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Is there really such a thing as a ‘golden’ restrictor plate?

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 ‘golden’ restrictor plate given to certain drivers and teams. So, is there really such a thing as a ‘golden’ 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 isn’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.’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 Junior’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 Ford’s recent success on the plate tracks be the result of NASCAR wanting to keep the ‘Blue Oval’ fans interested? Perhaps Toyota’s strong runs have been due to the fact that they were given some ‘new to the sport’ 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.

Topics: Articles |

16 Responses to “Is there really such a thing as a ‘golden’ restrictor plate?”

  1. JC Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    The plate is practically in full public view the whole time it’s at the track. It’s randomly chosen by the team and placed in the car by NASCAR, all in view of other teams, media, and public. I would think there would be easier ways to fix a race other than the plate.

  2. Richard in N.C. Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 12:45 am

    In other words, you’ve never actually been there to observe how the plates are handled?

  3. Todd Crane Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Come on, let’s be real. NA$CAR has always played favorites. Just ask Leo Jackson, He was in danger of losing his American Tobacco Co. sponsorship, when his engine builder called NA$CAR and said they needed a win…NA$CAR said build an engine for the next race. The following week at Talladega, Phil Parsons won his only Cup race…and this is only one example. If you follow NA$CAR at all, you can just see the writing on the wall.

  4. Bill Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Slow news week huh…..

  5. Bill B Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 7:28 am

    From what I’ve seen the restrictor plate races are crapshoots. I agree there have been times where a specific team may have found something that allowed them an advantage over the rest of the field but that phenomenon doensn’t just happen at restrictor plate tracks. And it doesn’t last forever. Eventually others figure it out.

  6. Lydia Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 8:31 am

    I am kind of puzzled..here it is a few days before the Shootout…and looking down the list of articles on Jayski’s…there is NOTHING new or interesting or informative or catchy or even “heart warming”! Just repeat boredom! AND this article…I can’t decide if you had someone “stand in” to write your article..like your grandma or dog or your tax attorney…or you just are bored yourself. I read another article today and was surprised how this close to the beginning of the season the article was all about “black helicopters” and bad bad NASCAR..blah blah blah. Now I have my problems with the racing, the broadcasting, and with NASCAR..but as of this point I have “reset” my thinking..am looking forward to a new season and am ready and willing to “start fresh” and let the season, racing, and broadcasting speak for itself. And I really really hate it when a writer brings in “black helicopters” just for the fun of it..just to churn something up..if you have proof..let’s hear it..if you don’t..well move on to something worth writing about. As Bill said..”pretty slow news week”… Come on guys…it’s the opening week..brush away the cobwebs and “dig”..no wonder so many racing columns and writers had to close shop…they just aren’t willing to do the work to keep the readers engaged.

  7. Charles Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Yes I think there has been cases where I think a team and or a brand of car has gotton a advantage of a bigger resistitor plate! It has been mostly a GM team and car, just check the past history! The race in which you mentioned about Jr winning at Daytona after Dale Sr died, just pulling away at will anytime, well as much as I like Dale Jr this did seem artifical!

    Look for the last 15 years and you will see its mostly a one brand show at Talledaga and Daytona! Also when you figure up who or what brands is leading all these laps something does not add up! Either Golden Plate or someother advantage!Mabe that explains why the Daytona Trophy is named after former GM employee Harley Earl, to make it worse now fomer GM employee John Middlebrook has been named to a new position in Nascar! Why should we not question favoritism!!!!!!

    Yes in this new age of Nascar with all the money involved Nascar needs to have a new ‘Conflicts of Interest” policy when hiring people, I mean with all the mega millionaire teams involved in Nascar I dont think it would be out of the rim to see where oneday a Nascar employee has “accepted gift”s from team owners much like you see the coruption going on in North Carolina Government right now! Nascar does not need a new scandal in this economy!

    Count me as one who believes in Golden Plates, just like fathom debris cautions, fine of Carl Long verus other other millionaire car owners ! Being fair is not a Nascar tradition!!!!!

  8. Joe Wilson Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    So when Bill Elliot came from 2 laps down at Talledaga and regained them under the GREEN. Nascar rigged it.

    I believe you are auditioning for a job with the NY Times.

    A great earthenware crock of Reindeer HOCKEY!!

    JERSY JOE

  9. Ginger Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Ironic thing in this pile of YKW. The name of only one driver was pointed out for all the supposed black helo incidents. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Oh yes, Richard did chime in with the caveat…mind you, I am not just singling out Junior. For that matter, I am not even saying such a thing happened. Well Richard, how very kind of you to lay your egg of an idea and then slip out of the henhouse. Expect a reduction of hits this season.

  10. BillyT Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Thanks Richard. You just gave me a great reason to never read another article written by you ever again.

  11. steven Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    I think that the restriction plates are CNC machined for a close precision tolerence like plus or minus .001. I don’t believe any conspiracy theories as long as Nascar has their go-no go gages to check before issuing.

  12. The Mad Man Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Look at how many years it took for it to come out that The King ran an oversized engine in his most famous July 4th win. And yes, Bill France Jr was in on the secret. He’s the one who told The King the car would not be inspected after the race. So could something hokey be going on with the plates? Sure it could. We just won’t hear about it for another 20 or 30 years.

    The manufacturing process itself could allow for a magical plate. All it takes is for something in the milling process to be off just a smidge which allows a little more air to come in. Or if the holes are drilled the old fashioned way, as the drill bit gets duller, the holes won’t be “true” or quite in spec giving whoever got the first plate off the drill press the cleanest holes in their plate.

    Would NASCAR do something like this? Well, they did give two drivers points for a race they never ran in. They did disqualify a race winner in order to keep the first mega-team in NASCAR. They have yet to award Bobby Allison a win for a race he won driving a Ford Mustang which was approved by NASCAR to run in a Cup race. They did actively discriminate against a driver and discourage companies from sponsoring him. So think about it for a while.

  13. Chris Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Although I don’t think NASCAR riggs the races in any way…. I don’t think you can use Bill’s comeback dega win as an example….. SINCE THERE WAS NO RESTRICTOR PLATE THEN.

  14. Mark L. Says:
    February 2nd, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Those who think it is foolish to question whether or not Nascar would use a tricked up restrictor plate are correct.

    It’s as foolish as thinking Nascar would try to manipulate races with phoney caution flags…oh wait, they do that

    Well then, its as foolish as thinking an NBA ref would manipulate a game because he was gambling…oh wait, someone did that.

    well then, its as foolish as thinking one of the greatest baseball players and managers of all time would manipulate games because of gambling…oh wait, one did that.

    well then, its as foolish as thinking 8 major league palyers would throw a world series for money… oh wait

    you get the picture.

    why would you not be suspcious? there’s money involved which means there’s going to be corruption.

    just don’t tell me wrasslin’ is fake. I couldn’t handle that

  15. Chase Says:
    February 3rd, 2010 at 12:00 am

    I think it’s kind of ridiculous to consider that NASCAR would be fixing races by giving a certain team larger restrictor plates. If NASCAR needed any one driver to win more than anyone else, it would be Dale Jr. obviously. He is the only driver on the circuit that could spike the TV ratings with just a single win. I do believe that NASCAR throws phantom cautions when the green flag has been out too long, or if the leader has too big a lead with 10 laps to go. To assume that NASCAR can go as far as give drivers winning advantages, is pretty silly. Like I said, Dale Jr winning races would put more money in NASCAR’s pockets, but yet Dale Jr has won only 3 races in the past 5 years.
    Also, Let’s remember that if nascar was giving out “golden plates”, like you said the engines would have to be tuned accordingly, which means the engine builders and Upper personnel would have to know about this. These people would be talking once they found that they were on the other end of the deal. And if it was just one team or manufacturer, People would still be talking because these guys move teams. Example…If Jr was receiving these magic plates back at DEI, Ty Norris would have probably known about it. Now that Ty Norris is at MWR, I can assure you that his teams are not receiving larger plates, and he would not just be sitting back letting that happen.

  16. Russ Edwards Says:
    February 4th, 2010 at 11:28 am

    The comments on your article just reinforce the feeling that most people don’t think Nascar has nor has it for a while a level playing field.
    And we wonder why its in a state of decline?

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