Time To Toss Out The Plates?

2014 Sprint Unlimited crash

Business is picking up again in metal recycling. Wednesday’s practice at Daytona International Speedway saw more stuff get wadded up than a novelist with writer’s block. Can you imagine the fist pounding back at the shop? As of right now, it appears one of the victims, Dave Blaney, will be packing it in, and another Daytona favorite, Trevor Bayne, may have his chances of making the show jeopardized by the mayhem triggered when Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth nudged each other.

This is racing at a plate track- it’s what we’ve come to expect. Teams blow through more dough at these places than Paris Hilton on a shopping spree. You figure it out: you cram 20,30, 40 cars together at 180 miles per hour plus, through some aerodynamics and a false move, and suddenly everything looks like one of those insurance commercials.

Its begs the question to NASCAR of whether or not there should even be restrictor plate racing at all. Some fans are demanding the plates come off. Let’s not forget why the plates are there in the first place; do you really want to be a fan with a Goodyear Eagle in your lap? The aim of the plate was to increase safety! Even then, there was the Kyle Larson Nationwide incident last season, and let us not forget Talladega in 2009 with Carl Edwards. Even with the plates, there’s still an element of danger. To be sure, there always will be. Fans have been getting hurt or worse as long as there’s been racing.

Let’s put all that aside, and consider the kind of racing these tracks produce: is anybody REALLY happy? Perhaps the 2.5 plus mile superspeedway is an idea whose time has come…….and gone. The cars have changed as technology has changed. We now know how fast these cars can go, and at more than one track, we’ve learned that great speed does not always equate to great racing. Throw in the element of safety, and frankly, this is a question worth asking.

It’s not to suggest we say “Hasta la vista” to Daytona and Talladega. Daytona is a NASCAR Valhalla, and Talladega sits in the heart of NASCAR country. Think about it- where does some the best racing a fan will ever see take place? Most will tell you its at some little half-mile (give or take) bullring where a car may rarely top 100.

What will it take? Bankrupting the sport? Another death? Completely emptying the stands? It would be nice if it didn’t come to that. The fans would appreciate it, the drivers would appreciate it, and better racing would lead to more fannies in the seats, and the governing body getting what it wants.