Pocono: Tony Raines preview

Pocono: Three O's, Three Straights and Three Corners CORNELIUS, N.C., (June 5, 2007) -- Pocono Raceway is considered an oval, but it's a strange one. It's really more of a triangle. Consider that the design brings into play three turns, each ...

Pocono: Tony Raines preview

Pocono: Three O's, Three Straights and Three Corners

CORNELIUS, N.C., (June 5, 2007) -- Pocono Raceway is considered an oval, but it's a strange one. It's really more of a triangle.

Consider that the design brings into play three turns, each with a different radius, three straightaways, each a different length, and three different degrees of banking throughout the circuit.

What does that mean for Tony Raines and the No. 96 DLP HDTV team heading into this weekend's Pocono 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race?

Well, like every other team, they'll try to figure out how to get the car to drive well around as much of the track as possible because the chances of getting the car to drive perfectly through the entire 2.5-mile oval is nearly impossible as each section of the track is so unique.

If the car is fast and handles well in one part of the track, it probably doesn't handle quite as well in another part of the track.

The key is to get the car to handle well on as much of the track as possible, and to do it for 200 laps.

TONY RAINES (Driver, No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet):

Pocono is pretty unique. What makes it that way?

"It looks from the air like it has only three turns, but it's really got five turns in it. Or four to five, however you count it. Everybody knows it's different. It's a lot like Nazareth (Speedway, in Pennsylvania), only bigger.

How do you approach a weekend at a track were every turn is completely different?

"You can't get the car completely perfect. You can only work on it so much because you can't get it completely right, although you'd like to. You pick certain areas to work on. You gain your most speed off the final turn going onto the long straightaway at the front. So that's what we'll concentrate a lot of time on."

Describe a lap at Pocono.

"It's got a long front stretch. The tunnel turn is kind of exciting because you've got a real sharp entry with a long exit. And then turn three is really flat, but it takes you around 52 to 53 seconds to get there and get back. It's a neat track to drive, for sure."

There is no open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year in preparation for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Pocono is the most similar to Indianapolis. Can you take information from Pocono and apply it to the Indianapolis race in late July?

"They may be a little bit similar, but Pocono is laid out so differently than Indy. I don't know that you can directly apply what you've learned, but Pocono's a good warm-up for Indy because you have that long straightaway. It's a real fast track with long turns, so it gets you ready for Indy, if nothing else."

NOTEWORTHY: With the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals, two members of the DLP HDTV team are on opposite sides of the fence as to who they will be pulling for in the seven-game series. Philippe Lopez, competition director for Hall of Fame Racing, is from San Antonio. Steve Hoegler, the race day engineer for the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet, is from Cleveland. Their thoughts on the series:

PHILIPPE LOPEZ (Competition Director, No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet):

"The Spurs will win. I don't know in how many games, but they'll win because they are just a better team. They come from a stronger conference and unlike Detroit -- which has a strong defense, the Spurs have the scorers to keep up with LeBron (James), even if LeBron is knocking down 48 points, San Antonio, unlike Detroit, has three good starting scorers. And their bench is loaded with scorers. LeBron will get his points, but it won't be easy."

How much trash-talking has gone on between you and Hoegler?

"Well, he knows deep down in the back of his mind that the Spurs are the better team. The Cavs did a great job getting to the finals. They surprised a lot of people. They surprised me. But they went through the finals in the Eastern Conference. Now, they're going to face a real team."

How long have you been a fan of the San Antonio Spurs?

"Well, I grew up there. I used to go to games and watch George Gervin and Artis Gilmore. In fact, the first Spurs game I saw was back when they were in the ABA -- back in the red-white-and-blue ball days. It's been 20 years since I've lived there, but I'm still a huge fan. It's easy to be a fan of the Spurs because they are such a class organization. People like Tim Duncan and David Robinson have done so much beyond just the basketball court. They're just a class act."

STEVE HOEGLER (Race Day Engineer, No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet):

"The Cavaliers will win because of King (LeBron) James. That's all you need to say. (Daniel) Gibson is playing well and if (Donyell) Marshall can keep hitting threes, they'll be in good shape. The Spurs play on the West Coast, which is pretty weak. More than the Cavs winning, it's fun to get Philippe riled up.

Is there a small wager on the series?

"The wager is whoever's team is eliminated first has to buy the other one lunch. Well, here we are. It will be settled in the next week or two."

-credit: hofr

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