NASCAR

Test drivers aren't new in NASCAR

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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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During the second week of testing at Daytona, Joe Gibbs Racing will have two rookies driving its cars, but they elected to bring two test drivers — Jeff Fuller and Mike McLaughlin — to the first week. "We give our drivers as much time off as we can give them," defending champion crew chief Greg Zipadelli said. "Everybody knows (Tony Stewart) loves to run the Chili Bowl. He could have come and done a couple of days, but he gets a couple days to relax. I'll get it back somewhere at a Kentucky or a Nashville test later in the season, and it'll be hard for him to say no." Fuller weighed in on his responsibilities as a test driver. "As long as the engineers are happy, that's telling me that I'm doing my job," Fuller said. "Just to be absolutely, positively the same line, same RPM when you're shifting, same input with the steering wheel so they can learn when they get back here when they download all their data."
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Will the No. 18 team with J.J. Yeley have the same cars that Fuller and the No. 80 team did during week 1? You'll have to bring your knife, scrape the cars and see if there's a new paint job. In the second wave, a lot of teams will be trying to bring back a car with some improvements and see if they can be better. "A driver is not as important at Daytona and Talladega as some of your other tracks, but just being associated with an awesome organization like Joe Gibbs Racing does make you feel good," McLaughlin said. "I just try to do the best I can and be there whenever they need me." Using test drivers is nothing new in NASCAR. Dave Marcis used to test for Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress Racing, and Buddy Baker would sub for Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman at Penske Racing. Don't be surprised if the Gibbs test drivers help Home Depot and Stewart get back to Victory Lane at Daytona in February.


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 new 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: Ryan Newman, Mike McLaughlin

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