By admin | February 1, 2010
By Richard Allen
After Bobby Allison was involved in a horrific looking crash at Talladega in 1987 NASCAR has used restrictor plates to regulate the air/fuel mixture allowed into the engines of the race cars. The result is an engine that produces less horsepower which in turn slows the car.
For almost as long as the plates have been used there have been rumors of a mysterious â€˜goldenâ€™ restrictor plate given to certain drivers and teams. So, is there really such a thing as a â€˜goldenâ€™ restrictor plate?
What is meant by that term is a plate with holes slightly larger than the ones in all the other plates. Small enough to not be noticeable to the naked eye but large enough to make a difference. Obviously, a car with a bit more fuel and air flowing through its engine would run faster than the others.
If the conspiracy theorists who have proposed this idea are correct then NASCAR would be treading on some very thin ice. Officials from the sanctioning body are the ones who actually place the restrictor plates on each car. So, the officials themselves would have to be in on the fix. Such a maneuver would be the ultimate sin for any sports organization. It is the job of sanctioning bodies such as NASCAR, the NFL, the NBA and MLB to issue rules then enforce them, but never to tamper with the outcome. The backlash from such a thing, if ever discovered, would be devastating.
NASCAR isnâ€™t so stupid as to take such a dangerous gamble, are they?
In order for the scheme to work, the team to receive the special piece would have to be in on the fix as well. The engine would need to be tuned with the specific size of the corrupt plate in mind.
No team would be so devious as to accept special favors that would allow them a tainted win, would they?
In 2001, a few questioned Dale Earnhardt, Jr.â€™s storybook win in the Pepsi 400 at the Daytona International Speedway. It seemed a bit too storybook for some. The son of a legendary driver who just months before had lost his life as the result of a last lap crash on that same track winning the next time the series returned to that track left some to question the magic of the moment.
Those who argue that Juniorâ€™s car had advantages over the rest of the field may not always point out that he and teammate Michael Waltrip had finished first and second in that Daytona 500 in which the elder Earnhardt had been killed. So, it is not like his win was a huge surprise.
On the other hand, those same conspiracy theorists will often point out that during the race Junior called into his crew over the radio and said he could lead the pack only running about half throttle. That would seem highly unlikely for a car outfitted with the same plate as every other car.
Mind you, I am not just singling out Junior. For that matter, I am not even saying such a thing happened. I am just asking a question that many have already formed strong opinions on. That race just happens to be one example in which more than a few whispers were uttered.
How about the many wins by Hendrick Motorsports over the years at Daytona and Talladega? Could Fordâ€™s recent success on the plate tracks be the result of NASCAR wanting to keep the â€˜Blue Ovalâ€™ fans interested? Perhaps Toyotaâ€™s strong runs have been due to the fact that they were given some â€˜new to the sportâ€™ help.
Granted, it would be a risky proposition for NASCAR to even try such a thing, no matter how much good publicity they would get from having certain drivers or teams win. The plates are put on the cars in full view of anyone and everyone in the garage. To try any trickery would run the risk of something going wrong. Then again, magicians make very good livings in Las Vegas by executing their tricks in full view.
I certainly hope this has never been tried. It would be hard for me to imagine that NASCAR has ever done something so reckless and stupid. But, this is organization that devised the Chase for the Championship and the Car of Tomorrow.
So, if you are watching SpeedTV or some other coverage of SpeedWeeks over the next two weeks and see someone who looks like David Copperfield working for NASCAR, look out.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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