NASCAR

Gas 'n Go: Two cars split COT focus

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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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Entering the Chevy zone

Kris from Harvest, Ala.: If another manufacturer were dominating, would NASCAR step in like it has in the past when either Ford or Dodge had a perceived advantage? I get tired of everyone saying Chevy has the better teams and the better drivers. Sixty percent of the teams should not equate to 80 percent of laps led and 90 percent of the wins. Simply look at the smaller Chevy teams that have fewer resources and are beating Evernham and Roush. Tell me that they are trying harder than those Dodge and Ford flagship teams. If NASCAR does nothing now, they shouldn't do anything when Toyota starts to dominate.

Jeff Hammond: It's a very valid point. You made mention of the Chevrolet teams that are not Hendrick or Gibbs. It's just so hard for us not to point that out. NASCAR wants to level the playing field, and they would love to say Chevrolet got by with something or had an unfair advantage. But every time you turn around, they're making changes from COT cars to engine regulations to gear rules. Everything is directed at trying to keep teams and manufacturers from getting ahead of everybody else. No matter how hard you try to build an IROC-type series, the mechanics and drivers rise to the top. Ford hasn't had a banner year, but when they were on, Matt Kenseth won a race at California. It's been a really strange year. As I wrote after the Daytona 500, it's going to be a twilight zone year. If other teams are a little bit better prepared with the COT program than your team is, then your overall program is going to suffer, not just the COT program. Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing went gung-ho on the COT in its early stages, and it's bearing fruit because they have been the dominant teams. Meanwhile teams that were waiting for NASCAR to make the final rules rather than moving on the project readily admit they're behind. How do you beat Hendrick Motorsports, which has had 100 days worth of testing on the COT if you're Greg Biffle, who says his organization has had just nine days? You can't beat them; I don't care who you are. It would be like the New York Yankees deciding nine hours before the start of the season that they're going to do a little infield practice and then play a game against another major league team that's already gone through spring training. It doesn't work. That's the difference were seeing right now between the guys who are prepared and the guys who are not.

To take it one step further, the teams that have been trying to get caught up on the COT program and doing those nine days of testing are taking time away from their regular program. Any time you're trying to run an old car and build new cars, you get behind on testing with your old car as you get ready to test the new car. You're not totally focused on what you need to be able to get done. For example, Dodge and Evernham Motorsports could be struggling to get two programs going because they've got a new nose with the old car and they've got a whole new Avenger with the Car of Tomorrow. They don't have a grasp on either one. Fans across the board have to understand that this is going to be a frustrating year. There's no way to totally understand it. It's one of those years that the true race fan and the new race fan are going to have to be willing to go with the flow. Roll with the punches because it's a year of the bizarre. Don't try to reason out things. Just hope and pray that 2008 will get here in a hurry.

Pits part of racing

Henry from Muskogee, Oklahoma: You ask whose fault it was when Kevin Harvick wrecked on Richmond's pit road? It is NASCAR's fault for having "hot pit stops" since your buddy Waltrip demanded cars line up behind the pace car in 1993. You are going to have these wrecks happen every so often. In the perfect, common-sense world, you would have "time out" pit stops that are safe and sane. With electronic timing and scoring, lining up behind the pace car shouldn't be necessary.

Speed Mail Jeff Hammond

Jeff Hammond: NASCAR, television, everybody and his brother has been accused of trying to turn this racing into wrestling with a preordained winner. If you think racing is boring now, take out the miscues and excitement on pit road, and you'll find out quickly that you're going to alienate about 80 percent of the NASCAR faithful. Races are won and lost on pit road. When race car drivers and crew chiefs fail to communicate, things like this are going to happen. Racing is a dangerous sport on the racetrack and on pit road. The element of danger was one of the reasons fans and competitors used to get jazzed about being a part of it. When I worked on pit crews, I was willing to take the risk of stepping out on pit road. I knew what could have happened, and anybody who works on pit road is gladly taking that risk. We would not endorse the idea that pit stops are just an "oh, by the way" when a caution waves. "Oh, by the way, we're going down pit road. The guys are going to put on four tires and make an adjustment. They're going to line up in the same position and go again." If NASCAR takes away racing on pit road and the opportunity to gain positions because of a good pit stop, I will take up flyfishing because it will be more exciting.


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: Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick

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