As recently confirmed by Nate Ryan at NBC Sports, NASCAR will be utilizing restrictor plates at Indianapolis for the XFINITY race on July 22. This comes after a test last year with the plates, where NASCAR was reportedly pleased with the results. According to the article, if all goes well, the plates could be used in 2018 for the Brickyard 400. The package is also being considered for Pocono and Michigan as well.
On one hand, this could be a way to inject life into a series of less than stellar events by slowing the cars down and encouraging more action on the track. NASCAR is doing what they can to bring about parity in these events as well as encourage a better product in an otherwise failing division.
Yet at the same time, it’s a risky matter. With the restrictor plates being used at another speedway besides Daytona and Talladega since 2000, it could showcase why the plates should only be used on superspeedways where pack racing is prevalent.
On one hand, recall the Fall 2000 race at New Hampshire where Jeff Burton won after leading all 300 laps. Of course, this was the year that saw two fatalities in a matter of months at the speedway, and the plates were used as a precautionary method. Still, it was one of the most boring, if not the safest, NASCAR race in history. Same goes for the restrictor plates used by IROC at Indianapolis, which were nothing more than high-speed freight trains, with hardly any passing and zero action.
That’s not to say this experience couldn’t be fruitful, but at the same time, the precedent previously set all those years ago does not bode well now. Sure, many things have changed, and it’s not to say that it isn’t a touch gratifying to see drivers dominate a race every so often.
But as previously mentioned, there has been a lack of parity in the XFINITY Series, with some drivers dominating more than others. This experiment could be a way to fix the XFINITY Series product and possibly revitalize the division. Time will tell, but although the rules package is different, and stage racing is now a thing, it’d still be wise not to go into July’s race with high hopes regarding the racing product.