Talladega II: Tony Raines preview

TONY RAINES Roll Tide. War Eagle. Let's Draft. CORNELIUS, N.C., (Oct. 4, 2006) -- In the great state of Alabama, your allegiance lies with either the University of Alabama or Auburn University. The rivalry between the two southern universities...

TONY RAINES
Roll Tide. War Eagle. Let's Draft.

CORNELIUS, N.C., (Oct. 4, 2006) -- In the great state of Alabama, your allegiance lies with either the University of Alabama or Auburn University. The rivalry between the two southern universities is fierce and the battle lines are drawn at an early age.

Fans of both schools are loud and proud and can be heard chanting their team cry not only at football games, but just about anywhere and everywhere. For Crimson Tide fans from the University of Alabama, the cheer is simple - "Roll Tide!" For the blue and orange of Auburn, the cry is "War Eagle!"

Tony Raines, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy, isn't necessarily a fan of either team, but he will head into Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway taking the Alabama spirit to heart with a chant of his own: "Let's Draft."

The UAW-Ford 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at Talladega is the fourth and final restrictor-plate race of the 2006 season and, as always, the draft will play a key role in determining who will win the 188-lap race on the 2.66-mile oval.

Drafting is when two or more cars run nose-to-tail, almost touching, thereby creating more speed than if they were running individually. How the draft is used, however, determines who will win on Sunday.

Late in the spring race at Talladega, Raines used the draft to catapult himself from 11th to fifth in just two laps, but later admitted he may have made his move one lap too early. When another car unexpectedly cut in front of him, he had to back out of the throttle, which caused him to lose momentum. As a result, Raines was shuffled back to 17th when the checkered flag waved.

While the draft will be constant through all 500 miles on Sunday, it's how a driver uses the draft that will determine if his team's call at the end of the day is, "We won."

What are your overall thoughts heading into Talladega?

"I thought we had a good race car in the spring. Our strategy in that race was to sort of hang out in the back and avoid trouble and then with 10 or 15 laps to go, kind of get up there and mix it up. That seemed to pay off, because I think I was fifth, going for third and I got blocked real heavily on the backstretch and lost my momentum and got shuffled back and finished 17th. Jeff Gordon was leading on the white flag lap and he ended up finishing right in front of me. So, it's a lot of strategy. It's making the right move at the right time, and obviously, that's a lot easier said than done."

Can you describe the draft and how to work it to your advantage?

"I honestly think that there are two theories there. You want to just get behind somebody and ride -- and you hate to use that term because everyone is so competitive and they want to pass everybody they can. But in speedway racing, it really doesn't benefit you to pass anybody, because you can't do it on your own. So you need a dance partner, and you need to log some miles before you start getting after it. But if you find yourself near the front due to the revolving door, it's nice to lead a lap because you get five points out of it. But if you're going to lead you need to be at the very front to lead all the laps, or at the very back watching out for the big wreck.

"The big wreck is the one wild card. You can get caught up in a wreck you had no part of. It's just a crapshoot. The last few speedway races I've run, I've been back there with the 88 (Dale Jarrett) and the 43 (Bobby Labonte) and we just kind of run in our own little pack until it's time to play. And we've avoided some of the wrecks. That's no guarantee, of course, but I kind of like that strategy. Five points is nice, but to lead that lap, you can put yourself at risk getting up there and then falling to the back. Finishing for us is crucial right now, and we don't need to be in the pack fighting for 18th or 20th when it's not even halfway yet."

You talked about hanging back with Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarrett. Do the three of you discuss that strategy before each race?

"Yeah, we have talked about it, but sometimes you just end up back there. It doesn't mean you're looking for each other, it just means that this particular driver is laying back a little bit so there is some room between them and the big pack. There might be one big group or two smaller groups. It just depends on how it works out. It's just constant musical chairs. It's a funny race. Patience is a key. You get angry because you want to pass people, but you can't do it without any help."

What are your thoughts on the new pavement at Talladega?

"I don't know what to expect. I just heard it's real smooth and there is hardly any tire wear. Now, when you get out there in a pack and start moving around, I have a feeling there will be a little more wear than in the tire test. Hopefully all will work out well."

You've always said that Daytona (Fla.) and Talladega are different, despite both being restrictor-plate race tracks. How?

"At Daytona, the track is so course that the tires wear down, and the handling, especially in the summer race, becomes super-critical. You can't run wide open in a pack. You can in the February race -- which is weird how the track is different due to temperature. At Talladega, there is new asphalt and even in the past, when the pavement was old, your handling wasn't an issue. It's just the way the corners are set up."

-credit: hofr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Tony Raines