OK, I’ve put it out there- I am a plate racing fan. To the purist, this is sacrilege. This fan was always amused when racing great Mark Martin referred a race at Talladega as “the lotto.” You can’t argue with him; look at how many drivers who have only won at plate tracks.
I confess- this is a part of the appeal to me. Until that checkered flag flies, you just never know. Out of the 40 entries that signed up for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, only a handful didn’t have a shot. As it was, Erik Jones got his first career victory, winning a war of attrition.
Kevin Harvick looked the part of a race winner. So did Martin Truex Jr. in stretches. Then there was Michael McDowell. Craziness! You just never know who will still be running when the race has been run. Does that not appeal to you on some level?
Now let’s be clear: not all plate victories are dumb luck. Some racers get lucky way too frequently for it to only be luck. The more I watch NASCAR, the more I become convinced that not overdriving the car is critical. Take AJ Allmendinger for example. As a fan, I love that guy. But how many times has he run himself out of a win because he’s used up his equipment. He’s not the only one.
Please, do not walk away with the notion that this fan loves it for the wrecks. Thankfully, we’re no longer watching scores of drivers losing their lives in NASCAR racing, such as in the days of yore. Yet, it’s still dangerous. Kyle Busch broke his legs at Daytona back in 2015. Then there’s all the concussions Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered. This is not even getting into how much financial cost a team incurs when their cars get all wadded up.
I get the frustration. There’s all the wrecking. There’s that sense that the driver has so little control over their own destiny. With the restrictor plates, it’s not so much about building that car that is so fast that it dominates the field. I’ll admit, I don’t want any more of these kinds of races than what we have. In fact, when it comes to the playoffs, I’d much rather have a road course race than plate racing. With that being said, I cannot deny: plate racing is the NASCAR equivalent of Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.