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NASCAR mailbag: How will Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Penske coexist?

Answering questions Stewart-Haas Racing’s move to Ford, Jimmie Johnson’s legacy and more.

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

With the successful season-debut of the low downforce aerodynamic package it would seem what transpired at Atlanta would be the topic du jour. Then NASCAR CEO and chairman Brian France endorsed presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday, casting a giant shadow over anything that happened last Sunday.

But the SB Nation mailbag is a politic-free zone and hence, there will be zero discussion of France supporting Trump. As always, if you have a question you can submit either via Twitter or by sending an email to jordanmbianchi@gmail.com.

The aero package looked like a winner at Atlanta and each time it was run last year, so does that mean every race will be better and actually make races on mile-and-a-half tracks watchable again?

-- Chad

It's amazing what happens when cars aren't stuck to the ground and tires falloff after a few laps, drivers have to fight to remain in control and thereby, the on-track product improves considerably. Witness Atlanta, Darlington and Kentucky, the three races where the low-downforce package was last utilized, and how participants and spectators both offered rave reviews afterwards.

Except while a shortened spoiler and softer tires is absolutely the right direction and one the sport should have headed some time ago, give it some time before thinking NASCAR has resolved its competitive woes. Because the reason why the three races above were all terrific, they also took place on a trio of fairly abrasive tracks with reputation of chewing tires.

Let's see what unfolds on a speedway with a fairly smooth surface that's recently been repaved -- such as what drivers will face Sunday at Las Vegas. If there's an increase in side-by-racing and drivers aren't limited to passing in the laps just after a restart, then go ahead and lavish as much praise as you see fit. And as crew chiefs and engineers continue to examine methods to restore the downforce NASCAR cut, officials shouldn't hesitate to take more away if by mid-season the racing is back to how it was last year as many drivers think may be the case.

Team Penske moved to Ford in 2013 and has since become Ford's No. 1 team, but with Stewart-Haas Racing coming aboard in 2017 doesn't that mean Penske will be bumped? I can't imagine The Captain (Roger Penske) is happy about this.

-- Rene

How Ford manages the dynamic between Penske and SHR is a fascinating subplot of the news SHR is jumping ship from Chevrolet to Ford beginning next season. Ever since aligning with Ford, Penske has become the carmaker's flag bearer, with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano winning a combined 18 races over the past two years. Meanwhile, Roush Fenway Racing, Ford's longtime top organization, wallowed in mediocrity.

So if Penske feels a little off-put by SHR's recruitment, it would be understandable. Keselowski told reporters last week he wasn't informed of the news until the night before the announcement.

Because while Chevrolet and Toyota both have clear benchmark teams, Ford possesses two such teams in its camp each with a case for why it should be viewed as No. 1. One thing that should help keep the peace is SHR and Penske will build its own cars and not be dependent upon the other for chassis, parts or technical support.

Any chance Tony Stewart reconsiders and runs the Daytona 500 for a final time?

-- Frank

Sorry, not happening. Stewart has adamantly stated he is retiring at the end of the year and the back injury he sustained in January that has him on the sidelines indefinitely won't sway him otherwise.

And were he to change his mind, complicating matters is Stewart's part ownership of SHR, which is at the four-team NASCAR maximum, thus making him ineligible to drive for the team he co-owns. Stewart first would need to divest himself of SHR, then find a different team to sign with -- a sequence of events that with almost near certainty won't come together.

With Jimmie Johnson now 76 wins after taking Atlanta, what are the odds he matches Jeff Gordon's mark of 93 before he retires?

-- Beth

Consider Johnson is only 40 and showing no signs of slowing down, it seems inevitable he will catch and pass Gordon, his mentor, to hold the record for modern-era victories (1972-present). Unless, of course, he retires prematurely or Hendrick Motorsports and Chad Knaus forget how to build fast cars, prompting Johnson to go on some kind of skid.

What is really the question is if Johnson can reach triple digits and pass David Pearson (105) for second all-time? A lot would have to go right including Johnson not only wanting to continue racing and avoiding a slump that every driver encounters, but if he can continue at his current pace of averaging five wins per a season, it's doable. This would then, undoubtedly cement him as the greatest not just of his generation, but ever.