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 (This is what originally came out of my pen when I sat down to pen my weekly race review. It wasn’t my usual race report so I kept this and wrote a usual race report which became Oral B 500: Back In  The Saddle Again (Part 1) –  Amy).

Pre-Race Invocation in Atlanta

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, looks on prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

As I sit here, in a car wash of all places, scratching out the rough draft of my weekly race report, the song Back In The Saddle by Aerosmith is a constant refrain echoing against the walls of my skull and will not leave me. It echoes even louder and more constant then the golf tournament playing on the ancient television set turned up far too loud that needs two types of converters just to get the digital signal to the local station. I have effectively started and crossed out and then started over (because I am old school and use paper and pen most of the time- then convert my posts to digital) this post at least three times, all while waiting for my SUV to be be brought around from the back where the washing happens to the front where the hand detailing takes place, because I just can’t seem to get the post quite right. Because obviously I have more to say about the emotion of the race than I do the race itself.

Tony’s back in the #14 Bass Pro Chevy, he’s “back in the saddle again” (and yes the quoted part should be read with that raspy, sing/scream that Steven Tyler is famous for) and for the second time in a season I am both elated and worried at the concept of Tony back behind the wheel. I make no bones about it, I don’t pretend to hide any possible bias- I am not a journalist, I am a NASCAR fan-  specifically a fan of Tony Stewart. I wear my fandom proudly on my sleeve, on my car and in my heart. I am a fan with a website and a will to write, with an outlet I use to talk about the sport I love and the driver I brand as mine. If you have read BadGroove for any length of time, that is perfectly clear.

Back in February I was both elated and worried about Tony getting behind the wheel again after he suffered a severely broken right leg. Was he physically ready? Was he pushing to hard? What if he got caught up in an accident? It was Daytona after all and I am pretty sure that for the whole month of February I held my breath. He had admitted himself that his leg wasn’t 100 percent healed and of course I worried immensely about re-injury, even after showing nearly right away in the duels that those stock cars I love to watch fling around the track at outrageous speeds are pretty damn safe.  Tony Stewart may have been physically broken but he was on the mend and nothing was going to keep him from doing what he loved to do.  Slowly I let that breath I had been holding as weeks turned into months and racing turned back into a beloved routine. Tony was back and I was back to worrying more about mechanical set ups beyond my comprehension then his leg, his health.

Then three weeks ago (what is it about the month of August I implore my fellow Smoke fans?) the unthinkable happened, the completely un-fucking-expected happened. A tragic incident, accident at a race track ended the life of a young racer and forever altered the life of one of the best race drivers in our era.  A driver who’s life blood is motor oil yet whose heart is bigger than most. My driver.

His immediate reaction was to get into the car at Watkin’s Glen the Sunday following the accident, to surround himself with normalcy and routine but at the last minute after what was no doubt a very sleepless night- he understandably withdrew and then stayed withdrawn out of respect and out of need to pull away, to feel, to digest, to cope.

As Tony said, the sadness and pain is nothing that he would ever wish on anyone.  There are no words that can make the pain go away, no words of comfort that can be spoken to the family of Kevin Ward Jr that will make everything “all better.” There is no “all better” no matter how much we hope that there can be. The same holds true for Tony Stewart- there are no words of solace or consolation that anyone can say that will give him peace of mind.

That said- this weekend Tony was back in the car and that familiar worry was back about whether or not he was ready. Is it too soon? Can disappointment on track only add to the pain he feels off-track. I can only hope not. The team had a great car at Atlanta, but the crappy luck was back as the 14 was collected and badly damaged when it got shoved into the wall by another car (and I will implore my fellow NASCAR fans with another question- what the hell is up with Kyle Busch lately) and despite a valiant effort by the team to keep Tony on track- the car later blew a tire and damaged the car further beyond repair.

What I hope Tony did draw from being at the track this week was more than just the comfort of the routine from sitting in the car and buckling himself in. Comfort from the shutting out the world so that all is left is the blur of the speed and an belief you are controlling what most deem uncontrollable.  What I hope he  found instead  was the love, unspoken respect and reverence that was there at the track in aces: From his team and teammates. From his fellow drivers, and NASCAR officials. From his sponsors who came to not just show support silently but to announce it loudly with tenacity and steadfastness. From his “racing family.”

But that support, respect, and reverence was also there from the fans and I am not just talking Tony fans. It was there in a roaring ovation when introduced- filled with not just a sea of Tony Stewart fans but just race fans- 48, 88, 24, 78, 31, 43 the number didn’t matter at that point- just standing and showing support in grief is what mattered. Support that was left in little messages of love scrawled in marker on his pit wall. It’s the support from fans who showed it the only way they could throughout the last three weeks- through internet campaigns and banding together, all race fans, not just Stewart fans, to get topics to trend or to get masses of people to stand for the same two laps as the numbers of both Kevin and Tony’s cars (13 and 14). Support in the form of donations to his foundation to help make a difference in the lives of children and animals in need- causes near and dear to Tony’s heart. Support in the form of blog posts in little corners of the internet.

I am not a touchy-feely person- I never really have been. It’s just not who I am or how I express myself. Yet for the past three weeks I have wanted nothing more that to give Tony a big, tight, wordless hug.  I do not know him, so I can not do this, at least not in the physical sense. But he can consider this a big virtual one.

I hope that Tony is able gather strength from the support that is all around him even if he doesn’t fully grasp the breadth and width of that support, or the why of it. Just that it’s there in the midst of the darkness of this tragedy like bear bond for his soul.

Kurt Busch hugs Tony Stewart

Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, welcomes back Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

(Note: This is not what first came out of my pen when I sat down to write my weekly race report- that will follow tomorrow. But this is the race report much akin to what you are use to- Amy)

Tony and Crew walk to the grid

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, walks with crew members on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

Much to the glee of Tony Stewart fans (myself included) their driver was back this week at Atlanta for the Oral B 500. The weekend started of with a presser, a heart-felt statement read by a Tony Stewart we haven’t seen before: a very raw, obviously heartbroken one.  It was hard to watch and some wondered why he even bothered with a presser since he wouldn’t be taking questions himself. Personally I think that was mostly a “I am here to race, but I won’t answer your questions because the investigation is still ongoing and I frankly I am still quite raw about the incident so please for the love of Pete just leave me alone while I get back into the swing of racing.” I can’t imagine the amount of media pressure and scrutiny he felt like he was under, what the team felt like it was under. (more…)

Tony Stewart Atlanta Presser

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, speaks to the media prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

“I’ve taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family, and also to cope with the accident in my own way. It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates. I miss being back in the race car.  I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”– Tony Stewart, Atlanta Media Presser, August 29th, 2014

_____

*TQMS= The Quotable Mr. Stewart. Click here for previous editions of the TQMS posts.

#KeepDiggingTony #StandWithSmoke

Driven by K. Bromberg

This is my favorite kind of book review to do for BadGroove. Why you ask? Because it’s the kind that I share because I stumbled upon something I absolutely loved. This review was NOT solicited (you always know when I am because I put my usual disclaimer at the bottom of the review)- instead I am reviewing it because I had to share it with you all because it’s THAT GOOD. It’s the kind of review where I am thankful I can make it work for this blog because I know that some of you will like it too.

I was introduced to the Driven Trilogy by a Facebook friend. We were chatting back and forth about reading and books and she asked if I had  read anything by K Bromberg?  I hadn’t and at the time I happened to be in a reading mood but nothing I had downloaded was holding my attention enough.  So on her suggestion alone I downloaded the entire trilogy to my Kindle.  I devoured the whole three book series in four and a half days and it left me wanting more. I think it will leave you wanting more too. Luckily for us we don’t have long to wait.

The Driven trilogy is a racy romance but it is also so much more. It centers around Rylee Thomas, a social worker working with abused children at a halfway house (called THE HOUSE) that is much more like a home than most of these boys have ever known. One night at a fundraiser for THE HOUSE Rylee literally falls into the arms of race car driver and renown player Colton Donovan. (more…)

Winding Up For The Pitch

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, throws his hans device at Kevin Harvick (not pictured), driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet, after an on-track incident  at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)

I couldn’t resist the title. After the Denny/Harvick incident I actually tweeted that.  But I am getting ahead of myself. Bristol is one of my favorite tracks to watch on television; it and Martinsville. I guess I am a just a short track racing girl at heart.  Jeff Burton was again piloting the #14 Bass Pro Chevy for our driver Tony Stewart.  He qualified the #14 25 for the race- I wasn’t able to catch ANY of practice or qualifying so I couldn’t gauge how the car was running and had no idea what to expect from our team 14.

I was pleased to see that once the green flag flew Jeff Burton was able to move up through the field, slowly and steadily picking off positions one at a time fairly methodically and patiently- a feat that is not easy at a track that known to ignite the tempers of even the most mild mannered of drivers. Crew Chief Chad Johnston made an interesting call during a caution at lap 198 and that put the 14 car up in the top four of the race! That right there was a BEAUTIFUL thing to see. (more…)

The 14 Crew tends to the Mobil 1 Chevy

The 14 Crew tends to the Mobil 1 Chevy piloted by Jeff Burton substituting for Tony Stewart (Photo Credit: Stewart-Haas Facebook Page)

Jeff Burton stepped in to substitute for Tony Stewart at this past weekend’s race The Pure Michigan 400.  He was starting to pull up through the field after qualifying the 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet 27th.  It was a brand spanking new car and unfortunately it seems that at some point during the beginning of the race the tailpipe had cracked and caught the heat shields of the car on fire.  Jeff Burton radioed in and stated that he smelled smoke in the cockpit- and it smelled electrical.  Around lap 75 or so he brought the car in for a regular pit stop and a quick look from the 14 pit crew.  While they smelled the odor they were unable to figure out what was causing it. Jeff Burton returned to the track only to be called back in a lap later.  After another look Chad Johnston decided to take the 14 back to the garage to fix it right.  The crew worked really hard to get the 14 car back out on the track- albeit 24 laps down.  I love that never quit spirit! Jeff Burton continued to pilot the car for the rest of the race and brought it home to a 37th place finish. The 14 car is now 23rd in owner points. (more…)

I posted this on my Facebook yesterday…but realized this morning while I was driving to work that I probably should have posted it here too:

I haven’t said much about the incident at Canandaigua because I can’t. I can only envisage the heartbreak the Ward family feels. I am also crushed for Tony. I know in my heart that, despite some claims, it was not intentional. I can only imagine how this weighs on him.

What I can say is that the nearly instantaneous vilification of Stewart last night and today has disheartened me more than I can express and has made me seriously wonder about the nature of humanity.

I meant that- and as you probably noticed Misty was the one who wrote her opinion about the accident because I just didn’t have the heart to post anything.  Between social media trolls unleashing personal attacks on fans who were trying to make sense of a tragedy in their own internet spaces and the sensationalistic and downright misinformed mainstream “media” I am still reeling and severely disappointed in what I saw of human nature. Sure maybe I look at the world through rosy colored glasses but I like that color because it makes the world I live in liveable.

(more…)

First of all, most people know I am not foremost a fan of Tony Stewart, and trust me if you could hear me on race day when he is driving too close to Jeff Gordon, you will know my preference; but I am a race fan and I can’t stand by and not defend Stewart against the attacks and wild accusations flying around.

The incident Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park was a combination of two things: racing and hot headedness. What needs to be said is it was NOT Tony Stewart being the hot head, it was Kevin Ward Jr.’s reactionary anger with the racing incident between he and Stewart that snow balled into a tragedy that no one could have predicted or expected. However, it certainly, certainly could have been prevented had Ward used any shred of common sense that night.

For many people seeing the video, they jump to the conclusion that Stewart purposely hit Ward. These people may simply not understand the circumstances of the scene or that kind of racing; so for this let me share my take:

1) While yes, drivers do get out of their cars on track in the heat of the moment all the time; they do not (at least none I’ve seen) ever play “dodgeball” with the running cars to get to the intended target of their ire. Watching the video that’s exactly what Ward did! He had to dodge numerous cars running under caution. The car directly in front of Stewart nearly hit Ward, too. Ward kept coming even then toward Stewart.

2) Which brings me to my next point, it was a DIRT track in the dark of the night. Stewart likely was focused on the car ahead of him, possibly didn’t even know why the caution waved, and could have no way of knowing Ward was on track heading toward him. Stewart sees the 45 swerve and then there is Ward. Looks to me like Stewart tried to avoid Ward and in the process the car fishtailed, hitting Ward and sending him flying into the air. It is a dirt surface, which does not have the traction or grip of a surface street. Tony’s reaction was done in a milisecond. The consequences were not intended, premeditated or anything Stewart did with purpose.

There are NO spotters at dirt tracks. Tony likely didn’t even know Ward was coming like a raging bull for him until it was too late. The reason he got hit by the 14 and not one of the others is that Ward kept coming at the car- he didn’t back off. I can’t even fathom what he was thinking or hoping to accomplish.

My heart goes out to the Ward family. It was a tragedy that no family should have to face, but that is what it is – a tragedy, an accident, not murder, not even a result of a two-way confrontation.

I’ve only met Stewart a few times, but I have had enough conversation with him to know he’s a tender-hearted, caring man who needs our prayers as much as the Wards. Tony has three passions which drive him: racing, helping animals and young people.  He would never, ever intentionally cause a young driver to be hurt, certainly not killed.

Look at any past Stewart blowup with another driver and you will see Stewart uses his hands to retaliate, not his car. In this incident Saturday, Stewart wasn’t looking for retaliation – he couldn’t have even understood what was going on.

Also, please remember that the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department has been investigating the accident since it took place. After a preliminary investigation there have been NO criminal charges, none are pending, and further they find no grounds for criminal negligence at this time. Please give them the benefit of the doubt that they have more information than we do and know what really transpired. Jumping to conclusions is not going to change the outcome of the tragedy- it can only hurt more people.