And though NASCAR didn’t specifically address it, officials sent the divorce decree in the form of a press release with Talladega Superspeedway’s Good Sam Club 500 four weekends away.
Wednesday’s changes are two-fold: The restrictor plate increases by 1/64th of an inch, and a “pressure relief valve on the cars’ cooling system will be recalibrated to reduce the pressure by approximately eight pounds per square inch,” the “Dear John” letter reads.
For the mechanically un-inclined, it means this: The cars will go faster, and they won’t be able to be join their front and back bumpers quite as long in attempts to gain speed.
By tweaking the existing rules, NASCAR took the first step toward eliminating the two-car, tandem-style approach, which is known by many monikers. Under the current setups drivers put the breakaway racing style into high fashion on the circuit’s highest-banked tracks, Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway, leaving the famous three- and four-wide packs the way of the leisure suit.
NASCAR vice president for competition Robin Pemberton said drivers had voiced their concerns with the smaller restrictor plates and “thought the time was right” to act. By keeping the drivers happy, he said he hoped fans would be, too.
“We anticipate these revisions in the rules package for Talladega will help continue to provide competitive and exciting racing for the fans,” he said.
Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch applauded NASCAR for the move.
“Being open to suggestions that improve our sport is beneficial to everyone involved,” he said in a statement.
NASCAR said the change to the restrictor plate will give cars seven to 10 more horsepower. That could bring the cars to — if not shove them past — the ballyhooed 200-mile-per-hour mark.
Since Bobby Allison’s crash in 1987, NASCAR implemented the horsepower-robbing, metal restrictor plates at its two fastest tracks to keep the speeds, which well exceeded 200 mph — down. Many have speculated the sport has made subsequent moves to keep those speeds below that magic number when technology counters.
“Well, we were already approaching the 200-mile-an-hour mark,” Derrick Finley, Competition Director for Front Row Motorsports, said in an email. “And now with more horsepower, we’ll have a better chance of getting there, especially with the two-car draft. … These guys are paid to go fast and that’s what they do.
“(The pressure-release value) won’t stop them from hooking up. I think they’ll just go faster.”
With the race just more than a month away, the timing may sound odd. But Clint Bowyer, who has 10 Top 10s this season, said he doesn’t think it will be a problem. If anything, he said, it’ll be a blessing for the fans.
“Some hated it, some loved it,” he said of the tandem racing. “… but the middle of the races were just kind of stale.
“It’s not the solution, but it’s the first step. And hopefully it will get us back to three-wide racing.”
Bran Strickland is the sports editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3570 or at firstname.lastname@example.org