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Plate tracks no longer guaranteed wins for Chevrolet

By admin | April 25, 2009

By Richard Allen

There are some things in life that we can all count on. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The tides come and go. The seasons change.

It used to be that we could count on the certainty of a Chevrolet win every time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced on the restrictor plate tracks in Daytona and Talladega. Now, that assurance is no longer there.

The last five plate races have been won by cars of some other make. The 2008 Daytona 500 was won by a Dodge. Both races in Talladega last season were taken by Toyotas. The July race in Daytona was won by a Toyota. And most recently, this year’s Daytona 500 was won by Ford.

The last plate track win for Chevrolet was in October of 2007 at Talladega when Jeff Gordon won the first race on these type tracks using the Car of Tomorrow.

Only three Chevrolets made the final Top 10 in this year’s Daytona 500. And, the most dominate car in that race was easily the Toyota of Kyle Busch, as he led 88 of the race’s 152 laps before being taken out in a crash.

In both 2008 races in Daytona the best finish Chevy could muster was Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s 8th in July.

The ‘Bow Tie’ brand’s best outing since the October 2007 run in Talladega was last fall’s race in on that same track. There, they placed five cars in the Top 10 and actually had the car that finished the race in first place until a NASCAR penalty was issued.

Prior to these last five restrictor plate races, Chevrolet complied dominating record. Between 1999 and 2007 they won 17 of 18 races held at Talladega. Other brands had a bit more luck at Daytona, but Chevy still took 12 races in that same time span at the ‘World’s Center of Racing’.

What has accounted for this drop off in performance by the once plate dominate Chevrolet teams?

Perhaps the Car of Tomorrow has leveled the field on these type tracks. Since this car’s inception, each brand has won at least once on plate tracks.

Or, maybe the others have caught up. Perhaps Ford, Dodge and particularly Toyota have placed more emphasis on these races and made a concerted effort to catch and even surpass Chevrolet.

More likely, it seems as though the Chevrolet teams have slipped. In particular, the RAD combination of teams owned by Richard Childress, Andy Petree and Dale Earnhardt have fallen off, or even disappeared. That technical alliance accounted for many of those Chevy wins on these tracks, especially in the 1999-2004 phase of the brand’s dominance.

Hendrick Motorsports picked up where the RAD alliance left off in 2005, but now has either been caught by other teams or has begun to place less emphasis on these tracks in favor of putting that emphasis elsewhere.

Whatever the reason, Chevrolet is not what it once was on the tracks in Daytona and Talladega. That is not to say they will not find the winner’s circle in the Aaron’s 499 but victory is not the guarantee it used to be. Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

*For a chuckle click on the link below to watch my latest animated short film, “Racing Re-Cap: Phoenix”.

In this episode serious racing reporter Mark Mustang is caught off guard when his co-host, Daisy Dreamboat, tells him what she did over the weekend.

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