At a track where he has traditionally shown incredible prowess, Jeremy Mayfield heads to the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week for Sunday's Brickyard 400.

The Mobil 1 Taurus was the fastest among winning teams during NASCAR testing earlier this month at Indianapolis, and Mayfield has shown a prowess at the track few other drivers have been able to match.

Mayfield has led at Indianapolis and has run up front, but the team has had its share of heartaches too...

A year ago, he had the fastest car in practice but, during a session, hit oil, spun around and backed hard into the third-turn wall. Kyle Petty drove the Mobil 1 Taurus in relief. Three years ago, Mayfield stormed to the front of the pack and began pulling away as leader but a cut tire in the second turn sent him sailing into the wall in that race too, ending all chance for victory.

Mayfield, 32, is a native of Owensboro, Ky., and easily one of the top young drivers in the sport. One of the few young drivers who has "come up the hard way" - Mayfield came from a middle-class home and spent time, even in Winston Cup racing, as his own crew chief and fabricator - the driver is poised on the precipice of stardom, and is easily one of the most popular young drivers with fans throughout the country.

Mayfield gave his thoughts on heading to Indianapolis: "We feel really good going into Indianapolis, as good as we've felt. We tested really well there, and we feel like we have a car that is capable of doing some great things.

"The thing is there is a lot of time between when we check in and when the chequered flag falls on Sunday. A lot can happen - good things and bad things. We've seen both ends of that stick over the years. What we need to do is come up with more good things, and hope the bad things are behind us.

"Being among the best in testing means some things but it doesn't mean everything," Mayfield warned. "It does mean we had a good test and we learned a lot. I don't think it means we're locks to win the pole or the race or anything like that. It means we're closer to where we want to be than some folks right now, but there are a lot of teams who left the Indy tests knowing what they wanted to change and what they wanted to work on. If they find what they are looking for, they are going to be pretty tough.

"Winning is everything in this sport," he added. "As big a race as the Brickyard is, it doesn't matter where you win. Winning is winning. It's just as tough to win at Martinsville as it is the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard 400. Maybe there is a little bit more attention paid to certain races but they are all tough to win.

"Now, that said, the races at Indianapolis are pretty special. First is the history and heritage of the place. They've been running there almost 100 years, and it seems that just about every big-name driver has made it there one way or another. If you did something at Indianapolis, then everybody on earth seemed to know you did something. The history the place has is just incredible.

"Secondly, you win at Indianapolis and you know you've really done something. Everybody brings their best stuff to Indianapolis, and everybody knows everybody brings their best stuff to Indianapolis. You have to be at your best just to get a good qualifying run on Satuday and have any chance at all to keep up on Sunday. And you'd better be good or you're going to get embarrassed. From what I've seen, you have to be near perfect to even have a chance to hang on.

"I've run at the front at Indianapolis and I've run at the back at Indianapolis. Let me tell you right now, both are underrated. When you grew up just across the Ohio River like I did, there is something special at Indy. I had friends growing up who would come to the Indianapolis 500 every year. We followed the stock cars everywhere, but we followed anything that was going on at Indianapolis. Those guys still come back, and they bring their kids - except they are coming for the stock car races too, just like they did the Indy car races. It never fails - I run into two or three ol' buddies from Owensboro everytime we run Indianapolis.

"I know there are guys who have been running the Indianapolis 500 since time began and consider Indy their track but the place is just important to everyone in racing. I didn't grow up in the grandstands but, like a lot of our fans today, I watched it on television every year. I knew who A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones and Mario Andretti were, and I kept tabs on them too. True, I kept closer watch on Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough but Memorial Day Sunday was pretty big at my house. We'd listen to the World 600 on the radio that day and watch the Indy 500 on TV that night (Indy was tape-delayed).

"We want to win the Brickyard 400 a lot. For one thing, it's the next race. For another, it is becoming a tradition in our sport, and is building its own heritage and history with stock cars. Winning there means a lot. Of course, winning anywhere means a lot. But this team has its eyes set on winning races, as many races as we can win. I think we've shown that we're capable of winning, and nobody wants to win more than we do. Sometimes things have gotten in the way but nobody here hangs their head. We just pick up the pieces and move on to the next race. Win or lose, we're a team, and we're a team dead-set on winning.

"I can't think of a better place for that to start for this Mobil 1 Taurus team than Indianapolis."