NASCAR returns from Easter break as the Monster Energy Cup Series will enter into unchartered territory at Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 on Sunday, April 28. For the first time in more than 30 years, racing at Talladega won't include restrictor plates.
Instead, NASCAR has chosen a new package that includes a 0.922-inch tapered spacer, a higher rear spoiler (9 inches) and and a one-inch, bolt-on track bar mount whose design raises the car off the ground to create more drag.
No one knows what to expect, but Austin Dillon will lead a full 40-car field after winning his second pole of the season. It will be the series' first full field since the Daytona 500 in February.
So if you're wondering, "What NASCAR race is on TV this today?" know this: FOX is airing the GEICO 500 from Talladega Superspeedway.
GEICO 500 Race Time/TV Channel
Time: 2 p.m. ET (Sunday) green flag drops
Track: Talladega Superspeedway (Lincoln, Ala.)
TV: FOX, coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90
For years, races at Talladega Superspeedway have been the most unpredictable on the circuit. First-time winners have mixed with unimaginable wrecks, snarling packs separated by inches at the finish line. Talladega Nights was based in part on the outright insanity this type of racing produces on an annual basis.
But for the first time in 30 years, whether we'll see a repeat in this year’s GEICO 500 is a total mystery.
That's because restrictor plates are off the cars here for the first time in 30 years. Developed in 1987 as a "temporary" way to slow speeds, the plates kept cars under 200 miles an hour and had the added benefit of sticking the entire field together like superglue.
But is keeping every car at the same speed, running stuck together the best way to race? Close quarters also led to the development of the Big One, unavoidable high-speed wrecks that can wipe out half the field at any given moment. Drivers often feel trapped in a roller coaster they can’t get off of.
The plates were also never 100 percent safe (let me mention here racing is inherently a risky sport). And over time, drivers wised up to the formula. The first half of these events became increasingly single-file affairs that often resulted in less-than-exciting races.
So new NASCAR leadership was willing to try new solutions. This weekend's race, then, features tapered spacers, a 9-inch rear spoiler and a 1-inch, bolt-on track bar mount. These forces combine to lower speeds and increase the ability of the cars to have throttle response inside the draft.
But we also have no idea how they’re going to play out under race conditions. It sounds like a recipe for unpredictability. But that’s just the way Talladega has always been.