Mayfield, Rudd could be '07's biggest surprises

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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.

Katie from Big Spring, Texas: Who do you think the biggest surprise of 2007 will be?

Daytona testing

Week 2
  • Monday testing speeds
  • Week 1
  • Composite testing speeds
  • Thurs. a.m. testing speeds
  • Wed. p.m. testing speeds
  • Wed. a.m. testing speeds
  • Tues. p.m. testing speeds
  • Tues. a.m. testing speeds
  • Mon. a.m. testing speeds
  • Greg Biffle Q&A
  • Ricky Rudd Q&A
  • Jimmie Johnson Q&A
  • Harvick and Kahne Q&A
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. Q&A
  • Boards: Talk about the test
  • Jeff Hammond: It's fun to go back and forth to figure out exactly who is going to be a surprise. Robert Yates and Ricky Rudd together again is a surprise because I didn't expect to see Rudd running for a full season since he basically went into a long vacation last year. So far, they've come out looking good in their preseason tests. Yates always has strong engines so he could easily be a surprise. Ford is the only manufacturer with no changes to its car heading into 2007. They need to get stronger so Yates and Roush Racing return to where they need to be. Don't forget that Robby Gordon is a new addition in the Blue Oval camp, which could be exciting for Ford. Rudd is a veteran. We saw he could come off the bench and have a strong run for the No. 20 team when Tony Stewart was hurt at Dover last year. He's back home, and he knows Robert and Doug Yates. He tested with crew chief Butch Hylton before Daytona, and a lot of the guys on that team have told me it is working well. Rudd is also helping his teammate David Gilliland already.

    If Toyota has a chance, it's going to be with Jeremy Mayfield and Bill Davis. Mayfield has been up front before, and Davis understands what it takes to be successful. Bill Davis Racing has been really good with Toyota so far so they could easily be the to watch as far as Toyota is concerned. The Craftsman Truck Series is a good place for a manufacturer to learn, just like Dodge did before they returned to the Cup Series. Toyota will roll into Daytona with eight Cup teams, and they've got their hands full. This engine hasn't been proven for 500 miles under competition conditions, and the Camry is a brand-new car. It's going to have to be baptized under fire, but Bill Davis Racing as well as Dale Jarrett, driving for Michael Waltrip, should be strong in Daytona. When you think about all of the changes in 2007, it's going to be crazy. We just finished 2006, crowning a champion last month in New York. All of the sudden, we're rolling into 2007, and we're talking about rule changes, new cars coming and engines coming and new people. There will be a lot of unpredictable situations that make me think that it will be a bizarre year. It might be frustrating for not only fans but a lot of teams. You've got to stay positive, but it's going to be a trying year because things like the Car of Tomorrow will make it difficult to predict who will be good and bad.

    Baldwin helps BDR focus

    Speed Mail Jeff Hammond
    Steve from Hooksett, N.H.: Do you think that Tommy Baldwin Jr. returning to Bill Davis Racing is the reason Dave Blaney and the No 22 car looked so good during testing? Jeff Hammond: The leadership that Baldwin brought back to the team allowed some of the other guys to work on the operation and focus on the race cars. At the same time, Bill Davis and his organization have been working very closely with Toyota and a lot of their development programs over the past few seasons in the Craftsman Truck Series. I feel like Davis has a better understanding of what needs to be and doesn't need to be done to these cars, and it's already showing with the way Blaney's car unloaded and ran off of the hauler. I've got to believe that Jeremy Mayfield should be just as good during the second week of tests.

    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

    For photos and appearances, visit Jeff's web site

    Tagged: Ricky Rudd, Dale Jarrett, Tony Stewart, Jeremy Mayfield, Michael Waltrip, Robby Gordon

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