DARLINGTON, S.C. – NASCAR’s new random drug testing policy has claimed its first casualty in the Sprint Cup Series.
Driver/owner Jeremy Mayfield was among three people suspended immediately and indefinitely on Saturday for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. All three had random tests administered last Friday during the race weekend at Richmond, Va.
Mayfield had practiced and qualified on Friday at Darlington Raceway but did not make the field for Saturday night’s Southern 500.
Once NASCAR received word around noon Saturday that both Mayfield’s A and B samples had come back positive, he was notified by series officials of his suspension, which cannot be appealed.
Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s vice president of corporate communications, said if the sanctioning body had received word earlier of Mayfield’s positive results, he would not have been allowed to participate in Friday’s track activity at Darlington.
Also announced Saturday were the suspensions of Tony Martin, a crew member with the No. 34 team in the Cup series, and Ben Williams, a crew member with the No. 16 team in the Nationwide Series.
NASCAR officials would not identify the substance Mayfield was using, but Hunter said it was not alcohol.
“It was a substance banned by our policy but I would not personally characterize it as performance-enhancing,” he said.
In a statement released Saturday night by his team, Mayfield said he believed a combination of a prescribed medicine and an over-the-counter medicine “reacted together” to result in a positive test.
“As both a team owner and a driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, I have immense respect for the enforcement policies NASCAR has in place,” he said. “My doctor and I are working with both Dr. (David) Black and NASCAR to resolve this matter.”
Black is NASCAR’s substance abuse policy administrator.
Mayfield said his team will announce an interim owner and replacement driver early next week.
The announcement came as a shock throughout the NASCAR community. There have been a handful of crew members who have failed since random testing was first instituted this season, but Mayfield is the first driver.
“NASCAR has one of the toughest substance abuse policies in all of sports. It’s all about safety and competition,” Hunter said.
“The implementation of the random testing aspect of our program has been welcomed and supported by the drivers, owners and other competitors in the sport,” the official said
In September, NASCAR announced it would adopt a random drug-testing policy for its drivers, over-the-wall pit crew members and NASCAR officials beginning with the 2009 season. NASCAR’s previous policy permitted testing any time officials had a “reasonable suspicion.”
The new policy mandated all drivers in NASCAR’s three national series – Cup, Nationwide and Trucks – would be tested before the start of the season by personnel with the AEGIS Sciences Corp., a sports and forensic certified testing laboratory.
All team owners were required to verify all licensed crew members had been tested by a certified lab before the season.
NASCAR came under scrutiny in 2008 after a public admission by former Truck series driver Aaron Fike – who was indefinitely suspended under the former substance abuse policy – in an interview with ESPN The Magazine that he used heroin, including on days he raced.
Several Cup drivers, including Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart, called on NASCAR to add random testing to help prevent such incidents in the future.
Mayfield, from Owensboro, Ky., owns the team that fields the No. 41 Toyotas in the Cup series under the Mayfield Motorsports banner.
He debuted in 1994 in the Cup series but was released the following season. He competed with a number of teams, including those of Cale Yarborough, Michael Kranefuss and Roger Penske, and won his first career race, the Pocono 500, in 1998.
Mayfield has since had stints with Evernham Motorsports, Bill Davis Racing and Haas CNC Racing before beginning his own operation before the start of this season. He made headlines in February when his small operation qualified for the season opening Daytona 500.