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On the road to Daytona: Preparing for pandemonium

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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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On Tuesday afternoon, I hung up the phone with a member of the BAM Racing No. 49 team, and they had just loaded their truck for Daytona. By lunchtime on Wednesday, teams had loaded up their truck and trailers, and even if you had a calculator, I still don't think you could add up all the time they put into getting ready for the 2006 season. You're trying to make sure every crew member has the proper uniform size and the driver uniform has the right decals. The helmets must have all the right stickers, and the pit equipment has been repainted. Teams go through an endless checklist over the winter that has nothing to do with race cars. They start working on a new race season well before the old race season is over. When we won the Daytona 500 with Dale Earnhardt in 1998, we started building that car in July 1997. When you close the door on the hauler, it's like, "Man, we're finally ready to go to Daytona." If NASCAR called the teams and said Daytona wouldn't open until next Thursday, they would unload the truck and work right up until the last minute next Wednesday. It's just the way we work. A secretary at Richard Childress Racing used to tell us, "I'm going to follow you to the state line and make sure you don't come back for a week and a half." We put her through so much getting ready not only just for Daytona but for the new season. You're always wondering, "What have we forgotten? What didn't we do this winter that we should have done?" Everybody starts with zero points, and the top 35 teams in 2005 owner points know they will race in the Daytona 500 no matter how bad Speedweeks goes for them. Probably another 15 teams don't know whether they will make the Great American Race. Especially if you're a team that's going to run all of the races, you'd better go down there with the attitude that you are going to win the championship. When the haulers check in at Daytona on Thursday at 8 a.m., probably 45 or 46 of the 50 teams will be running for the championship. Whether you're defending champion Tony Stewart, Greg Zipadelli and the No. 20 team, the No. 26 Roush team and Kurt Busch who won the championship two years ago or you're 2000 champ Bobby Labonte with a new operation, you're a championship contender. Everybody goes down there with a smile on his face and a fresh outlook. Then at 3:45 p.m. on Friday, the loudspeaker in the garage will go, "Gentlemen, the track is open for practice!" And pandemonium kicks in again for the next 10 months. Last season is over, and there's nothing you can do to change it. Now, it's all about moving forward, and it starts with the biggest race of the year. Whether you're a driver, a crew chief, and owner or any part of a race team, two things in the sport never leave you: a championship and winning the Daytona 500. I spoke in High Point, N.C. last week, and while they acknowledged my current job as NASCAR on FOX analyst, they introduced me as "two-time Daytona 500 winning crew chief Larry McReynolds." It's a win that stays with you the rest of your career and the rest of your life.

Speed Mail Larry

Tribute to a legend

Linda from Republic, Ohio: It would be great to see the No. 3 car as the official pace car for the Daytona 500. What a great tribute Larry McReynolds: I can't believe it's been five years. The 2001 Daytona 500 was the first NASCAR on FOX broadcast of a points race. I think the sport is doing a good job of remembering Dale Earnhardt by showing respect for him in subtle ways and not overwhelming fans with tributes. SPEED will televise NASCAR Five Years Later (Tues., 8 p.m. ET), a look at the sport five years after the loss of Dale Earnhardt, so we still have to walk the line about respecting what that man did for our sport while honoring what he would want us to do which is moving ahead for the sport's sake, the fans' sake and for all of the people who were a part of his career.


FOX race analyst Larry McReynolds has more than 25 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, crew chief and broadcaster. He and his fellow Crew Chief Club members take you behind the wall at www.crewchiefclub.com.

"How to Become a Winning Crew Chief" is on bookstore shelves, or you may order your own autographed copy from www.DWStore.com.

Tagged: Kurt Busch

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