Daytona opened in 1959. With it's 31 degree banking and massive 2.5 mile tri-oval layout it was a masterpiece of racing design. That very first Daytona 500 was won by Lee Petty with an average speed of 135.521 miles per hour.
Talladega Superspeedway came along ten years later. Just a little bit bigger and just a little bit faster, Talladega boasts a 2.66 mile layout and 33 degree banking. Again, this salute to raw speed saw its first race in 1969 won by Richard Brickhouse at a blistering 153.778 miles per hour.
Technology and aerodynamic advances through the years have kept speeds climbing steadily right through the 1987 season when Bill Elliott set the qualifying record at both speedways. (210.264 at Daytona and 212.809 at Talladega)
Near-tragedy struck in May of 1987 when Bobby Allison flipped his car down the frontstretch at Talladega and got up into the fence. Only a little bit of chain-link and a whole bunch of luck kept his car on the racetrack and prevented a horrible tragedy.
That incident scared NASCAR badly and beginning with the Daytona 500 in 1998 they implemented the restrictor plate.
State Of Plate Racing
Since then the restrictor plate races have been more about who your friends are instead of how fast your car is. Drafting is more important than horsepower and literally any car has the ability to win the race just by being in the right place at the right time. These closely bunched races are exciting for the fans but a nightmare for the drivers who are running too close together. Any minor incident becomes a 20 car pile-up because no one has time to react.
It's not a matter of if there will be a massive wreck, but when. With 43 cars racing at 190 mph within inches of each other even the slightest mistake is a life-threatening deal for someone.
Bill France Sr. built NASCAR's success on people. He treated his drivers right so they would put on a great show for him and he understood that it was the fans who paid the bills. Take away either of those loyalties and NASCAR has nothing.
The drivers have stated over and over again that they strongly dislike running at Daytona and Talladega and although the media keeps telling us how much we love plate racing I'm having a hard time finding fans that say that.
Since the restrictor plate was introduced NASCAR has said that they were looking at alternative solutions to slow the cars down and make for safer races. So far, they have been unsuccessful. Nearly four years of research and testing and the best minds in motorsports have not been able to come up with an alternate solution? Then I'm wondering if there even IS one.
Daytona and Talladega were built for a different era of NASCAR. Top speeds were significantly lower then. Aerodynamics, suspensions and horsepower have come a long way in forty years and the sport has moved beyond what these two tracks used to represent.
I believe that NASCAR should seriously consider taking these tracks off the schedule. Add more short track races, put North Wilkesboro back on the schedule, give the new track in Nashville a date, go back to Hickory or South Boston. These tracks put on racing that the fans truly love and the drivers enjoy driving.
While both Daytona and Talladega were racing masterpieces in their day, the sport has passed them by and they no longer belong in NASCAR.
Bill France Sr. would have done it for the people.