Third Time's a Charm for Raines, DLP Team at Atlanta -- Sort Of The last two visits to Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., have been anything but kind to Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet for Hall of Fame Racing. Or so he...
Third Time's a Charm for Raines, DLP Team at Atlanta -- Sort Of
The last two visits to Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., have been anything but kind to Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet for Hall of Fame Racing. Or so he felt after finishes of 38th and 34th in his last two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series outings at the treacherous 1.54-mile oval.
Friday night's qualifying effort of 42nd for Sunday's annual fall running of the Atlanta 500 did nothing to improve his outlook, either. But Raines, crew chief Brandon Thomas and the DLP team put their heads together, cinched up their belts, and made some steady gains in Saturday's final round of practices to net a 23rd-place run on Sunday that was satisfying in so many ways.
"Twenty-third isn't great, under normal circumstances, but we had moments today where it looked like we had a pretty good car," Raines said. "We were really, really bad here in the past. And we were a little bit apprehensive when we got here this weekend because the track's been so tough on us. But everybody worked hard and did a good job. It was one of those days where the car was good on the long runs. Unfortunately, we didn't have a lot of them. But overall, based on our last two Atlantas, it was an improvement."
Raines managed to avoid several on-track skirmishes, but did get caught in a sudden pileup while coming onto the pit lane for his second fuel-and-tire stop of the day on lap 59. Front- and rear-end contact required several extra stops under caution to patch things up. But Raines was able to stay on the lead lap until there were less than 20 to go to the scheduled 325-lap distance, which went to 329 laps after a green/white/checkered finish.
"I got tore up on pit road early on and I feel like that affected us some," Raines said. "It didn't kill the car, by any means, but it sure didn't help. The car gradually got better as we went along, and we ran fair for a while. We were tight on the front end of our runs, and then at the end it got a little bit loose. But still, it was a lot better than it's been in the past here."
Raines' 23rd-place finish caused the No. 96 car to drop one spot to 25th in Nextel Cup owner points. Raines maintained his 30th spot in driver points.