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NASCAR instituted a new points system at season’s beginning in an effort to make it easier for the average fan to understand and in theory increase viewership. For those of you who read my thoughts on the change at the beginning of the season, you know that I was not a fan of the change, but I didn’t think it would make much of a difference. On that point I could not have been more wrong. While I still say it wasn’t needed, I now believe the change is a pure detriment to the sport that I so enjoyed watching and following each week.
Allow me to explain, I don’t think I am that much of an anomaly among fellow racing fans in that I have a favorite driver that I follow and root for. While I may like most of the drivers, on race day there is only one driver I am thinking about. Well, unfortunately this season has not gone so well for my driver and each week he seems to get mired further and further down the points standings. Under this new, but definitely not improved system, with each mediocre or, heaven forbid, bad week that transpires my hopes for him to pull himself out of the muck and mire of this points abyss dim.
OK, so maybe you’re saying, “well that’s how it goes”, and I bet if you are your driver is in the top 10. Am I right? But, I digress…
Under this new points system watching races and following a driver stuck in a points deficit becomes sheer frustration. When I see a twenty point separation between my driver and the next position in the standings I feel hopeless, understanding that he’ll need to finish twenty spots ahead of that guy in the next race to catch up. This hopelessness leaves me feeling like a frustrated vulture, hoping the drivers above him suffer calamities of all sorts. It has taken a sport I loved to watch and turned it into something I dread. I want to say, wake me when the Chase starts and hope that my driver is still lucky enough to have a shot at the wild card position for the Chase. Now, I won’t do that (just yet), so for now I watch and hope and prey for calamity and pray for success, but with each week my enthusiasm is giving way to despair and hopelessness. Watching is no longer fun but perfunctory at this point.
I am sure NASCAR’s decision to change the points so that “average” fans could understand wasn’t meant to dim the enthusiasm and support of the fervent fan, but it has for me.

I just had some tidbits and reminders I wanted to share regarding things going on in relation to Tony Stewart- and to spice it up I thought I would throw in some pictures: (more…)

When Badgroove.com was presented with an opportunity to meet with one of NASCAR’s most controversial drivers and talk to him about the sport that he is so passionate about, we welcomed the opportunity.  Little did we know that we would get to take part in one of the coolest sponsor promotions for fans that I have heard of in quite some time.  Early Friday, Miller Lite sent some reps out to talk to fans in the campground and gauge their interest in Miller and Coors.  The reps promised they would return with some free beer later that evening, but what they didn’t know was that the beer would be delivered by the driver of the Miller Lite Dodge, Brad Keselowski.  Badgroove got to ride along for the surprise deliveries and it was a blast. 

In total we surprised three lucky camp sites and Brad met with numerous fans, some stunned, some amorous, but most impressed and excited to get a chance to talk to the driver, get some free beer and a memory that will surely, last a lifetime. 

At the first site, as Brad held court in the center of the make-shift camper quad, one older man, approached and whispered with what can only be described as both awe and disbelief, “Is that Brad Keselowski?”  Yes, sir, it is.  Things heated up at the second site, when an amorous and adoring lady took a liking to Mr. Keselowski and wanted to show him that “rubbing is racing”, but the last site was the ultimate, as fans from other camp sites poured in to see what was going on and get a chance to talk to Brad and take part in this unique experience.  The excitement level was off the charts and even as the cart pulled away, fans continued to run over asking for a picture.  Brad was more than accommodating to everyone and impressed me with just how personable and open he truly is with the fans.

On the way back from the event, we did indeed get more than a few minutes to talk with Brad and what I learned is that this young man is in the right profession.  His love of the sport comes through in every answer he gives, and even more impressive to me was how he described his competitors.  Read for yourself and I think you, too, will be impressed by a driver that is sure to make a lasting mark in NASCAR.

Brad and a fan at the campsite. (Photo Credit: Misty)

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Misty:   Tell us a little bit about what you thought about doing this [the Miller Lite promotion for the fans]?

Brad:    Well, it’s fun you know.  This is like the grass roots of the sport.  People that come out to races and camp out, just hang out and enjoy it as a weekend.  Have some fun with the guys, or girls, the family and watch a great race, ya know? Racing has a huge allure to it because of just the campground lifestyle, so it’s great to kinda rejoin it and have some fun with it.

Misty:  You get to see some fans and be a part of it?

Brad:    Absolutely! The fans are the life blood of our sport, without them we are nothing.

Misty:   You have the new sponsor, new number this year.  We heard Kurt say earlier that for him it’s a whole new vibe this season.  Do you feel the same way?

Brad:    Oh yeah, absolutely! Lots of changes, and I think they are mostly good (chuckle).  So hopefully we will continue to pick up on the performance side.  I think that is the heart of the sport and uh, from there we will see where it goes, but I feel good about everything and the way we are going, and we will just kinda play it one day at a time.

Misty:  Absolutely, and we heard a lot today in the media center about how drivers are surprised at how aggressive it has gotten in just the early part of the season, and early on in the races.  What do you attribute that to?

Brad:    We are all just ready to race.  No testing, no off season, we are all just hungry. The competition level is unprecedented.  You know, there are so many drivers, the same age, the same talent level, that the only way you are really going to make a mark in this sport is by being extremely aggressive, because you are not going to out talent anyone.  Ya know, you are not going to out work them.  You just have to be more aggressive, and make smarter decisions.  So that is really, really tough and when people get really aggressive that is when accidents happen.

Misty:  We have seen the slogan on the back of the car, “Have At It Brad”…

Brad:    Yeah, yeah (laughs) that was cool, wasn’t it?

Misty:   Yeah, definitely. So it sounds like that is a characteristic you are willing to embrace and run with?

Brad:    It’s a core, uh, it’s part of the core of the sport…the whole boys have it and basically we kinda got away from it the last few years and now we are kinda coming back to it, and I think it is starting to pay dividends and I think the fans are starting to recognize just how fun racing is.

Misty:   Yeah, that was my next question; do you think the fans like this a lot more?

Brad:    I think so; I like it a lot more.  Hell, a couple years ago I wouldn’t even watch one of our races and now I watch ‘em all.  So, that’s cool.

Misty:   Alright, and last question is what would you want our readers, or NASCAR fans in general, to know about you?

Brad:    Oooh… what would I want them to know about me…uh, well…you know basically that the biggest thing and the message that I try to get across whether verbally or non verbally is that I am all in to the sport, I eat it, drink it, sleep it, and leave everything there is on the table on the race track, and uh, that is what I am all about.  That’s why I love this sport; it has that ability to get that out in me.  And sometimes different people might disagree with different things I have done, but they are all done in the name of the sport and trying to honor it and the opportunity that was given to me.

Misty:   Alright, I actually lied ’cause I have one more question for you, what’s your primary goal this season?

Brad:    Just continue to get better, and everything I do, everything we do as a team affects the racing.

Misty:   Alright, well thank you very much.

Brad:    You got it!

 

Brad presents fans at a campground with some Miller Lite. (photo credit: Amy)

-MAB

WARNING:  NASCAR is addicting, may lead to loud outbursts at television set, wild jumping and clapping after lap lead, pass, or victory by favorite driver; avoidance of social commitments and other activities on race day, to name but a few of  the side effects of becoming a NASCAR fan.

I had no idea the depth to which I had been plunged into NASCAR, until this past weekend.  I mean I rarely do anything half heartedly and NASCAR is no exception.  Though I have only been following the sport for the last few years, it did not take me long to learn the terminology, get acquainted with the drivers, the rules, the point system and the myriad of changes that NASCAR has thrown to all of that in the last few years.  I shouldn’t have been surprised by what transpired this past weekend, after all I have broken blood vessels in my hands from clapping so hard during a race, I nearly gave myself a concussion once by jumping up from my stability ball at the end of another race when my driver won and I fell back, slamming my head on a tile floor, and I have caught the attention of more than one fellow race enthusiast at the track when my driver’s “personal safety bubble” is being ignored on track making the racing a little too close for my liking and causing me to perch on my seat and bite my nails, quite literally.  Sometimes I will watch a pass through the palms of my hands until I am certain my guy came out of the hornet’s nest unscathed and the position was won. But despite all these obvious signs at being what some might very well call a nut, er, I mean super fan, I didn’t get it until I leapt off of my chair after a commercial that aired during the Bud Shootout advertising the upcoming Gatorade Duels, which were scheduled to air the following Thursday.  The reason for my jubilation… the Duels were airing on Thursday, the same day I was scheduled to have my wisdom teeth removed, meaning I would be home from work and able to watch the races.  Only a true diehard NASCAR fan would be excited to have scheduled their oral surgery for a race day.  My jubilation was only partially dampened by the thought that I would likely be a little out of sorts due to the pain meds I would undoubtedly be consuming.

So here’s to the Duels on Thursday and the beginning of a fresh season with unlimited possibilities for my driver and unlimited opportunities for me to incur injury in my fervent following of this sport!

Attention Indiana Tony Stewart fans- the February 1st autograph appearance has been changed to MARCH 15th due to a winter storm warning.  Here is the new information:

The new store location is the JD Byrider located at 1703 US 31 South in Greenwood Indiana.  The autograph session will still take place from 5:00pm – 7:00 pm local time with wristband distribution beginning at the location at 11:00 am.  Wristband entitles you to one autographed item.

Attention Indiana Tony Stewart fans: Tony will be meeting fans in Indianapolis, Indiana on February 1st at JD Byrider.  The autograph session will take place from 5:00pm to 7:00pm local time at the JD Byrider Store on Shadeland Ave. in Indianapolis (1525 North Shadeland Ave.).  Wristbands are needed for this event.

Wristbands will be available starting at 11:00 am at the JD Byrider Store- there will be  800 wristbands distributed. Fans with wrist bands will be able to enter the store to get one (1) item autographed and will be allowed to take as many photos as they want in front of the table while in line.

Last year it was Jeff Gordon helping the Extreme Home Make over team. This Sunday- NASCAR drivers Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards join movie star Emma Roberts and pop singer Justin Bieber in helping the Brown family in Texas. In this  episode we learn that the Brown family lost their teenage daughter to a texting-while-driving accident.  Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards help the Brown’s cause- which is to prevent distracted driving accidents- by trying their hands at texting-while-driving on a closed course.

Greg Biffle, designer Leanne Touhy, and Carl Edwards on the set of Extreme Home Makeover. Photo courtesy of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition / George Verschoor

This two-hour episode airs this Sunday January 30th on ABC at 8:00 pm ET/PT time.  Check your local listings.

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And for those who are thinking that the name of designer Leanne Touhy sounds familiar, this is because she was the character Sandra Bullock played in the movie The Blind Side.

Picture if you will, an extremely busy Monday morning and I am sitting in my office doing my thing.  My coworker sticks his head in my office to say hello and discuss some work matters.  Then, just as he was about to go on his way he says it.  “So what’s this I hear about Tony Stewart?”

I knew it was just a matter of time that someone approached me at work.  Anyone who passes by my office can tell that I am a stalwart Tony Stewart fan.   It may as well be tattooed across my forehead, for I very proudly display my driver of preference in my office. There are hero cards, cars, burger king toys, calendar, oh and the cardboard standee in the corner that is taller than I am.  I wear my Tony Stewart fandom on my sleeve, the way most NASCAR fans wear theirs for their driver of preference. 

So I clenched my jaw, took a breath, and tried (successfully) not to roll my eyes.  This is not the first time I’ve caught hell for being a Stewart fan and I am sure it won’t be the last.  I was trying to decide on a way to reply when my coworker stopped me with “Yeah, I heard he went to Australia for a fight and a race broke out.”   Oh how I chuckled heartily.  Come on…it’s a little funny right? It couldn’t have just been my frenzied Monday playing tricks on me! 

So, I guess it’s time to talk about the purple elephant that’s been sitting on the corner of the blog.  The one I have avoided for over a week now.  As you have probably heard by now, Tony Stewart went on a month long vacation to Australia that included some racing at Australian dirt tracks.  While there he was involved in a physical altercation with one of the co-owners of a track.  Australian police were involved. 

On Thursday of last week, right out of the gate at the Daytona test session, Tony answered media questions about the altercation.  He was honest and upfront about the situation and you can read about it word for word straight from Stewart’s mouth.  I watched the press conference and the transcription is dead on.

I don’t have anything new or exciting to add to the mix.  There are a ton of articles and blog posts out there either touting Tony as a terrible, out-of-control rageaholic for his part in the altercation or lauding the return of “old fiery Tony” all hail.  I don’t think this issue is entirely black and white; it’s more of a muddled grey mess and Tony/NASCAR fans may never know the full details. I don’t have any answers and I sure as hell am not going to speculate.  Maybe it’s just better to let this fade away into the excitement of the new season that is nearly upon us, at least for now.

Regular readers know that I’ve had the chance to interview Tony twice last season for BadGroove.com and both were completely awesome experiences.  At no time during either of those interviews did I see power cords sticking out from the man- he’s human.  He stated in his media session that he wasn’t proud of what happened, I believe he even said he was embarrassed.  To paraphrase Tony himself; he went on a vacation to Australia for thirty days and had one bad night.

Ahh if you never had braces you were a lucky ducky.  I work braces for a couple years and getting them finally removed was cause for celebration. No more painful “adjustments” which is orthadontal speak for tightening and no more food restrictions. My particular braces removal celebration included caramel popcorn.  But anyway, NASCAR fans, I digress.  We got our first taste of the new nose on the cup cars without the splitter braces when the cars hit Daytona International Speedway for testing last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I have to say I LOVE the look of the new nose on the cars.  In my opinion, the new nose adds to the aesthetics of the car and makes it look sportier.  Hopefully the lack of braces on the splitter will keep the cars from collection hot dog wrappers, grass clumps and other debris and make possible overheating less of an issue. 

SHR cars

Look Ma! No Braces! The new nose on the cars for this season is visible here in this picture tweeted by Stewart Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) today.

Many drivers were getting their first feel of the new surface on the speedway as well, as Daytona was repaved during the off season.  Many drivers reported it to be quite smooth and likened it to the newer surface at Talladega.  It should make for some interesting racing that is for certain.  I loved that testing was streamed live on the internet because I could tune in from my side of the states.  Seeing and hearing the cars on the track put a huge smile on this fan’s face.  Why? Because it means soon our season with be on again in full swing.

 Just from the little pieces of testing that I was able to watch it is going to be hard for me to get use to certain changes.  It’s really weird seeing Kasey Kahne in the Red Bull number 4 car.  I did see him race for Red Bull in person in Phoenix at end of last season, and it was weird then. Still weird.   Weirder yet?  Is Harvick in Budweiser red and Kurt in the number #22! It’s all going to take some getting used to that is for sure.  However this nothing new to us NASCAR fans; sponsors and teams change because our sport is dynamic like that. 

Other changes to look forward to or get use to this season:

  1. Ethanol used as fuel in the cars.  Preliminary reports had the cars getting fewer miles per gallon on the ethanol so we will see how much the switch to a “greener” fuel changes strategy on the track.
  2. Speaking of Ethanol- because of the change to ethanol fuel, the gas can needed to be modified. Because of the modifications to the gas can, it was determined that the catch can man was no longer needed.  It is a plus for pit road safety to have one less man over the wall (especially on smaller tracks with cramped pit roads).  While it may be plus for safety though it probably sucks if you were a catch can man.
  3. Drivers now have to declare a series in which they want to run for the championship.  This I don’t like. Why? Because that means my dreams of watching Kyle Busch sweep all three championships one day has died. Yes I am a Tony fan but I am SURE that Kyle could sweep all three series if he put his mind to it.
  4. There is the possible change in the points system that will be most likely announced soon. 
  5. There is the change in the chase format….playfully called the Jamie Mac Chase Clause (JMCC) between Misty and I.  I think its weird use the last two positions of the chase into more wild card spots given to the two non chase contenders with the most wins. I don’t know how that will change the chase…but I guess we will see.

Needless to say there are a lot of changes this season and not JUST to the drivers/teams.  Here we go NASCAR fans. Let’s buckle in for a new season. And to my Tony Stewart readers all I can say is #goTONYgo!

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Also NASCAR fans- be sure to head over to The Fast and The Fabulous and vote in Round 4 of the Hottest Driver contest. This round pits Stewart-Haas teammates against each other. Go vote…