BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN Tony Raines Finishes 20th at New Hampshire Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet for Hall of Fame Racing, finished 20th in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at New ...
BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN
Tony Raines Finishes 20th at New Hampshire
Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet for Hall of Fame Racing, finished 20th in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon. It was a welcome result after a weekend of struggles in practice and in qualifying.
From the drop of the green flag, the car that had given the DLP team such difficulty throughout the weekend seemed to finally be coming into its own. Raines started the race in 39th but was able to begin moving his way through the field as soon as he crossed the start/finish line. By the first caution on lap five, Raines had already picked up five spots.
By lap 50, Raines was in 30th and running strong lap times. Crew chief Brandon Thomas was encouraged. "These are top-10 lap times, Raines," said Thomas over the radio. "Good job."
The first green flag pit stop came on lap 68. The DLP team changed four tires and added fuel, but made no changes to the car.
Raines continued his march through the field and by lap 100 had made his way into the top-25.
As the race continued, Raines consistently ran good lap times. His only complaint was that he needed a little more grip in the front tires. The No. 96 machine was a bit too loose coming into the corners and a little tight in the center of the corners.
Thomas ordered four fresh Goodyears, fuel and slight air pressure adjustments on each pit stop. By lap 250, Raines was in 18th, solidly in the top-20 and looking to finish the day without incident. That was almost the case.
On the final turn of the 300-lap race, contact between the No. 6 Ford of David Ragan and No. 2 Dodge of Kurt Busch caused the rest of the field to check up. Raines had worked his way up to 17th, but had to hit the brakes to avoid the accident. As a result, he lost three spots and crossed the finish line in 20th. In the end, the entire DLP team was happy with the result after picking up 19 spots since the drop of the green flag.
"We had a good race today," said Raines after the race. "We struggled all weekend trying to find the right balance for the car. Before the race, if you'd have told me we were going to finish 20th, I would have been ecstatic.
"The car was good on long runs. We were a little loose at times and tight in the center, which we had a hard time getting a hold of, but we kept working on it all day. The DLP team had good pit stops, too. I'm really proud of what we were able to accomplish.
"We could have finished in 17th, but the '2' and the '6' got together and we got caught up in it," continued Raines. "I just couldn't see where to go to avoid them. I'm a little disappointed in that, but overall, I'm happy. We just need to build on this and continue to have good runs."
The No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet remains 23rd in Nextel Cup Series owner points with 1,545 points. Raines gained one position in driver points and now sits 31st with 1,422 points.
Denny Hamlin won the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 to score his third career Nextel Cup victory, his first at New Hampshire and his first of the season. Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five. Jeff Green, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, and Ryan Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 31 laps, with three drivers failing to finish the 300-lap race.
The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the July 7 Pepsi 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway The race starts at 8 p.m. EDT with live, high-definition coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at 6:30 p.m.