NASCAR’s Restrictor Plate – Friend or Foe

Photo – Toyota Racing

By Rich Foust

No, it’s not the plate that you get at the salad bar…

It all started with Talladega in 1987, when Bobby Allison lost control of his car and went airborne into the catch fence, with his car traveling at a speed in excess of 200 mph. Terrified by the dangerous situation for fans and drivers, NASCAR decided something needed to be done to slow speeds to keep cars out of the grandstands and keep fans safe.

With speeds at Daytona over 210-mph and Talladega over 212-mph NASCAR introduced the restrictor plate in 1998. Restrictor plates are designed to reduce the air flow into the engines, and subsequently also reducing horsepower.  Less horsepower means less power, thus slowing the speed capacity of the cars. Although the restrictor plate worked as NASCAR planned, the result today is 43 cars racing in a pack with no one breaking away to pass. So, the field rides around in a large pack, which is cool for the fans, but a bit nerve wracking for the drivers and teams, because one mistake or if a part of the car fails,  the “Big One” is likely to happen, potentially taking out half the field or more, as happened last Sunday on the last lap of the race in Talladega.

The fate of the driver’s race, lies in the hands of the cars around them. To me, this is not racing – it’s a very expensive chess game.

NASCAR’s cure does keep the speeds down and keeps the fans safer, but personally, I believe there is a better answer to keeping speeds down. As Dale Sr once stated chuck the plate and make the rear spoiler three inches and let the boys race with less down force and more speed. This solution will force drivers to slow down in the turns or wreck, it’s that simple. This makes total sense and could bring racing back to these great tracks.

Its been said that taking Daytona and Talladega off the schedule is the answer. I believe this is not the answer and very wrong for the sport. Daytona and Talladega are an integral part of NASCAR and as fans who love this sport.Taking these tracks away would be a travesty, in my opinion.

Keeping fans and drivers safe is paramount to everyone, so in that respect, the restrictor plate is a friend. On the other hand, for the teams and drivers innocently caught up in the massive crashes they produce, it most certainly is a foe.

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