CORNELIUS, N.C., Tuesday, April 25, 2006 -- Each of Tony Raines' first three starts of the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup season have been unique. First start of the season at Martinsville; first race in front of the "home" crowd at Texas; first night...
CORNELIUS, N.C., Tuesday, April 25, 2006 -- Each of Tony Raines' first three starts of the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup season have been unique. First start of the season at Martinsville; first race in front of the "home" crowd at Texas; first night race last week at Phoenix.
Now, a fourth first: First restrictor-plate race of the season.
While most every other driver in the 43-car starting field competed at the Daytona 500, also a restrictor-plate race, Raines did not. Terry Labonte drove in that race since he had a past-champions provisional. Now, it's Raines turn, and he is ready for the 188-lap shootout on the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway.
TONY RAINES (No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy):
Does it concern you that you didn't compete in the Daytona 500, the first restrictor-plate race of the season?:
"No. Not at all. I think Talladega and Daytona are quite a bit different. Daytona is more about handling and Talladega is more about speed. The car has been race-proven at Daytona and was pretty good. We just need to keep it clean and keep it on its tires and we should be alright. We're going to have a couple hours of practice, so I think we'll be fine."
Are you happy with the first three races of the season?
"Fairly. You know, you always want to finish better than you did. If you were top 20, you wish it was top 15. If it was top 15, you wish it were a top 10. I was pretty happy with the speed at Phoenix. I think we keep getting better each week, and I'm feeling good about that. Talladega is kind of the great unknown. You can be running great and get torn up, and it's kind of out of your control."
How are you a crew chief Philippe Lopez working together?
"We're getting more familiar with each other. It just takes time to work out the kinks, so that, as a team, we make better decisions, quicker."