From Spectator to Driver, Raines has plenty of Michigan Memories CORNELIUS, N.C., (June 12, 2007) -- Tony Raines grew up in La Porte, Ind., just 150 miles from Michigan International Speedway (MIS) in Brooklyn. As he got older, Raines did...
From Spectator to Driver, Raines has plenty of Michigan Memories
CORNELIUS, N.C., (June 12, 2007) -- Tony Raines grew up in La Porte, Ind., just 150 miles from Michigan International Speedway (MIS) in Brooklyn.
As he got older, Raines did plenty of racing at small tracks around the state of Michigan, often passing MIS to get there.
And in the 1980s, he attended NASCAR events at MIS watching the likes of Bobby Allison, Rusty Wallace and Terry Labonte.
This week, however, he'll pull into the tunnel at the famous 2-mile oval and compete in his seventh Nextel Cup event at MIS. He's hoping to improve on his 2006 finishes (38th in the spring; 32nd in the fall).
From spectator to up-and-coming driver to Nextel Cup driver, Raines has plenty of Michigan memories.
Sunday, he's hoping to capture the ultimate memory -- a win at what could be considered his "home" track.
TONY RAINES (Driver, No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet):
Overall thoughts heading into historic Michigan International Speedway:
"We've had a couple of good runs there in the past, so I think it's a track I can be comfortable at. It's a big, wide track similar to California but with a little more banking. Hopefully, we can use what we learn this week when we come back to Michigan in August and then at the second California race. I'm looking forward to getting there and having a good run."
Your hometown of La Porte, Ind., is about 150 miles away from MIS. Is this sort of a "home" race for you?
"Yeah, sort of. It's probably the closest other than Indy or Chicagoland. We'll be close to a lot of friends and relatives, so that's pretty neat. It's the first race track I ever went to as a fan to watch a Cup race back in the mid 1980s, so it was kind of neat to be there then and even more neat and more fun to get out there and compete on the race track."
What do you remember about that first race you attended at Michigan?
"I was in the grandstands, and I don't think I was even 21 yet. I just remember the cars, the quality of cars and sponsors, the paint jobs, the crowd. It was just a really exciting event. I remember Rusty (Wallace) leaving pit road. They didn't have pit road speed then, and he'd just hit the chip on every gear on the way off pit road. He got on and off pit road better than anybody else. That stuck out as the most memorable thing.
You did a lot of racing around Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin when you where coming up through the American Speed Association (ASA). What do you remember about those days?
"I drove by that track (MIS) many times on my way to another track to race. I ran an ASA race at Michigan in the mid 1990s. I think I've probably got as many laps there as I do anywhere else, so hopefully we can unload pretty strong and work on it and get better at it as we go along."
What were some of the surrounding tracks you raced at?
"There were a lot of them. Berlin (Mich.), Kalamazoo (Mich.), and Toledo (Ohio), were a few. There's a lot of good racing and a lot of good race car drivers around that area."
What's your favorite Michigan short-track "coming-through-the-ranks" story?
"I don't know. I just remember Berlin being a fun track to race at. It was such a unique track. There have been good drivers who have gone to Berlin and haven't been able to figure it out. It's just a tough, tough track. Once you figure it out, though, it's fun."
Do you have any family and friends coming to the race at Michigan?
"I'm sure there are people coming. I haven't looked at the guest list, but I'm sure it's pretty full."
Do you like racing at Michigan?
"Yeah, I like it. I like Turns 3 and 4 a lot better than I like Turns 1 and 2. It's smooth. It's a momentum track, so the smoother you are, the better it pays off for you."
The DLP team was strong in the June race last year but cut down a tire. What do you remember about last year?
"We struggled a little bit in qualifying, but in race trim we thought we had a pretty good car. Unfortunately, we had some bad luck. We ended up cutting a left-rear tire, and then the rain came, which shortened the race. So, we never got a chance to get back on the lead lap, and we didn't have a chance at a good finish. We're looking forward to going back there because if the car will drive and handle like it did in that first race, I think we should have a good day."
After having the cut tire and going down a couple of laps, you still had a competitive car, didn't you?
"Yeah, we thought the car was really fast and that was encouraging. We need to see if we can get back there and get that same feel and see if we can get the car to handle the same. Hopefully it will run the same, speed-wise, and we'll have a decent car."
Are the track conditions at Michigan the same in June as they are for Athe ugust race?
"I think it's a little slicker in June. Typically, it just gets hotter and greasier, but with the weather coming in like it did (in June 2006), we never really got to find out. You never know what you're going to get with Michigan. It could be hot, or it could be 50 degrees. We'll just have to wait and see what happens there."
Can you describe a lap around Michigan?
"The front stretch has a slight D-shape to it, but typically you run off of Turn 4 pretty high coming to the green and you drop down to pick up a little speed down the frontstretch. Then you swing back up and arc it into Turn 1. Turn 1 is a little bit tighter and banked a little bit more than Turns 3 and 4, so it's probably one of the tougher corners, especially when you're getting in there at more than 200 mph. You're trying to get the car stable and rotated where you can get wide-open into the backstretch. Getting into (Turn) 3 is fairly easy. The track is so wide, your car can work anywhere. It might work on the bottom, it might work in the middle, it might work up top. It's one of those places where there isn't a specific groove. It's just what your car likes."