Talladega is big. Talladega is wide. Talladega is fast; so fast in fact, it is the biggest reason NASCAR has restrictor plates. As has been mentioned by just about everyone over the past week leading up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Geico 500, this Super Speedway is the place back in 1987 where the fastest field in NASCAR history took to the track. That year, the whole field qualified at over 200 mph and Bill Elliott set the record qualifying time of over 212 mph.
It was also the year that Bobby Allison’s car blew a tire on the front straight and took flight into the fence near the flag stand and had it not been for the fence his car would have flown into the spectators sitting in the stands. It was then that NASCAR determined they needed to look at the speeds the cars were traveling and what could happen when they were turned in a direction other than the direction they should be facing. So… on the Super Speedways of Daytona and Talladega they made restrictor plates mandatory.
The way this fan remembers the transition to when restrictor plates came into the mix of racing at the Super Speedways, it opened a whole new world of racing to the field and fans of Stock Car Racing called NASCAR. It was no longer just about speed but being able to use drafting and strategy along with, but more than just the speed of the race cars. It also became more of racing with someone that could assist in staying with the draft like teammates or others that wanted to move in, around or through the field to the front. Of course it made pit strategy and performance of the pit crews all the more important and sometimes these alone could change the face of the outcome of the races.
Now NASCAR has added stage racing to the mix and, once again in this fan’s opinion, it has changed the way the drivers race during the race. Stages have added an unexpected intensity and drama to the races at all tracks so far but has made the restrictor plate races more interesting and dramatic also. This fan finds it interesting how adding the ability to gain a few points for what is now called the playoffs has caused the drivers to race more aggressively to gain those points and has made even 500 mile restrictor plate races all the more interesting.
If you’ve been following this NASCAR fan’s view for any time at all, you already know I like restrictor plate racing and like the fact that it makes for much closer and intense racing. Although the drivers still do sometimes fall into racing single file for a number of laps during the race, it doesn’t happen as often as it used to.
In some ways, it reminds me of my own racing days at our local short tracks and how much fun it was to run door handle to door handle and bumper to bumper for laps at a time. I even remember some races we ran (usually in the heat races) that the pack of cars never changed positions; we ran exactly the way we lined up and finished that way too. (I also remember how some of us faster cars helped some of the drivers go faster than they had ever gone as we pushed them to their limits trying to get an opening to pass them and move out front. For some of them it was a completely new experience and, because we were all tightly packed together, they could run that fast without losing control. It was great for all of us, including the fans.) Ah well… so much for reminiscing of my old racing days…
As far as the plate racing at Talladega this weekend, pretty much everything is the same as it was the last time the teams competed here. The tires are the same and the cars are the same so the only real change from last time is the addition of the Stages. If this one goes anything like the first Super Speedway race this season with stages at Daytona, it should add a bit of a new dimension and feel as the laps click off. For one, there will be two stages the entire field will be trying to win other than the final one. Because of the nature of plate racing that means any one of the cars in the field could win one or both and you can bet they will all be running hard to try and do so. The intensity won’t let up in the final stage either because all of them will going for the win in that one too. (Or course it pays much better than the other two.)
Unfortunately, another well known fact of plate racing is the possibility of one or more “Big Ones” happening during the course of any of the three Stages. Because restrictor plates cause the field to generally stay in tighter packs (or even one big one) for long periods of time during the event, there is always the possibility of something happening to cause one or more cars to get together and be taken out. All it takes is one wrong move or one blown tire to cause a great deal of mayhem that can ruin one or many driver’s day. When it comes down to the final laps of any of the stages, the aggression and intensity to finish first seems to always cause a dramatic several laps and sometimes, unfortunately, the Big One happens.
There are several favorites talked about for taking the trophy home when this one is over. Of course it seems the Penske teams of Keselowski and Logano are at or near the top of that list along with a long list of names like Johnson, Bowyer, Hamlin, Harvick and Kenseth from other teams. This is a race that even some unknown (or not often mentioned) driver can end up with the win and may be their first win in cup. (It wouldn’t be the first time that happened…)
Probably everyone’s favorite to win would be Dale Jr. and I have to admit, it would be good to see him win. I’m not saying he or any of the ones I did mention will win but, like all plate races in the past, this one could be won by anyone in the field and that includes Dale Jr…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 7, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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