TONY RAINES, DLP HDTV TEAM, RIDING A WAVE INTO DAYTONA CORNELIUS, N.C., Tuesday, June 27, 2006 -- It doesn't matter if you're playing football, racing cars or playing tiddlywinks, momentum is a great thing to have on your side. Right now, Hall...
TONY RAINES, DLP HDTV TEAM, RIDING A WAVE INTO DAYTONA
CORNELIUS, N.C., Tuesday, June 27, 2006 -- It doesn't matter if you're playing football, racing cars or playing tiddlywinks, momentum is a great thing to have on your side.
Right now, Hall of Fame Racing and the DLP HDTV team are riding a wave of momentum into the shores of Daytona Beach, Fla., for the Pepsi 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.
Terry Labonte and the DLP HDTV team raised a few eyebrows in the NASCAR world with a third-place finish last week in Sonoma, Calif. It was the best finish ever for Hall of Fame Racing and marked the best result for a first-year organization since Bill Elliott won at Homestead (Fla.) in late 2001 while driving for Evernham Motorsports during its first season.
But even beyond the third-place finish at Sonoma, there are other signs that Hall of Fame Racing is building momentum heading into Daytona, the third restrictor-plate race of the season. Tony Raines returns to the cockpit this week at Daytona and is looking to improve on a strong performance at the last restrictor-plate race at Talladega (Ala.). He was in the top-five with less than 10 laps to go before finishing a respectable 17th.
In the last few weeks, Raines and the DLP team have shown they are making gains, as the team has 10 top-25 finishes 16 races into their inaugural season. The No. 96 car is 27th in owner points, ahead of several cars that have raced in Nextel Cup for more than a decade.
TONY RAINES (No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy):
Overall thoughts heading into Daytona:
"If we can do like we did at Talladega -- stay out of trouble for the majority of the race and get racing there at the end -- I think that'd be a good plan. We should have a good car. It's an impound race, so we'll get down there and work on our race trim and hopefully have a good race setup."
You had a good run at Talladega and were as high as fifth with just a few laps to go. Did you learn anything there that can help you at Daytona?
"I made my move at Talladega one lap too early. The car ran really well in the draft, and I think if we can get the car to run like that at Daytona -- where handling is a little more critical than Talladega -- we can do the same and have some of the same results. We just need to avoid the wrecks. The track gets really slick down there in the summer, so getting it to handle well is going to be the key. Being able to stay wide open longer than anybody else will obviously be the hot tip. We'll just definitely try to keep it out of any of the wrecks and get a solid finish."
Even though Hall of Fame Racing has an alliance with the three-car Joe Gibbs Racing Team, Hall of Fame Racing is essentially a single car team. That said, do you have any drafting friends out there?
"That's a good question. You'll have some friends throughout the race, but that often can change there at the end. All bets are off at that point. I worked well with the '88' (Dale Jarrett) and the '43' (Bobby Labonte) at Talladega and I would look forward to doing that again if they're up for it. You just have to find out what other cars your car runs well with and use that to your advantage, because it will run better with some cars than it will the others. The trick is finding the good ones and weeding out the bad ones."
What is the strategy on a restrictor plate track? Do you like hanging back with Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarrett, past NASCAR champions who've won restrictor-plate races? Or do you want to be in the middle and toward the front where things tend to get dicey?
"Well, I don't mind the first strategy, you know, staying in the back and out of trouble. Leading there, it's nice to get five bonus points, but leading that thing early or in the middle doesn't pay what it does at the end, and you put yourself at risk for some trouble. Even if you get to the front in the last 10 laps, once you get there it's so hard to stay there. If you're at the front with 10 to go, that's usually a bad place to be, so there's no sense fighting to be there when it's all going to change. It's more important for us to finish and get a good finish than running around at the front and getting caught up in a wreck in the middle of the race. That just doesn't make sense for us. Getting a good finish does. Realistically, where you're at in a superspeedway race doesn't matter that much until the end because you can go from the back to the front and to the back again. It's easy to move around a lot. So, being in the back is not nearly as big a deficit as it is at most race tracks. Again, you just have to get with a good car and sneak your way through the field those last 5-10 laps. Who knows, if the right hole opens up, you might be in front and stay there."
Will the heat affect you in any way?
"It is hot down there. You can get used to it after awhile. Everybody is kind of battling the same monster. You just try to stay cool as best you can and drink as much water as you can."
What were your thoughts on Terry Labonte's third-place finish at Sonoma?
"It was a great run for our team. Philippe (Lopez, crew chief) made a great call and Terry did a great job saving fuel. The DLP guys have worked hard all year and it's just really great for the team. I think we can get more finishes like that as the year goes on. I'm excited to get back to some of these tracks a second time and see what we can do with a race under our belt. I think we've got a lot of good days ahead of us."