"King of the Restrictor Plate"
After a disappointing 22nd place finish last year, Marlin is back to challenge at the course he and his family have always loved. Marlin has been dubbed by many as the "King of the Restrictor Plate", in reference to his success at Daytona. The speedways at Daytona and Talladega are the longest, fastest tracks on the NASCAR circuit, and in an attempt to promote driver safety by keeping speeds under 200 mph, cars at those tracks are required to use restrictor plates on their carburetors. Many feel, however, that although restrictor plates limit speeds, they also serve to promote parity in the race cars, causing drivers to all drive at the same speed, bunch together and increase accidents.
One who has been outspoken in his disapproval of restrictor plate racing is Mark Martin. Martin is a force on the NASCAR circuit, winning seven races in 1998 and finishing runner-up to Gordon in the overall Winston Cup points standings. At the Daytona 500 however, he finished an uninspired 38th. In fact, at the four races at those two aforementioned tracks, Martin's best finish was 16th at the Pepsi 400 in mid-October.
This "leveling of the playing field" essentially makes it anyone's race. Rusty Wallace, Bobby and Terry Labonte and No. 88 Dale Jarrett could all threaten. And of course there's No. 24. One sleeper could be Earnhardt's partner and up-and-comer on the circuit Mike Skinner. Skinner grabbed the fourth best qualifying time on Saturday and could make his first NASCAR win a memorable one. In any event, an estimated 150,000 screaming fans will be on hand Sunday as NASCAR 99 kicks off on what can best be described as Opening Day and the Super Bowl all rolled into one.