TONY RAINES Getting Hot Heading into Hotlanta CORNELIUS, N.C., (Oct. 24, 2006) -- DLP HDTV Chevrolet driver Tony Raines and the Hall of Fame Racing Team find themselves on a bit of a roll heading into Sunday's Bass Pro Shops 500 NASCAR NEXTEL...
Getting Hot Heading into Hotlanta
CORNELIUS, N.C., (Oct. 24, 2006) -- DLP HDTV Chevrolet driver Tony Raines and the Hall of Fame Racing Team find themselves on a bit of a roll heading into Sunday's Bass Pro Shops 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
After finishing seventh two weeks ago at Charlotte (N.C.), Raines scored an impressive 14th-place finish last Sunday at Martinsville (Va.). The result might have been even better had rookie David Ragan not run into Raines' No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet, as Raines had been running in sixth just prior to the contact with Ragan. The incident cut Raines' left-rear tire and forced him to make an unscheduled pit stop, dropping Raines out of the top-20 until he rallied his way to a second-consecutive top-15 finish.
Raines and the team now head to Atlanta's 1.54-mile oval where they will continue their quest to finish the season among the top-25 in Nextel Cup owner points. With four races remaining, Hall of Fame Racing is 27th in owner points, just 35 points outside the top-25.
The goal is reachable since the final four races will be held at Atlanta, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead (Fla.), respectively.
Atlanta and Texas are similar to Charlotte in both length and layout. Phoenix is a unique 1-mile oval, where Raines was in the top-10 for much of the spring race until he finished 17th. And the team recently completed a two-day test at Homestead's 1.5-mile oval, where they will have plenty of information heading into the season-finale.
TONY RAINES (Driver, No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy):
The DLP team had a seventh-place finish at the high-banked 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. Atlanta Motor Speedway is also a 1.5-mile, high-banked track. Can you have the same success at Atlanta as you did at Charlotte?
"Just because we had a good night at Charlotte doesn't guarantee anything at Atlanta. I have had some good runs at Atlanta and I enjoy the race track. I think all that is a plus. I hope to continue the momentum that we've had the last few weeks. If we can find the handle on the DLP Chevy, we can have a good day. Obviously, Charlotte, Atlanta and Texas would be key tracks for us late in the year. If we can get on top of that, we can finish out the year strong."
How important is it for the DLP team to finish 2006 in strong fashion?
"Any team likes to finish out strong. Having a good final few races seems to carry you through the winter. Everybody is fighting for something. We're trying to get in the top-25 in owner points. That's the goal. To do that, we'll have to run well. If we can keep strong like we've been the last couple of weeks, our chances are good. We'll just try to keep it going. We had a good run at Phoenix early in the year, so I'm kind of looking forward to that. The Homestead test was decent, so we've got some good tracks coming up. We'll just have to see how it plays out."
You've had a race weekend at Charlotte with new crew chief Brandon Thomas, plus a two-day test at Homestead-Miami Speedway and then another race weekend at Martinsville. How are you and Brandon getting along now that you've had a couple of weeks to work together?
"I've enjoyed it so far. I know he's had some opportunities in the past as a crew chief that maybe didn't pan out. I kind of feel like we're in the same mold. I had a couple of opportunities in the Cup Series that didn't work out. We both see this as a great opportunity and we want to make the most of it. His competitive spirit is really strong and he's obviously got a lot of experience having been at Gibbs. So far, it looks to be a good combination. He wants to run well and so do I. When we start practice, he says, 'Tell me what you need to go faster, and I'll try to give it to you.' It's fairly basic, but it's not as easy as it looks or sounds. We'll obviously keep working on that. The more time we have to work together, the better we'll be together."
What does it take to be fast at Atlanta?
"A lot of throttle. The more time the throttle is open, the faster you're going to get going. You've got to have a good-handling car, a good aero package and good horsepower. It's one of the fastest tracks we run on, and tire wear is pretty big, so that will slow the car down. You may have a fast car, but you have to have a good-handling car on the long run, and that's the hardest part of the equation. Going fast there for a couple laps is a pretty easy task. Getting it to go fast throughout a long run is the bigger test."
Terry Labonte was driving the DLP HDTV Chevy in the spring race at Atlanta. You haven't raced at Atlanta since 2004. Any concerns about the two-year layoff?
"I don't think so. That track hasn't changed much in the last couple of years. I was there in the spring watching Terry. I'm not worried about that at all. It might take a couple of laps to knock the cobwebs out, but I've had some pretty good luck there, so I'm looking forward to it."