Continuing the series What to Read? Katy looks at Real Men Work in the Pits by Jeff Hammond.
Newer fans of NASCAR know Jeff Hammond as that guy who hangs out in the booth with Darrell Waltrip and Larry MacReynolds during the NASCAR on Fox coverage. You see him sitting on the panel with the other guys during Trackside and NASCAR Victory Lane but other than that you don't really know much about him. You've heard he was a crew chief back in the day but that doesn't really concern you. It's just another piece of the long history that you don't really care about, right? You are more concerned with the names of today like Chad Knaus, Lance McGrew, or Darian Grubb and the drivers they are attached to.
For those of you this applies to and even some of you that do know the history of Jeff Hammond and his duties as crew chief over the years, I highly recommend picking up a copy of his book Real Men work in the Pits. Published a few years back the book looks at Hammond's life as a jack man for Junior Johnson and his driver Cale Yarborough back when Cale won those three Championships in a row to his days with Hendrick Motorsports and later with Darrell Waltrip Motorsports and even with Roush Racing. The story isn't what you expect from a book about NASCAR. Unlike most biographies covering the sport this one looks at it through the eyes of one of the most respected crew chiefs to ever stand atop the war wagon. It's not a book touting his resume but more a look at the drivers he worked with and the deep respect he had for the man he considered to be his mentor.
Hammond shares personal stories of his childhood and what he felt when he heard the news of the death of his idol Fireball Roberts and later the death of his close friend Dale Earnhardt. Hammond discusses the anger he felt when Yarborough left the Junior Johnson team after winning three titles and his extreme dislike for the new driver who would be taking over for Cale, the one and only Darrell Waltrip. Depite their difference and their inability to communicate in the beginning it was Hammond who led DW to his championships and who followed him when he later moved to Hendrick Motorsports.
I picked up this book on a whim from the library because there was a lot I didn't know about Hammond myself. I was expecting to find a boring read, but instead got a fresh perspective on some of the most well known drivers ever to sit behind the wheel. This book is worth your time and should be put on your reading list if for no other reason than to read Hammond's accounts of the years with DW and the up and downs their relationship took during the stressful time.
Real Men Work in the Pits was published in 2005 and can be picked up for around $20 at most bookstores or online.