This is part of a series of posts sponsored by Talladega Superspeedway. Whether you are making a week-long vacation out of it or coming just for a day, make sure to plan your Talladega experience today. This is more than a race. This is Talladega.
There's a vocal minority of race fans who profess not to like restrictor-plate racing. I don't understand these people.
Their contention is that racing with carburetor restrictor plates – as NASCAR does at Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona – is somehow not "real" racing, because drivers don't always control their own destiny.
Restrictor-plate racing produces surprise winners, unusual strategies (like the new two-car drafts), big wrecks and typically more entertainment than at other tracks.
And you never know who's going to win until the very last second.
Oh, the horror! It's just terrible, isn't it? Who would want to sit there and actually be entertained for 500 miles?
To me, the fact there are four restrictor-plate races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule are a very, very good thing. And next week's Aaron's 499 should only serve as a continuation of February's Daytona 500, which was one of the most memorable races – of any kind – in recent years.
The races I get most fired up to attend typically fall into one of these three categories: Superspeedway, short track or road course.
Each type of track has its own advantages. The road courses are cool because they mix things up a bit. The short tracks have lots of fender-rubbing and makes the drivers get mad at one another, which is fun to watch.
But the superspeedway races take it to another level. They present so many unknowns, there's a palpable tension that surrounds the track until the checkered flag.
Only then can everyone breathe.
How is that a bad thing? Sports, ultimately, are supposed to be fun to watch. What happens in a stadium, arena or racetrack is an escape from reality, a distraction from real life for a few hours.
If I'm going to spend time watching something, I'd prefer it to be as entertaining as possible. The purists who want the drivers to race without restrictor plates – and thus get the field strung out – also probably want to see golfers use wood clubs off the tee at this weekend's Masters.
I like when the field is bunched up. I like the lottery-ball nature of the racing.
Like many people, I preferred the pack racing over the two-car drafts, but the new hookups turned out to be much more intriguing than expected at Daytona. Now, I find myself anxious for "Dragonfly Racing: The Sequel" next week ("Dragonfly" because the two-car drafts kind of look like dragonflies flying around and...uh...you know).
But think about this: Whether it's pack racing or the two-car drafts, isn't restrictor-plate racing the best show NASCAR has to offer? If you're going to tell a friend who has never watched NASCAR before which race to tune into, I'm going to guess there's a better than 50 percent chance you'd recommend a restrictor-plate race.
If you're skeptical about that claim, let me know how you feel after watching 500 miles at Texas this weekend. The purists can keep their strung-out racing; I'll take the entertainment value of restrictor plates any day.