NASCAR's Restrictor Plate: The Action-Packed Racing and the Chaser's Debate

Ashley McCubbinAnalyst INovember 1, 2010

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 31:  Clint Bowyer, driver of the #33 BB&T Chevrolet, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #12 Penske Dodge,  lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy Juice 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 31, 2010 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This past weekend, the Sprint Cup cars hit the highbanks of Talladega Superspeedway for their fourth trip to a restrictor plate race. In discussions surrounding restrictor plate racing, there has been a lot debated toward if it’s a form of racing of racing to be liked and if the yellow line rule truthfully belongs.

To start, most fans enjoy restrictor plate racing due to the action-packed type of racing it produces, though there are those that also question its form based upon driver control.

So let’s take it to the street, as we’ve done before. What do some fans have to say of the matter?

"When half the chasers back up to the rear of the field for 90 percent of the race that's not racing at all," Steeve Melson says. "Get rid of the restrictor plate. Let them go 230 MPH, then they'll have to lift and the race will be about handling and not the draft. You'll have to go go go all day long to win.

"A true champion is a true racer and gives it 110 percent every race all race. When Chad Knaus says with 15 laps to go 'go get em' and Johnson finally starts racing his heart out, that's not a real race.

If they want to continue this sort of racing they might as well make the race 15 laps because really that's all they are really doing after riding around like a bunch of senior citizens for the first 90 percent of the race. They should penalize teams for dropping to the back intentionally. That would a put an end to it and they'd all start racing again."

“Who doesn’t like it?” One fan said to me once I posed the question.  "Speed is not what makes racing, competition is. In my opinion, the best races of the year are at Daytona and Talladega. Most one-mile to two-mile tracks are usually a bore fest with spread out fields.”

“Restrictor plate racing to me isn’t my favorite form of racing as it’s out of the driver’s control, if you’re speaking from a driver’s perspective,” Danny said. “However, as far as a fan’s, it can be exciting with the dramatics of what happens. I mean, look at both the Daytona 500 and Talladega in the spring—edge of your seat action coming to the line.”

“I love it!” Gail Morrissey said. “It's fast! It's crazy and it changes every lap. Edge of your seat racing from the green flag!”

“I hate it,” Amy Henderson said. “But then again, I don't watch racing for the wrecks. But if I want a game of chance I'll go to a casino and play roulette. I don't like racing where a driver's fate is 50 percent out of his hands. I know a good driver can be taken out by a bad one every week, but the chance increases exponentially at Dega.”

With it being out of the driver’s control, some say it shouldn’t be in the Chase as it could quickly eliminate a driver from contention.

“The Chase is something that should be in their control of their making,” Danny said. “It’s about finding the best champion so therefore that should be determined strictly by driver’s talent, not by chance.”

“How are the drivers not in control?” Another fan replied. “Everyone has the same rules and they have to fight for the win no matter what.”

"Racing is my life and always has been and I know for sure that isn't racing," Melson said. "If they want that style of racing it needs to be yanked out of the chase for a track where the chasers actually put on a show."

There’d also be some that argue that Talladega should be there for the strategic racing it produces and therefore the driver with the best strategy normally comes out on top. There seems to be strategy in making the right move at the end, and also when you make your move to the front, as Melson pointed out.

However, strategy doesn’t remove the above danger as drivers can be put into a wreck via being at the front, middle, or rear of the field.

Despite this negativity seen towards the format, the Chase is suppose to be a bridge of finding a champion in a system that recaps all the races with the best 10 drivers.

The first 26 races of the schedule are made up of three restrictor plate races, two road courses, five short tracks and 16 intermediate races.

Therefore the chase should be 11 percent restrictor plates, 8 percent road courses, 19 percent short tracks and 62 percent intermediate tracks. Instead, it’s 10 percent restrictor plates, 10 percent short tracks and 80 percent intermediate tracks. In a world that’d seem fair, you’d have a road course, a restrictor plate race, two short tracks and six intermediate tracks.

With that said, one fan offers a solution: use the Talladega road course.

"Have Talladega in the Chase—just use their road course instead," Melson said. "The track still saves their race date and then there's some real racing and a road course in the chase. it's the perfect idea."

With using Talladega's road course, you open up the ability of better racing that isn't based upon chance and bridge together the debate of the type of racing we see and the lack of road course.

However, it should be noted that restrictor plates should be kept for the other three races to therefore allow this type of racing to consider to keep that excitement it brings.

When it comes to the Chase, it's about the best driver—not the driver who can roll the dice best and get lucky. People have been debating changes for the Chase, and maybe here is one that will change the complexion, solve some debates and bring forth more excitement with a better variety.