Fontana: Tony Raines race report

Raines Battles Back From Tough Weekend to Finish 23rd at Fontana After struggling for much of the weekend, Tony Raines and the No. 96 DLP HDTV team recovered to finish a respectable 23rd in the Auto Club 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at ...

Raines Battles Back From Tough Weekend to Finish 23rd at Fontana

After struggling for much of the weekend, Tony Raines and the No. 96 DLP HDTV team recovered to finish a respectable 23rd in the Auto Club 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at California Speedway in Fontana.

Finishing 23rd isn't necessarily great, but at times, it's not too bad either. The Auto Club 500 might be one of the times it's not too bad.

The team missed much of the first practice session on Friday after an engine problem forced the DLP crew to switch engines before qualifying. Then, due to the lack of practice time on Friday and the quick engine change, the team only managed to qualify 41st.

If that wasn't enough trouble, the engine change, per NASCAR rules, meant that Raines would have to start the race from the rear of the field.

The DLP crew, led by Raines and crew chief Brandon Thomas, didn't give up, and began the day with hopes of salvaging a respectable finish out of a tough weekend.

Troy Aikman, co-owner of Hall of Fame Racing and a California native, waved the green flag to start the 250-lap race and soon after, Raines began telling Thomas the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet was too tight for his liking.

Throughout the event, Thomas tinkered with tire-pressure and wedge adjustments and also had the DLP crew insert two spring rubbers in the rear springs of the No. 96 DLP Chevy.

While the car was never completely to Raines' liking, he managed to crack the top-25 by Lap 57 and stayed there for the remainder of the event. He went a lap down, however, at the end of a long green flag run from Lap 125 to 244, which ended any chance of a top-15 finish as only 17 cars were on the lead lap at the end of the race.

"It wasn't the best day, but it wasn't the worst either," Raines said. "We struggled this weekend, but the DLP guys didn't give up and we managed a respectable finish. Obviously, we need to finish better than that, but considering all we went through this weekend, it's good to get out of here with the car in one piece and a decent amount of points."

Matt Kenseth won the Auto Club 500 to score his 15th career Nextel Cup victory and his second at California. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson finished second and third, respectively, while Jeff Burton and Mark Martin rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers comprised the remainder of the top-10.

Raines is tied for 30th in the Nextel Cup point standings with Reed Sorenson. They each have 158 points and are 177 points behind leader Martin and two points behind 29th-place Mike Wallace.

The Nextel Cup Series takes a weekend off before heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the March 11 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400.

-credit: hofr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Mike Wallace , Kurt Busch , Tony Raines , Jimmie Johnson , Brian Vickers , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Hall of Fame Racing