Martinsville: Tony Raines race report

Tony Raines and the DLP HDTV Team saw a top-10 finish back into the Turn 1 wall with less than 75 miles left in the Goody's Cool Orange 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway Sunday. Raines, who wound up finishing...

Tony Raines and the DLP HDTV Team saw a top-10 finish back into the Turn 1 wall with less than 75 miles left in the Goody's Cool Orange 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway Sunday.

Raines, who wound up finishing 20th, was in 10th place on Lap 375 of the 500-lap event when he passed rookie Juan Pablo Montoya for ninth exiting Turn 4. After Raines' car went underneath Montoya's car and cleared him for the position, Montoya crossed behind Raines' car and dove underneath him as Raines entered Turn 1.

The right front of Montoya's car slammed into the left rear of Raines' car, sending the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet into the SAFER Barrier on the outside retaining wall in Turn 1. Montoya continued while Raines' car suffered heavy damage to the left rear.

"It's disappointing," Raines said. "I thought I raced him (Montoya) clean for 10-15 laps. I got by him coming off of (Turn) 4 and cleared him, and he just dove under me entering (Turn) 1. We made contact and I backed into the wall."

Crew chief Brandon Thomas immediately told Raines to pit and instructed the DLP crew to begin preparing for repairs. Raines pitted three times during his own caution and the DLP crew fixed the damage without costing Raines a lap.

Amazingly, the repairs were sufficient to enable Raines to finish on the lead lap and complete all 500 laps en route to the 20th-place finish.

"The DLP guys worked hard to fix the car and we managed to stay on the lead lap," Raines said. "We had a good car and I think we had a shot at a top-10 finish."

Raines started 11th, his best starting position of the season, and was in the top 20 for much of the event. Despite battling a tight condition for much of the race, Raines managed to stay on the lead lap most of the way, something that is a necessity at Martinsville since it is the shortest track on the circuit and one of the easiest places to fall a lap down.

Even when Raines went down a lap, as he did on Laps 215 and 417 -- the racing Gods smiled on him as a caution came out while he was the first car one lap down. Because he was the first car one lap down on both occasions, he was twice awarded the "Lucky Dog" free pass back to the lead lap.

"We caught some breaks," Raines said. "We were tight through a lot of the race, but the car was still pretty good. Each time we got a lap down, the caution came out and that was big for us. It was a disappointing way to finish, but we're ready to head to Texas."

Jimmie Johnson held off his teammate Jeff Gordon to win the Goody's Cool Orange 500 to score his 26th career Nextel Cup victory and his third at Martinsville. The race was interrupted for less than an hour by a brief rain shower just past the halfway point. Jeff Gordon finished second, followed by Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jeff Burton, Stewart, Scott Riggs, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth comprised the remainder of the top-10.

Raines is now 26th in Nextel Cup Series driver point standings as he gained four spots thanks to his 20th-place finish. He has 507 points and is 459 behind leader Gordon and seven points back of 25th-place Reed Sorenson. The No. 96 car is 27th in Nextel Cup Series owner points and the 507 points puts it 81 points ahead of the No. 21 car, which is in 36th place.

The Nextel Cup Series takes a weekend off in observance of Easter before heading to Texas Motor Speedway for the April 15 Samsung 500.

-credit: hofr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya