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Special feature

NASCAR Mailbag: Field inverts, lapped traffic and Ford's advantage

This week's edition of the NASCAR Mailbag covers various topics from field inverts to Ford's advantage and the recent problem with lapped traffic.

William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Liberty University and Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Nationwide
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's
Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Haas Automation Demo Day
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's and Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, Toyota Camry 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Shops
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA Auto Parts and Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry ARRIS
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's wins
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Lowe's for Pros and Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA Auto Parts
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry ARRIS and Harrison Rhodes, Rick Ware Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Harry's
Cole Whitt, TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro
J.J. Yeley, Premium Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Adirondack Tree Surgeons
Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Haas Automation Demo Day, celebrates after winning
Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Haas Automation Demo Day and Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Mobil 1
Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Haas Automation Demo Day, celebrates after winning

Why do they always put the winner of the stage in the front just like they do with qualifying? Give them points for where they qualify and give the whole field finish points for the stages, then invert the field on how they qualified and on how they finish in the stage. This would make racing a lot more interesting. - From Mark

Mark, this is something along the lines of the reversed grids you see in single-seater racing and it's not something to be replicated. Often eighth place in race one gets you pole in the second, which means the midfield can turn into farce as they try to better themselves for the next one. The suggestion of inverting the stages means that clearly superior cars may deliberately hang at the back of stage two in order to put themselves in the best position for the final run. I'm not sure it would be that exciting, as it would be very artificial. – Tom Errington

Hello Motorsport.com Team! So with the first six races of the season under the drivers' belts, which five drivers are emerging as front runners? Also, of the top tier drivers, who are you most and least impressed with? Thank you! - From Jack

Jack, my top five drivers right now would be Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. Positions 4 and 5 are pretty wide open for me, though. I would also throw Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer in the mix for those last two positions. It's hard not to be impressed with Harvick's performance this season. He has twice already absolutely had the field covered (in wins at Atlanta and Las Vegas) and collected another win - at Phoenix - by coming on strong at the end. While the No. 4 team showed signs of improving at the end of last season, this amount of progress is still a surprise. Blaney's consistency out of the box at Team Penske has also been impressive. As far as least impressed with, I'm sort of in shock at the performance from Hendrick Motorsports so far this year. Although they have managed some solid finishes, none of their drivers have really been in the mix to win a race yet - something I really didn't see coming. Also, while Ford teams seem to be running very well, that has not been the case thus far at Roush Fenway Racing, which is again looking at what could be a difficult season. – Jim Utter

We have seen that lapped cars can interfere with the racing for the lead and it can cost a driver a chance at victory. Can NASCAR maximize the field to say, 25 or 30? In my opinion, a smaller field with better competition is better than a big field with strung out racing. - From JP

JP, say NASCAR was to minimize the field, I think it would have the opposite effect on the racing. Just think back to races in which Kevin Harvick has dominated this year or Martin Truex Jr last year. If they didn't have traffic to navigate through, the winning margins would have been far more expansive and that's hardly exciting. The current field means drivers have to show their skill in traffic management and I believe that's a key skill of a NASCAR driver and it should not be diluted. No matter how you cap a series, there will always be drivers off the pace compared to the front. – Tom Errington

What do you think has been the difference for the Fords and why they are running so well this season? - From Mike

Hey Mike, thanks for the question. First, let's look at the competition. Chevrolet is having to adapt to a new car in the Camaro which appears to have put them behind. Toyota had the field covered for most of the 2017 season, and although they remain strong, Ford has cut into that advantage. For Stewart-Haas at least, it's just about them finally getting comfortable after switching to Ford last year. If you recall, Kevin Harvick was unstoppable in his 2014 title run with a Chevrolet. Now that SHR has become acclimated with their Ford program, it seems we are seeing the Harvick of old on display. Competition director Greg Zipadelli hit on this, as well as where the advantage may specifically be and that's the aero department. They have hit their stride in that regard, but fellow blue oval Team Penske is not far behind. But they better not find themselves getting content though, because Toyota is right on their heels. - Nick DeGroot

Do you have a question?

Fans submit your questions each week to NASCARmailbag@motorsport.com. Responses will be reported generally once a week during the NASCAR season (Usually on Thursdays) Please submit your questions to the above email address.

You can also reach Jim Utter, Nick DeGroot and Tim Southers on Twitter at @jim_utter, @ndegroot89 and @TimSouthers, respectively. Use the hashtags #AskJim, #AskNick or #AskTim when submitting a question through Twitter.

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