Thanks to a two-tyre call by crew chief Tony Furr late in Thursday's second Gatorade Duel, Jeremy Mayfield and his skeleton crew raced their way into the Daytona 500 with a ninth-place finish in the qualifying event.
With no prospects for a Cup ride, Mayfield put his own team together in the off-season, but only now might he be able to pay his team members.
“Most of them are volunteers pretty much,” an elated Mayfield revealed after the race, “We've got several guys we hired full time. To be honest with you, [they] haven't got the first paycheque. Hopefully, we can pay them now. We've got 15, maybe 20 at the most, including our pit crew, so to be able to get our cars done in such a short amount of time, come here and race like we did with no problems is pretty cool.
"Tony has done a good job of putting together a great group of guys. Everybody on this race team has been on winning race teams, have won races in the past. You know, that experience I feel like helped us more today than anything."
Furr himself wasn't the obvious choice for many when it came to Mayfield setting up his own operation, but the veteran had no doubts.
"If you know Tony, he's a great guy, and he and I just really get along well," he explained, "We just been good friends over the years, since I worked with him at Cale Yarboroughs in the early '90s. Tony is one of those guys that is pretty humble, hasn't forgotten where he's come from. We understand each other.
"I knew that, doing this, I needed to get somebody that understood what I like in a car. It showed today. Our car was terrible to start with but, we come down pit road and, boom, he dials it right in. I haven't had a guy that just understands [me] in a long time, but I knew Tony did. We worked together well. He is a true racer guy. He's not in it for the media. Nothing against the media, but he's not trying to be flashy or nothing like that. He just wants to race hard and work hard. You can't beat a guy like that."
Losing his ride at Gillett Evernham Motorsport provided all the resolve that Mayfield needed to ensure that he at least had a shot at making the 500, but he has also come up with a way of ensuring that everyone on his crew is pulling their weight by giving them a cut of his prize money
"[Losing the ride], that's what motivates me," he confirmed, "If I ever want to retire as a driver, I want to retire on my own, not be pushed to the wayside. I think that's what kept me motivated to do this. I wanted
to come back.