NASCAR

MWR overcomes challenges

Triple Threat
Brian Vickers (right) and Rodney Childers, crew chief.
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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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Winning any time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series is very, very tough. What Brian Vickers and the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing team did in winning Loudon, N.H. on Sunday takes it even further because what they did is very, very, very tough.

This is a car that has one team, one crew chief but three drivers – Michael Waltrip, Brian Vickers and Mark Martin -- alternating the various races. So the one crew chief, Rodney Childers, and the one team have to accommodate the wants and needs of three different drivers and their driving styles. Don’t forget, each of the three drivers is a different size and they each want something done a little different in their office, a.k.a. the driver’s compartment.

Now sure, the driver of that upcoming race will come sit in the car before it leaves the shop, but once it gets to the track, he might still want more adjustments made and some tweaking done. Well that can be a distraction and lose precious practice time vs. the teams that have the same driver week in and week out.

Then you have the crew chief, car chief, engine guys and engineers needing feedback and learning to dissect that feedback from what the driver is trying to tell you the car needs to be faster. With three drivers and three different driving styles, interpreting three different types of feedback can be much more of a challenge.

So what the No. 55 car accomplished by taking the checkered flag Sunday is nothing short of spectacular. It clearly shows how versatile, not only the team, but crew chief Rodney Childers really is.

Now you have two of the three Michael Waltrip Racing teams that have visited Victory Lane in 2013. The third one is no slouch either as it’s currently sitting second in the points with 11 top-10 finishes in 19 races. I have said this before, this group has been knocking on the door of joining those select elite organizations.

They are really close to reaching that next level. They are winning races and being competitive at each track we go to. I liken them a lot to Penske Racing one year ago. Until you can put a championship trophy in your organizations trophy case then you can’t consider yourself one of the elites. Penske did it last year with Brad Keselowski.

Remember who finished second to Brad in the points? It was that No. 15 car driven by Clint Bowyer of Michael Waltrip Racing. So they’ve been close but they need to close the deal.

To me, how a team or organization really ranks in our sport is not only by the number of wins, but their ability to finish off the year and sit at the head table as champions in Las Vegas. That’s what separates the men from the boys – championships. Until you and your organization do that, you can’t consider yourself in that elite category.

Tagged: Michael Waltrip, Brian Vickers

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