On Wednesday, NASCAR announced two key Talladega rules changes designed to give more horsepower to cars and, in theory, end the dreaded two-by-two racing that's been a hallmark at restrictor-plate tracks for the last two years.
NASCAR increased the size of the restrictor plate by 1/64th of an inch, allowing that much greater airflow to the engine. That's expected to produce an additional 7 to 10 horsepower, or another 2 to 3 mph. In addition, NASCAR has recalibrated the pressure relief valve, the so-called "pop-off valve," on the cars' cooling systems, which will lower the maximum temperature that water in engines can reach before engaging. The theory there is that the possibility of overheating will keep cars from trying to stick together for too long.
The cars had been able to pair up thanks to an unforeseen collection of circumstances: repaving at both tracks allowed drivers to remain close without getting bumped apart by the track surface, and a realigned nose-to-tail configuration permitted the cars to snug up on one another more easily.
While the new rules will allow the cars to go faster, the threat of overheating will likely force them to switch positions faster, if indeed they pair up at all. What's likely to happen is cars saving themselves for the last lap, which could make for a thrilling if unconventional finish.
"After the last few superspeedway races, we've heard many drivers express their desire to open up the size of the restrictor plate some and we thought the time was right to do that," NASCAR VP of competition Robin Pemberton said in the statement announcing the rules. "We anticipate these revisions in the rules package for Talladega will help continue to provide competitive and exciting racing for the fans."
The question, of course, is why NASCAR would make such a significant change in the middle of the Chase. Teams will only have a few hours of testing with the new equipment. Is that enough time? Or is ending the 2x2 racing worth the growing pains of new rules? Have your say, friends.
- restrictor plate