Smaller restrictor plates mandated for Talladega

NASCAR will run smaller restrictor plates at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend after practice times for several Nextel Cup teams topped the 198-mph mark. NASCAR called a crew chief meeting at 6:30 am this morning to announce the change.

The new seven-eights of an inch restrictor plate.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

NASCAR officials were asked repeatedly on Friday whether they were considering changing to a smaller plate, but when the Cup garage closed yesterday they seemed comfortable with the speeds. One NASCAR representative stated this morning that they wanted "to sleep on it". Apparently, upon further consideration NASCAR decided for safety reasons that the cars needed to be slowed.

"When we saw the speeds originally we thought the best decision was not to overreact," said Vice President of competition, Robin Pemberton. "We wanted to see how things played out. When we went into the second practice the speeds began to advance. We are not going to give another practice these teams have experience with these plates."

Talladega Superspeedway recently resurfaced the race track creating a smoother surface with more grip, which produced higher-than-normal speeds. In both practice sessions yesterday a handful of cars topped 198 mph with Jeff Gordon running a top time of 198.689 mph.

"We watched and monitored the speed yesterday," Pemberton continued. "We didn't look to do this.we didn't want to do this.but we feel like we took the time and studied what we needed to study and that this is the best call."

The new plates will have four holes of seven-eights of an inch in diameter, one 64th of an inch smaller than the plates that were used in Friday's two practice sessions. Team engineers expect the new plate to slow the top speeds by two to five miles per hour.

The last time this happened was in 2000 at Talladega when speeds exceeded 198 mph and Mike Helton stated to the media core, "One ninety eight, in our opinion, is too fast." Several other officials were concerned in 2000 that 198 mph was too close to "liftoff speed."

Talladega first saw the implementation of restrictor plates in 1987 after a terrifying crash involving Bobby Allison during the Winston 500. Allison's car lifted off, tail first, through the catchfence, injuring several spectators. NASCAR then decided that at its superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega) restrictor plates would be used.

A restrictor plate is an aluminum plate placed between the carburetor and the intake manifold, restricting the amount of air/fuel mixture entering the engine. It limits the power output of the motor, thus artificially reducing speed.