Taking the test: Toyota, McMurray, MIA drivers

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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.

I'll be in Daytona on Monday along with the rest of the SPEED crew to see what's new (Monday-Friday, 7 p.m. ET on SPEED). We'll see how many different faces from different teams have changed during the off-season, and we'll see if we can pick up on who's ready to go racing.

The Toyotas will be No. 1 on the hit list, and we'll be looking at Chevrolet's latest and greatest engine configuration. Dodge is going to have a new nose. Hendrick Motorsports dominated at the restrictor plate tracks last year, winning three of the four point races at Daytona and Talladega. We're going to see who's been able to close the gap. If you want to get better, you've got to make changes.

Global sport

Each year, it's interesting to see which teams have been able to steal away crew members from other teams. Some teams go overseas to improve their race teams through outside sources from Germany, Switzerland or even Japan. A lot of NASCAR teams are very quick to look at Formula One teams like McLaren and other racing organizations in other divisions and forms of racing. They're trying to steal or learn whatever secrets they can and apply them to stock car racing. Not only is Red Bull Racing part of Toyota, but they come from Formula One. Ray Evernham and Jeff Gordon have looked at the Formula One teams. Richard Childress Racing has gone to England, and Penske Racing's worldwide associations include Mercedes Benz in Germany. A lot of times, we think that stock car racing is still a good ol' boy sport that was built in Detroit. Well, I've got news for you. Stock car racing has gone international because so much technology comes from overseas. We're fooling ourselves if we think teams build their cars in the old shop right out behind the house. It doesn't work like that anymore.

Just do it, Jamie

While technology has changed, Jamie McMurray isn't a big fan of having an engineer for a crew chief. He doesn't have that in Larry Carter, who can pretty much handle young and veteran drivers alike. He's very deliberate, and if I had to look at what has made McMurray happy and successful in the past, I'd have to look at his former crew chief, Donnie Wingo, at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Carter and Wingo have a similar approach. McMurray got his Christmas wish, and now it's up to him and Carter to communicate and find the right chemistry. It was a good move on Jack Roush's part. Roush Racing has given McMurray what he says he needs. Now, it's time for McMurray to produce. If not, well, to paraphrase Donald Trump's line from The Apprentice, McMurray will be fired. I love Jamie to death, and he's got a lot of talent. But the No. 26 team hasn't been able to hit on the right combination. If something doesn't happen, something's got to give. They can't keep going like they're going. The sponsors and the people that work within that organization are not going to be happy unless they see McMurray in victory lane and running up front on a regular basis next year. There's going to be a lot of pressure on McMurray and Carter to succeed.

Speed Mail Jeff Hammond

Skipping test is OK

Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart won't participate in the test this week as P.J. Jones and Mike McLaughlin respectively will drive for them. As a crew chief, that's OK with me as long as the crew can get down there and someone can hold the wheel, running consistent laps. A lot of drivers that don't have regular rides can drive test vehicles, and teammates can drive for each other as well. It's really more of an opportunity for the crew to take care of ground clearances and see what kind of engines and aerodynamics they have. Despite his tremendous driving ability, even Stewart can't find the kind of speed the engineers and mechanics need. It's not a big deal for these drivers to miss the race so let them have some time off. If their crews get the cars the way they need to be, Gordon and Stewart can handle their jobs when Speedweeks gets under way.

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: Jeff Gordon, Mike McLaughlin, Tony Stewart, P.J. Jones, Jamie McMurray

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