Despite winning an injunction Wednesday in federal court in Charlotte that would allow him to return to the racetrack, Jeremy Mayfield was a no-show Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, site of Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup Series race.
Suspended May 9 after a drug test reportedly revealed methamphetamine in his system, Mayfield was cleared to race after Judge Graham Mullen ruled in his favour-and, in effect, lifted the suspension-on a motion that questioned the validity and methodology of Mayfield's drug test.
Mayfield had argued that his positive test resulted from a combination of the prescription Adderall and over-the-counter Claritin-D, an assertion with which NASCAR's experts adamantly disagree.
But with the passing of the 3 pm deadline for late entry into Saturday's race, the issue of other drivers' safety with Mayfield on the track became moot, at least for this weekend.
With few exceptions, his fellow drivers tried to steer as far away from the subject of Mayfield's court case and its implications for NASCAR's drug-testing policy as they would from a wreck on the asphalt.
"I don't know enough about it to really comment much on it, to be honest with you," Matt Kenseth said. "I'm sure if he comes back, I'm comfortable with him coming back. I'm sure he'll be tested all the time and do all that stuff."
Similarly, Carl Edwards sidestepped the issue.
"I think the best thing is just to wait and see what the real facts are and what comes out," Edwards said. "I think all of the speculation is damaging to both NASCAR and Jeremy, so I'll just wait to see what comes out of it. But I feel safe with all the drivers on the track. I don't have any problem racing anyone."
Nor does pragmatic Kyle Busch.
"Ultimately it was the judge's decision to turn it out how he turned it out," Busch said. "(Mayfield's) free to race, which is fine. If he's out there on the racetrack with me then it doesn't bother me. Normally we're ahead of him anyway."
Jeff Burton, on the other hand, wants to be absolutely certain no driver is on drugs and on the racetrack at the same time. Only under that circumstance would Burton agree with the premise of Mullen's ruling, that the potential harm to Mayfield's career outweighed the potential harm to NASCAR and its competitors.