Raines 'Hangs On' for Top-20 Finish at Las Vegas A tire as hard as a hockey puck and a race track with higher banking and new pavement meant that only one thing would be certain heading into Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup ...
Raines 'Hangs On' for Top-20 Finish at Las Vegas
A tire as hard as a hockey puck and a race track with higher banking and new pavement meant that only one thing would be certain heading into Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- the cars were going to be a handful to drive.
Tony Raines managed to do what 10 of the 43 drivers couldn't, and that's finish the 267-lap race without a badly damaged car due to an accident.
Raines managed to wrestle his No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet to a 19th-place finish and completed 266 laps around the 1.5-mile oval.
"That was a long day," Raines said. "We had two or three close calls. The car started off decent, we just got off-track there a little bit in the race. We got the car real loose and then we got the car real tight. Then we got it back and it wasn't bad. We finished about where we probably deserved to."
Raines and crew chief Brandon Thomas, along with every other Nextel Cup team, battled with a tire that is arguably made up of the hardest rubber compound ever brought to a race. The hard tire, coupled with the freshly paved racing surface, created a situation where the cars were not getting any grip whatsoever.
"One set (of tires) would be loose and one set would be tight and it was just back and forth," Raines said. "It was unpredictable. It's a hard tire, boy. It was slick, slick, slick. Some guys had it figured out and some didn't."
Raines started 27th, and thanks to some pit strategy early in the race, was as high as fourth on lap 23. He remained in the top-20 for much of the first 100 laps of the race, but during the middle part of the race, the handling on his No. 96 DLP HDTV began to get erratic. That caused Raines to lose positions and, coupled with a long green-flag run, lose a lap.
Thomas continued to adjust on the car to the very end, and Raines managed to claw is way to 19th to notch his first top-20 finish of the season.
"The tire was very hard to deal with," Thomas said. "Basically with the track being so new and changing all weekend long, it doesn't give you a real good read as to what it's going to do in the race. So, you're making a lot of adjustments during the race. The tire strategy changed pretty much 180 degrees in the middle of it. It was a tough day. We survived and that was a big item on our list."
Jimmie Johnson won the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 to score his 24th career Nextel Cup victory and his third consecutive win at Las Vegas. Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon finished second, while Denny Hamlin finished third. Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray comprised the remainder of the top-10.
Raines moved up five spots to 25th in the Nextel Cup point standings. He has 264 points and is 231 points behind leader Mark Martin and six points behind 24th-place Johnny Sauter.
The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the March 18 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.