BUSCH: Phoenix Rookie of the Year Title Clinched

Raines clinches Raybestos Rookie title in Phoenix PHOENIX (Nov. 9, 1999) After wrapping up rookie honors, Tony Raines is aiming for an 11th-place finish in the points. Tony Raines, who led the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National ...

Raines clinches Raybestos Rookie title in Phoenix

PHOENIX (Nov. 9, 1999) After wrapping up rookie honors, Tony Raines is aiming for an 11th-place finish in the points. Tony Raines, who led the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings since the end of May, clinched the title with his 20th place finish in the Outback Steakhouse 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday.

Raines, who took the lead in the rookie standings following the Carquest Auto Parts 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on May 29, entered the penultimate race of the season with a 167-point lead over former leader Adam Petty.

Raines came to the one-mile desert speedway with hopes of pulling out a good run during Saturday's race. Raines struggled a little preparing to qualify, and his lap of 28.301 seconds was not quick enough to get him into the top-25 during Thursday's Bud Pole Qualifying session so he elected to re-qualify on Friday morning. His second attempt produced a lap of 28.327 seconds, at 127.087 mph, which was quick enough for the second-round fastest time and put Raines in the 36th starting spot for Saturday's race.

The same problems that plagued Raines all weekend continued during the 200-lap event. Raines was fighting a tight car and found it challenging to make passes and get the car to turn in the corners. With his handling problems, Raines went a lap down on the 76th circuit.

The BACE Motorsports Chevrolet driver was 24th when he made a green flag stop on lap 98. He received tires, fuel and adjustments to help with the handling. He was sent back out to rejoin the race and was in 30th after the pit stops cycled through.

Raines' car's handling problems continued as he brought the No. 74 Monte Carlo in for service the second time during the only caution period of the event. Raines again received tires, fuel and adjustments and was sent back out for the restart in 22nd.

Raines gained two more positions before taking the checkered flag in 20th. It was not the run he was looking for, but however he was able to clinch the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title with his finish, as Petty had problems throughout the day and ended up 38th. He lost second in the Raybestos Rookie standings to Hank Parker Jr., who finished 12th.

"We just struggled with the handling all weekend," Raines said. "We got better during the middle of the race, but when you start that far back it is hard to keep from going a lap down. The car was tight pretty much all day. We were able to gain some points and get back into the 12th position. All in all, I guess I would have to say it was a good day."

It was a good day in large part because Raines wrapped up the rookie title, a race he had led the majority of the season.

"It's a team thing," Raines said. "The crew had to endure a lot this year. Most of these tracks were new to me and I had a lot to learn.

"If history were to repeat itself, we would come back in 2000 and make a legitimate run at the championship. I think we are capable of doing that. The last time this team won a rookie title they followed it up with three straight championships. That is a tall order to fill, but I am going to do my best to head in that direction."

Raines referred to the 1994 rookie award won by Johnny Benson, followed by NASCAR Busch Series championships for Benson (1995) and Randy LaJoie (1996-97).

Reflecting back to the season opener in Daytona, Raines said, "When I think back to Daytona, I remember there being quite a few running for rookie of the year. To think back and realize how many started and to survive all the races and come out on top, well that is pretty neat."

The NASCAR Busch Series heads to the Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend for the HotWheels.com 300 at Miami, the 1999 season finale.

"It is nice to have wrapped up the rookie title so we can go down there and concentrate on gaining some points," Raines said. "We have the possibility of finishing 11th. That is our next goal."

The HotWheels.com 300 will be run on Saturday and Raines will take to the 1.5-mile oval for the first time in a NASCAR Busch Series car. He has competed at the track while running in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.


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Drivers Adam Petty , Hank Parker Jr. , Johnny Benson , Tony Raines