Talladega II: Tony Raines race report

Raines Rallies From Late Accident To Finish Ninth At Talladega It was wild, it was weird but it ended up pretty well. Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet, led once for five laps, dodged a couple of accidents, crashed and then...

Raines Rallies From Late Accident To Finish Ninth At Talladega
It was wild, it was weird but it ended up pretty well.

Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet, led once for five laps, dodged a couple of accidents, crashed and then rallied for a solid ninth-place finish in the UAW-Ford 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

"I thought it was going to be a bad day and it turned out to be a good day," said Raines, who scored his best finish since October 2006 at Charlotte, where he finished seventh.

Raines started 14th and was in the top-20 for the majority of the race. By lap 63, he had raced to fifth and remained there for 24 laps as the field basically stayed single-file around the 2.66-mile oval. He was in third by lap 91 before getting shuffled out of the draft and falling to 17th, but Raines remained between the 15th and 20th position until lap 136, when crew chief Brandon Thomas made a critical decision.

Thomas had Raines pit on lap 136 for two tires and fuel and then brought him back to pit road one lap later to top the car off. When the race went back to green on lap 140, Raines was in 32nd position, but Thomas' plan was to keep the No. 96 Chevy out for the remainder of the race. As a result, when most of the field pitted on lap 146 under caution, Raines remained on the race track and took over the top spot.

Raines led laps 146-150, marking the first laps he has led since May at Richmond.

"We inherited the lead, but we had a strong car all day," Raines said after the race.

Although he lost the lead during the restart on lap 151, Raines remained in the top-20 for the next several laps. He was racing cautiously, waiting until the final 10 laps to begin his charge to the front, all the while banking on having enough fuel to go to the end.

He almost didn't get the chance to make a charge and by then, the fuel didn't matter anymore.

On lap 175, Raines was caught up in an accident with Elliott Sadler, Michael Waltrip and Greg Biffle and, as a result, he had to pit for repairs.

"The 19 (Sadler) and the 55 (Waltrip) got together," Raines said. "I'm not really sure what happened. I got hit in the side and thought our chances of a good finish were done."

However, the DLP team, led by Thomas, quickly made repairs on two consecutive pit stops, refueled the car and got Raines back into the race in 21st position and, more importantly, on the lead lap.

Raines, with moderate damage to his DLP Chevrolet, moved into 17th by lap 183 and 12th by lap 184. He took the white flag in 13th and, with spotter Terry Wooten helping him along, managed to fight his way into the top-10 by the drop of the checkered flag to finish a season-best ninth.

"It was a solid effort all weekend by the DLP guys," Raines said. "They did a great job getting the car fixed after the wreck and they worked hard all day. I'm real proud of them. Brandon (Thomas) and Terry (Wooten) did a great job calling the race today. I'm just happy we were able to get a good, solid top-10. We needed it and we earned it."

Raines' ninth-place finish moved the No. 96 car up two spots to 25th in Nextel Cup owner points, and Raines moved up one spot to 30th in driver points.

-credit: hofr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Michael Waltrip , Greg Biffle , Tony Raines , Elliott Sadler