JGR Wins the Last NASCAR Restrictor Plate Event at Daytona
Over the past three decades, superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega have required NASCAR teams to bolt a restrictive plate between the carburetor and motor to limit the amount of air/fuel mixture to the engine. A rule change that has become synonymous with the Big One, a term used to describe the inevitable multiple car crash that results from 200 mph race cars being glued together for five hundred miles. Although NASCAR has always claimed the restrictor plate rule that was added in 1987 was to slow the cars down and make them safer, the rule change also eliminated the possibility that cars would get strung out during the event. After all, in 1965, Ned Jarrett won the Southern 500 at Darlington, SC by 14 laps over Buck Baker.
A year before restrictor plates were implemented in NASCAR, Bill Elliott set the fastest pole speed in the history of the sport with a lap of 210.364 mph and would go on to win the Daytona 500 that year. A few months later, Bobby Allison's high-flying 200-mph crash at Talladega Speedway sealed deal for plate racing. Nonetheless, restrictor plates have drawn plenty of criticism from drivers and team owners over the years. With cars running in three wide packs, the slightest contact causes a chain reaction where innocent drivers get caught up in someone else's mess. NASCAR expects that going to tapered spacers, which are more precisely machined, will slow the overall speed while allowing engines to produce a more efficient power.
The 2019 Daytona 500 really didn't offer much for spectators to see. With Hendrick Racing (Bryon, Bowman, Elliott and Johnson) claiming the fastest four times in qualifying for Chevrolet, only Jimmie Johnson managed a top ten finish. The new Ford Mustangs of Team Penske (Logano, Blaney and Keselowski) as well as Stewart/Haas Racing (Bowyer, Almirola and Harvick) were all fast. Moreover, the Ford drivers seemed more adept at working the draft. Although the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing went mostly unnoticed early on, the team did have an emotional moment on Lap 11, which will be run in honor of the late J.D. Gibbs. The co-founder of JGR and president of the company passed away last month after battling a degenerative neurological disorder.
As the Hall of Fame football coach and NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs sat watching the final laps of this year's Daytona 500, he said he felt the presence of his late son take over. With a full moon shining bright, previous 500 winner Denny Hamlin moved into position to compete for win against the fast Fords running up front. With a little help from teammate Kyle Busch, Hamlin pulled away coming off turn four to claim his second Daytona 500 victory and the 34th career Monster Energy Cup win. Ironically, Hamlin's car number is 11, which was J.D. Gibbs number when he played college football. In retrospect, the final restrictor plate race at Daytona was somewhat uneventful until outside forces took control of the race with Joe Gibbs Racing finishing in the top three spots.