NASCAR

2012 Shootout will be fast and furious

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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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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.

At least for now, it looks as if Mother Nature is going to cooperate and the Budweiser Shootout will kick off our 2012 NASCAR on FOX season (8 p.m. ET Saturday).

And it should be a doozy, considering we already had our first big wreck of the season. It sure didn’t take them long, huh?

During practice Friday, Tony Stewart got into the back of Kurt Busch’s car, which turned the No. 51 in front of a pack of cars. Brad Keselowski, AJ  Allmendinger, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt’s younger brother, Kyle, were all collected. I think it is interesting to note this happened in pack racing, not in the two-car tandem.

Remember that the Budweiser Shootout is a money race — no points are involved — so you might as well go ahead and classify it as the NASCAR 2012 version of the "Fast and the Furious."

Saturday night will also give us our first look at how all the adjustments to NASCAR rules will affect things. Interestingly, Jamie McMurray declared the two-car tandem racing all but dead, saying cars can team up for only two laps before the engine temperatures start heading north quickly.

You hear us say many times that testing is one thing and race conditions are completely different. That still holds true. Testing is somewhat of a controlled environment. The beauty of the 75-lap Budweiser Shootout is it gives teams the opportunity to see what the real-time effects are in actual race conditions.

Some folks want to label this race an exhibition, but let's get real here: Some driver is going to walk away with a cool quarter of a million dollars for 75 laps of work. If you do everything right, you put that kind of money in your pocket. If you make a mistake and maybe get yourself wrecked, not only have you lost the first-place money but there is the added time and expense of fixing or building a new race car. So my point is, you can call it an exhibition if you want, but there are some really pricey fallouts if you make a mistake.

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HERE WE GO!

Friday's Budweiser Shootout practice run was not for the faint of heart, as several drivers had their day end prematurely after this multicar pileup.

You recently heard NFL commissioner Roger Goodell say the NFL is going to review whether to keep the Pro Bowl in place because of the perceived lack of effort and quality of play. Trust me, while the drivers will use the word “fun” in their media interviews about the Budweiser Shootout, they are still out for blood. Remember, drivers are a different breed. Sure there’s $250,000 on the line, but there’s also a trophy, bragging rights and starting your 2012 season in grand fashion.

We talked in the offseason and during the leadup to everyone heading to Daytona that 2012 is going to be the season of unknowns. When the checkered flag waves at the end of the 75-lap Budweiser Shootout, there will be some knowns. Each team will know a lot more about its driver, pit crew, engines, car, communications, the new rules packages and on down the line. So there are going to be a lot of answers revealed early in this 2012 multiple equation.


For all the excitement that the Budweiser Shootout brings everyone, all of us in the NASCAR on FOX and the entire FOX Sports family have suffered a tremendous loss. Our hearts were broken when we learned that our dear friend and NASCAR on FOX prerace host, Chris Myers, lost his teenage son in a tragic car accident Thursday.

BOOGITY! BOOGITY! BOOGITY!

NASCAR on FOX brings live coverage of the Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway on Sunday. The green flag drops at 1 p.m. ET, with coverage on FOX beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Naturally, Chris won’t be with us in the foreseeable weeks, and I just ask all of you to pray for the family and they can feel the warmth of all our prayers and our love. I can’t fathom the pain Chris, his wife and their other son are going through. As a parent, I pray it never happens to me. Parents should never have to bury their children. So please pray for Chris and his family.

Chris, please take all the time you need to heal. Come back to us when you are ready and just know that we all love you and your family.

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