Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Jeff Burton and the keys to Talladega survival

I was talking to Jeff Burton about Talladega the other day and he said something that I thought made a whole lot of sense.
"There's probably going to be at least one big wreck that takes out some cars in a race at Talladega," Burton said. "You understand that going in.
"The only thing you can do is try to control what you can control. The cars don't start the wrecks there. The drivers do. So the first thing you have to do when thinking about a race there is to try not to start the wreck."
Burton is not naive. He knows as well as you or I do that wrecks happen at Talladega because cars get into situations there they don't get into at any other track -- even Daytona. But the reality is, as Burton said, those cars don't get into those impossible situations by themselves. Drivers put them there. There might come a point when a wreck is inevitable, but until that point is reached it's still in the driver's hands.
Burton said the key to survival at Talladega is developing a full, realistic understanding of what your car is capable of doing and not asking it to do anything more than that.
This, of course, is insanely difficult to do. You see cars coming from the back to the front in a lap or two and know that if you get in the right line with the right momentum, you could do that, too. But the fact is that even though racing at Talladega looks like a high-speed lottery, there are cars that are better than some others and some drivers who're better at restrictor-plate racing than others.
Get a good driver in a good car and he can set the tone for what's happening behind him. The rest of the cars are reacting to moves that guy (or the handful of drivers who might be in the same position) makes.
That explains why it seems that sometimes at Talladega a driver will "settle" for staying behind one or two guys all day. You have to know what you and your car is capable of, and the trouble most often starts when somebody goes past either of those lines.


TalkGeorge said...

Burton is a smart driver...sure would be fun to see him win the Chase!

Anonymous said...

Why on earth doesn't NASCAR try to find an alternative to the restrictor plate? I watch plate racing and I can't get over seeing a RACE where everyone is running at the same speed. It was stupid when it was introduced and it is stupid now.

Sorry Dave, but I don't buy that some drivers are better than others at it. Michael Waltrip has four wins in 700-some races, and all four were at plate tracks. If that doesn't indicate that plate wins are almost entirely luck and a good car, I don't know what does.

Anonymous said...

Got to agree with eliminating the restrictor plate. My suggestion would be to just mandate a minimum grill opening and shape. It's the cheapest way to slow them up and it'll keep them cool. Sure, they'll push a little(like a dump truck).

Different tracks and cars suit different drivers. Mikey likes the restrictor plates, Kasey likes the 1.5 milers, Boris likes to turn right. It's pretty simple.

Monkeesfan said...

kurt smith,

"Why doesn't NASCAR try to find an alternative to the restrictor plate?"

Two reasons - none exists, and the sport should not want an alternative even if one did exist.

NASCAR has tested smaller engines and they did not reduce speeds close to enough. The Trucks have seen their carburation restricted every which way except by plates, and even so the plates areinevitable for the Trucks because they keep getting faster without them.

kurt, when everyone is running the same speed, then they have to fight for the lead. THAT is what racing is about - lead changes, not speed. The sport should never want that to go away, and alternatives to restrictor plates invariably make it go away.

stewartfan, they tried that minimum grille opening and it did nothing to slow them down.

okla21fan said...

There is a simple combination to get read of the plates and control speeds at the same time. The IRL has been doing it for years at tracks like TMS. Nascar maybe taking one step towards this with the COT and the flexibility of the rear wing size and drag effect. the next step (although it maybe unpopular with the 'old guard') is to begin using fuel injection in place of carbs. would it be an initial 'expensive' change for the teams? sure it would, but no more than teams like DEI taking motors to the Salt Flats for HP testing a 5 to 7 years ago. By changing the fuel injection ratios from track to track, you can control the over speeds but not losing 'throttle response'.

Monkeesfan said...


You actually think they'll restrict horsepower and make it stick with fuel injection? Carbs are easier to police than FI.

And what is this mania about not losing throttle response? Throttle response proved irrelevent the very first time restrictor plates were used. The drivers have enough throttle response.

What the sport has now is what it needs - Talladega is averaging over 40 lead changes a race; we need that for Daytona and all the other tracks as well.

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Anonymous said...