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So either while on the way to Phoenix or while driving around in and around Phoenix for the November race- Misty asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  I looked at her and said “A 2011 Sprint Cup Championship” (implied that it was for Tony to win the championship- not that I wanted that lovely Tiffany & Co trophy under my tree all wrapped up- although if the big man in the red suit can make that happen…well let’s just say I have room on my shelf- he is SANTA after all).  Well I got my Christmas present early didn’t I?  Thank you Tony Stewart and Stewart Haas Racing (and all the various support staff entities) for all your hard work to make my Christmas merry and bright!

If, however, you are looking for a cute cuddly stocking stuffer- you can look no further than Office Depot.  You probably think I am kidding but actually I LOVE Office Depot because I have a “thing” for writing implements (right now my favorites are still the Sharpie Pens- and I am always on the look out for purple ones -you know just in case Santa was bored and sniffing around my blog for ideas) and they sell quite the variety of those- plus I also have a “thing” for post-it notes and well they have a whole section devoted to those too.  But I have digressed- back to cute cuddly stocking stuffer.  That would be TEDDY B. CARING…the Office Depot seasonal teddy bear seen here in this month’s (THE LAST MONTH) Tony Stewart Office Depot Poster (which you can get from the Print Center for $9.99 by printing out this coupon):

Tony Stewart with Teddy B. Caring

This cute little teddy bear sitting in Tony’s lap is the perfect stocking stuffer because he is adorable and cuddly and best of all- a portion of his sales go to benefit the Office Depot Foundation and their initiatives that support children (for instance- The National Backpack Program- which I have mentioned here several times this year because I am a big fan of this program).  So stop by your local Office Depot and pick up one today for your Tony Stewart fan, your teddy bear fan, or just because you like cute teddy bears and supporting the Office Depot Foundation giving back to their communities. Plus I think he has a really cool name TEDDY B. CARING.

And if you ARE shopping for the Tony Stewart fan in your life while at Office Depot- remember that you can get a FREE Poster celebrating Tony’s 2011 Championship by spending just $14.00 (or more) in the store. You do need this coupon here.

And…here is Tony talking about TEDDY B. CARING too:

(Watch for PART 2 of All I Want For Christmas where I talk about how NASCAR is missing out on a holiday item for their store…)

I was REALLY excited to go to Champions Week in Vegas…I got to see Misty AND celebrate Tony’s AWESOME Sprint Cup Victory…what could be better? Not a lot I don’t think- BEST FRIEND TIME Rocks and so does Tony Stewart being the 2011 Sprint Cup Champion.

Champions Week festivities started with Fan Fest for me.  This year- instead of being at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway- Fan fest was at the Fremont Street Experience.  Honestly, this kind of bummed me out for a couple of reasons.  There is something I love about being at LVMS for fan fest because the stands are completely empty- so it’s kind of a cool perspective to get of the track.  Another reason is that the track is right by Nellis Air Force Base, so while you are standing there along the red carpet you can watch the air force jets overhead- that is always fun and I enjoyed it in years past.  This year it was more about watching the street performers walk around…there was a foul-mouthed Spongebob Squarepants, a bumblebee Transformer and a show girl that I saw.  I think they did it so they could make the red carpet longer- which it was. But the problem with how it was set up with the stage was that you pretty much had to choose do you want to stand on the red carpet or by the stage where they were doing the Teammates version of the NewlyWed game.  We chose red carpet with the hopes that after the red carpet we would be able to find a place to stand by the stage to watch the game show portion. Well that didn’t happen. It was far too crowded at the stage end to even see anything (especially for me- miss shorty).  They also decided to unleash all 12 drivers on the redcarpet at once instead of letting them walk the carpet one at a time.  This made taking pictures kind of hard but I tried my best for you all (also the shooting conditions were less than prime because Fremont Street because it was already overcast and then on top of that Fremont Street is covered over so be kind about the picture quality):

Kevin Harvick's Car was one of several on display down at the Fremont Street Experience where Fan Fest was held this year. (photo credit: Amy Marbach- That's Me)

One of my favorite pictures from the red carpet this year I call it FIND A DRIVER...see what I mean about how the drivers where all just kind of unleashed onto the red carpet at the same time? (photo credit: Amy Marbach- That's Me)

Ryan Newman (foreground) and Kyle Busch (background) walking the red carpet at Fan Fest (photo credit: Amy Marbach- That's Me)

Dale Earnhardt Jr walks the red carpet at Fan Fest. (Photo Credit: photo credit: Amy Marbach- That's Me)

Champion (that NEVER gets old) Tony Stewart (left) and Kurt Busch (right). Right after this a television cameraman stood in front of me and totally blocked me. It would be the first of two TV cameramen who spoil my shots! (photo credit: Amy Marbach- That's Me)

So after the drivers passed by our spot on the carpet we tried to move up towards the stage so we could watch the gameshow- but that didn’t happen there were too many people squished down at that end. So that ended festivities for the day for us.

Another reason I was hoping Fan Fest would be held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is Misty has a giftcard for a ride-a-long there that she got for her birthday from someone (ME) and I was hoping to get to witness her ride-a-long. Maybe in March.

On Thursday it was the burnouts and NASCAR After The Lap.  It was also threatening to rain all day (and had most of the night before).  I was worried that we would be all bundled up in OUR SPOT that we scope out every year and that it would start pouring and they would cancel The Victory Lap and Misty and I (and her brother Ben) would be standing there in the rain for no reason. Luckily the rain held out for the most part (there were a couple sprinkles here and there).  Here are some burnout pictures:

A Champion Burn Out -Tony Stewart! (photo credit: Amy Marbach- That's Me)

I love this picture because I love that you can see people cheering Champ Tony Stewart's Burn Out in the background. (photo credit: Amy Marbach- That's Me)

A bittersweet burnout for former champ Jimmie Johnson. (photo credit: Amy Marbach- That's Me)

Jeff Gordon roasts his tires on the Las Vegas Strip. (photo credit: Amy Marbach- That's Me)

My second camera man run in was during the burn outs after half way through he pushed his way in next to me causing me to have to shift over…between him and the guy behind me with the penchant for sticking his damn lens hood in the back of my head…I didn’t get any pictures of Ryan Newman’s burn out…which was cool cuz he BROKE HIS CAR! (Including leaving steaming fluid and parts in the road…it would have made a great picture!) After watching the burn outs the race was on for us to make it to NASCAR After The Lap- held at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.  It was quite the dash but thanks to my driving skills and much more to Misty’s locals knowledge of the streets we slid into the parking garage and dashed to the The Joint. We Misty and I got separated and I ended up being ushered outside and then back inside through a side door but we found each other before we were even seated.  And let me tell you fighting for my original seats was the best thing I could have ever done because my seats? Were totally awesome and just happened to be on Tony’s side of the stage so even better!  Unfortunately I couldn’t bring my DSLR in- but I had my point and shoot canon (it travels with me everywhere in my purse) at the ready! Because I was using my point and shoot though the pics aren’t the best:

Jimmie, Jeff, Junior, Keselowski and Harvick at NASCAR After The Lap (photo credit: Amy Marbach- That's Me)

Champ Tony Stewart and hostess Jamie Litte (photo credit: Amy Marbach- That's Me)

There were some great moments- during After The Lap this year- like when we found out that Brad Keselowski peed in the passenger side of his car during the Victory Lap on the strip (and Jr. thought he was leaned over hot wiring the car). The best thing however was Jeff Gordon getting talked into giving the audience a sample of his mad break dancing skills.  That was fully. What was even funnier was Jimmie Johnson asking him if he still had a job as he was one of the main instigators of getting Jeff to break dance.  I took a very shaky and crappy video of him breakdancing…but this one by Jeff Gluck is much better.

After the AFTER THE LAP were the Stewie Awards…but this year they held them in a bar- and we had someone in our party who was underage- not to mention that by the time we filed out of the Joint (Seats up front were great for the show but BAD for getting out quickly) the bar was pretty filled up anyway. So we left without seeing the Stewies.

Friday was a pretty laid back day…and I decided that I wanted to get a picture of Tony’s car that was stationed at the WELCOME TO LAS VEGAS sign…which I did:

Tony's Mobil 1 car stationed at the Welcome To Las Vegas Sign...but not. It was at the far end of the parking lot and nowhere near the sign. I was sad...but it didn't stop me from snapping a picture (ok three). (Photo Credit: Amy Marbach- That's Me)

I did a lot more stuff in Vegas because I was with Misty- but they had nothing to do with Champions week so I will spare you all that!

Here is a link to my Flickr album of all my pictures from Champions Week (this is only a small smattering of pictures).

While in-between festivities at Champions Week in Las Vegas (and yes I still have to post about them- I haven’t forgotten) Misty and I were discussing Tony Stewart’s run at Homestead.  I forget what the exact statistic is but he passed something like 118 cars during that race.  Now- mind you there are only 43 cars in a sprint cup race field IF everyone is on the track- which is highly unlikely because of start-n-park teams, mechanical failures, crashes, etc.  You couldn’t help but notice- at Homestead that Tony Stewart was a man determined. He was going to do everything in his power to get that car across that finish line FIRST.  Misty always tells me when I get a little discouraged at Tony’s run “Remember- You can NOT keep Tony Stewart down.” For those of you who don’t know Misty like I do- that is a lot for her to say- because while she loves Tony as a person- he is NOT her driver during a race (and let me tell you- during a race Misty can get fairly ferocious in her driver loyalty).  Misty’s right though- Tony Stewart was a man determined and NOWHERE was that more evident than at Homestead.  Just when I thought his day was done he would be flying up through the field yet again- determined to get that win and that Championship.  His driving was determination personified. That is why I think Tony’s victory at Homestead (and his amazing championship run- winning 5 of the 10 chase races) deserves to be Sport’s Illustrated’s Sports Moment of the Year for 2011.

YOU, the fans, can help Tony get this honor.  All you have to do is LIKE Sports Illustrated on Facebook- then go to the Sports Illustrated facebook page and vote for your top five sports moments of 2011 (making Tony Stewart’s moment first of course).  Vote now- vote often. You only have until December 16th to place your votes!

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, poses with the Championship trophy after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 and the 2011 Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. (November 20, 2011 - Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

Tony busted his butt to win that third championship- and put on one hell of a show doing it! Let’s show him we loved watching him do it!

At the end of this video, Tony Stewart plays a pink plastic flute (we called them recorders when I was in grammar school):

YOU could own that flute by bidding NOW on the ebay auction that benefits the Tony Stewart Foundation.   Here are some better pictures:

Tony playing the pink flute.

Close up of Tony's Autograph on the pink flute.

You only have until noon December 9th 2011 (eastern time) to bid on the flute so bid now! Proceeds from the auction go to the Tony Stewart Foundation to help animals and children!

***

Also you can go to Office Depot Racing’s website and download this coupon for a FREE Championship poster with any $14.00 (or more) purchase at Office Depot – good through the end of December! Get your free poster celebrating Tony’s third championship poster now.

While you are there be sure to enter the 14 for 14 contest for the month of December- you could win a $50 Office Depot Giftcard! Awesome!

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, poses with the Championship trophy after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 and the 2011 Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. (November 20, 2011 - Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

So I am heading to Vegas in the morning to take part in the Champions Week Celebration…celebrating our driver 2011 Champion Tony Stewart! (WHOOHOO! I am still so stoked about that!)

If you are going I hope to see you there.

If not follow me on twitter ( I will be with Misty too- so you can follow her on twitter too)- I am much better about updating twitter than I am about facebook (I try to do both but sometimes I get excited and forget to send to both).

I will be taking a camera so hopefully I will get some awesome pictures of the burn outs and the other stuff!  See you next week!

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart talks with Dallas Clark of the Indianapolis Colts during the game against the Carolina Panthers at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 27, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (November 26, 2011 - Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

Thirteen weeks ago (give or take) I was sitting in my office at work contemplating requesting my vacation leave for Champions week.  Since Champions week had been moved to Las Vegas- I have attended EVERY SINGLE ONE but of course, Tony Stewart had been in every single chase since then too.  At the time of my contemplation, Tony was precariously perched in a points position where it looked like he might not even make the Chase. A tiny little part of me didn’t want to go if Tony didn’t at least make the chase so I considered briefly putting off my request until I knew if he would make the chase.   That tiny little part of me that didn’t want to go is a sore loser you see.  It’s probably related to the part of me that is in a fairly foul mood the better part of a day after Tony has had a crappy run.   Of course I put in my vacation request for Champions week that day because the bigger part of me would pretty much take any reason to go visit her best friend in Vegas- and really I should buck up. That is what I told myself: I needed to buck up and go even if Tony didn’t make the chase. So that is where my head was…I still had hope that he would make the chase- but never in a bazillion years at that point in time did I think he would even have a run at the championship.

It’s hard to believe that in the span of time of just the chase (10 weeks), Tony won 5 races (out of 10) AND the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship.  He won the Cup Sunday and here it is Tuesday and I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around it- despite watching it with my own eyes (on TV- but OH HOW COOL WOULD IT HAVE BEEN TO BE THERE?).

So when I woke up on Sunday I didn’t watch RaceDay like I usually do (I usually keep RaceDay on Speed as the background of my morning activities- don’t think I didn’t DVR it though).  I figured it would be talk about Carl vs Tony and I didn’t need the extra nerves.  I checked my twitter that morning only ONCE for the same reason.  If I was this nervous how could Tony and crew NOT be?  The race on Sunday was a roller coaster of a race just like the season for Tony was a roller coaster season. Before the race even started I texted Misty and said: Part of me doesn’t even want to watch.  What I really wanted to tweet before the start of the race I didn’t.  I wanted to tweet: Tony please win the championship- if for no other reason so I can go neener neener neener to all the naysayers. One of which told me in no uncertain terms that Tony had given Carl a good run for his money but there was no way he would win the championship or the race.  NO WAY.  The person who told me this? Claims to be a Tony fan (a fair weather fan so says me).

My dad likes to say he had to restart my heart about 3 times during the race and that I said a couple of “profound” things during the race (well I have told you before that I can’t be held too accountable for the words that flew outta my mouth during a race).  When I saw the hole in the grill- I sent a very disheartened text to Misty that said something to the effect of  “Well there went the championship” and she replied simply with “Keep Digging Friend”.  That has been our battle cry here at BadGroove for most of the season: #KeepDiggingTony (as evidenced by my post race Michigan report and multiple tweets since then).  During the course of the 367 laps at Homestead Miami- Tony passed 118 cars!  Considering that the field is only 43 cars and that the go-or-go-homers tend to drop out early in the race? That’s a lot of cars passed.

Some photos:

Driver Intros:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, is introduced prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

One of the heart attack moments:

Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, and Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, pass Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, to go four wide in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

Rain Delay:

(C) Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, talks with crew members during the reg flag rain delay during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

Two of my favorite Victory Lane pictures:

Tony Stewart (L), driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, hugs his mother Pam Boas (R) after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 and the 2011 Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. Stewart wins his third NASCAR Championship. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

Tony Stewart (L), driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, hugs his sister Natalie (R) after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 and the 2011 Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. Stewart wins his third NASCAR Championship. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)

So I have to admit I am REALLY looking forward to heading to Vegas in about a week for Champions week.  Cuz NEENER NEENER NEENER:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 and the 2011 Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. Stewart wins his third NASCAR Championship. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)

Speaking of Champions week- there are still tickets available to NASCAR After The Lap (my original issue with Ticketmaster and my tickets was resolved and I got my original tickets back-YEY!) – I highly suggest you order some up and come join us for some FUN.

** After the race I ended up having to make good on my own smack talk- having told my family on Saturday that if Tony won the Championship I would treat them to dinner at the OUTBACK (sorry BK wasn’t fancy enough for a championship).  Every time Tony crossed the start-finish line for the last 15 laps or so my dad would yell OUTBACK! in his AFlac Duck voice.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 and the 2011 Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. Stewart wins his third NASCAR Championship. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

The people’s champion as whomever tweets for Stewart-Haas Racing’s twitter account likes to call Tony Stewart- is INDEED the Sprint Cup champion of 2011.  I will post part 2 tomorrow after I have had time to digest. But for now…WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!!!

This down to the wire stuff with the Chase is absofreakinglutely killing me. Today at work I even referred to a co-worker (to a client no less) as Carl Edwards (completely by accident- his first name is Carl so I think I get a pass there).  I have been referring to my boss as Tony (his name is NOT Tony so no excuse there- and don’t go getting all Freudian on me) for weeks.  How do I explain to people that my fairly severe case of  “CHASE BRAIN” will be gone after next Sunday?

As I took my seat before the race at Phoenix I had a case of butterflies that wouldn’t quell. I was almost more nervous during the race then I was that first time I interviewed Tony Stewart (and trust me- I was a BALL of nerves that day- just ask Misty).  The actual race at Phoenix was a stress-fest because I felt the need to keep steady vigil on Tony and Carl and who was where and who led a lap and who led the most laps, who pitted when and how many tires they took and so on.  People- I tried doing math in my head while at a track.  MATH- IN MY HEAD!  I am not a dumb person- but I am not great with numbers unless I have a calculator- or paper and pencil at the very least.  The number 3 is taunting me…with our three point deficit on the points leader, Carl Edwards.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car prior to practice for the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images North America)

It isn’t helping that Tony and Carl can’t seem to break free from each other.  They qualified for Phoenix Tony right in front of Carl. They finished Carl right in front of Tony.  There has been virtually no separation between the two competitors.   It is killing me! KILLING ME!  I was hoping to go into Homestead with a couple of points on Carl and here we are sitting exactly where we were before the Phoenix race.  I know I should be grateful that Tony didn’t fall further behind Carl- but I am not.  I am bitter that we did NOT best him- it’s the sore loser in me…even though I was not the one who was racing.Yeah…so I am not the most graceful loser.

That damn duck on Carl’s firesuit mocks me…quacking THREE THREE THREE at me.  A couple of years ago at Champions Week we got our hands on some little stuffed ducks that say AFLAC when you squeeze them.  It’s been in my nephew’s toy box since I came home from champions week that year…but last night was the day he decided to play with it. AFLAC AFLAC AFLAC. That damn duck needs to go that is for sure.  On the other hand- my oldest nephew discovered my 1:64 Tony Stewart diecasts up on the shelf and wanted to know “If they were real?” and “Why can’t I play with them?” because to him they look like matchbox cars.

Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, and Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy, speak during a press conference following the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

Usually by this time in the season I am beginning to mourn the end of the season, already missing my racing fix until next February, and looking a head to a fresh season for Tony to kick ass in.  However, I can NOT think that far ahead right now.   Right now all I can think is:

#KeepDiggingTony

#GoTonyGo

#BookendChampionships

XXX

By the way here are a couple of great articles about Tony in advance of the final race of the season:

Tony Stewart Vs Carl Edwards: The Championship Contenders Press Conference Score Card by Jeff Gluck

Stewart Balances Life As Driver/Owner In Quest For Cup by Cary Estes

Tony Stewart Would Make A Best Cup Champ by Terry Blount