Tony Raines endured a roller-coaster of a day en route to finishing 14th in Sunday's Subway 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. It was Raines' sixth top-15 finish of the season. "It was a good points day," Raines...
Tony Raines endured a roller-coaster of a day en route to finishing 14th in Sunday's Subway 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. It was Raines' sixth top-15 finish of the season.
"It was a good points day," Raines said. "Nothing to write home about, but a good, solid day."
Raines started a season-best 10th in the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet and stayed in the top-10 until lap 108 when the handling began to go away on his car. He eventually fell back to 13th by the time he pitted under caution on lap 116.
At that point, the roller-coaster ride began.
With several teams operating on different pit strategies for the 500-lap race, Raines found himself restarting the race in 27th on lap 123 as the cars that occupied the top 12 positions opted not to pit and thus gained track position.
While continuing to chase the handling on his DLP Chevy, Raines rode the roller coaster of pit strategies as he moved from the top-10 when others pitted, to back outside the top-20 when it was his turn to pit.
"We lost the handle on it for a good while during the middle of the race, but we got it back there at the end," Raines said. "We got really tight in the middle of the race. Getting stuck back in traffic here, it's a bear. It's hard to pass. Really hard."
Raines and crew chief Brandon Thomas worked to get the car to handle better via a series of tire pressure and track bar adjustments, as well as inserting spring rubbers into the rear springs. The adjustments worked, and with less than 90 laps left, Raines was in 19th place.
At that point, Thomas radioed to Raines and told him, "This is the time to go. You've got plenty of brakes left, so let's get after it."
Raines did just that and moved to 13th by lap 463 and remained there until a caution on lap 485. While resetting the field, NASCAR officials ruled that Bobby Labonte was to be moved ahead of Raines due to the field being frozen when the caution came out.
After the race restarted on lap 490, Raines fell back to 16th on lap 495, moved back up to 15th by lap 496 and then regained the 14th spot on Lap 497. That 14th spot, however, came by accidentally touching the car of Bobby Labonte, who crashed to bring out a caution and extend the race past the 500-lap mark and set up a green/white/checkered finish.
"I got into the 43 (Labonte) and I feel bad about that," Raines said. "I didn't mean to spin him. I wasn't trying to. It's Martinsville and that happens here. If somebody doesn't leave here mad, they probably didn't show up."
After the race restarted for the final time on lap 504, Raines maintained his position for the final two laps and crossed the line 14th after 506 circuits.
Raines' 14th-place finish caused the No. 96 car to gain one spot to 24th in Nextel Cup owner points. Raines also gained one spot to 30th in driver points.