Nascar Racing

Restrictor Plate Racing at Talladega from a NASCAR Fan’s View


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Talladega… what do you think of when you hear the name? Do you think “Speed” and “High Banks” or do you think “Pack Racing” and “The Big One?” I’m sure many of you think “The Big One” simply because it happens so often at the restrictor plate tracks but you do know that Talladega does stand by itself amongst all the tracks, don’t you?

Some will say it is just like Daytona, (interpreted as saying there is no difference between the two), while others will say the two are completely different. Of course, anyone that really knows anything about the two tracks understands the two restrictor plate tracks NASCAR visits are not at all the same. From this fan’s view, the only real similarity they have is restrictor plates. Daytona has always been, and is, a handling track and Talladega has always been, and is, a horsepower track. Since they both require the teams to run restrictor plate engines, you’re probably asking, “how can this be?” Doesn’t the restrictor plate cut back the amount of available horsepower they can use? Isn’t it an equalizer when it comes to horsepower?

Well, I don’t know how you keep doing it but, you do keep asking great questions. Since no one wants a complicated answer to these questions (and that includes me), I offer my simplified “fan’s view” of the not so obvious differences that many fans know about but may not pay that much attention to.

First of all Talladega is a bigger and wider track than Daytona and the turns are a bit of a smoother transition. The banking is higher at Talladega and it is well know that, when it was built, it was to be the World’s biggest and fastest oval track. In case you’re not familiar with it, Talladega is the biggest oval track the NASCAR teams face and for the present it is the biggest of it’s type in the world and that includes Indianapolis. So, it was built to be exactly what it is – the biggest and fastest oval track in the world.

Since technology plays such a big part in racing, the speeds became high (which is what was hoped for) but keeping the cars from becoming air-borne and putting the drivers and fans watching the race more at risk, NASCAR chose to limit the speeds by requiring restrictor plates on the engines. The plates work, but they have brought a whole different set of challenges to racing on what are called the Super Speedways. All of this has been well documented over the years along with how all of the drivers feel about restrictor plate races so we don’t need to get into it here today. We all know that every track has its own personality and, from this fan’s view, Talladega is much different than Daytona but both are exciting and both are fast (uh, that is, considering the limitations of the restrictor plates.)

The rain out of qualifying may make a bigger impact than many think. As usual, the benefit of qualifying is pit choice and that alone could change the outcome of the race. Also, as usual, the benefit of pit locations for the teams is most important when it comes to cautions and where they fall in the race.

Another thing about the rain out is that it gives an idea of what is being rumored for a possible change in how qualifying might be done in the future. Of course this is pure speculation from this fan’s view but it is possible qualifying could be changed to a driver’s fastest laps in practice. Now, don’t go getting your underwear in a bunch because this is just my opinion (even though it has been rumored lately.) I’m not saying this is the way qualifying will end up but I am saying I’ve heard it may be considered and this would give us fans a glimpse of how it may look.

It is difficult to speculate on which driver may win on a restrictor plate track since these are races that anybody in the field has a chance to win. As long as their cars can make it to the starting lineup and they have an engine that runs, any of them have a chance to win.

What this fan hopes is that this race is more like the old days of drafting and pack racing. I really like the door handle to door handle, bumper to bumper excitement of pack racing. Although not a big fan of the “two car tandem”, I did enjoy it at first but it just didn’t generate the same feeling of excitement for me. What really kind of killed the two car draft for me was when one or more of the drivers would lose their partner for one reason or another and they had to hunt for another drafting partner (or steal one from someone else.)

I know there are drawbacks to pack racing, too, and this fan’s biggest hope is that the cars don’t spend a lot of laps killing time running single file until we get near the end of the race. It is probably inevitable that there will be some time killing, I just hope to see more of the pack type racing, two and three wide instead of everybody running single file up next to the wall for an extended period. From this fan’s view, I can’t think of anything less exciting than 43 cars running running lap after lap, single file, not passing or swapping positions at a Super Speedway. Well… that is unless they run all day without the Big One…

Just kiddin’…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 4, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.