LaPorte native joins other area NEXTEL Cup drivers

Published 4:53 am Thursday, April 6, 2006

By By SCOTT NOVAK / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Northwest Indiana is quickly becoming the hot-bed of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing.
Tony Raines, who hails from LaPorte, Ind., joins South Bend's Ryan Newman and David Stremme as full-time NEXTEL Cup drivers.
Raines stepped into the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy last weekend at Martinsville, W. Va. after NASCAR veteran Terry Labonte drove the car for the first five races.
Labonte was put into the car for the first five events so the brand new Hall of Fame Racing team could amass enough owner points to keep from having to qualify by time each week.
The top 35 teams automatically make the field regardless of how they qualify each weekend.
Raines is no stranger to NASCAR. He has 55 career starts.
Raines will be driving the remaining races on the schedule this season with the exception of the road courses at Infineon and Watkins Glen.
He is excited to be back in a full-time ride.
Raines said that the midwest is a proven training ground for race car drivers.
Before jumping in the car last weekend, Raines hadn't raced since November of 2005.
He said that he had to knock the rust off a bit and no matter how mentally tough he was, 500 laps at Martinsville was a challenge.
As if that pressure wasn't enough, now the team is in Texas this weekend, the home state of both his team and his sponsors.
The NEXTEL Cup is at Texas Motor Seedway this weekend for the Samsung/Radio Shack 500.