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Several drivers steamed on plates

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 2000


LOUDON, N.H. -- That nobody was able to pass Jeff Burton in the Dura Lube 300 on Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway left some drivers steaming about the use of restrictor plates at the 1.058-mile track.

"I'm glad I didn't pay 50 bucks to see that show," said Jimmy Spencer, who finished 15th. In an effort to slow speeds in the wake of Kenny Irwin's and Adam Petty's deaths at the track this season, NASCAR ruled Sept. 9 the power-sapping plates be used for the race. They cut speeds about 10 mph and make it difficult to pass.

"This is not Winston Cup racing," said seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, who finished 12th and dropped from second to fourth in the standings. "(NASCAR) just overreacted. They did the best they could do. It was just sorry racing to me. I hope we don't do it anymore. We can still race them (for the championship), but it sure did penalize us a lot."

Restrictor plates limit air flowing into the carburetor and have been used at NASCAR's two largest tracks, the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway and 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, since 1988. "Race cars are race cars, not Late Model stock cars," Earnhardt said. "They put Late Model stock cars on short tracks for kids to learn how to race."

CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE: The names behind him shuffle almost every week, but Bobby Labonte remains steady in his bid for his first championship.

The driver of the No. 18 Pontiac earned the pole position Saturday and finished second to Burton on Sunday. He holds a season-best 168-point advantage with eight races left. "I just feel like I'm real fortunate that I'm with a group of guys that can put the driver in a position to win races," Labonte said.

BAD DAY FOR DEI: It was a bad race for Earnhardt and for his two-car team of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Park.

Park was involved in a wreck on Lap 278 and finished 34th. Earnhardt Jr. also wrecked and finished 31st. His accident, which involved Jerry Nadeau, Ward Burton and Jeff Gordon, forced officials to delay the race with 10 laps left to clean up debris in Turns 1 and 2.

POSSIBLE CHANGE: After an 11-car test on Aug. 15 at Daytona International Speedway to experiment with drag and throttle response at its largest tracks, NASCAR is considering a rules change before the Winston 500 on Oct. 15 at Talladega.

Among the changes is a reduction in the width of rear spoilers, from 57 to 55 inches on Chevys. Ford teams swept the top five in both races at Daytona and Chevrolets finished in the top four spots at Talladega in April.

"To hear that NASCAR is close to giving Chevrolet relief with its rear spoiler is unbelievably disappointing," said Greg Specht, Ford Racing Technology North American Operations Manager. "What makes this even more upsetting is that it's coming this late in the season with a championship race hanging in the balance."

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