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Restrictor-plate changes to tackle drafting

NASCAR has changed the technical specification of the cars for the restrictor-plate Chase race at Talladega, in an apparent move to lesson the amount of two-car drafting.
NASCAR has announced changes to the technical specification of cars for the restrictor-plate race at Talladega Superspeedway in October, which may lesson the domination of two-car drafting seen on the track.

The restrictor plate that teams have to use to lessen engine horsepower and reduce topline speeds on safety grounds to under 200mph are being enlarged by 1/64th of an inch to 57/64ths of an inch in diameter, which will slightly increase the engine's power by around 10 horsepower (resulting in an extra 2-3mph speed) but leave it slightly more prone to heating issues.

In addition, the pressure relief valve on the cars' cooling systems will be changed so that they come into play at a slightly lower water temperature steam pressure. That means the cars will now need to take more frequent breaks when running in two-car drafts.

Races at Talladega and Daytona earlier this season showed that cars with the old settings could run in a two-car tandem for a relatively extended period. The new settings should mean that the car doing the pushing will start to overheat quicker than before and will need to break the draft or switch to the front position more often.

"The new rule on the pressure release valves at superspeedways is just going to limit the time that you can push nose-to-tail," said Martin Truex Jr.'s crew chief Chad Johnston. "It's going to make you switch more often, which could be a good thing or it could be a bad thing. The chances of something going wrong on a swap are going to go up obviously, but hopefully it will eliminate or lessen the two-by-two racing."

"After the last few superspeedway races, we've heard many drivers express their desire to open up the size of the restrictor plate some and we thought the time was right to do that," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition.

Not everyone agrees that the changes will have the desired effect, and if speeds climb higher than anticipated than NASCAR may change the specifications at short notice during the race weekend on safety grounds as happened ahead of this year's Daytona 500, when speeds of over 200mph rang serious alarm bells for series organisers.

Few expect the changes to result in a return to the old style of two- and three-wide long-line drafts that has historically been the restrictor-plate style of racing until this year, and hooking up with a 'dance partner' for the race is still likely to be all-important.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. for one was critical of the new two-car drafting that arose in this year's restrictor-plate races. "I don't like this kind of racing," he said unequivocally after the second outing at Daytona in July. "What kind of move can you make in racing like this? There ain't no move you can make. You just hold it on the mat and try not to wreck into each other."

However, the changes certainly suited Hendrick Motorsports, which dominated Talladega and saw Jimmie Johnson claim his sole victory of the season so far.



Related Pictures

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Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip carrying out to-car drafting at Talladega. [Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR]
A restrictor plate used during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Preseason Thunder test from January 20-22, 2011 at Daytona International Speedway has 29/32-inch holes. [Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR]
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, celebrates his win with a burnout Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by his Hendrik Motor Sports teammates Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Toughbook Chevrolet SS (left), Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS (center) and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS (right) after his victory Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne joins Gordon, Johnson, and Earnhardt Jr. in the Chase. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase.  (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 31, 2014 in Bowmanville, Canada. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, won the Pole position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. It was Harvick`s sixth pole win of the 2014 season. He is 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, finished fourth and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished twelfth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualified for sixth position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Johnson is seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s Chevrolet SS, won the pole position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Harvick is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, poses with the pole award after qualifying fastest for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, poses with his wife DeLana, son Keelan, and the pole award after qualifying fastest for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to win Sunday, August 17, 2014 in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS finished second. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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