In Search of a "Lucky Dog" Raines Finishes 21st in Phoenix After Spending Much of the Day One-Lap Down Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet for Hall of Fame Racing, finished 21st in Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500k NASCAR ...
In Search of a "Lucky Dog"
Raines Finishes 21st in Phoenix After Spending Much of the Day One-Lap Down
Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet for Hall of Fame Racing, finished 21st in Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500k NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. The top-25 finish was the result of a day of hard work and determination and a fight to get - and stay on - the lead lap.
Raines began the race in 41st position in an event where track position was everything. For Raines and most everyone in the back of the pack, it would be an uphill battle from the start. From the drop of the green flag, the leaders would begin their charge and it would only be a matter of time before they would begin lapping the field.
Fifty-two laps into the 312-lap race, Raines was a lap down to eventual race winner Kevin Harvick. So began the pursuit of the "lucky dog."
NASCAR's "lucky dog" means that the first car one lap down gets a free pass to return to the lead lap when there is a caution. This is done to prevent drivers from racing back to the start/finish line to literally earn their lap back when there could be debris or damaged race cars in their way.
Lucky for Raines, a caution for debris came out on lap 69. At the time, Raines was the first car one lap down to leader Harvick - thus, the "lucky dog." After pitting for tires, fuel, air pressure and a track bar adjustment to loosen up the No. 96 Chevy, the DLP HDTV team was now back on the lead lap and ready to make another go of it.
A long green flag run followed. Raines managed to push his way through the field to 33rd, but race leader Harvick was on another tear. On lap 123, Raines went a lap down for a second time.
Unphased, the DLP HDTV crew continued to work on Raines' tight machine throughout the race in hopes of keeping him in contention for a second "lucky dog" opportunity. Air pressure and wedge adjustments were made on each pit stop while Raines continued to battle on the track to stay close to the leader.
Once again, Raines was in the right place at the right time. A five-car accident on lap 272 brought out the caution, and again Raines was in the position to get the "lucky dog" pass. The No. 96 DLP HDTV team was back on the lead lap for a second time - and for good.
Unfortunately, Raines' Chevy never did overcome its ill-handling ways. And in addition, Raines also had to deal with poor visibility in the later stages of the race as the sun set behind turns one and two. The piercing glare contributed to a lap 298 incident where Raines made contact with the No. 66 Chevy of Jeff Green, sending him spinning into the wall.
"I got into him," said Raines after the race. "I didn't mean to, but that won't fix his wrecked race car. The sun was in our eyes. I had new tires on and he didn't. I was trying real hard, but I just over-drove it. He's mad and he should be. I didn't do it on purpose though."
In spite of the incident, Raines finished the race in 21st and on the lead lap, a gain of 20 positions. It was the 21st top-25 result for the first-year Hall of Fame Racing Team.
"The DLP HDTV Chevy was ok," said Raines. "We just never could get it really dialed in. Starting so far back just killed us. It's something that we've got to work on. Ending on the lead lap helps, but 21st isn't as good as 10th. That's what we're shooting for."
The No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy gained one spot in Nextel Cup owner points and is now tied with the No. 66 car (Green) for 27th with 3,156 points. The No. 96 car is 18 points behind the No. 22 car (Dave Blaney) and 106 points behind the No. 38 car (David Gilliland), which is in 25th-place.
Harvick scored his 10th career Nextel Cup victory and his fifth of the season by winning the Checker Auto Parts 500k. The win gave him a sweep of this year's Nextel Cup races at Phoenix, as Harvick won the series' first visit to the 1-mile oval in April.
Jimmie Johnson finished second to further his lead in the championship point standings to 63 over second-place Matt Kenseth.
Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards secured the rest of the top-five, while Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Burton comprised the remainder of the top-10.
The Nextel Cup season concludes on Sun., Nov. 19 with the running of the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race begins at 2:55 p.m. EST with live, high-definition coverage provided by NBC.