Many agree restrictor plate racing is too dangerous. Do you have an alternative?
It was obvious that the management of Daytona International Speedway has a lot of construction work to do: Half the front grandstands, adding suites, a press box, elevators, escalators, the removal of the sad-looking Superstretch grandstands along the back straight.
What crews were not expecting was the need to rebuild part of the catch fence at the start-finish line, and clean up the debris left from the 2:43 a.m. crash of the number 3 Chevrolet SS of Austin Dillon.
Several times during the rain-delayed race, we saw “The Big One,” which is the huge crash that is sadly inevitable at the two NASCAR restrictor-plate race tracks, Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. And then we saw the Biggest Big One. Kind of like how we’d seen some big hurricanes, and then here came Hurricane Katrina, and we had to readjust our scales.
If you are late to the whole “restrictor plate” deal, this is it in a nutshell: Cars go too fast at those two tracks, so NASCAR cuts horsepower by using aluminum plates with four holes in them that bolt beneath the carburetor, limiting how much fuel and air goes into the engines. Of course, now that the engines are fuel-injected, they don’t use carburetors, but the essential practice remains the same.
The problem is that with all the cars – even the usual backmarkers – able to produce pretty much the same horsepower, all the cars go the same speed, especially since they can often draft to the front. Comparatively inexperienced rookies often find themselves in the top 10.
But even veterans like Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, who caused the crash that punted Dillon into the fence, aren’t immune.
This “pack” racing, so called because the cars can’t accelerate out of the pack, makes for close racing, which is good. And for massive crashes, which is bad, except for those who like to gather compilation videos of massive crashes.
People who were not aware that there was even a NASCAR race last night – and this morning – were made very aware by footage of Dillon’s near-death experience on every newscast today. And for days to come.
But the price very nearly paid by Dillon and the injured fans in the stands makes the suggestion that NASCAR sanctions conditions that it knows make wrecks like that one not only possible but likely is absurd. Can we at least agree on that?
Certainly, though, it raises awareness of NASCAR, and likely the crash – and the win by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver – will deliver more eyes to next weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky. Cynics suggest that’s one reason NASCAR hasn’t fixed restrictor-plate racing.
But those cynics are typically short on ideas of how NASCAR should fix restrictor-plate racing.
So here’s your chance. Use the “comments” section at the end of this story to tell NASCAR how to make racing on superspeedways safer – if, indeed, you think NASCAR needs to act.
Even before the finish-line crash, it was a strange race: Cars spinning with no contact, no tire failure. The inability of other cars to even get close to Earnhardt’s rear bumper. Cars shooting out of the pack, aimed at the infield.
So what should NASCAR do? We’ll distill the best ideas into a story, and make sure NASCAR sees it. If you have a better idea, here’s your chance to spell it out.