Jeff Burton’s opinion is one of the most respected in the NASCAR garage; when he speaks, others listen.
I had the opportunity to interview the veteran RCR driver at Richmond in September, and one of the questions I asked him was about the nature of restrictor plate racing at Talladega Superspeedway.
Burton supports restrictor plate racing as a necessary safety measure, although he made it clear he has mixed feelings.
“No one’s ever going to be completely happy with anything. Plate racing is fun to do, but it’s exceptionally frustrating because you are in that big pack and one person makes a mistake, they take a lot of people with them. The only way to fix that is to separate the pack, and then the fans hate it.
“I personally thought the bump drafting rules was a combination of all those things. It separated the pack a little bit because you like six two-car packs running together, and behind them four or five two-car packs running together, and behind them a few more. So that kind of separated the pack a little bit and broke up the one big wad, which I thought ultimately was better. But I think a lot of the fans wanted to see the big packs, most of the fans, so they’ve made the rules such that we have big packs.
“It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. You know, place racing, it is what it is. There’s no way out of it. We opened up Pandora’s box years ago. We always talk about the good old days of racing. Well, they didn’t pack race in the good old days of racing. That happened after a series of incidents when they had to get the speed down, and the consequence of that was that the speed came down but we had more wrecks. So it’s hard to know what the right thing to do it. It’s fun to do, it’s a challenge to do it, we run pretty well and have pretty good success at the plate races, but it is a very frustrating way to race.”