Loudon II: Tony Raines race report

Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet for Hall of Fame Racing, finished 21st in Sunday's Sylvania 300 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon. It was good day for the team overall, but a ...

Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet for Hall of Fame Racing, finished 21st in Sunday's Sylvania 300 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon. It was good day for the team overall, but a disappointing result, as Raines felt he had a car capable of a top-15 finish.

The DLP team started Sunday's race from 24th in the 43-car field with a Chevy Impala SS that hadn't seen the track in over a day, as both Saturday practice sessions were canceled due to weather. In spite of being a bit unsure as to how the car would handle, the No. 96 machine was able to mount a charge through the field once the green flag dropped.

Throughout the 300-lap race, Raines consistently ran in the top-20. His only complaint was that his car was a little loose in the center of the corner and a bit tight coming off the corner. During each caution period, crew chief Brandon Thomas brought Raines to pit road and ordered wedge, track bar and air pressure changes to the DLP machine, along with fresh tires and fuel to try to get the car to Raines' liking.

For the majority of the race, Raines was running quick, consistent lap times, and it looked as if the DLP team might bring home a top-15 finish. But as the cloud cover increased over the 1.058-mile oval and the early fall temperatures dropped, the No. 96 Chevy became tighter and tighter.

Thomas and Co. wanted to free up the chassis on Raines' final pit stop on lap 240 with continued air pressure, wedge and track bar adjustments, but much to their chagrin, the car responded differently. Raines fought a very tight condition during the race's final laps, and as a result, lost several positions before the checkered flag waved.

Setting a blistering pace was the No. 07 Chevrolet of Clint Bowyer, who led six times for a race-high 222 laps. Raines, like 26 of his Nextel Cup counterparts, was unable to keep the DLP Chevy ahead of Bowyer, and when the race ended, he was one lap down in 21st.

"It was a decent car," said Raines after the race. "That last pit stop killed us. We had a top-15 car, but lost some track position and finished 21st. There isn't much else to it. We were getting a little tight there at the end of the run, and at the end of the race especially. It was a decent day, but disappointing."

Bowyer's win in the Sylvania 300 was his first career Nextel Cup victory, and he joined Casey Mears, Martin Truex Jr., and Juan Pablo Montoya as first-time Nextel Cup victors in 2007.

Finishing behind Bowyer in second was Jeff Gordon, while Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Truex rounded out the top-five. Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Mears, Ryan Newman and J.J. Yeley comprised the remainder of the top-10.

As a result of Raines' 21st-place finish, the No. 96 car gained one position and now sits 25th in Nextel Cup owner points. Raines also gained one spot and is now 31st in driver points.

-credit: hofr

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Tony Raines , Jimmie Johnson , J.J. Yeley , Martin Truex Jr. , Clint Bowyer , Kyle Busch