Raines Wants Odessa Repeat

Raines after repeat win at I-70 ODESSA, Mo. (May 15, 1998) Go back in time. It's May 22, 1997. Tony Raines, driver of the No. 19 Pennzoil/Yellow Freight Ford is sitting with team owner Kurt Roehrig during a layover at Chicago's O'Hare ...

Raines after repeat win at I-70

ODESSA, Mo. (May 15, 1998) Go back in time. It's May 22, 1997. Tony Raines, driver of the No. 19 Pennzoil/Yellow Freight Ford is sitting with team owner Kurt Roehrig during a layover at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on their way to I-70 Speedway.

Roehrig turned to Raines and said, "This magazine says the first driver in a Dodge to win a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event wins a Dodge truck."

"A truck would be great, but I want a Prowler," Raines said.

Roehrig said, "If you win, I'll get you that Prowler." They even shook on it.

Roehrig tried hard to get that Prowler from Plymouth, but he didn't have much luck.

Now, Raines has to determine what he wants if he's able to grab a second consecutive win at the half-mile oval, in the May 23 Yellow Freight 200.

Every driver's story of their first NASCAR victory is a special one, and Raines' 1997 victory at I-70 Speedway is no exception. It was the fifth race of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season, and the team had already failed to qualify for two races. The pressure was on, but Raines was ready.

"I remember I had watched the '96 truck race at I-70 on TV," Raines said. "I noticed everybody was really loose, like they had missed the mark on set-up. So, I went back to the shop weeks before this race and started asking questions to begin preparing for this race. I knew if I could get the truck to handle the way I think it should at I-70, we could have a shot at winning."

The Pennzoil team arrived at I-70 Speedway a little bewildered, wondering what the weekend would bring.

They knew Raines had raced this high-banked short track many times before while in the American Speed Association and had produced one second-place finish and two fifth-place finishes.

The truck was unloaded for practice with Raines' recommended set-up, a set-up much different from what they were accustomed to.

"They were ready to change it to their set-up," Raines said, "but they allowed me to try it my way first, and luckily, we never ran slower than second in practice, so the set-up stayed."

What Raines remembers vividly is how his attitude changed shortly after qualifying.

"I had tried to remain really calm the whole day, to try and consider this race as normal as any other," Raines said. "But, when I qualified second it just set me off. I remember thinking, great, I'm a bridesmaid again at this place (he had qualified second three years in a row)... I'm so tired of getting kicked here."

The green flag dropped the next day and Raines decided to kick the track back, taking the lead on the second lap. Raines took the race machine through the cautions and restarts, maintaining the lead until the transmission jammed, and he slipped back to 12th.

Rain then forced a delay, and the team found Raines pacing back and forth in front of the truck, fuming with anger.

Roehrig approached Raines and asked, "What's wrong?"

Raines replied, "I've blown it."

With a very confident tone, Roehrig said, "You can still win this."

To this day, Raines feels that comment made quite an impact, saying "Deep down, I wanted to believe that, too."

The rain lifted, and the green flag fell. Raines mission was even more impassioned as he went to the outside, passed 10 trucks, and regained the second spot by the halfway point.

"The team was so pumped up at the break," Raines said, "and I was in what most call the 'zone.' You couldn't reach me. It was as if the mandatory caution had broken my stride. I wanted to keep going."

The second half of the 200-lap event began, and in six laps, Raines had passed Rich Bickle to retake the lead. Raines held the advantage, but the challenges kept coming. With 15 laps to go, lapped traffic narrowed the difference between he and fellow Dodge competitor Jimmy Hensley. Finally, Raines breaks away and creates a lead.

Raines described the final laps, saying, "With four laps to go, I remember thinking, I'm gonna win this -- I AM GOING TO WIN THIS!" Then, on the white flag lap, I get on the radio and say, 'Hey, Kurt, I want my Prowler!' and he returns with, 'You'll get your Prowler, just keep digging!'

The checkered fell and Raines captured his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race after missing two races. It was the first win for Roehrig Motorsports and Dodge's first NASCAR victory in more than 20 years.

"It was such a feeling of personal affirmation," Raines explained. "There was a part of me that was so relieved, but a split-second later another part of me thought 'now they know you can do it, so the pressure's really on.'"

As Raines returns to I-70 in the No. 19 Pennzoil/Yellow Freight Ford, he admits he feels the heat.

"Honestly, this is the only track that I'm nervous to attend this year," Raines said. "We're going to be expected to produce, and for ourselves, nothing less than a win will satisfy. We have to maintain the attitude that we've won this before, which gives us an advantage over our competitors."

Raines' 1997 victory also marks the last time his primary sponsor, Pennzoil Products Co., placed a mark in the NASCAR win column.

"That's a big weekend for Pennzoil," Raines said. "They'll have an entry in the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte along with their NASCAR Craftsman Truck team defending a win at I-70. I just hope we all have strong performances for them."

If Raines does repeat an exciting run to the checkered, he already has a few ideas for what he wants from Roehrig. "Since we're with Ford, maybe I should ask for a Panoz this time," said Raines of the Ford-powered, hand-built GT-class race car that is also built as a high-performance street car.

Roehrig simply replied, "It's yours to get, Tony."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Rich Bickle , Tony Raines , Jimmy Hensley , Kurt Roehrig