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New rules could mean more horsepower, less drafting at 'Dega

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Faster race cars and less powerful two-car drafting – that’s behind NASCAR’s rule changes for the Oct. 23 Sprint Cup event at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. On Wednesday, the sport’s sanctioning body announced a change in the restrictor-plate size, plus a recalibration of the pressure relief valve on the cars’ cooling systems.

The restrictor plate will increase by 1/64th inch and now will be 57/64 inch diameter. That means the teams will have an additional seven to 10 horsepower when circling the 2.66-mile racetrack.

“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 Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president, competition. “We anticipate these revisions in the rules package for Talladega will help continue to provide competitive and exciting racing for the fans.”

Additionally, the pressure relief valve on the cars’ cooling system will be recalibrated to reduce the pressure by approximately eight pounds per square inch from last April’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega.

“This is not going to stop the two-car draft,” said Lance McGrew, crew chief of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. “You can’t unlearn something. It’s just going to slow the cars down.

“You’ll see the rear car will be further stepped out on the right-rear quarter panel of the guy in front of him so he gets more of his radiator in the airstream. Ultimately, it’s not going to take the two-by-two racing away.”

Running perfectly aligned should still make for the fastest two-car tandem, and Kurt Romberg, chief aerodynamicist for Hendrick Motorsports, says timing will be critical for this strategy.

“I still think running aligned perfectly nose-to-tail is going to be the fastest way around the track,” Romberg said. “You’re just going to have to time it a lot better. Previously you could run that way for a number of laps and ride the race out till the end, look for a good drafting partner and once you find them, you can go to the end and probably do pretty well. This is going to be a little more challenging to the drivers and crew chiefs because you can’t spend so much time behind another car without staggering your position on its bumper. If you want to get the maximum speed, you can stay in line for maybe a lap or two, maybe three before you’re going to have to swap positions. As a result, that could mix up the racing a lot more.”

Most recently, Hendrick Motorsports effectively employed the two-car draft at the 2.66-mile superspeedway when teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. pushed Jimmie Johnson to Victory Lane. The team-fueled win capped off an historic weekend in which all four Hendrick Motorsports teammates qualified inside the top four and then went on to finish inside the top eight in the April 17 event.

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