Welcome Danica, Juan: What took so long?

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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.

Wayne from Missoula, Montana: What are you thoughts about Juan Pablo Montoya coming to the Nextel Cup Series in 2007?

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  • Jeff Hammond: All I can say to Juan Pablo is what took you so long? We've been hearing it, and the records show that NASCAR racing is a very popular sport. It's still growing. It's as solid as the day is long. We can tip our hats to the France family, NASCAR President Mike Helton and everybody in the organization for creating such a solid foundation. Every other racing organization in the world has had their doubts and moments of concerns about what they are going to do next year. Are we going to have the stars? We've got controversy here and there. NASCAR has done a remarkable job of keeping the sport whole, particularly in the Nextel Cup Series, which has attracted Montoya, Paul Tracy and Tony Stewart. When you look at who is racing in the series now and who is looking our direction, we've had some very reputable defectors who would like to get in our sport. When I was over at the World Rally races in Finland a few years ago, the drivers over there would love to come over and have an opportunity to drive.

    I get calls on a regular basis from guys racing short tracks to racers in other series who say, "Would you consider trying me out in your Craftsman Truck? Or do you know somebody in the Busch Series who might give me a shot? What would it take to do a Nextel Cup deal?" A lot of people want to get into our league and want to race with us so it's a tribute to a solid, growing sport. A lot of drivers put a lot of effort into running one race a year, like the Indianapolis 500, but they don't have solid rides all year long. Drivers ask, "Where can you go to command a very good salary and have a fan base that's there for the picking? Not everybody can be a Michael Schumacher. Let's be perfectly clear about one thing. Juan Pablo Montoya is not to be taken lightly. His credentials are impeccable, and he's going to be a great addition if he can adapt to the heavier cars. Chip Ganassi is smart enough that he'll know how to make the transition easier for Montoya.

    Danica displays desire

    C.W. from Milwaukee, Wisconsin: What is your opinion regarding the possibility of Danica Patrick coming to NASCAR?
    Speed Mail Jeff
    Jeff Hammond: The door is open whether it's Danica or anyone else. Pick a name. It doesn't matter to me. If they can carry their helmet bag and get the job done, then they should come on down and give it a try. We just want serious competitors who are willing to put forth the necessary effort. Also, just because you've had some success in other racing leagues, it doesn't guarantee that you're going to be successful over a year. NASCAR is a tough form of racing. You may be extremely talented and do extremely well in other forms of motorsports, but this is a totally different animal. I don't want anybody to misinterpret me when I say drivers should come on down, but they will have a hard time handling racing in NASCAR. I just don't want fans and people in the sport to get down on new drivers until they have had an opportunity to adjust and learn. Don't but a bull's-eye on Danica and say she can't drive when she's not automatically running in the top 15 every week. It takes time to learn how to drive and be competitive.

    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

    For photos and appearances, visit Jeff's web site

    Tagged: Tony Stewart

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