First off- did you have a good Fourth of July? Did you come back to me with all your fingers and toes and with no singed hair? Don’t make me count the fingers and toes. Here the Fourth was quieter than normal. I guess the stern warnings from police and fire officials made the difference. Roxy still freaked out at the few that did go off…pacing the house, whining and occasionally barking…but it was all good. Either way I hope you had a great one- whether you celebrate or not.
The July race at Daytona will always be the Firecracker 400 to me just like Infineon Raceway will always be Sears Point, and Mazda raceway will always be Laguna Seca. Anyway- I digress. I snuggled myself in on the couch to watch the race, alone since everyone else was across the street watching the UFC fights at my brother’s house. The race on Saturday night was a good race to watch. There was some exciting racing- especially since a lot of the “go-or-go-home”ers qualified in the front with many of the usual contenders qualifying midpack or further back. Tony being no exception, qualifying at 17th.
Despite finding out that Tony wasn’t feeling well during the pre-race show, he seemed to charge well up through the pack cracking the top 5 in no time. I even thought to myself, probably a little too excitedly, “Could this be Team Home Depot’s Night??” Tony seemed to stay in the top 5 and during pitstops the team seemed pretty much flawless from what I could see. What I could hear of the team communications on the SD Hot pass channel- which admittedly wasn’t much- all team communications sounded good. Then Tony dropped back to about 15th after a move to avoid hitting Kyle and a slight scrape of the wall (two different incidents) . After that it seemed that Tony just was not able to gain any ground. Then during a caution around lap 70 or 71 I heard Tony radio in to his crew chief, Greg Zipadelli and ask him if they did indeed have someone available to “help him out.” After verifying that Stewart did indeed need out of the car, the home depot pit crew sprang into action. Zipadelli made sure that car chief Jason Shapiro knew his job was to make sure replacement driver, J.J. Yeley was buckled into Stewart’s car good and tight. By the time Stewart was driving down pit road (under caution) he already had his gloves off and as soon as he stopped the car he was throwing off his restraints. Stewart’s spotter Mark Robertson, kept the crew advised as to where the pace car was at all times, often throwing out comments like “we have plenty of time.” I also have to say that I don’t know who actually pulled Stewart from the car (I couldn’t tell from the camera angle)- but it was an impressive display all the same, because in one swoop Stewart was grabbed around the waist and drug out of the car and all the way back to the pit wall. It was extremely well choreographed for an extremely non-typical type of pit stop. Yeley, who was wearing borrowed home depot equipment- including one of Tony’s helmets, was quickly snapped into Tony’s car and the team quickly completed the pitstop sending Yeley on his way.
It seemed to take Yeley awhile to get a feel for the car- but I can only imagine that its like sitting in someone else’s passenger car only worse since you can’t really adjust anything but the tightness of the belts…oh and while you are at it? You are wearing someone else’s clothes and a helmet. After awhile though, Yeley seemed to get a handle on the car and he, too, was able to move it up through the field and found himself within the top ten by the end of the race, staying there pretty consistantly, until a wreck on the last lap of the green-white-checker, where he was collected in the big one. Yeley, however, was able to keep Stewart within the chase, even if he did drop three spots into 12th.
Other notes about the
Firecracker 400 CokeZero400:
- Color me impressed with David Gilliand’s performance in the number 38 car. Unfortunately his 40th placed finish due to a bad pit stop as well as some other bad luck on track didn’t show it- but he had a competitive car for a good portion of the race.
- I loved TNT’s limited commercial breaks. I liked being able to see the race even when they had those Coke Zero commercials in the lower corner. This was a good thing- and reminded me of hotpass.
- Speaking of the new coke zero commercials. My favorite was the one where Jeff Burton hugs the two coke employees. Funny stuff.
- Even I was heartbroken for Jeff Gordon who was also having a stellar run, but unfortunately got turned late in the race.
- The nascar.com poll is “Knowing he had a car good enough to win, should Tony Stewart have stayed in his car instead of giving it to J.J. Yeley?” Um…I don’t know what 25% of the nascar.com readers are thinking, but Tony himself said “once the car got a little bit loose and we had to start really sawing on the wheel, it’s like it zapped the energy out of me and I started making mistakes” Mistakes at nearly 200 mph? Those can be deadly. I applaud him for knowing his limits and getting out before something bad happened. I can only hope he feels better in time for Chicago.
- For those interested, The Tony Stewart Live Fan Appreciation show has been postponed for a Best Of show due to illness.