Blog Entry

Idle Thoughts: Can plate racing be fixed?

Posted on: October 25, 2011 12:40 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 1:14 pm
By Pete Pistone

  Clint Bowyer, Driver Of The #33 Chevy 100 Years Chevrolet, Leads
(For many the advent of the two-car tandem has negatively impacted racing at Talladega and Daytona)

Controversy and Talladega Superspeedway have been married to one another since the sprawling track was born back in 1969. 

Driver boycotts, lightning fast speeds, horrific crashes and since it debuted in 1987, restrictor plate racing, have kept Talladega in the headlines pretty much on an annual basis every NASCAR season. 

The latest chapter in the track’s stormy history was written on Sunday, but this one might not be very easy to brush off.

There was a distinct distaste in the air during and after the Good Sam Club 500 that more than likely will linger for some time – or at least until the tandem style of racing disappears. 

Which doesn’t appear to be anytime soon. 

While some drivers, crew chiefs and fans do like this next evolution of restrictor plate racing, they seem to be in the minority.

There’s a lot more opposition to the phenomenon and that’s even resonating with the sanctioning body itself.

NASCAR vice president of operations Steve O’Donnell took to his Twitter account after Sunday’s race to offer this assessment of the final plate race of the season: "Know we have work to do on superspeedway [racing] and we'll certainly stay after it.'' 

The response isn’t surprising when some of the sport’s biggest names have spoken out about their distaste for what has become of the racing at both Talladega and Daytona.

“Yea, bored,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., who brought the crowd to its feet when he got to the lead for a lap before filing back to hook up with Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson as a drafting partner. “I'd rather race up in there and try to lead laps and do whatever but it's really not my style of racing. Being pushed and carrying on all day long. Trying to lead a couple of laps that are sort of meaningless really doesn't make a lot of sense either.” 

Even though all drivers understand the benefit of hooking up in the nose-to-tail formation and how it’s now become a necessary part of the equation, the practice is still not universally accepted. 

“From the driver’s seat, I’m not a big fan of it,” said Matt Kenseth. “There’s just not a lot we can do about it, unless the cars or the rules or something changes. There’s not really anything you’re going to do about it because it’s so much faster, but driving I’m not a real big fan of it.” 

Watching drivers ride around for three plus hours in two car pods until all try to make a mad dash to the checkered flag isn’t winning over many fans either. While Sunday’s crowd was announced at over 100,000, it was hard not to notice the chunks of unused grandstand areas around the at one time jam packed Talladega Superspeedway. 

"Most of them will say to us, 'It was kind of neat at first, but I'd really like to see what I used to see, which is the big packs,' " Talladega president Grant Lynch told The Roanoke Times of customer reaction he’s heard on the pairs racing. "I like that probably better myself.'' 

The strategy of hanging in the back of the field for the majority of the event and then making a move for the lead in the latter stages of the race has also come under fire. 

Fans pay to see drivers “race,” something that is not being done when they drop anchor at the drop of the green flag and simply go on a Sunday drive for most of the afternoon. It goes against what the sport is supposed to be about and that is to get to the front as fast as possible and stay there. 

The perception of the head to the rear philosophy is that drivers simply are not trying. Strategy or not, the idea is something fans don’t want to watch and its understandable if some who bought a ticket for Sunday’s race or watched on television felt cheated by the experience. 

The tandem racing also brought into light another major hot button topic over the weekend regarding team orders and drivers being told who they had to race with and weren’t able to help. 

Now it’s not the first time since the advent of plate racing that we’ve heard drivers accuse one another of reneging on deals to draft when it came down to nitty gritty time. 

The very nature of racing at Talladega has always been about wheeling and dealing and being on the lookout for drafting partners. More often than not those alliances disappear when the checkered flag comes into sight. 

But the process has seemingly become much more premeditated today with individual race teams and manufacturers dictating who their drivers can and cannot work with in the draft. 

It came to a head when Trevor Bayne agreed to run with Jeff Gordon in the closing laps only to bail in favor of Ford stable mate Kenseth. 

Bayne said he was the victim of being caught in the middle while his team co-owner Eddie Wood reiterated there wasn’t any pre-race plan in place for Ford drivers only to work with fellow Blue Oval mates.

And Jack Roush, despite the official Ford Racing website stating otherwise, vehemently denied any such plan was in place with a statement of his own. 

The bottom line is manufacturers and teams do dictate how drivers behave on the race track putting the men behind the wheel in compromising situations that certainly have an impact on winning or losing. 

So the laundry list of what’s wrong with restrictor plate racing today definitely outweighs what’s right, which is an odd statement in light of Clint Bowyer edging Jeff Burton by .017-seconds to win Sunday’s race.

However while the finishes of recent Daytona and Talladega races have been close and exciting, the journey to get there is fraught with troubles.

But what can be done to address these issues and “fix” the problems? 

Good question.

"You have to be very careful because the cure could be way worse than the disease," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. "We're here to make things as even as we can across the board but we do understand that the likelihood of [two-car drafts] gaining popularity is not there.''

Pemberton is probably right, but that’s not a comforting answer to thousands of unsatisfied race fans in the aftermath of Sunday’s trip to Talladega.

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @ppistone on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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Since: Sep 14, 2010
Posted on: October 28, 2011 12:05 pm

punchcore its school time for you, study up

punchthecore i sure hope you didn't waste the time to join this site when you make post but know NOTHING. If you wanna learn a few things go to Wikipedia Talldega Speedway and READ. You will learn that 1) Bill Elliott holds the record for the fastest 500 mile race at Talldega Speedway with an average speed of 186.266mph  in 1985. That is the race that Bill made up over 2 laps under a long green flag run after having to stop for over 2 laps to fix a oil line. Thats right he lapped the field 2 times without a caution on a 2.5 mile track. 2) Bill Elliott holds the record for the most poles at Talldega with 8. 3) Bill Elliott holds the record for the fastest pole speed at Talldega with a pole speed of 212.809 mph. So yes Bill Elliott was the Top Dog at Talldega until the plates were put on.

Since: Oct 28, 2011
Posted on: October 28, 2011 10:29 am

Idle Thoughts: Can plate racing be fixed?

Next year will be a whole new ballgame @ Daytona and Talladega. Cup teams will be using fuel injection instead of carburetors. So, does Nascar still use some kind of plate to restrict air, or do they use smaller injectors, or do they control fuel through the fuel injection's "black box"? Super speedway racing next year will be different. I'm taking a "wait & see" attitude. I think one of  the biggest differences will be fuel mileage. They will be pitting for tires more than fuel.
I think horsepower numbers will come up too. Fuel injection is much more effiencent that a carburetor. A carb is just a controlled leak.

Since: Oct 27, 2011
Posted on: October 28, 2011 7:59 am

Idle Thoughts: Can plate racing be fixed?

Holy Crap!!!! You are a tad delusional in your Ford fandum there. There were ALOT of teams that were above 210 MPH back when they put the plates on, not just Bill Elliot. I know you probably have Elliot Jammies, but lets not be stupid about it!!!

Since: Sep 14, 2010
Posted on: October 27, 2011 11:34 pm

Idle Thoughts: Can plate racing be fixed?

The VERY first thing nascar can do is to start being honest with the world. They should come clean and tell the world the truth about WHY the plates were put on in the first place. Nascar can lie about the fact they did it for safety and because Bobby Allison got up in the fence. That is all a lie. Nascar ordered the plates on to slow the Ford's down mainly that red number 9 Coors Tbird that hung that 212 on the board. Ernie & Bill knew something that chevy had nothing for. The races were a run away for Ford. So the lying france family pulled out the plates to bunch up the field and causes alot more and bigger wrecks. When you wreck the difference between 180 and 210 mhp is nothing. Look at Edwards when he was in the fence last year. I agree with the previous poster that nascar could go to a smaller 8 but then you dont have a bunched up field and it lets the crew tinker . Nascar crys about fans are off. I WONDER WHY. Cookie cutter cars. cookie cutter tracks, smaller gas tanks, and then the plates. BORING RACING

Since: Mar 10, 2009
Posted on: October 27, 2011 9:48 pm

Idle Thoughts: Can plate racing be fixed?

I believe they should do away with the plates and just go with the smaller block V8, like the Nationwide series has. The racing would be great, and the speeds would not be outrageous....

Since: Mar 9, 2010
Posted on: October 27, 2011 5:11 pm

Idle Thoughts: Can plate racing be fixed?

the two car racing sucks. bring back the big pack and let them run!!!

Since: May 2, 2007
Posted on: October 27, 2011 9:55 am

Idle Thoughts: Can plate racing be fixed?

Some of the comments sound good on the surface, but are not thought out from both sides, in this case the pusher and the pushed. 

Let's start by considering of the basic concept of drafting (remember the sugar packets on Nicole Kidman's leg in Days of Thunder?), the guy in the back has a little in reserve since he's not the one plowing the air, so there is nothing to stop him from constantly running into any car that's in front of him. 

Most of the suggestions made here are to modify the cars so that they are more likely to spin out when contact is made.  While there are some drivers that honor the gentleman's agreements, I'm thinking that the typical 'start & parker' who generally starts the race around the 43rd position would likely get the upperhand if this type of change were to happen.  It would only take about 84 green flag laps and 84 caution laps, before he would be the only car left in the race, and I'm pretty sure no one wants to watch a race where Joe Nemechek (sorry to pick on you Joe) run by himself around Talladega for the last 20 laps.  One the bright side there won't be a green-white checkered finish. 

Making changes to the cars so that the guy in front is more likely to lose control because someone is on their bumper is NOT the solution. 

My thought is that the solution would involve disturbing the air hitting the pusher so that he can't even close up enough to be on the bumper of the guy in front of him and then you will see the tandem racing stop.  The spoiler is just high enough that the air coming down off of the lead car is passing over the pusher.  So maybe they could put air holes in the spoiler that would disturb the air hitting the pusher so that they wouldn't they would lose the handling if they got too close to the guy in front of them and have to back off in order to maintain control.

Since: Aug 17, 2010
Posted on: October 27, 2011 1:04 am

Idle Thoughts: Can plate racing be fixed?

Take off some the Rear Downforce...then when any pushing happens the Rear of the Car will lift and wipeout...
It doesn't matter if they allow less horsepower or more horsepower there will always be big packs of cars.

But reduce spoiler size on Daytona and Talledega and you'll get less pushing because of the fear of lifting the car up from behind. 

Since: Oct 26, 2011
Posted on: October 26, 2011 8:16 pm

Idle Thoughts: Can plate racing be fixed?

Take off some of the aero, give them some HP so they have to lift in the corners.  This puts it back into the driver and team.

Since: Oct 26, 2011
Posted on: October 26, 2011 3:47 pm

Idle Thoughts: Can plate racing be fixed?

Why doesn't NASCAR disallow pushing on bumpers during races. Not bumping, just pushing; that way the drivers can still bang and bump but they can't push another car ahead. If you continually touch the bumper of the car ahead for longer than, say, 7 seconds then you are held back for so many seconds during the next pit. This way drivers will be able to draft one behind another in long lines again. 
No helping another car go faster by physically touching or pushing it.     &n

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