NASCAR Icons readers filled the mailbag with questions for ESPN analyst Andy Petree and he responded to some of the best ones below.
Petree is a former crew chief, driver and crew member on NASCAR teams, most notably as Dale Earnhardt's crew chief with Richard Childress Racing for back-to-back Cup titles in 1993 and 1994.
Petree, who joined ESPN in 2007, also owned Andy Petree Racing and he worked with such drivers as Ken Schrader, Kenny Wallace, Joe Nemechek, the late Bobby Hamilton and Greg Biffle.
Here are your questions and Petree' answers:
Why does NASCAR give Goodyear exclusive rights to provide tires at NASCAR races. With drivers' lives on the line, is Goodyear the best tire available and why aren't the race teams given the option to have the brand of tires they wish to put on the cars. Having Sunoco provide gas is one thing, but tires are inherently a safety concern.
Petree: OK, here's the deal on tires. We've kinda had it both ways in this sport where we've had one tire manufacturer and we've had more than one. And really from a safety point of view it's better to have one tire manufacturer and not have tire companies competing with each other on the racetrack. Because what happens then is these guys go a lot closer to the safety margin.
They're trying to find performance to beat each other on the track. And then what happens is, both times that I've been involved in what we call a tire war, there has been a lot of tire failures and tires really pushed to the limit.
When you have one, and NASCAR has basically awarded an exclusive contract to Goodyear to do the tires for all of its three series, they're able then to go more toward the safety side of building tires. Because then they don't have to have the fastest tire on the track every weekend, which would be the goal if you were competing against another company.
So actually the tires are safer because we have one manufacturer, and Goodyear does an outstanding job. I was there right after the Indianapolis race. I went to the Goodyear plant and talked to the engineers, everybody who builds the tires in the factory. I saw the whole process, and I've been involved in racing a long time, and I know Goodyear goes a long way toward making these tires as safe as possible for these guys.
Is anything being done under the car to help with the aerodynamics? It seems to me that it's not been fully explored. I might be wrong but it would be fairly simple to change air-flow under the car to make it do what you want. Create negative and positive air-pressure points to raise or lower the car. Even a ¼-inch could be a big deal.
Petree: The new car now NASCAR controls the body surface extremely tight. The underside of the car is not quite as controlled and yes, there are a lot of teams now focusing on the aerodynamics of the underside of the race car. While there are still are a lot of limits on what they can do, NASCAR still controls that too as far as they measure floor pans and where the exhaust pipes go there's a lot of things that NASCAR does mandate. But there are some things that the teams can do under the car and they are doing that now. There's probably more emphasis on that part of the car now than there was four or five years ago.
The cars are so tightly regulated that small things that you find become things that can make a difference on the track. It's not huge but if they can find something that helps it's going to show up.
Why is there more fuel burnoff from the exhaust pipes since changing to unleaded fuel?
Petree: Unfortunately, I'm not an engine man, but it's very smart to recognize that because since the unleaded fuels have come into play it does seem that you do see the flame out the exhaust.
And it might be that unleaded fuel is just more visible. We've had this same thing going on even with the leaded fuel but you probably couldn't see it as well. But I see it almost on every car it looks like that flame is part of the deal when they back off the throttle and have that unburned fuel in the pipes ignite.
I have been a huge NASCAR fans for the past 15 years or so, but have never understood the scenario that allows cars considered "at the tail end of the lead lap" to start in front of the leaders on a restart? It seems inconsistent, and only happens sometimes, but when it does, I always scratch my head and wonder why it happens. Please explain.
Petree: It's actually not inconsistent. It may seem that way when you watch it because when the caution comes out it picks up the leader of the race. If there are cars that have pitted and have become a lap down because they pitted and the caution car picks up the leader, the leader comes down Pit Road and gets serviced and he'll line up behind those guys that were a lap down when the caution came out. But now that the leaders have lined up behind those cars, then technically those cars are on the tail end of the lead lap.
Even though they're trapped by the caution car they can't pass the caution car because it's already on the track. So that places them in front of the leader. These cars have the option to start in front of the leader in the outside lane or to line up in the inside lane, allowing the leader to come up.
These guys usually will opt to stay in front of that leader when they can just to try to get that lap back, but it's not inconsistently used. You just don't see it as often because most times when the caution comes out the leaders pit and then the lap-down cars pit, which puts the leaders back in front of those lap-down cars. So that's why it appears that way.
It only happens when those cars that were a lap down when the caution came out do not come down Pit Road and give up track position.