TONY RAINES Not Afraid of Monsters -- Just Looking for a Peace Agreement CORNELIUS, N.C., (May 29, 2007) -- They call the mile oval at Dover (Del.) International Speedway the "Monster Mile." It's concrete and wicked-fast with turns banked at...
Not Afraid of Monsters -- Just Looking for a Peace Agreement
CORNELIUS, N.C., (May 29, 2007) -- They call the mile oval at Dover (Del.) International Speedway the "Monster Mile." It's concrete and wicked-fast with turns banked at 24 degrees, and it can be unforgiving on both man and machine.
Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet, has a love-hate relationship with the Monster. On June 2, 2002, Raines made his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series debut at Dover, driving for BACE Motorsports after enjoying some success there in the NASCAR Busch Series with four top-10 finishes.
However, despite feeling nostalgic about the place from having made his Nextel Cup debut there, Raines has struggled in Nextel Cup competition at Dover, having never finished better than 23rd and never finishing on the lead lap.
While Raines isn't afraid of the Monster Mile -- certainly not like some kid hiding under his bed -- it's possible he might at least want a roundtable meeting with the Monster and its representatives to hammer out some sort of peace accord. Perhaps they can allow the Monster to still be mean and scary, but also allow Raines to enjoy just a little more success than in years past.
If there is one thing Raines and the DLP team have on their side, it's that they've had reasonable success with NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow (COT). In five COT races, Raines has qualified in the top-20 three times while finishing in the top-25 four times.
So, Raines hopes he and the Monster can hammer out an agreement in time for Sunday's Autism Speaks 400. After all, Dover is only about a three-hour drive from Camp David, where countless disagreements have been resolved over the years. But, unlike world peace, Raines is looking for something much simpler -- a first trip to victory lane at the place where his Nextel Cup career began.
And should he win?
The trophy, ironically, is a large monster.
TONY RAINES (Driver, No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet):
Overall thoughts heading into Dover:
"It's definitely a tough track, but I think it's one of my better tracks. I've had some good runs there. I enjoy it, and I enjoy Bristol. To me, Dover's kind of like a big Bristol."
You made your first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series start at Dover in 2002. What do you remember about that?
"I remember we qualified well and had a good car. We ran respectably all race, but we ended up having some trouble and had to pit under green a couple of times. I've always liked the place. I've run well there in the Busch cars and done respectably in the Cup cars. Not that it's my favorite track, but I enjoy that race track because it's tough. It's a long race, and the drivers earn their money there."
The track can be tough on equipment. How important is taking care of your car?
"It's no more important there than anywhere else. It's just at Dover, it's just so fast coming off the corners. It's really easy to brush the wall and pancake the side of (your car). If you hit the front wheels, you'll knock the front end alignment out of it. It's just a little tougher because there is less room for error. The track can get pretty narrow."
You seem to have run well at Dover in the Busch Series, but not as well in the Cup Series. What do you think about that?
"I do like the track. It's kind of like Bristol on steroids, like everybody says. It's bigger. It's just a tough race. That's as tough of a race as there is -- 400 miles at Dover. It's narrow, it's fast and it's really tough to pass. I think it's one of tougher tracks, physically, on the drivers. We just need to improve on last year. I think at times we had a good car there. I think last year we started out really, really bad -- we were super, super loose. Once we got it fixed up, we were running really good times but we were a lap down. With the COT going there -- and without the test -- who knows? We might hit it really well or we might struggle. I think you'll see a bunch of good cars and a bunch of bad cars. I don't think you'll see that good of a field."
What kind of test do you think Dover will give the COT?
"I think it's going to be an interesting test. I think it's going to be a lot like Bristol. There's a lot of load there because you're going so fast and there is a lot of banking. But it's not as rough or bumpy as Darlington. It's a little smoother, so that should help some."
What is the one thing you want as a driver at Dover?
"Being able to get in the corner well."
In addition to running the Nextel Cup race for Hall of Fame Racing, you're running the Busch Series event for Kevin Harvick Inc. What are your thoughts about that?
"I hope I have two good races, obviously. I've had some good Busch races there and I'm anticipating that car being pretty good. We might learn something on Saturday for Sunday, although a lot of guys seem to think that with the COT, you can't do that anymore. I think it's still good to get extra laps, though. It's certainly not a bad thing."