Dreaded Restrictor Plates Trash Another Talladega Race Weekend

Charlotte, NC – There weren’t enough safety vehicles in the state of Alabama to clean up the mess at Talladega this weekend. Not even a fleet of roll backs and wreckers would have been enough to cart away the carnage after Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide and Sunday’s Sprint Cup events.

Hardly a team escaped Talladega this weekend unscathed as four multi-car wrecks shredded millions of dollars of race vehicles. The cars, which are virtually handmade and take hundreds of hours to construct, were trashed in a matter of seconds.

Rubbin’ might be racin,’ but wreckin’ sure the hell isn’t. Yet, year after year, NASCAR sends its most advanced race vehicles to slaughter at Talladega and Daytona thanks to the dreaded engine restrictor plate. No other sanctioning body in professional motorsport does this.

Think of the logic here. Teams pay engine builders millions of dollars a year to produce powerplants that can produce nearly 800 horsepower only to have NASCAR choke them off by a couple of hundred ponies with carburetor restrictor plates and gear rules. What’s the point? Why not just build less powerful, more cost effective engines to begin with?

The plates not only rob the engine of power, but of throttle response as well. The end result is everyone runs in a pack and can’t pass because they don’t have the ability to accelerate quickly. Consequently, NASCAR races at the plate tracks are little more than the old demo derbies we used to see from Islip (NY) Speedway on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

Originally, the plates were brought into the sport as a safety measure. Cars in the 1980’s were running in the 215 miles per hour range and because the NASCAR vehicle of the era had few aerodynamic enhancements, the cars tended to get airborne when they were going any way except forward.

Today, it’s damn near impossible to spin out a NASCAR ‘Car of Tomorrow’ thanks to its front splitter and rear wing. That was never more evident than when Jamie McMurray lost his mind Sunday and turned hard left down into Kyle Busch on the Talladega backstraight in retaliation for Busch blocking him. Both cars wiggled, but neither crashed, an amazing testament as to how stable the vehicles are today.

Bottom line – restrictor plates have been the bane of NASCAR racing for 20 years now. Not a single competitor likes them. As Kyle Petty once said, they should line the bottom of Lake Lloyd (the manmade lake in the middle of Daytona) with the damn things. We couldn’t agree more.

More Restrictor Plate Hell –
After the Craftsman Truck Series was consistently faster than the NASCAR’s new COT at several companion events last year, the decision was made during the off season to slow the trucks this season with a ‘tapered spacer’ – which is just a euphemism for restrictor plate.

The result is now the Trucks have the same issues as the Cup cars do. To be competitive at Kansas this weekend, drivers had to try to hold the throttle wide open all the way around the track. Without throttle response and the dreaded aero push, there was little passing and plenty of wrecks in Saturday’s O’Reilly 250 as a record 12 caution flags punctuated the event (the seven previous NCTS races at Kansas averaged just seven cautions and last year’s race had just five).

Unfortunately, the Trucks are running the tapered spacer at every event this season. Again, we fail to see the logic in this.

With the Trucks (and Nationwide too) struggling to manage full fields of race cars, why are the teams paying millions of dollars to engine builders only to have the horsepower choked out of them with restrictor plates/tapered spacers and gear rules?

Wouldn’t it just be simpler – and more cost effective – to have a target engine rule like they do in the NASCAR Camping World Series? Instead of exotic 700 horsepower plus engines and $1.5 million or more in engine bills each season, how about 500 horsepower engines that cost $24,000 each – again – like those used in the NASCAR Camping World Series?

If you do the math, that means a Truck Series team would spend $600,000 a year on engines (one for each of the 25 events) and save nearly a million dollars a year on what they are spending now. Meanwhile, Nationwide teams who spend upwards of $2.5 million for 36 events would spend under $900,000 each season for engines – a whopping $1.6 million in savings per team.

Not only would that allow more teams to compete, but it would improve the competition on Nationwide and Trucks with more competitive entries and fewer ‘start and parks.’ And best of all, we’d be shed of the restrictor plates.

Makes complete sense, but then we’re not the ones making the rules here.

Last Call –
Jamie McMurray needs a long talking to.

McMurray intentionally tried to wreck Kyle Busch after Busch blocked him at Talladega Sunday. Normally, that wouldn’t be that big a deal, but when you are going more than 200 miles an hour, the results of that kind of retaliation could be tragic.

Throw in that both cars were at the front of a 30-car pack, and had Busch not made the save of the day, a lot of other cars, drivers and teams would have had their day ruined – or worse. All because McMurray lost his composure.

Honestly, we’re not faulting McMurray for that. Drivers and crew members constantly lose perspective during races. It’s a given. But there’s a time to ‘get back’ at someone and in front of the field in the middle of the back straight at Talladega is never one of them.

It’s guaranteed that every crew member in the garage area Sunday who saw the replay of that incident had a raised eyebrow over McMurray’s move and lost some respect for him in the process. It’s also a given that every member of Busch’s crew wanted to kick McMurray’s ass for the maneuver and that somewhere along the line this season, Busch will exact a ‘payback’ for the incident.

Those kinds of things come at places like Martinsville and Bristol – but never at Talladega or Daytona. The speeds, and the consequences, are too high. Even McMurray knows that. What he did Sunday at Talladega was way, way over the line and that’s a point NASCAR needs to make to him before we he turns a wheel at Richmond this weekend.

Close Finishes Scorecard –
I had the pleasure of working with TRG Motorsports and spotting driver Donny Lia in the Truck Series race at Kansas this weekend.
In our first race together, we managed to somehow sneak through a crash on the back straight, survive a long ‘slide for life’ skid through Turn 4 and down pit road, and still finish 12th.

Many thanks to everyone at TRG who made me feel at home and gave me the opportunity to do what I love the most in racing – compete. I can’t wait until we hook up again at Mansfield in May.

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