Talladega II: Tony Raines preview

TONY RAINES CoT + Superspeedway "World's Are Colliding!" CORNELIUS, N.C. (Oct. 2, 2007) -- In the 118th episode of Seinfeld, titled "The Pool Guy," the neurotic George Costanza gets worried when his fiancee, Susan Ross, begins spending time...

TONY RAINES

CoT + Superspeedway "World's Are Colliding!"

CORNELIUS, N.C. (Oct. 2, 2007) -- In the 118th episode of Seinfeld, titled "The Pool Guy," the neurotic George Costanza gets worried when his fiancee, Susan Ross, begins spending time with his friend, Elaine Benes.

After Susan suggests that the three of them go to a movie together, George shouts, "World's Are Colliding!"

Forgive Brandon Thomas, crew chief for Tony Raines and the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet for Hall of Fame Racing, if he feels a little like George this week.

Prior to coming to Hall of Fame Racing last October, Thomas was the head of superspeeedway research and development, as well as head of the Car of Tomorrow (CoT) program at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Just as there were two Georges -- "Relationship George" and "Independent George" -- there are also two Brandons -- "Superspeedway Brandon" and "CoT Brandon."

With the UAW-Ford 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race this weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, worlds will collide for Thomas and every other competitor at the 2.66-mile layout as the CoT takes to a superspeedway for the first time.

But, unlike Costanza, who famously told his best friend Jerry Seinfeld, "A George, divided against itself, cannot stand," Thomas is hoping to use all of his assembled knowledge about the CoT and superspeedway racing to help guide Raines to victory lane.

TONY RAINES (Driver, No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet):

Talk about testing the CoT at Talladega last month:

"It went well. In single-car runs we were pretty decent. It drafted pretty well. It's like the (NASCAR Craftsman) Trucks. It's got a lot of drag. The car is a little slow to get up to speed. You can get a pretty good run on people, but if you step out of line, you pay the price. With more motor, you've got a bigger restrictor plate, so that works out well. You'll see a lot of lead changes and a lot of action."

Do you have any idea of what to expect during the Talladega race?

"Somewhat. The two-day test helped. We got to draft in packs of 10-12 cars. I think everyone has an idea, but 43 of them at one time will be a different situation. I guess we'll find out this weekend."

Does your strategy change with the new car compared to the old car?

"Not really. I think you approach it the same way. With the plate they have on it, the speeds were in the ballpark of what they were looking for. There were no handling issues with the asphalt at Talladega. I think what you'll see is a pretty large pack most of the time. I guess what will be interesting will be the single-car runs. I think the times will be pretty tight, overall. I think if you qualify in the top-four vs. the last four, it may dictate how you look at strategy for the race."

BRANDON THOMAS (Crew Chief, No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet):

While employed at Joe Gibbs Racing, you served as the head of superspeedway research and development and also developed the CoT program for that race team. Do you feel that gives you an advantage heading into Talladega with the CoT this weekend?

"Not really. The biggest thing the CoT is going to do as a speedway car is get rid of some of the tricks you had to do in order to be competitive. They're trying to equalize the field, but really it's going to come down to the teams that do their homework on the parts of the car you can modify. The teams that do a better job on those areas are going to have more success on the CoT speedway car."

The front splitter and the rear wing are two of the most noticeable things that are different on the CoT compared to the old superspeedway car. What are some differences that aren't perhaps as noticeable?

"The engine package is the biggest change. Because of the engine having a much bigger plate and a lot more power, that's going to change, to some degree, the complexion of what the race is going to be like. The body stuff isn't going to be that noticeable to the casual fan, other than it's going to look a little bit different. You're not going to see as much spread between a good car and a bad car because the templates are so tight and the bodies are so controlled by NASCAR. You're not going to see a team with significant aero resources be able to build a car that's much better than a team that doesn't have those resources."

After two days of testing last month at Talladega, what can fans expect during the race? Is it completely wide open?

"I don't think it's completely wide open. I think the teams that are better on the drive-train side of it, the engine side of it -- they're going to do better when it comes time to race from a speed standpoint because the bodies are going to be a lot closer between all the cars. As for the race itself, I see the cars being in a pretty big pack. The plate and wicker package that they're going to start with, which is still subject to change, will ensure that the packs are going to be pretty big. I think you'll see a lot of bump drafting and probably a lot of rougher drafting because of the bumper shape."

What did you learn at the test that is different than what you may have learned at tests with the old superspeedway cars?

"You really just learned what height to run the car off the ground. You tried to find the optimum attitude for drafting and for running the car by itself. The engine package is completely different, so you had to work on the motor package a lot more. You want to make sure that you have your car setup to take advantage of that both in the draft and by itself. There are a lot of things like that you work on."

Despite all the talk about the CoT coming to a superspeedway, at the end of the day, are the basic rules still going to apply --horsepower and who's got the draft at the end?

"Yeah, a little bit. I think what you're going to see is the engine making a bigger difference in the car because you reset the engine package from what it was before. So, teams that were really good with old motors could see themselves still being really good or taking a step backwards. Once you get in the race, the rules of the race are still going to be the same as they always have. You've seen cars win that aren't necessarily the fastest straight-line cars by themselves. It all depends on how you draft and how you use the draft."

-credit: hofr

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Raines
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing , Hall of Fame Racing