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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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Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eleventh position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Truex, Jr. will be joined by Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon will be joined by Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Sunday will be Gordon`s last race as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Chevrolet SS, advances to the Championship 4 with his sixth place finish Sunday, November 15, 2015 in the final round of the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway (renamed Jeff Gordon Raceway for the day to honor the four-time champion) in Avondale, Arizona. Gordon is joined with Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS  and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS to the Sprint Cup Series Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida next Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, leads Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, lead the field onto pit road due to rain during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, celebrates on pit road after winning the rain-shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

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