Drivers Play Restrictor Plate Roulette in Florida
Posted October 7, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
CHARLOTTE — Winston Cup racing goes to Talladega this Sunday for the Winston 500. The following week is the rescheduled Pepsi 400 at Daytona making back to back races on Super-speedways.
With only four weeks left in the season, this situation leaves drivers feeling they are playing a kind of restrictor plate roulette.
The restrictor plate tends to produce large packs of cars going the same speed. One bobbles, they all bobble producing multi-car crashes, and running up front provides little protection.
"If you look at history, the wreck always starts from fourth place to fifth, sixth or seventh place," driver Jeff Burton said. "So when you're running well you get in the wreck."
Drivers speak of these restrictor plate induced accidents as inevitable. One or two of these piles-ups can rearrange the point standings. This year because of the rescheduling of the Pepsi 400 due to the Florida wild fires, Daytona will follow Talladega. Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin are a decisive one and two now, but will they be in two weeks?
"I'd hate to be Jeff or Mark Martin right now going to Talladega and going to Daytona," driver Ricky Rudd said. "Not that they are bad races, but in a points battle you don't have a lot of control."
"With these two races back to back, I'm sure it's going to put a lot of stress on everybody these last couple of weeks," driver Bobby Labonte said.
The guy at the top puts a good spin on his tendency to not spin out.
"I think of those tracks as being positive for us," driver Jeff Gordon said. "Those are good race tracks for us, we run well there."
"To do them back to back is difficult because most teams only have one good speedway car," Burton said. "If you go to Talladega and wreck it, you go to Daytona with a car that is not as good."
The revised schedule may not be fair to the front runners, but it does bring a certain element of doubt about whether the season championship race is going to be a Jeff Gordon runaway.