Phoenix in focus: Light windshields, loose tires and more

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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.

According to a ThatsRacin.com report, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s windshield was confiscated for being too light at Phoenix. NASCAR on FOX analyst Jeff Hammond tells you why a team would have a light windshield and also address some other rulings and pit road concerns from Sunday's race. The biggest advantage you're going to get from a light windshield is a little bit of a weight break. When you can take something that we consider "high" weight off of the race car, it gives the car better roll balance. We like to keep engines, drive train and everything you can as low as possible and to the left. It makes the car work a lot better. A lot of teams work really hard to make sure they keep anything from the center of the wheels up as light as possible, including the back glass, front windshield and side glass. I don't want to prejudge the 8 team too quickly because they could have bought these windshields from a manufacturer, and it could have been a defective batch. If NASCAR uses a quarter-inch thick front windshield as the mandatory measurement, and it's 1/32nd off, it would break the rule. But it could be a manufacturer defect, and the team may not be totally at fault for it. Hopefully NASCAR will do some research and make sure that they do not fine a team for just buying something off of the shelf. When you get a windshield that's been approved from a manufacturer, we're all guilty if we don't recheck everything. We just have a little bit of blind faith sometimes in our supplier.

Slower stops camper competition

Dan from Milton, Vt.: After watching Jimmie Johnson's crew and Ryan Newman's crew struggle with tire problems in Sunday's race, just how are the tires changed so fast? In particular how do they line up the lugs so quickly? Will slower pit stops help eliminate problems with loose tires? Jeff Hammond: The lugnuts are glued on to the wheels and tape on the tires help the tire carriers line them up for the tire changers to do their jobs. Slower pit stops may help alleviate tire problems on pit road, but NASCAR goes through with smaller fuel spouts as reported over the weekend, race fans are going to be sorely disappointed with the lack of competition off of pit road. I just hope that NASCAR realizes that the race off of pit road has always added to the drama on the race track. Otherwise they might as well say, "OK guys, when the caution comes out, we're all going to come down pit road, and you're going to go back out and reclaim the same position." I just don't agree with slowing down pit stops. It's another one of those key aspects of NASCAR racing, and they shouldn't mess with it.

Black flag judgment call

Ron from Richmond, Va.: Why are cars allowed to keep running around on track until they blow up and cause a caution? Everyone could see Matt Kenseth was going to blow, but why allow him to blow on track and cause a caution? Jeff Hammond: It's a judgment call. If a guy is definitely having a problem and his intention is to try to keep his car from going a lap down, NASCAR can wave the black flag, but you just never know until it happens. I know it's frustrating sometimes, but I've been on that side of the equation. You've got a tire going down, and you're trying to stay on the lead lap so you stay out as long as you can until either the caution comes out or you get caught up with the field before you come down pit road. It can be frustrating, but it's part of the business that we have to deal with.

Speed Mail Jeff Hammond

Freeze tag: Caution in the pits

Gloria from Round Lake, N.Y.: How did Jeff Gordon regain the race lead after getting caught in the pits during a late caution at Phoenix? Jeff Hammond: It has a lot to do with where Gordon pitted as far as the time lines are concerned. If he was able to beat the leader off of pit road, he would not go down a lap. The way the stops cycled through is probably how he wound up staying on the lead lap and getting back to the lead. A lot of times you have to see the big picture to totally understand what happened. It can be a little bit confusing, but when the field is frozen, causing the leader to slow down, factors into whether somebody gets caught or not.

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 Jeff Hammond's "Real Men Work in the Pits" magnets, Hollywood Hotel hats and more, check out www.dwstore.com.

For photos and appearances, visit Jeff's web site www.jeffhammond.com.

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