{mosimage}Restrictor plate racing takes center stage this weekend as NASCAR invades Talladega Superspeedway for a weekend of white-knuckle racing. 

At 2.66 miles in length, Talladega is the largest speedway that the stock cars race on and one of two tracks where power sapping restrictor plates are used. The plates are used to reduce horsepower and therefore speed in the cars. What’s left is minimal throttle response for the drivers and large packs of racing for the fans. Hence the term “White-Knuckle Weekend.”

Jeff Burton arrives at Talladega as the Sprint Cup points’ leader. New, or casual race fans, should not be surprised by the Richard Childress Racing driver’s success. In the late ‘90s he was dominant as a team member with Roush-Fenway Racing. His #99 car was always a threat.

Then there were the lean years. His car went unsponsored. He battled to stay in contention, but he never seemed to get back on top. Burton chose to leave and start over at RCR.

Burton’s experience was just what RCR needed while the team was trying to pick up the pieces from the death of Dale Earnhardt. He was a mentor to Kevin Harvick. He provided technical expertise in the shop. And now, he is on top of the heap looking down at the rest of field. His team knows it needs to get better. But if they keep finding ways to end up in the Top 10 at the end of each race, the 31 bunch will be hard to beat.

This weekend will be the second race on the high banks of the Alabama track for the new car. It debuted there last October to mixed reviews. The car has proven to be very durable on the short tracks č tracks in length of one mile or less. It performed well at Daytona in February. 

Talladega is a different place all together. As mentioned above, it is the longest track the teams race on. It is wider and banked higher than Daytona. Drivers can ride around all afternoon with the pedal stuck to the floor. 

Teams have been vocal about changes in the car almost from the beginning of the season. Series competition director John Darby says no way. 

“We still call it the new car, right?” Darby said. “But it’s looked at as an old car, one that’s been around forever, and that’s not the case. There’s nothing broken, there’s nothing that we need to jump in and fix. It’s just a matter of continuing to race them and let the teams do what they do best.”

Drivers always want more than what they have and NASCAR wants everyone singing from the same sheet of music. It could be a long season for some drivers and teams.

NASCAR continues to say that it has an effective drug-testing policy. This, in spite of the revelation that former Craftsman Truck Series driver Aaron Fike admitted to using heroin before races. Several drivers have said that NASCAR needs to step up its policing efforts.

Sprint Cup drivers Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne say they never have undergone a drug test as NASCAR competitors. 

“In the 10 years that I’ve raced, I’ve never been drug-tested,” Harvick said. “To me, that’s not a proper drug policy for a professional sport. We haven’t made any headway whatsoever on the drug-testing policy.” 

This is a serious issue for NASCAR. The sport has enjoyed enormous success during the last decade. More money is flowing in than ever. And at most tracks, there are no empty seats. 

As baseball has found out the hard way, play straight or the fans will make you pay. It’s time for NASCAR to step up and be the innovator it has always been.

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