracks of late, has won a round in the 500 Affidavits of NASCAR that is his case. The AP has reported that U.S. District Court judge has lifted Mayfield's suspension, ruling that he is eligible to take a run at making the field in Daytona this weekend. Mayfield, as you'll recall, has been suspended for nearly two months after testing positive for methamphetamines on May 1 in Richmond.

So, end of story, right? Not even close. It's going to get far uglier from here on out. Let's start with the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Graham Mullen. First off, he ruled that NASCAR does indeed have the right to test every square inch of Mayfield to figure out "if he's been a methhead or not." I like that, a judge dropping the term "methhead" into his ruling.

He found that "the harm to Mr. Mayfield significantly outweighs any harm to NASCAR." While that's true in an absolute sense, there's more to this than just Mayfield's career prospects. Bear in mind that a judge's ruling is just that, a ruling, and not a determination of innocence. It's no more a certification that Mayfield didn't do drugs than it's a certification he's got wings.

The reason why this is important is that several drivers, including Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, recently filed affidavits of their own about the safety of driving with impaired competition. Let's revisit their words:

5. I make my livelihood by racing in NASCAR events. Racing is my life and career. However I am not willing to put my life at risk driving a racecar on a NASCAR track with drivers testing positive for drugs that diminish their capacity to drive a racecar. I support NASCAR's Substance Abuse Policy and depend on NASCAR to prohibit drivers who don't abide by the policy from racing.

6. If drivers are on the track in violation of NASCAR's Substance Abuse Policy, it presents serious questions as to whether or not it makes sense for me to put my life at risk.

Mayfield has said he will be in Daytona, but whether he'll race is another question. He'll have to come up with the money to run the race, and who's the sponsor who would tick off NASCAR by backing Mayfield? (On the other hand, a Mayfield car would get truckloads of airtime, so perhaps it would be worth it to a one-time-only sponsor.)

NASCAR, for its part, said all the right things, but read between the lines. "We are disappointed, but we respect the judge's ruling," NASCAR's Ramsey Poston said in a statement. "This is only a temporary injunction. The legal case continues beyond this point, and we will continue to make our case." The AP reported that Poston later said NASCAR would absolutely test Mayfield if he was present in Daytona -- presumably meaning they would test him if he races, not if he's just hanging around the garage. If Mayfield does want to race, he'd better hope he hasn't consumed anything more toxic than chocolate milk in the last 30 days.

Mayfield is not on the current Daytona entry list as of 4:45 p.m. Eastern. The entry deadline was June 23 for an "on-time" entry, but he could still enter as a "late entry" as long as he's there by the time the garages open tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. He wouldn't receive any points for the race, but that's not what Mayfield's racing for right now anyway.

And so begins the next chapter ... stay tuned, friends, this is going to be as nasty as it gets.

Judge lifts suspension, says Mayfield can race [AP via Yahoo! Sports]

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