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Race 5: California Dreamin’ at AutoClub Speedway

Posted by Amy in General | NASCAR

Someone please tell me what is it with Misty and I? Of the last three races that we have been able to attend in person (Fall Phoenix 2012, Las Vegas, and now Autoclub) post race fights have broken out at two of them and each fight included one of our favorite drivers (Phoenix had  Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer going at it and of course you may have heard that my driver went a little agro on Joey Logano at Autoclub).  I will get into the post race pugilism a little later. First let’s get to the actual race.

The Naval Re-Enlistment Ceremony before Driver Introductions at AutoClub Speedway. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Misty and I got to the track EARLY with the sole intention of putting our prerace driver intro passes (Thank you to Misty who bought those for me for my birthday!) to good use. We didn’t even bother to walk up and down pit road like we usually do- we went right to the red carpet that had been set up from the driver introduction stage on pit road down the grass infield. The idea was that the drivers would walk down the carpet to the trucks waiting to take them around the track on their parade lap.  We obviously weren’t the only ones with this idea because there were fans already lined up on both sides.  You can’t really blame them or us- it’s the perfect opportunity to see your favorite drivers close up before they get the business at hand- the actually race.  We stood in our claimed spot for a couple minutes but then Misty had a great idea- that we should go stand at the actual driver introductions stage- which at the time was still fairly empty.  We walked over there and claimed our spot at the stage and were basically as close as we could get without having track issued photovests on (which if you read my post about Friday- you knew that we had issues with our credentials so we were totally being fans at this race).  We got some great pictures of the Drivers being introduced.

Landon Cassill

Landon Cassill peeks out at the crowd from the door at Driver’s Introductions at AutoClub Speedway (I love this picture Misty took- AMY) (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany).

Jeff Gordon waves to the crowd during Driver Introductions. (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

Casey Mears during Driver Introductions at AutoClub Speedway (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

As for the race itself? Our seats in the grandstands (which were the same ones we had last year) couldn’t have been any more perfectly located for us as we were directly in front of Tony Stewart’s pit box and Jeff Gordon’s pit box with Jimmie Johnson’s close by.  It was almost as if we had picked the seats based on being able to see the pit stalls of our favorite drivers- but of course we didn’t do that because Misty had our tickets for a long time- and the pits were selected on Friday afternoon- most likely while we were stuck in nasty traffic with Misty’s knees under her chin because she had to ride with the seat of my HHR pulled all the way up because I bought a bookshelf at IKEA.

Denny Hamlin accepts the Coors Light Pole Award at AutoClub Speedway during Driver Introductions. Notice he is wearing two hats! (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

As soon as the drivers were introduced and Denny Hamlin (the pole sitter so he was also the last driver introduced) walked the red carpet- the fans at Intros were told to “Clear the ball field” so Misty and I headed to the nearest crossover gate and made our way to our seats after a quick pit stop to take care of business and grab something we could eat in the stands.  You know- even with our pit stop? We were back before the waving of the green flag- surprising but true.

A Jeff Gordon Fan supports her driver as she makes her way to the stands. That is some driver loyalty right there! (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

The racing was good racing- there was passing going on and different drivers would lead for stretches of time. Tony didn’t seem to have too great of a handle on his car for part of the race but would always make it work towards the end of a run- the crew made several big swings on the car during early pitstops. I was pleased when we actually stayed out during one pit run and ended up leading for while- I even took a picture of the leaderboard at time because I knew it meant hey- at least we got a bonus point for leading a lap.

Tony Stewart stays out to get a bonus point during the race at AutoClub Speedway (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Thanks to a well timed pit strategy of a two tire pit stop during one of the many late race cautions- Tony was able to work his way up closer to the lead and did lead again for a bit.  Then thanks to the cautions at the end of the race we ended up getting blocked by Joey and having a tire start going down. Tony dropped like a anchor through the field. The person in the stands pouting? That was me.  Anyway, we ended up finishing 22nd and are now 91 points behind the leader who happens to be Dale Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr (current points leader) during driver introductions at Auto Club Speedway. (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

Notes about AutoClub:

1. We have trouble with the people parking the cars at AutoClub EVERY SINGLE YEAR we have been going. It’s frustrating because none of them seem to know what is up one person will be telling you to go one way while the person right next to them will be telling you to go the opposite way. It’s frustrating. Luckily Misty parked us in a good spot to get OUT of the speedway without incident- we just ended up having to go all the way to Baseline in Rancho Cucamonga before we could turn back towards our hotel in Ontario.

2. We had a feeling Denny might have been hurt at the track. Not only was the wreck HARD (we would see it from our seats but not him fall to the ground after getting out) but while we were walking to the car I swear I saw the medical helicopter leave the track. Obviously I did.  We all know now that Denny Hamlin was diagnoised with a compression fracture of the L1 vertebrate. We wish him a speedy and full recovery.

3. The post race scuffle between Tony and Joey- I didn’t even know about it until we were on our way OUT of the speedway thanks to Twitter and texting.  Unfortunately because of all the late race caution and my incessant use of twitter for updates during the race I was also suffering from a very low battery on my phone and it died before I could get it back to the hotel to charge- but NOT before finding a link to the youtube video on facebook (Thanks Claudia for posting it) and watching it.  Well I watched it- Misty drove.  I have seen watched it several times- as well as BOTH of Tony’s post race interviews (Steve Byrnes’s while Tony is walking through the garage and another one where Tony is in street clothes so I assume he changed out of his Firesuit by that point to fly home).  My thoughts on it are this:  Tony was frustrated and took his frustrations out on Joey.  I think that if Tony did have a tire going down it was caused by contact with Joey blocking.  Joey obvious was driving aggressively as we all saw when he and Denny wrecked. Did Joey deserve it? Maybe. Did Tony over react? Possibly.  Did it deserve any penalties from NASCAR? Hell no.  Why? Because they were off track and out of their cars.  No one used a car as a weapon. No one else was in danger who didn’t purposely throw themselves in between the two drivers.  No fans were in danger.

Tony Stewart gets ready to make his footprints in the cement during his induction to the Autoclub Speedway Walk of Fame Induction! (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

4. I finally got SIRIUS XM NASCAR RADIO in my car- just a week or two before the race- but I hadn’t really had time to listen much to it.  However I decided part way home on Monday afternoon to tune in because I was hoping to hear an update on Denny Hamlin’s condition- because at that time all I knew is that he had been taken to a hospital and was being held over night.  Anyway- I decided I do NOT like it and I will not be keeping the upgrade after this year is up. Why? Because pretty much while I was listening to it– it was pretty much like I had been tuned into the “Anti-Tony Stewart” radio station because of the scuffle. I have been a Smoke fan for YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS (yeah I am old) and realize that not everyone likes Tony and all that- but just to listen to people call in for hours on and and bash him? It was disheartening because instead of people focusing on Denny- they were focusing on Tony Stewart- he’s a bully, he’s a jerk, he blocks why can’t Joey block blah blah blah blah. I finally just hooked my iphone in and listened to my own music the rest of the way home.  No one seems to understand that you know he is human and he was a frustrated human on Sunday.

5. And while I am on the subject- I mentioned this in my post about Tony Stewart’s Induction into the AutoClub Speedway Walk of Fame that I posted Saturday morning but on Sunday we heard fans bitching that Tony didn’t stick around after the Walk of Fame ceremony to sign autographs.  Well as I mentioned- while Tony was sticking his feet in the concrete a huge group of VERY LOUD fans started to boo. Not AT TONY but at the media photographers at the even because they were there working the event and getting pictures. Misty brought up the good point while we were waiting for Driver Introductions that it is VERY POSSIBLE that the reason Tony didn’t stick around- was because of the booing. It’s possible he didn’t realize the fans weren’t booing HIM. I don’t think it was wise to boo the photographers at all- they are there working- that is their job.  Yes they stood up in front of you and you had to wait to get your picture. BUT booing the photographers likely confused Tony- would you want to stick around if you thought you were being booed at? I wouldn’t.  And seriously how was Tony to know that you were booing the photographers and not him.  I was in the crowd of booers. I was one of the people who was standing there and had to shoot around the photographers.  I didn’t boo because I have been on the other side of that fence and wouldn’t want people booing at me.  I couldn’t blame Tony for taking off right after.

And that is it.

There are more photos from Driver Intros and Tony Stewart’s Walk of Fame Induction that I couldn’t fit into the post in my AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY Flickr album from both Misty and I. Enjoy them.

This coming weekend the boys are in MARTINSVILLE which is one of my FAVORITE tracks to watch. I really hope Tony Stewart has a good run because I am getting as frustrated as he is with the season Smoke is having thus far. Come on TEAM FOURTEEN! #GoTonyGo!

Gratuious Tony Picture because I couldn’t help myself- there are many more pictures of other drivers that I just couldn’t fit in the post..so be sure to check out the Flickr Album!

Tony Stewart makes his way down the stairs of the Driver Introductions Staircase! (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

 

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