NASCAR

Nothing to lose in Michigan Race to the Chase

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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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Heading to Michigan International Speedway, some guys are thinking that they just need to finish, and other guys are thinking that they've got to have a win.

The pressure that these teams will be feeling this weekend is twofold.:

  1. They're trying to make the Chase by running well or stay in the Chase by not doing something stupid.
  2. They've also got to perform in front of their manufacturers. You can never ignore how much it means to these companies when the NASCAR teams roll into Detroit. Everybody wants bragging rights. Right now, Dodge is crowing because they drew first blood in June, and they would love to complete the season sweep on Sunday.

Who to Watch

  • Elliott Sadler: I wouldn't be one bit surprised if Sadler is a factor in his first race behind the wheel of the No. 19 car. Kasey Kahne won the June race, and Evernham Motorsports will come out with guns blazing, trying to make a statement. Sadler could be one of those darkhorses that makes people say, "Where did he come from?"
  • Greg Biffle: Sitting in 13th place with four races until the Chase — 180 points out of 10th place — Biffle must try to rip off four straight wins and let the points fall where they may. Over the last three Michigan races, he has the best average running position and driver rating (121.5) among active drivers. The No. 16 team just can't get any luck. They have had fast race cars, but something always happens. At Watkins Glen, they were getting ready to come back and have a solid finish, but again, Biffle couldn't catch a break, falling to 38th.
  • Carl Edwards: Like his Roush Racing teammate, all Edwards can do now is win, lead the most laps, get as many points as he can and hope it's enough to make the Chase in four races. Edwards has three top-five finishes and four top-10s in four races at the track.
  • Kurt Busch: With a win and five top-10 finishes in 11 starts at Michigan, Busch should bounce back this week after dominating Watkins Glen, only to finish 19th.
  • Speed Mail Jeff

    What to Watch

  • Nothing to lose: The four "Who to Watch" teams can be dangerous because they've got nothing to lose, and they can roll the dice. They can stay out early or short-pit. Their strategy becomes quite different than the folks in the top 10 or fighting for a spot in the top 35. That's what makes them so dangerous.
  • Conservative Chasers: The top 10 teams have to be conservative. If they are running well and can bring home a win, they will. Last week, Kevin Harvick would have been happy running second to Tony Stewart. But when Harvick made his move, it was very smooth and deliberate. Those guys didn't cut off or block each other. They both raced hard, but they raced clean. If you're in the top 10, you can't make a death-defying move or try to thread the needle.

  • 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: Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne

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