Restrictor plate racing is an art of its own to master.
You have to be able to keep your pedal down no matter what and find holes in the draft to move your car to the best areas. It takes an incredible amount of guts to go those speeds and run close to so many other cars all day long. It also takes luck to not get caught up in a wreck as being in the right place at the right time is key.
The primary skill needed to get your car to the front is utilizing the air flow to your advantage and knowing how to put your car in the best situations. Not all drivers are able to do this. Many struggle and always find themselves behind the wall when the checkered falls.
These are the drivers are the best in plate races right now.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Between Daytona and Talladega, Junior has made 51 career restrictor plate starts. He currently has the highest driver rating among active drivers at those track, with seven wins, 18 top-5′s, and 27 top-10’s. He has also led 1,115 laps at the two tracks.
Like his father before him, Junior seems to understand air flow like few others. He always has his car where it needs to be and rarely finds the “big one.”
When it comes to plate races, Junior is always my pick. He simply knows what it takes to win at these races.
Stewart rivals Junior for being the best in the business at plate tracks right now. In 55 career starts on plate tracks, Stewart has five wins, 17 top-5′s, and 26 top-10’s. He usually dominates the summer Daytona race under the lights, but generally has great cars in the other three plate races too.
Stewart is 19 laps away from leading 1,000 career plate laps. I think he will do that soon and it could come as early as Sunday.
Stewart knows he needs to capitalize on this race this weekend. He won at Daytona back in July and had good cars in the other two plate races.
I think Stewart is 1B to Junior in ranking right now.
Jeff Gordon was once the best plate driver in the series before DEI’s dominance in the early 2000s. With 79 career plate races, Gordon has the most wins among active drivers with 12. He also has 26 top-5′s and 37 top-10’s. Both of those are series highs as well.
Gordon could honestly have more wins but has been getting caught up in wrecks the last few years. His cars have been among the best, but bad luck stuck the No. 24 car. If it weren’t for the recent string of bad luck, we could be talking about Gordon being the best plate driver ever.
I think Gordon in his plate racing prime could rival Junior or Stewart, but with his recent bad luck he’s not quite at the top anymore.
“Bad Brad” is quickly becoming one of the best plate racers today. He’s made 14 starts and won twice. Talladega is clearly the stronger track of the two for Keselowski, but he’s becoming better and better at Daytona each race. It’s only a matter of time before he wins there as well.
I think in a few years when Gordon and Stewart are both retired, we’re going to be talking about Keselowski as the best plate driver out there. He has that hard-nosed mentality which you need for plate racing and isn’t afraid to push guys out of his way to an empty lane to the front.
Bowyer is sneakily good at plate tracks. He’s ran good at Daytona and Talladega in both the Nationwide and Cup Series. In 27 career plate races, Bowyer has won twice. He also has six top-5′s and 13 top-10’s.
What many people don’t realize is that statistically he is the third-best plate racer among active drivers today. He took his success from RCR at plate tracks to MWR this year and hasn’t disappointed.
He just has a knack for plate racing and his win total is sure to increase over the years.
Harvick is another one of the top plate drivers that people sleep on. He’s won at both tracks and consistently runs up front in these races. With 46 career restrictor plate starts, Harvick has three wins: one Daytona 500, one Coke Zero 400, and one spring Talladega race. The only one he’s missing is a win in the Chase ‘Dega race.
“Happy” Harvick has 11 top-5′s and 20 top-10’s to go along with those wins. What’s actually most impressive is that he only has three DNF’s in his 46 starts. That’s miraculous with so many drivers finding the “big one,” but Harvick almost always finds a way to avoid those incidents and hang around until the end.
Because of that, he’s one of the best right now at plate racing in the whole series.
Photo courtesy of NASCARmedia.com
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