NASCAR

Champ won't need provisional for Hall of Fame Racing

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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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Loron from Lake Havasu City, Ariz.: With the announcement by Hall of Fame Racing that Terry Labonte will drive the first five races of 2006, do you think NASCAR needs to take a hard look at the top 35 rule it initiated last year? Clearly the reason for naming Labonte is to make the first five races at least under the past champion provisional. This is grossly unfair and negates the reason for initiating the rule which was to help the teams out there every week attempting to make the race. Hopefully Michael Waltrip is not planning on letting Darrell run the first five races so he's guaranteed a spot.

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Hall of Fame Racing

Jeff Hammond: Fear not, my friend. Your last point won't hold true because Mrs. Stevie Waltrip will make sure it won't. You bring up a valid point, but you've got to give Hall of Fame Racing an attaboy for figuring out how to make this situation work in their best interests. Robby Gordon has had a very dismal year because he did not make the Daytona 500. He has struggled with engine woes among other problems. When you get in that hole, it just seems like you cannot get out of it. I was looking at the top 35 today and the way this deal is going to come down. For the most part, all of these teams on the bubble look like they will be in pretty good shape. If you're on the outside looking in, there's no way for an owner like Gordon Cal Wells to gain any ground or help themselves. I don't think there's any way that they can make it into the top 35. When you bring one of the largest corporations in the world in Texas Instruments into NASCAR, you want to make darn sure that it's getting its money's worth. It brings back the old question about franchising and locking teams in that way. I don't know what the total answer is.
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Labonte does have a little bit of insurance built into his deal which gives him somewhat of an advantage, but drivers who have won championships more recently than his last title in 1996 could jump in front of him. It's not likely, but it could happen. On top of that, Labonte has been a pretty good qualifier. He hasn't had to use a lot of champions provisionals in the past so this team should be able to make it's way into the races through qualifying. Even though he's a past champion, I don't look for him to wind up using it to make shows. He hasn't really used or abused the champion's provisional while driving a limited number of races in the No. 44 car. So to throw rocks at this deal isn't totally fair. With champions and winners like for Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach and Terry Labonte, you've got three favorite sons bring pretty good clout to the table. It bodes well for them to choose someone like Labonte to be associated with their organization. I talked to him the other day, and he was really excited about it. Labonte may not want to run all of the races, but when he gets behind the wheel, he wants to have good finishes. For that reason, he'll make a lot of people say, "Well, he didn't really need the champion's provisional. They've got a good enough program to make it in the show."


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: Terry Labonte

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