Restrictor plates changed at Talladega

New plate changes outlook at Talladega By Marty Smith TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 14, 2000) Practice speeds were so fast at Talladega Superspeedway Saturday morning that NASCAR mandated a reduction in the size of the carburetor restrictor plate, which ...

Restrictor plates changed at Talladega

New plate changes outlook at Talladega
By Marty Smith

TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 14, 2000) Practice speeds were so fast at Talladega Superspeedway Saturday morning that NASCAR mandated a reduction in the size of the carburetor restrictor plate, which is now down from one inch to 15/16s. According to NASCAR Senior Vice President and COO Mike Helton, the alteration, which was announced in a closed-door meeting with the drivers between Bud Second Round Qualifying and Happy Hour practice, could reduce the average horsepower by some 40 horsepower, and thus limit speeds by up to five mph.

This is just the latest in a series of mandated changes by the sanctioning body to reduce speeds on superspeedways. Teams were required to run a 7/8-inch plate in both the season-opening Daytona 500 and the April event here. Then, prior to this weekend, NASCAR changed several aspects of the cars, including mandating a one-inch plate.

However, after Bobby Labonte topped 198 miles per hour and six other drivers soared past 196 mph, NASCAR decided it was time for another change.

"It's mainly the intent to be able to keep the racecar, if he does get out of wack on the track and get into a (bad) situation, this will keep (the car) from lifting up (off the ground)," Helton said. "We based the speed decisions, that have brought on the restrictor plates and have made us modify the size of those plates since their inception in 1987, on that lift off speed. 198 (mph), in our opinion, is too fast."

NASCAR wasn't the only concerned party. Several competitors voiced their displeasure about the speeds, as well.

"As soon as I saw (the speeds) I was like, oh boy, we've done something here," said Frankie Stoddard, crew chief for the No. 99 CITGO Ford and driver Jeff Burton. "We've got way too much plate. Because I was afraid that when a pack got out there, cars were going to be able to run up and catch them, but what happens is when they have that amount of speed, they have no place to go but just charge up through the field.

"People just aren't expecting them to come that fast. And then once they get into the pack, it's not like the speed you have catching the pack is going to allow you to just pull out and pass somebody. But as you catch the pack and as you get to the first 10 to 15 cars, it's gonna allow you to go through and cause chaos, and that's not going to be a good thing."

Bear in mind, Stoddard directs a Ford team. In the garage, the consensus is that Ford drivers now have a distinct edge, whereas Chevrolet drivers dominated Bud Pole Qualifying.

Happy Hour speeds back that up.

Of the top-20 speeds in Happy Hour, half are Fords, seven are Chevrolets and three are Pontiacs. Penske Racing South teammates Rusty Wallace and Jeremy Mayfield both required provisional starting passes just to start Sunday's race. After the plate change, they were first and fourth, respectively, on the speed chart.

Jerry Nadeau, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Tony Stewart, all General Motors drivers and all top-5 qualifiers Friday, all struggled after the change. Stewart was the quickest of the trio, 24th on the chart.

"I think the Chevy cars got hurt worse by changing the restrictor plates than the Fords," said Joe Nemechek, who surged to the Bud Pole Friday with a speed of 190.279 mph. "We want to win the race. I think our chances might be a little slimmer."

They'll have to live with it.

"I don't anticipate making any more changes," Helton said. "The reason we went back and did this aero package combination in the first place is to give the driver more throttle - so that if they got out of the pack, they could get back into it and be able to race the car instead of just hanging on. So, the reaction from us today is simply because of the speeds we saw in the practice this morning.

"We all knew coming into this weekend that the attitude of the car would be different because it put more emphasis on the aerodynamics package and gave them some more horsepower to use to anticipate and not anticipate.

"So what's going on today - the driver's learning and understanding and adapting to the new attitude that these cars create, which does increase the closure rate from the old days when the draft would pull a car up to the pack. That re-education to some and whole new experience to others is what's going on out there right now." -nascar.com-

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