31 Years of a "Temporary" Fix
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and a cordial ‘Hey there” to our assigned reader of all things pertaining to NASCAR. The past two weeks have given us some great racing at the short tracks of Bristol and Richmond, but now it’s time to pay the piper, as we’re off to Talladega and all that racing there entails. Generally speaking, racing with restrictor plates winds up costing car owners $millions per race in crash damage and no one is immune to “The Big One” as the multi-car wrecks have been dubbed.
There seem to be some folks that get a kick out of watching a snarling pack of cars, 4-wide and 10-deep, knowing that the slightest mistake by a single driver can wipe out a large percentage of the field. This scribe has never been one of them. I’ve often described my day when Talladega is hosting the race. I say a prayer at the start, as I do every race, for the drivers’ safety; then I inhale at the green and exhale at the checkers. White-knuckle brigade all the way!
At some point in the race, one driver will make that mistake and the result will be a massive pile-up with cars spinning, flipping, crashing, smoking, and sometimes erupting in flames. When the screeching and screaming of brakes and tires finally fades to an eerie silence, we are left to watch for drivers to hopefully emerge unscathed from what is left of what 2 minutes before was a beautiful and very expensive racing machine, but now is a twisted pile of rubble to be scooped up onto a flatbed and hauled away to the automotive graveyard.
Are we having fun yet? This old fan is not! I don’t believe there is a driver in the field that can honestly say he looks forward to Talladega or little sister Daytona… at least since the horsepower has been restricted. Most of today’s peach-fuzz posse weren’t even born when we raced the big tracks without restrictor plates. Racing on the giant tracks was fun back then. The fast cars could pull away from the back markers and race among themselves to prove who was the fastest on a given Sunday. That can’t happen with the plates choking down the engines. Everyone has the identical capability so the fleet are forced to race among the lame and halt… a recipe for disaster at best, and Talladega seldom disappoints those that watch just for the wrecks.
It was back in 1987, 31 years ago now, that Bobby Allison’s car ran over some debris and wound up deep in the catch fence, spewing car parts into the grandstand, though mercifully the whole car stayed on its own side of the fence. Following that incident, restrictor plates were introduced as a “temporary” fix. To date, they have “fixed” nothing, as cars still, even with roof flaps, go flying into the catch fence far too often. It’s not by accident that the seats at Daytona were moved far up and away from the track. Rather, it was by design. If the cars continue to fly, then the path of least resistance is to move the spectators.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, look at the cars of the 1970s… the big square boxy ones used for stock car racing back then.
Bobby Allison – 1973 Chevelle Laguna
They rode with a ton of ground clearance and were about as aerodynamic as a shoe box, but they didn’t go airborne. It wasn’t until 1981, when the cars became smaller and ran with a smaller wheelbase that the problem of taking flight was introduced. There’s an answer in there somewhere, but I tire of presenting logic and having no one listen.
Next month there will be plates on the engines for the All-Star race at Charlotte. Racing at Charlotte isn’t boring enough on its own, so we’ll try them there to test the viability of adding plates at tracks such as Pocono and Michigan. As my granddaughters are fond of remarking, “Whatever…”
Someone will win at Talladega. I hope it’s someone I like. Truth to tell, I hope that it’s Brad Keselowski, because he is my pick in our little on-site game. He has won five times at the big track… and one of those wins resulted in Carl Edwards almost making it into the grandstands, car and all. One more time… the plates don’t work.
Before leaving you today, I’d like to welcome back Matt Kenseth and thank Jack Roush for bringing him back. I’m clueless as to how long he will be with us, but as a fan, I hope it’s long enough to allow him to retire “on his own terms” and not those of Joe Gibbs. What was done to Matt at the end of last season was just shameful in this fan’s opinion.
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout, and we’re sticking with Ozark Jubilee again this week, but this one is different. No Red Foley here. Instead, we have Rex Allen… the Original, filling in for Red, with guests Sonny James and Brenda Lee. Awesome talent!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling.
It looks so good on you!