Chicagoland: Tony Raines preview

TONY RAINES 2007 Summer Homecoming Tour Presented By DLP HDTV -- Part II CORNELIUS, N.C., (July 9, 2007) -- Tony Raines grew up in La Porte, Ind., about 90 minutes from Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., site of this week's USG Sheetrock...

2007 Summer Homecoming Tour Presented By DLP HDTV -- Part II

CORNELIUS, N.C., (July 9, 2007) -- Tony Raines grew up in La Porte, Ind., about 90 minutes from Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., site of this week's USG Sheetrock 400 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race.

La Porte is also about two-and-a-half hours from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard on July 29 and about three hours from Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, where the Citizens Bank 400 was conducted June 17 and the 3M Performance 400 will take place Aug. 19.

So which is Raines' "home" track? Well, each makes a good case because of its proximity. So, let's consider this week's race at Chicagoland Part II of the four-part 2007 Tony Raines Summer Homecoming Tour Presented by DLP HDTV.

While a rock band always wants to put on a good show no matter the venue, there is always a little bit more motivation to perform even better in front of the fans at the concert in their hometown, like The Smashing Pumpkins in Chicago, or John Cougar Mellencamp in Bloomington, Ind.

Stock car racing is no different.

It's always important to run well, but there is even more incentive for Raines to do so in front of family, friends and the fans who watched him race around tracks in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan as he was coming up through the ranks. Individuals from those great states will most likely make up the majority of the more than 75,000 fans packed into Chicagoland Speedway.

And Raines and the DLP HDTV team hope not to disappoint.

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

Chicagoland is sort of a hometown race for you. You grew up in La Porte, Ind., just one hour east of Chicagoland Speedway, and your mother and stepfather still live in that area. Can you talk about that?

"Yeah, they're about an hour east. There are probably more people at Chicagoland that I know than at other racetracks. I don't know if I'd call it a 'home' track. I didn't grow up going there because it wasn't built, yet."

Do you enjoy the summer Midwest stretch of races, with two at Michigan and one each at Chicago and Indy?

"Yes and no. I definitely enjoy the area and the tracks, but it does seem like it's the dog days of summer. Obviously, last week at Daytona it was really hot and coming up. Chicago can be really hot. Indy always seems to be hot. Being somewhat used to that from living there, that's the downside to being there. But, in the big picture, it's a good time, a good stretch."

Which of the three tracks -- Chicagoland, Indianapolis or Michigan -- do you consider your home track?

"You know, I don't know if the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is my home track. But I do think out of all the race tracks I run up in the Midwest, I get up the most for Indy because I enjoy driving it. It's a tough track and there is a ton of history at Indy. When I go there, I'm more psyched up than a lot of places. Not that I don't get psyched up everywhere, but there's something about Indy. It's like playing golf at Augusta. It's just the place to be."

Do you notice more fans at those three tracks than anywhere else?

"I do think that I see a few more people that I know or am familiar with from racing. That's probably because the Midwest is pretty strong and pretty deep as far as racing talent and the race fans. It's more likely that someone would know me there than at California, for example."

What is a lap like around Chicagoland?

"It's a D-shaped oval, so you've got a nice, wide entry into (turn) 1, tight exit off of (turn) 2, straight down the backstretch, tight entry into (turn) 3, wide exit out of (turn) 4. You kind of go up the hill and then down the hill to the start-finish line. It's a fun track to drive. It's pretty fast. It's pretty simple, really -- just a D-shaped oval. I like the track. To me, Chicago and Kansas are really similar. It's a mile-and-a-half, but it's a little flatter than Charlotte or Atlanta. So if you hit on something at Chicago, then it should be good at Kansas, and vice-versa."

Last week was the halfway point of the 2007 season. How would you assess your season so far?

Disappointing. We started off pretty good. We had good speed and we were having good finishes and we hit a little lull at Pocono and Michigan. We rebounded a little bit at Loudon. The restrictor-plate races are always hit or miss and it seems like we've missed, just being unlucky. We're better than last year, but we've missed more opportunities. The DLP team is stronger and better. We just have to start nailing them down, which I'm confident we can do. We've got a lot of time to make up a lot of ground. We just need to get after it."

Any big plans for the off week?

"I'm going to be staying up in Indiana. The weekend off will be spent in northern Indiana with the family, probably on the water somewhere."

-credit: jgr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Raines