NASCAR

Expect aggressive bump-drafting; Menard vs. Montoya

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Jeff Hammond

Jeff Hammond is a former NASCAR crew chief who led Darrell Waltrip to two of his three Sprint Cup championships. The duo also teamed up to win the 1989 Daytona 500. Prior to that, Hammond was the jackman for Cale Yarborough for all three of his Cup championships. He has 43 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief. Follow him on Twitter.

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Bumper cars

Al from Baltimore, Md.: Hey Jeff, the "D" in the Duel 150 races could also mean dominating, as Jimmie Johnson was last year. Or it could mean desperate, as in teams not in the top 35 trying to make it. The biggest D could be drafting. Will the drafting get extra bumpy this year with a lot more cars — including rookies — trying to make the show? Jeff Hammond: The Ds have it. You can depend upon our fans to bring all of those things into play next Thursday (2 p.m. ET on SPEED). When you try to quantify what D-Day is, it's got so many variables and spinoffs. The drafting will probably be very aggressive. There are going to be a lot of desperation moves, and there's going to be a lot of deliberation by the crew chiefs and drivers leading into that event. A huge amount of pressure is going to be on the teams to make everything come together.

Menard vs. Montoya

Mark from Hays, Kan.: Jeff, I have enjoyed watching Paul Menard the last two years, and I was impressed with his times during testing. We saw Denny Hamlin come out of the gate last year, leaving all of us with our jaws dropped. Paul has Tony Eury Sr., an excellent crew chief. Can he come out and let people know he is meant to be on the track with the big boys, or will he have a year like Martin Truex Jr? Jeff Hammond: That's the question. Is Dale Earnhardt Inc. totally prepared? Paul Menard is the sleeper in this rookie class because he's not one of those guys who seeks out cameras or reporters. He just likes driving his race car. He could be the guy that, very quietly, makes a name for himself under the radar. He could be the guy that steals Montoya's thunder.

Speed Mail Jeff Hammond

Jarrett should be fine

Joe from La Grange, Ky.: Egad, Jeff! With the new rule for champion's provisionals, I guess it's almost a lock that one of the sport's biggest names — not to mention one of NASCAR's biggest sponsors — will miss a race or two this year. Do you think the time is ripe for franchising? I know, I know; another blow to "tradition." However, times change, and with all of the new rides, it's going to be harder than ever to get consistent sponsors willing to fork over the spinach to keep teams competitive. Forget the truck, Dale Jarrett, drive one of those darn jet engine planes! Jeff Hammond: That's a valid point, but in one of our upcoming shows from Daytona Beach on SPEED, you may find out it's not that bad. The way NASCAR has structured the new rule, Jarrett is guaranteed to be able to use six provisionals. Well, that gets him past the first five races. If he's able to race or qualify his way into the Daytona 500, he automatically saves one provisional. If his car runs well, and he has decent finishes, he'll be golden because he'll make the top 35 in owner points by the end of the first five races. Performance is the key. If Jarrett performs well, there will be no question about him making races.


FOX race analyst Jeff Hammond led Darrell Waltrip to two of DW's three Winston Cup championships as his crew chief. They also teamed to win the 1989 Daytona 500.

For autographed copies of Jeff Hammond's book "Real Men Work in the Pits" plus magnets, hats and more, check out www.dwstore.com.

For photos and appearances, visit Jeff's web site www.jeffhammond.com.

Tagged: Jimmie Johnson, Dale Jarrett, Paul Menard, Denny Hamlin

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