Darlington: Tony Raines preview

TONY RAINES, DLP HDTV TEAM, DODGE CHARGER 500 NOTES AND QUOTES CORNELIUS, N.C., Tuesday, May 9, 2006 -- While several high school students around the country will be head to prom this weekend, Tony Raines will also be attending a dance. The...


CORNELIUS, N.C., Tuesday, May 9, 2006 -- While several high school students around the country will be head to prom this weekend, Tony Raines will also be attending a dance.

The 'dance' is the Dodge Charger 500 and his date, the date he'll be sharing with 42 other drivers is 'The Lady in Black,' Darlington Raceway.

Referred to as the track "Too tough to tame," Darlington is arguably the most challenging track on the 36-race Nextel Cup schedule.

The track is shaped like an egg, the turns are banked at about 24 degrees and the pavement is worn and abrasive. What this translates to is drivers running up against the wall throughout the race, often so close that they'll exit a turn with a black mark on the right side of their car, commonly referred to as a "Darlington Stripe."

Tony Raines has driven in three Nextel Cup events at Darlington, all with under-funded teams and with minimal success. However he has four top-10 finishes in Busch Series competition. It's a track Raines enjoys racing at, not only because of the challenge, but because of the history.

Darlington was built in 1949 and now oozes with history. Buck Baker, Fireball Roberts, Fred Lorenzen, Junior Johnson, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt have all won at the famous 1.366-mile oval.

In football terms, this week Raines is racing at a place like Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas, Memorial Stadium in Baltimore or Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.

Saturday night, Raines hopes to end the 'date' in Victory Lane.


Overall thoughts heading into Darlington:

"I ran the Busch race last year at night and really enjoyed it. It's different. It's the same tough old racetrack, just not as hot. I'm looking forward to battling the racetrack all night."

What makes Darlington such a notorious racetrack?

"It's a wicked track, because the pavement is all worn out. It's narrow and then it got even narrower when they put the SAFER Barrier up. Just the way the place is banked and the layout, you have to run as close the wall as possible. So, if you slip a little bit, you get the 'Darlington Stripe.' You're going to kiss it (the wall), the trick is just to not kiss it too hard, because you're going to do it in the race once or twice. Sometimes hitting it too hard can knock you out of the race. So, that's really what you have to battle."

Do you like racing at Darlington?

"I like it a lot. It's a fun track to drive. The old IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park) racetrack used to be like that before they ground it and paved it. It was just a groove where you went up the top as far as you could and as fast as you could. They way you drove IRP was a lot like Darlington, this was before they ground and paved IRP. You used to run right up to the wall, and it was old worn out asphalt. Some of the guys that used to run there said the same thing -- and that was before I had ever driven at Darlington. Darlington was a lot like IRP, only bigger. That was a long time ago, though."

How important are tires at Darlington?:

"The are life and death as far as your racing speed goes. New tires are worth 2 seconds a lap for a good while. It's the most abrasive racetrack we run on all year."

What does it take to have a good solid lap at Darlington?

"The biggest thing is probably hitting your mark, no question. Being able to open the throttle early, and then keep it open."

What do you think of Darlington's history and tradition?

"It's great. It's awesome to go somewhere were they have been racing for years and years. Basically, the track is unchanged. The racetrack is a challenge when your out there by yourself, let alone with 42 other guys. That makes for historically good races. It comes down to one or two cars fighting for the spot. Everyone else is beaten and bruised after running around all night. It's just a cool place."

Do you like this part of the schedule, with all the races relatively close to Charlotte and a couple of Saturday night races?

"Yeah, because after working every day for a month, to have a Sunday afternoon at home is pretty enjoyable. To get to do it two or three weeks in a row is great. With the rainout at Talladega, we lost that Monday off and then we tested Tuesday and Wednesday and went to Richmond. So, having a day to kind of lounge around and do nothing is pretty nice."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bill Elliott , Darrell Waltrip , Tony Raines , Richard Petty , Junior Johnson , Fred Lorenzen