Unrestricted racing

BY Darrell Waltrip • January 22, 2010

If you are like me, you probably wish there was a way to race at Daytona and Talladega without that restrictor plate. But right now, there really isn’t.

In all these years, no one has been able to come up with a better mousetrap when it comes to the plate races.

Just think how different things might have been if Bobby Allison hadn’t had that problem in 1987 and ended up in the grandstand fence at Talladega? Unfortunately he did and so we have restrictor plates to try and keep the cars from going to fast and literally flying too high.

Yes, the plate is about the only way to do it.

In plate racing, it is always good to have the biggest plate they will allow. One of the rule changes announced this week was a bigger plate for Daytona. As I have told you the last couple weeks, that simply isn’t something you are going to be able to see.

The other day, I asked Brian France and Mike Helton what I'm going to see different when I am in Daytona in a couple weeks and up in the booth,

Well, the cars are still going to have a wing on them. There still will be a yellow line all the way around the race track. Visually I don’t think you are going to see much change through all the practices and the qualifying sessions. Once the cars get into competition however, with the bigger restrictor plate, that’s when you are going to see the advantages of the bigger plates.

It just gives you more throttle. With the smaller plate, it brought the bigger challenge of running your car wide open all the time. If you didn’t and lifted up out of the throttle, you lost all your momentum. Now with the bigger plate, which gives you more horsepower, when you lift off the throttle a little bit, while you may lose a little speed, you can gain it right back.

That’s going to make the car actually easier to drive. It will make the racing better. The closing rate with the bigger plate will be amazing. With more throttle response, the driver has more options. Even though the cars will be faster, I believe they will be safer.

The Budweiser Shootout on Feb. 6 should give us a clear indication of what the Gatorade Duels and the Daytona 500 will be like.

Also, NASCAR has given the drivers more freedom, too. These guys are now going to have the gusto of a hungry hound. They have been laying up since the 2009 season finale at Homestead-Miami and they will be ready to go. So I see the Shootout race this year having the “wow” factor. We need that “wow” factor back not only in NASCAR racing, but especially at Daytona.

We need this to be one of the greatest Daytona 500’s we have had in years. When that race is over with, we need everyone at home, in the grandstands, in the cars and yes, even up in the TV booth to sit back and go “WOW! What a race we just had!” I think everything is shaping up for that.

A driver doesn’t want to be restrained. That’s why I think all these recent changes NASCAR announced will make a big difference. Do the drivers have to use some common sense? Absolutely. They can’t go out there like a bunch of fools and running all over each other getting each other possibly hurt. We can’t tolerate that.

I really think this is going to be an awesome year. No, I don’t have rose colored glasses on. I am telling you what I really believe and feel is going to happen after talking to the folks at NASCAR and the drivers. There is going to be a lot more excitement on the race track in 2010.

The drivers were polled and the majority of them said they wanted to keep the yellow line all the way around the track. If that’s what the majority wants, then that’s the way it should be. The only other thing I wish would have been changed is eliminating the yellow-line restrictions on the last lap at Daytona or Talladega.

When you take the white flag to start the last lap of the race, all bets should be off. I’ve mentioned it plenty of times before, but go back to those two Talladega races and how things would have been so different if the yellow-line rule wasn’t enforced on the last lap. Regan Smith would have won his first race with Tony Stewart coming in second. Naturally the other one would be Carl Edwards wouldn’t have ended up in the grandstand fence with some fans getting injured.

Again, I like having the yellow-line rule in place for every lap at Daytona and Talladega except the last lap. Why only the last lap? That’s the money lap folks. That’s when you put it all on the line and do whatever you have to do to win. You put it all out there and the best man wins. You need to have the opportunity to do whatever you need to do to win the race, especially on the last lap. I just think that small adjustment would add so much.

I think the Daytona 500 will showcase not only aggressive driving but a record number of lead changes. I just hope NASCAR doesn’t have to step in and put some sort of restraints on these guys. We can’t tolerate them going out and being crazy.

As a former driver, I know the drivers will police that themselves. If someone is out there acting like a big fool, I am confident the other drivers will have a chat or two with him. Use the draft or the bump draft to your advantage. You can’t use it to wreck somebody and take them out of the race.

So that is going to be part of the excitement of how the drivers handle being unleashed or unrestricted. We still have to go to Daytona and Talladega with restrictor plates on the cars, but it sure is nice to know that the drivers are now unrestricted. That should make for a Daytona 500, that when it is over, everybody goes “Wow!”

Oh by the way

You might have heard about my good friend, Charlie Daniels, who suffered a mild stroke earlier this week while snowmobiling in Colorado. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Charlie directly, but my office has been in touch with his office and thank goodness the word is he is absolutely fine. They got him to the hospital in time and got him fixed up.

Heck, he was even playing his guitar in the hospital room. He’s been released already and as Charlie wrote on his website “The fingers of God were all over my experience.”

I just want to wish my ol’ buddy the best. He is absolutely the sweetest man in the world. He loves God. He loves this country and he definitely loves country music. Take it from me, we country music fans definitely love Charlie.

And how funny is he in that new Geico TV commercial? I love that thing with him just working that fiddle like no one else can. I just want Charlie to get back on the road again and entertain me and folks everywhere like he has for years.

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