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Loudon could be start of something big

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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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I think this weekend is a big weekend for so many teams for so many reasons. The guys in the top five of the points for the Chase have to try and use this weekend's race as an opportunity to learn all they can because Loudon kicks off the 10 race Chase in September. Sure, they will still want to focus on winning, but the other agenda is testing and trying some things because you know you have a cushion. If you remember, Greg Biffle jumped up to the top right out of the box at the start of the Chase last year. I think you will find that they did some experimenting during the first race at Loudon last year that allowed them to be so strong the second time there. Conversely, for the guys just outside the top 12, this is a great opportunity to try and take advantage of the situation with some of these teams that are basically testing for the September race. If some of these teams that are high in the points stumble a little bit, it could possibly allow some of the teams on the outside looking in to get a much needed good finish or even sneak in there and get a win. Juan Pablo Montoya is just inside the Chase by three points and following his win, Kasey Kahne sits in 13th. Loudon is a good track for Kasey, and with the momentum he has right now, it's quite possible he could put a string of good races together and bust his way into the Chase. I also think that Silly Season is getting ready to kick into high gear. If we don't see more changes after this weekend, then I think it could quite possibly be after Daytona over July 4. You are already seeing some of it start in the lower NASCAR series. Burney Lamar and Brandon Whitt have been released. I just think we are going to see a lot more of this soon. People are making decisions to go ahead and make changes now to be ready, even though it's only June, for the 2010 season. With the economy in such bad shape and sponsorships so critical right now, owners are fearful of losing that support and so they are willing to not only make changes now but also look to conserve money where they can to stay afloat during the off-season. I just think we are on the verge of seeing things happen in our sport that are bizarre and definitely different. Times are tough, not only in our sport but across everyone's lives. I don't think we are going to see that change unfortunately over the last half of this season. We've all heard the rumbling of wild things starting to happen. The rumors are flying and rampant about manufacturer changes coming to Richard Petty Motorsports. Rumors have it that you will see Toyotas starting to show up in that camp before the end of the season. There's rumors also of a Martin Truex Jr. announcement of going to Michael Waltrip Racing next year. I see that happening because no one is out there denying it. It might be one of the first major dominos to fall during the 2009 Silly Season. I also don't think it's outside of the realm of possibility that you might see Martin go over to MWR before the season has ended. The rumor mill also has Chip Ganassi shopping Juan Pablo Montoya to Joe Gibbs Racing for a fourth car. If all that happens, then what happens to Earnhardt-Ganassi Motorsports? Again, times are tough and I don't see it getting any better here in the short run. Even though he won Sunday at Sonoma, what is Kahne going to do next year? Will he remain at Richard Petty Motorsports? Kasey is a wonderfully talented driver. He's a winner and has shown what he can do. He needs to capitalize on his success because lets face it, he isn't getting any younger and he needs to seize the best opportunity out there to win a championship. Plus if you look around at his three teammates, there isn't a whole lot of stability right now in their three futures. How RPM responds in the second half of the season is going to be an interesting storyline for all of us to follow. This weekend, as I mentioned earlier, I think this is a great opportunity for some guys to make some moves at Loudon. I like veterans like Mark Martin and Jeff Burton to make some moves this weekend. I think those two have nothing to lose and everything to gain Sunday. Mark already has three wins this year and Jeff is certainly hungry for his first win in '09. I think you are also seeing the building of pressure on the Roush cars like Greg Biffle and teammate Carl Edwards to get a win.


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 www.dwstore.com.

For photos and appearances, visit Jeff's web site www.jeffhammond.com.

Tagged: Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Brandon Whitt, Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip, Burney Lamar

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