Count me among the minority who weren't awed by NASCAR's restrictor plate show on Sunday. Yes, a record-breaking 88 lead changes combined with the type of photo finish that leaves everyone cheering was entertaining -- there's no disputing that.
But as the race unfolded, I sat there scratching my head at the inability of anybody to break away from the pack. The "yo-yo" effect of the new handling package left leading a matter of timing, not speed, and three green-white-checkered finishes made the end of the race look like an awkward demolition derby, the type where someone could end up hurt. More than ever, the plates at Talladega have turned the show into an awkward "lottery," as
But what I think pales in comparison to the fans, and they've spoken emphatically with their remotes. Talladega ratings were up nine percent, scoring an overnight of 4.9, the largest increase we've seen for any race since Richmond last September. What does that mean for the future? We'll get right into it with the winners of this week's mailbag lottery. But if your number didn't get called, don't give up! Keep trying through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @
Ed's opinion sums up the minority opinion of fans out there. But drivers spoke up against plate racing as well Sunday, in particular
"I was thinking about that when I was out there, these shouldn't be points races," he said after getting knocked out by an ill-timed
Several others have echoed Newman's sentiment, with many wanting to ditch the plates. For them, their concerns are twofold: competition and safety, with
Is there a way to make everyone happy? Fans try to come up with them all the time ...
Sorry, Tom, it wouldn't work. The whole problem with restrictor plates is the cars are running too slow; they don't have to touch the brake throughout Talladega's 500 miles, making them all run wide open, equipped with equal horsepower so they're unable to pull away from each other.
In truth, the only solution is to make the cars fast enough they'd have to lift in the corners. But no plate means the cars are running 230 miles an hour, not 200, creating a whole different set of safety concerns. You could also tear down Talladega and rebuild it, but you're talking millions in renovations for a sport that's not exactly overflowing with extra cash right now. Plus, the racing isn't going to automatically produce the type of side-by-side, heart-pumping action that leaves fans begging for more. Combine that with the ratings increase, and there's no way this package is getting touched anytime soon.
So for those who share my opinion on these races, find comfort in the fact there's only two Talladega races a year (and four plate ones overall). Every time we have them, just join me in taking a little extra TUMS, then keep your fingers crossed and wait patiently for that 5-minute payoff at the finish -- while hoping no one gets killed in the process.
Reason No. 457 why I hate restrictor plate racing: drivers can just hang out at the back of the draft and then magically come up to lead whenever they feel like actually racing (
But I digress ... far too much bashing of plates today. As for Earnhardt's finish, I was shocked he came out of the car smiling, because a 13th-place run at his best track has to feel like a loss. All day, Earnhardt was pushing drivers to the front at will, testing the waters in how he'd time his winning move later. But when push came to shove, he got stuck in traffic and never worked his way to the front at the end.
Yeah, Stewart and others seemed unwilling to work with him at the finish, but didn't Junior just build up all those relationships in the first 450 miles? Couldn't "dumping him" also be a case of Junior failing to make the right move when it really counted? I feel like the man behind the wheel has to take responsibility on this one.
By my count, despite a handful of top-10 finishes, Earnhardt's left almost 100 points on the table over the last month, shooting himself in the foot with his traditional late-race fade behind the wheel of the No. 88. That's going to come back to bite them.
One way it could help, Rick, is by better purse money distribution. For example,
"Bad news @KyleBusch ... So your grandma's dog bit Amanda in the leg, and well, long story short, we gotta sue you!" -