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'A 42 Car IROC Field'
February 1997


In the interest of safety, NASCAR mandated a restictor plate in 1987 to slow the cars down at the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega. After Bobby Allison's car flew into the stands backwards at over 200 miles per hour, NASCAR felt the need to slow the cars down. They required teams to place a plate over the carbuerator thereby resticting air flow and the end result is a decrease in horsepower.

Since 1987, NASCAR has instituted more rules to slow the cars down. Spoiler angles have been mandated and open spaces where air could flow into the engine have been cut off since then. The results have produced terrifying results. The cars have been made equal with no driver able to break away from the pack. Cars are forced to run in a large group of 25-30 and the slighest slip has been disturbing.

In 1996 at Talladega, two incidents occurred as a direct effect of the restictor plate. In April, Mark Martin was locked in a 20 car draft heading into turn one. He slipped up the track slightly and into the line of Jeff Gordon. Gordon could not lift off the gas because he would have lost the draft and fallen dramatically in the running order. The result was a major pile up highlighted by the car of Ricky Craven hitting the catch fence on top of the track wall and careening back onto the track into other cars. In July, Dale Earnhardt led Sterling Marlin and Ernie Irvan through the tri-oval of the track. Irvan slid up the track into Marlin. Marlin then hit Earnhardt forcing him into the wall and resulting in Earnhardt's car turning over and flipping through the tri-oval past the start-finish line. Other cars hit Earnhardt and were collected in the wreck. The race was red flagged to clean up the track. Obviously if there were not 25 cars running in the same pack, there would be fewer cars collected in such a crash. In addition, in 1995 Ken Schrader flipped numerous times on the backstretch at Talladega collecting many cars in his wake. The only thing that the restictor plate has really done is send not one, but many cars to the garage area to repair damage and many drivers have been sent to the hospital from crashes involving multiple cars,

Could these accidents have been prevented? Obviously they could have. The NASCAR mandated restictions have resulted in 42 cars that resemble the IROC series where participants drive equally set up cars. When cars run in tight packs for a long period of time, tires wear out slightly, drivers get impatient, and major incidents occur.

NASCAR mandated the restictor plates in the interest of fan safety, not driver safety. An easy answer to this would be for NASCAR to eliminate the restictor plates and allow the best car to win and for Daytona and Talladega to drastically improve the fences around the track. However, both Daytona and Talladega are owned by the International Speedway Corporation (ISC). ISC is the group that runs NASCAR Inc. Crashing has always been a part of the sport. The bigger the crash, the more racing is shown on local sportscasts. Does ISC want the drivers to wreck? Probably not but it creates action and excitement in a sport they try so desperately to sell to Madison Avenue.

On Sunday, February 16, the Daytona 500 will be run. With up to 35 cars running in a single pack of cars, any little slip up by any driver could trigger a major crash. With a large number of inexperienced drivers starting near the front, the risk of a major accident is fairly high. Does ISC want that occurence? Sure they do... provided that all the drivers involved walk away. There's a major incident waiting to happen. Whether it be this month at Daytona or later in the year at Talladega. You've been forewarned.

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