Last restrictor plate race - All Access Sporting News

Updated April 1,  4:15 PM  CT


Goodbye restrictor plates

February 16, 2019

Daytona 500: Goodbye restrictor plates

The Daytona 500 will be the final NASCAR race for restrictor plates. Restrictor plates, which mount on the intake, have been in use since 1988. By restricting airflow, it limited horsepower - keeping drivers, and spectators safer.

But don't expect a horsepower runaway. NASCAR is switching to tapered spacers at every track to keep speeds in check.

''No matter what you call it, you're still restricting the air flow to the engine,'' two-time Daytona 500 winner and 1988 NASCAR champion Bill Elliott said. ''It's just a different flavor, a different way of putting it. I guess it's all about how you word things these days.''

Plate racing has drawn plenty of criticism over the years, mostly from drivers and team owners who prefer cars not be bunched together in two- and three-wide packs at nearly 200 mph and where the slightest contact creates a chain reaction and often mangles a bunch of $300,000 cars. During this month's Speedweeks, though, the package has created less-than-ideal, single-file racing that has some wondering what the 61st running of "The Great American Race" will look like.

Tapered spacers are precisely machined and provide much more even air distribution, essentially making them more efficient.

''I don't think there will be a lot of change,'' said 2012 NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski, who has won four of the last 20 races at Daytona and Talladega. ''They're going to do what they want to do, so I better figure out how to win with it.''

Tapered spacers have been used in NASCAR's Cup Series since 2015, when a 1.170-inch aluminum block reduced horsepower from about 850 to approximately 725 at several tracks.

The 2019 rules package mandates those same-sized spacers at all tracks less than 1.33 miles. A 0.922-inch spacer will be used at all oval tracks 1.33 miles and above, which will decrease engine horsepower to about 550. That includes Daytona and Talladega, but won't take effect until after Sunday's season opener.

''I totally expect to crash more cars,'' defending series champion Joey Logano said. ''As cars are closer and drivers are more aggressive, a mistake will create a bigger crash. We can't get away from it. ... You know how it is when you're on the highway and they check up right in front of you. You can't stop quick enough and you're only going 70, you know? Try going 180. Game changes a little bit.

''So I assume there will be more crashes. I assume we're all going to tear more stuff up this year. And usually when there's more crashes, there's more conflict. So it will be interesting. Hang on.''

''Nobody knows exactly what to expect,'' Stewart-Haas Racing team co-owner Tony Stewart said. ''Having a restrictor-plate package, open package, this new package, we're all excited to see what it produces. At the end of the day, it's all about making the racing more exciting for the fans, re-engaging the fans in the sport.

''I think restrictor-plate racing at Daytona and Talladega is always going to be an element of its own that really is separate from what you see the rest of the season.''

Ran DeBord ~ All Access Sporting News

Sources for this article include: NASCAR, AP, AASNSports

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