Restrictor Plates: The Saga Continues

A week or so ago, I wrote an article looking at restrictor plates, and raising the question as to whether or not they should be used at more race tracks. Boy did I ever get bombarded with email responses. I got emails from those who love restrictor plates and the packs of cars they create praising the notion of plates being used at lots of tracks. I also got emails from those that hate restrictor plates and their horsepower choking, speed reducing effects, calling me every name in the book for even SUGGESTING that restrictor plates be used at more tracks. There certainly weren't any restrictors on these folks' emails, that's for sure.

Well, first off, let me say this for the record. I am NOT a fan of restrictor plates. I only brought up the idea as "food for thought", and based on the emails I received, there were certainly plenty of thoughts to feed on. But personally, I don't like the idea of reigning in the speeds at the racetracks. I understand NASCAR's reasons behind using them (lowering the speeds to make things safer), but I'm from the old school of thought where the basic idea of the race is to see who can get around the track the fastest. Yes, pit strategy comes into play, as does engine attrition and sometimes on- track bumping and banging. But for the most part, the guy who can go quickest through the turns without wrecking, and fastest down the straight-aways, should win the race. And putting a plate in the engine to KEEP him from going as fast as possible doesn't seem right.

Well, this week the idea of restrictor plates has reared its ugly head again, at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Two years ago, LMS went through a track grinding process to smooth out the track.

Previously, there had been problems with chunks of concrete coming loose, and holes in the track causing all kinds of havoc with the drivers. So, the track was ground down in an effort to make it smoother. The result was a much faster track.

If you remember last year's races at LMS, there were 37 cautions in two races, most of which were the result of blown tires. The Goodyear Eagles being used could not handle the speeds or the new surface. This week, Goodyear held test sessions at Lowe's, to see if they could fix the problem. They couldn't. The speeds were even higher, and the tire wear was even more severe. They apparently have not come up with the right tire formula to handle the high speed of the smoothed track. So what do they do about it? Continue to let the cars run as fast as possible and have someone blow a tire every few laps?

So is that the solution at Lowe's? Does NASCAR have to step in and slow the cars down to reduce tire wear and make it safer for the drivers?

Not if you ask the drivers.

"It's not going to make it safer," Scott Riggs said. "It's going to make you run just as fast through the corners, if not faster because you're going to try to make up the time you lost on the straight- aways. No matter what we run, even if it's 200 mph, that still ain't enough to put restrictor plates on them.''

"That's what NASCAR racing is all about," said Track president H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, "adjusting to the track conditions that are there."

Bobby Labonte suggested using a harder tire compound that won't wear as fast.

It doesn't sound like anybody wants to see restrictor plates used at Lowe's.

NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said the decision on whether the NASCAR will step in to lower speeds will wait until after a full Cup test session in early May. We'll just have to wait until then, and hope Goodyear can fix the problem.

Published on April 4, 2006 in