NASCAR announced two rule changes for Talladega Superspeedway on Wednesday morning it apparently hopes will address the two-car drafts that are unpopular with some fans and competitors.
• NASCAR will increase the size of the restrictor-plate by 1/64 of an inch, which will add 7-10 horsepower to the motors.
• Officials will set the pop-off valve in the cooling system to spout off with less water pressure than before.
So what do the changes mean?
Hopefully, it means drivers won't be able to stay in the two-car draft as long. There's no doubt the two-car tandems will still exist, even at the slightly higher speeds; but drivers won't want to lose water when their engines begin to overheat sooner than before, so they'll probably switch more often.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been a big proponent of dramatically increasing the size of the restrictor plate to get rid of the two-car drafts, arguing that drivers won't be able to draft as they do now at much higher speeds.
NASCAR's move is a small step in that direction, though not as much as Earnhardt Jr. wanted.
"After the last few superspeedway races, we've heard many drivers express their desire to open up the size of the restrictor plate some and we thought the time was right to do that," said NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton. "We anticipate these revisions in the rules package for Talladega will help continue to provide competitive and exciting racing for the fans."
Front Row Motorsports competition director Derrick Finley said speeds will go over the 200 mph mark now, but he assumes NASCAR "is comfortable with it."
"As far as breaking up the two-car draft, it probably won't," he said. "Cars have already been running with the lower-PSI pressure relief valve and have been able to make it work. So, dropping it eight PSI probably won't have a lot of affect on it.
"But as far as more horsepower, these guys are paid to go fast and that's what they do. It won't stop them from hooking up. I think they'll just go faster."
Martin Truex Jr.'s crew chief, Chad Johnston, said the rule changes will make drivers switch more often – "which could be a good thing or it could be a bad thing."
"The chances of something going wrong on a swap are going to go up obviously, but hopefully it will eliminate or lessen the two-by-two racing," he said.
David Reutimann crew chief Rodney Childers predicted cars would only be able to do a two-car draft for "a half of a lap or a lap" before having to switch.