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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.

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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.

This week’s TQMS is about your passion- it’s exactly what I needed to read this week:

Tony in Texas 2012

Tony at Texas MotorSpeedway, 2012. (Photo Credit: Tony Stewart Facebook Page)

“It doesn’t matter what I’m doing or what you’re doing or what they’re doing, there is something that we all enjoy doing, and I don’t care what you’re responsible for, what your job title is,” Stewart continued. “If you are not doing in your life what you love to do and what you’re passionate about doing, why are we here? What is the point of living our life if we aren’t going to find things we love and enjoy and are able to do it?” — Tony Stewart in One Year Later: Smoke Talks Sprint Car Return by Mike Kerchner

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

#KeepDiggingTony #StandWithSmoke

This evening after I got home from what could only be described as a busy day topped with a little bit of crazy making sauce, I finally settled into my “me time” of which part of this evening was to peruse the internet and catch up on most of the days goings on because did I mention the busy with the crazy making sauce on top? That included finally reading a couple articles about Tony Stewart while I was working that I earmarked as things to read when I had time to enjoy them.  The two articles I earmarked today (Tuesday) were Tony Stewart interview pieces that were bound to come up since Monday was the anniversary of his sprint car accident that broke his leg.  These caused me to go back into my blog archives and pull up the first post I wrote after the accident- in which coincidentally I quoted the same author who’s newest book I just posted a review about this morning because while a it’s from her first book and a complete work of fiction this quote immediate makes me think of Tony today as much as it did a year ago so I will quote it again:

Plenty of us were race car drivers. But a racer was something else, someone who loved driving and competing above all else and who’d drive anything anywhere anytime, just to be strapped into a five-point harness.Dead Man’s Switch by Tammy Kaehler (page 116).

I mentioned something offhandedly on someone’s Facebook post the other day that one of the reasons I am a fan of Tony’s is because of his passion for racing in whatever form that might be. I don’t see what the big deal is about what he’s racing. Or even really the whole one form of racing being SUPERIOR to another deal. I mean it’s all racing right- so it all have some common ground- just because YOU like one specific form of racing doesn’t mean there is something wrong with other forms. Racing is racing is racing. I don’t care if it’s open wheel, stock car, two wheel, four wheel,  on dirt, on pavement, on oval, on a road course or on a quarter mile. Racing is racing is racing people. And the people who do it with passion, with fervor are racers. Maybe I am just weird because I started off as a NASCAR fan, transitioned over to open wheel fan and even went through a period where I loved NHRA.  Yes I post mainly about NASCAR but that is only because I am one person with a career beyond this blog, and a life.  If I were to write about every form of racing, or even every form of racing Tony Stewart did- I would never sleep. And I kind of like to sleep at least 6 hours a night.

The whole racer vs race car driver is a subtle thing but I think that most people will agree that Tony is a racer- and nothing about that has changed over the last year.

Tony at Martinsville in 2012

Tony at Martinsville in 2012 (Photo Credit: Tony Stewart Official Store Facebook/Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia on October 26, 2012. Andrew Coppley/CIA Photo)

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#StandWithSmoke

Avoidable Contact by Tammy Kaehler

Race car driver Kate Reilly is back in author Tammy Kaehler’s 3rd book in the Kate Reilly mystery series Avoidable Contact.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to get my hands on Avoidable Contact. I’ve read Kaehler’s first two books of the series (Deadman’s Switch and Braking Points) and I thoroughly enjoyed them both so I knew I was in for quite the ride.  I was definitely not disappointed.

“All the crap going on in the outside world can’t stop me from doing what I do best: kicking butt on the racetrack.”  pg 238, Avoidable Contact by Tammy Kaehler

In Avoidable Contact, our protagonist Kate is driving one of the Sandham Swift team Corvettes in the famed 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race.  The book opens with Kate Reilly standing on a very crowded pit road amid the chaos and crowds that is pre-race.  With less than an hour until the green flag, Kate spots two police detectives “with their serious faces on” heading her way flanked by the second in charge of operations fro the newly formed United SportsCar Championship series (USCC).  It immediately concerns her and well it should.  They are there to tell her that her boyfriend Stuart was involved in a hit-and-run accident outside the speedway that morning and is in serious condition at a nearby hospital fighting for his life.  Stuart is in charge of operations for the USCC and it doesn’t make sense to Kate that he would even be outside the track an hour before the start of the race.  Pushing that aside, Kate decides that Stuart wouldn’t want her to not drive in the race when the only thing she could do in the hospital for him is sit in the waiting room. Kate is determined to press on in spite of what is going on at the hospital blocks away and decides to concentrate on the race and her car and in between her driving stints she can watch for updates on Stuart and help in the search for who ran Stuart down and why.  She pushes Stuart and the rumors floating around the track as far out of her mind as she can and concentrates on driving- except during her first stint on the track Kate witnesses a terrifying on track incident that heaves her and the entire USCC racing community shaken to the core.  Kate can only wonder if the on track incident is related to Stuart’s pre-race accident and if that was the case who was their next target?

The thing that I adore most about the Kate Reilly Mysteries is Kate herself.  She is a very real character- and while she is spunky she still has those human moments and flaws that we all have and that makes her very real to me.  She is not a crime fighting machine in the guise of a race car driver- she just happens to usually be in the wrong place at the right time and the drive to see things though.  While Kate is a female driver in a male dominated sport (although not really- as Kate isn’t the only female driver) readers aren’t continually hit over the head with the fact that she is a female.  Kate doesn’t see her self as a female race car driver- but as a racer and that’s it.  Kate Reilly is a multifaceted character that I can identify with on a personal level.  She is the reason that I love these books.  I also love that Kaehler actually incorporates a real racing series right down to the recent creation of the United SportsCar Championship Series created when the American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Sports Car Series merged back in 2013.

What unfolds over the course of the race is a gripping tale with more turns than the road course at Daytona.  I am not going to go any further into plot of Avoidable Contact because I want you to enjoy it as untainted by spoilers as possible.  But I will say that of the three Kate Reilly Mysteries- Avoidable Contact has moved into first place as my favorite!  Readers get to see parts of Kate’s life we haven’t seen before.  And I will say this: expect to be left craving book 4 and to be saying things out loud like “Urg! But what happens next?!” after you turn that last page.

Author Tammy Kaehler is a technical writer in the Los Angeles area.  To go along with the release of her third Kate Reilly Mystery, Tammy Kaehler has been blogging about some of the research she did for Avoidable Contact.  These blog posts are a perfect companion to the book: Avoidable Contact – The Backstory, Avoidable Contact- Racing Into The NightAvoidable Contact- My Sleep Research, and Avoidable Contact- Daytona’s Checkered Flag. They give you just a little bit of insight on what kind of research goes into a book like this plus are just fun race experiences and you KNOW how I like those since I write them for BadGroove. Pick up a copy of Avoidable Contact today- I really think you will love it! I certainly did.

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For disclosure an advanced readers copy of Avoidable Contact was supplied for review purposes- but I would have had it queued up in my kindle pre-order queue if it hadn’t because I LOVE this series!

What Turn 4?

What Turn 4? The #14 Code 3 Associates Mobil 1 Chevy of Tony Stewart turns lap at the Tricky Triangle. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/Tony Stewart Facebook page)

It was another bad luck race for Tony Stewart and Team 14 at the evil little tricky triangle track known as Pocono.  It started with  Tony Stewart qualifying the #14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet 16th for the race in Long Pond, PA.

The race start time was moved up slightly because of possible weather in the area in the afternoon. I was actually kind of impressed- previously NASCAR has been resistant to moving race start times to outrun weather.  I liked that the were being a little more proactive.

Prayer Circle

Tony Stewart and crew form a prayer circle before the GoBowling 400 at Pocono Raceway August 2014 (Photo Credit: ommy Grassmann/CIA Copyright/Tony Stewart Official Store Facebook Page)

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