TONY RAINES POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE: NOTE: Raines was the fastest-qualifying rookie, running the exact same time and speed as Jeremy Mayfield. It was his best career start, the previous mark being 12th. WHERE DID THAT LAP COME ...
TONY RAINES POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE: NOTE: Raines was the fastest-qualifying rookie, running the exact same time and speed as Jeremy Mayfield. It was his best career start, the previous mark being 12th.
WHERE DID THAT LAP COME FROM?
"The guys in the crew asked that same thing. I hit the line just right, the adjustments worked and guess what? I had a good lap."
DOES THIS MAKE YOU WONDER WHERE THAT HAS BEEN ALL YEAR?
"It doesn't, really. Earlier in the year we had a different engine program. We came here in the spring and we were just awful. It was probably the worst weekend of racing that I'd had and that was just from inexperience. Coming back here in the fall, we knew what not to do because of the way we ran in the spring. If you look at the last six or eight weeks, you see a team that has just gotten quietly better and stronger and our experience is starting to add up even though it's only one race. We came here today and I really concentrated on trying to run the same rhythm on each lap and not overdrive the car and tune the car to me. This is the hardest race track; when you run your sticker tires one lap, they're gone. The next time you go out your lap time's way off, so you have to really concentrate on feel and balance. That's one of the things I'm better at than say other stuff, but all the things came together at once. I don't think we've left out anything earlier in the year but I think we've just quietly been getting stronger and better."
DOES THIS TRACK LEVEL THE FIELD BETWEEN YOUR TEAM AND THE BETTER-FUNDED TEAMS?
"It's possible. The body isn't as critical here, except for maybe qualifying. You average 155 miles per hour, but it's just good old short-track racing, so to speak. What you put in the car is what you get out. We made some really smart changes to the car in practice and I did my job as well as I could do it. I hit my line and I got as much out of the car as I thought I could get. It makes me feel good because as a team it shows we can compete with these guys on a level basis. We've been getting closer and closer as the year comes to an end."
HOW HARD IS IT TO COME THROUGH THIS SEASON WITHOUT A SPONSOR AND STILL COMPETE LIKE THIS?
"Qualifying is only one part of it. What we have, working with, we're getting the most out of it. That's what a lot of teams do, but that's what we have to do. With a sponsorship on that car, we could add a few more employees, have more cars,we could do this and we could do that. Without a doubt, it would ramp us up to a higher level. It goes to show that we're trying to prove to everybody--racers, fans and sponsors alike--that this is a good operation, hopefully they think I'm a good driver and we've taken a lot of personal pride in the fact that we are doing more with less. To come out here and qualify well at a very tough track is a great feeling. But qualifying is over. Tomorrow we have Happy Hour and we have to get a really good race car because Sunday is a long race. If I could qualify well and race well here on Sunday that would cap it off. I'm tickled to death that we qualified well as a team, we made good adjustments, but I'm already trying to figure out how to make that car run well on a whole set of tires on Sunday."
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR 2004?
"It's hard to say. What I know and what I'd like to do aren't necessarily in the same sentence. I really enjoy driving for Bill and Brian. I like racing in the Cup series. I'm honored that other people may think I'm good enough to drive their car. In a perfect world, we'd have a big sponsor and we'd continue to do what we're doing and getting better. It's obvious to me that this is a good group of guys, a good crew chief and a good team and we work well together. It would be a shame to not be able to carry that on further and see what we could do with the proper support."