The NASCAR race last week at Talladega Superspeedway was more typical of a restrictor plate track race than we have had in a few years. Talladega itself has been the topic of discussion due to the fact a driver’s race results are almost always beyond their control. This time Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought up his displeasure with the race and, more importantly, that style of racing. Dale Jr. has seven of his 19 wins at a restrictor plate track. He is arguably one of the best restrictor plate racers in NASCAR. Since he brought it up, it bears discussion.
“If this is what we did every week, I wouldn’t be doing it, I will just put it to you like that. If this is how we raced every week I would find another job,” he said. That statement takes the discussion to a whole new level.
Dale Jr. went on to say, “The way we are going ain’t the right direction. There are plenty of engineers out there. I’m just a driver. There are plenty of smart people out there that can figure something out where when one guy gets in trouble. We don’t have 30 cars tore up at the expense of it. I mean it’s awesome in a word and everybody can get on the chip about it and get excited about all that, which just happened, but for the longevity of the sport that ain’t healthy. I don’t care what anybody says, for the good of the sport, I mean it’s good for the here and now and it will get people talking today, but for the long run that is not going to help the sport the way that race ended and the way the racing is. It’s not going to be productive for years to come. I don’t even want to go to Daytona or Talladega next year, but I ain’t got much choice.”
The racing at Talladega was more typical of restrictor plate racing. The cars were three, four and five wide at times but most of the race was spent one and two wide single file. There were several single car wrecks or almost wrecks. Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon got loose and saved it. Kurt Busch was spun and didn’t save it. None of these caused a big crash. In the end, the “Big One” as they say was caused by another great restrictor plate racer, Tony Stewart as he tried to block on the last lap.
“I just screwed up. I turned down across, I think it was Michael (Waltrip) and crashed the whole field. It was my fault blocking to try to stay where I was at. So, I take 100% of the blame,” Stewart said about the big wreck on the last lap.
That brings us back to the question: should Talladega or any restrictor plate race be one of the ten races in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup? The answer to that is the same as the answer that would be asked for any track. A Sprint Cup Champion needs to do well on all types of race tracks.
The question Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asking is should NASCAR even have restrictor plate racing at all. The answer is not simple and cannot be. There has been pack racing at Talladega and Daytona International Speedway for just about forever. The tracks themselves were built for that. The fans that go to those races expect it. That is why NASCAR worked so hard to eliminate tandem drafting. Other than Stewart doing something, blocking, which by his own admission shouldn’t have, the race was relatively clean and safe. That is why restrictor plate racing should remain and Talladega should remain one of the ten races in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.
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