NASCAR has announced technical changes ahead of next month's Chase race at Talladega in an attempt to limit the tandem racing that has prevailed this year at restrictor-plate tracks.
Drivers will have available up to 10 horsepower more relative to the last time they raced at the 2.66-mile oval in the spring, after NASCAR decided to increase the size of the restrictor-plate opening by 1/64th of an inch, up to 57/64ths.
Additionally, the relief valve on the car's cooling system will be re-calibrated to reduce pressure by around 8lbs per square inch, which should prevent engines from running on the edge of the temperature gauges for as long as before.
Similar moves were implemented ahead of the season opener at Daytona, including setting a limit on the grille opening to decrease cooling and try to prevent drivers from pushing each other for many laps. However, the two-car drafts still prevailed during the event as drivers were able to adapt their drafting technique to keep temperatures under control before having to switch positions in their formation. The new style of drafting was also seen at Talladega and more recently during the summer at Daytona, where the need for a drafting partner was key to contend for victory.
"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 NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton. "We anticipate these revisions in the rules package for Talladega will help continue to provide competitive and exciting racing for the fans."
Some drivers, including five-time Talladega winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. have been critical of the new style of racing, calling for a change the last time the series raced at Talladega.
"Over the long haul, it's not the best," Earnhardt Jr. said at the time. "It is not as good as 40 dudes in one pack racing like hell trying to get to the front. It is nowhere near as good as that. Give me that any day over this...
"People will realize it and go, 'Yeah, OK.' The novelty of this...once the newness of all this wears off; how interesting this is and how unique it is wears off, I think that people will start to see."
It remains to be seen how much the new package will get in hindering drivers from making the tandem as effective, with higher speeds expected from the increase in horsepower.
Hendrick Motorsports dominated earlier this year at Talladega, Johnson taking his only win of the season thus far while pushed by his teammate Earnhardt.