Open: Tony Raines preview

TONY RAINES Old-School Racing -- Trophies and Cash CORNELIUS, N.C., (May 15, 2007) -- After 11 races, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series takes a little bit of a break this week. The cars are still on track, but the atmosphere is a little more ...

TONY RAINES
Old-School Racing -- Trophies and Cash

CORNELIUS, N.C., (May 15, 2007) -- After 11 races, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series takes a little bit of a break this week.

The cars are still on track, but the atmosphere is a little more laid back as teams prepare for the non-points-paying Nextel Open and Nextel All-Star Challenge on Saturday (May 19) at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

The format is pretty simple. The winner of the 80-lap Nextel All-Star Challenge (made up of four segments consisting of 20 laps each), wins more than $1 million.

The All-Star Challenge is open to drivers and owners who have won a race in 2006 or 2007, in addition to All-Star Challenge winners and Nextel Cup champions from the past 10 years.

Tony Raines will try to get into the All-Star Challenge the old-fashioned way -- by racing his way in. Raines, along with a handful of other drivers, will compete in the 40-lap Nextel Open. It consists of two 20-lap segments and the rules are pretty simple, too. The top two drivers advance to the All-Star Challenge. Everyone else goes home.

Except -- and there always seems to be an exception -- the driver who wins the fan vote (log onto www.nextel.com/speed for more information) will also race in the Nextel All-Star Challenge. In order to be the recipient of the fan vote, the selected driver must finish on the lead lap of the Nextel Open and not be one of the top two drivers.

Raines, crew chief Brandon Thomas and the DLP HDTV team are bringing the car that finished seventh last fall in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte. But, unfortunately for Raines, the Nextel Open won't involve the style of racing he is most familiar with. It isn't 500 miles long, and teams don't have several pit stops to adjust the car. It's "run what you brung," similar to a 40-lap Saturday-night shootout at a small Midwest short-track.

It's old-school racing at its finest. Trophies and cash -- nothing more, nothing less. Winner take all.

TONY RAINES (Driver, No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet):

Overall thoughts heading into the Nextel Open:

"Obviously it's a big event. It's a non-points race, so it's pretty much checkers or wreckers. It's not like third-place is going to get you much. You want to be in the top two spots to advance, otherwise you are going home. We're going to just see where we end up. If we're really fast and we can win the Open, then we're going to go for it. If we can't, we don't need to be tearing up cars going for fifth or sixth. That's just not smart. We're just going to go into it with that mentality and use what's available, but at the same time use some common sense."

What did you learn at the test at Charlotte last week?

"We learned what car we're going to bring to the Nextel Open and which one where going to bring back for the Coke 600. The Open car is the car we used last fall in the Charlotte race. We finished seventh with it last fall, but it's a pretty old car and wasn't as good as the other car at the test. So, we'll bring that car (Chassis No. 007) to the Open and see what we can do with it. We'll save the better car for the "600."

What is the strategy in the Nextel Open with a two 20-lap segments?

"Not get wrecked, stay out front and pass as many cars as possible. What you have is what you have. It's not like you've got 500 miles and 10 pit stops to make the car better at the end. Pretty much what you have is what you have. You'll know pretty early if you've got a shot."

Is it nice to be in Charlotte for two weeks in a row?

"I think so. I don't live that far from the track, so I'll sleep in my own bed. I'll have to fight traffic a little bit, but it's definitely two weeks in Charlotte. Given the rainouts we've had the last two weeks, it'll be nice to be in Charlotte because we lost those two Sundays off. So it will be nice not having to travel and spend a little time with Sue (wife) and Leland (son)."

-credit: hofr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Raines