SLOW AND STEADY FINISHES THE RACE Tony Raines Finishes 24th in Food City 500 at Bristol Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet for Hall of Fame Racing, finished 24th in Sunday's Food City 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at...
SLOW AND STEADY FINISHES THE RACE
Tony Raines Finishes 24th in Food City 500 at Bristol
Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet for Hall of Fame Racing, finished 24th in Sunday's Food City 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Raines fought an extremely loose race car for much of the 504-lap contest, but still managed to post as respectable top-25 result. While not ideal, the outing was a good one for the second-year team, as it was their first race with the new Car of Tomorrow at a track known for its rough and tumble nature.
Taking corners banked at 36 degrees at over 100 mph on a .533-mile oval in a new, unknown race car with 42 other drivers is difficult enough. Add in a car that slips and slides through the corners and it becomes that much tougher. After starting the race in 17th, Raines quickly began to lose positions as he fought to keep his ill-handling car off the wall.
"Loose. Loose. Loose," said an obviously frustrated Raines. "It's the loosest we've been all weekend."
A caution on lap 17 offered the DLP team its first opportunity to make wholesale changes to the No. 96 machine. Crew chief Brandon Thomas ordered air pressure and track bar adjustments in addition to four tires and fuel. Raines restarted the race in 27th having lost 10 positions since the green flag dropped.
"Still loose," said Raines, only four laps after the lap 23 restart. "It's not enough."
Raines' struggles were evident as his lap times were much slower than those of the leaders, who were beginning to creep ever closer in his rear view mirror.
Another caution on lap 43 offered a second opportunity for the over-the-wall crew to make more changes to the car. Tires, fuel, more air pressure and more track bar adjustments were ordered to try to tighten up the DLP Chevy Impala.
"I didn't mean to be this adventurous with you," said Thomas over the radio. "I'm trying to be careful," was Raines' only reply.
The race continued as such for the next 200 laps as the DLP team worked hard to better the No. 96 ride. And much like last week's race in Atlanta, the crew threw everything, including the kitchen sink at the car to try to fix its ill-handling ways. It seemed like dejà vu for the DLP team, but finally the fruits of their labor began to pay off.
"Your lap times are pretty good," said a relieved Thomas on lap 281. "You're running times as good as the leader."
Slowly, steadily the DLP machine was coming around and Raines was feeling much better behind the wheel. Unfortunately it was too little, too late for the No. 96 team, as they were already several laps down to the leader -- a situation they would not be able to overcome. Raines crossed the finish line in 24th, three laps down.
"We were super loose at the start, then we lost a lap, then we lost more laps in the pits trying to work on it," said Raines after the race. "We got a little bit better and we kind of hung around there for a while and finished 24th, which isn't great, but the way the day started, we fought and dug as hard as we could and staked out the best finish we could get."
On the bright side, Raines brought his new Chevrolet Impala SS home in one piece. And at Bristol, that's a win in and of itself.
Raines' top-25 result was enough to keep the DLP team securely in the top-35 in owner points. The team sits 30th, 387 points behind the leading No. 24 team of Hendrick Motorsports, which earns them a guaranteed starting spot at next weekend's race in Martinsville, Va.
Kyle Busch won the Food City 500 to score his fourth career Nextel Cup victory and his first at Bristol. The win also earned Chevrolet its 600th all-time NASCAR victory and the first for the Impala brand since Wendell Scott won in an Impala on Dec. 1, 1963 at Jacksonville (Fla.) Speedway.