The Frontstretch: Driver Review: Tony Raines by Kathy Grindle -- Tuesday January 1, 2008

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Driver Review: Tony Raines

Kathy Grindle · Tuesday January 1, 2008

 

Tony Raines
2007 Ride: No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing Chevrolet
2007 Primary Sponsor: DLP HGTV
2007 Owners: Bill Saunders, Troy Aikman, and Roger Staubach; Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel (acquired majority ownership in September)
2007 Crew Chief: Brandon Thomas

2007 Stats: 34 Starts, 0 Top 5s, 1 Top 10, 29th in points.
Best Finish: 9th, Talladega (October)

High Point: If you were a Tony Raines fan, you had to wait awhile for success this year; his highest point came eight months after the season began, at a most unlikely place: Talladega. In October, Raines managed to not only survive the UAW-Ford 500, but he was a contender throughout, leading five of his six laps of 2007 in the process. When the checkers flew, Raines found himself with a 9th place finish, his only Top 10 of the season driving the No. 96 Chevrolet.

Raines did have some other high points in 2007, but they didn't help him in the point standings. He finished 10th in the second race of the Gatorade Duels at Daytona to kick off the season, and he also scored a 9th place finish at the Nextel Open during All-Star week in Charlotte. Too bad Raines didn't have more races like that when it really counted…

This Daytona wreck in July was a lowlight of a summer that saw Raines (No. 96) record just a single Top 15 finish in that three-month stretch.

Low Point: If the magic is in the mirrors, Raines must have broken several trying to get some – and ended up with all the bad luck instead. He only finished within the Top 20 eleven times in 34 starts, Raines’ second with the Hall of Fame Racing program. In the process, he suffered through some tough performances, including four finishes of 36th or worse in a six-race stretch over June and July. But perhaps the season low came at the end of that summer; after the team changed ownership, it was announced Raines was being replaced by J.J. Yeley for the 2008 season, leaving him a “lame duck” driver in the No. 96 for the remainder of the year.

Summary: Raines didn't have a horrible season, but he didn't have a great one, either. Raines improved slightly in his second season with this single-car team, helping them finish as the highest such organization in the owner standings. But unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep him in the drivers’ seat. Once Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel took over the HoF Racing Program, they went with fellow Arizona native J.J. Yeley to lead them into the future; and unfortunately, the veteran Raines was put out to pasture after the season-ending race at Homestead.

2008 Outlook: Pssst…don’t look now, but Raines’ career could be in the rear view mirror. These days, if you want to be a NASCAR driver you'd better have already a multiple-race Nextel Cup winner, a Spring Chicken (translation : in your 20s), or be a former open-wheel superstar. Raines is none of the three, and at 43, isn’t getting any younger; so, it’s not a surprise that he’s currently without a ride for 2008.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: C.
2007 Grade: D-.

Editor's Note : The 2007 season is over, and even the Final Chase exam has come to a close - which means it's time to give each driver their annual year-end evaluation. For the second straight year, your favorite Frontstretch staff members are giving driver reviews for every full-time wheelman on the circuit, giving you insight into the seasons of anyone from A.J. Allmendinger to J.J. Yeley. Want to know when your favorite driver's getting featured? Check out this link for our writing schedule, and be sure to keep coming in every weekday this offseason for even more original content by the Frontstretch!

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