MERRY CHRISTMAS from BOBBLEHEAD Tony Stewart under the Tree…and your friends at BADGROOVE (aka- AMY & MISTY)
And a New Year filled with love and laughter for all our readers.
For someone who doesn’t like to fly – I have logged more air miles in the last 13 months than I have in my entire life up to that point. Just within the last 13 months I have flown to Homestead Miami for Jeff Gordon’s last race, to Indianapolis Indiana for Tony’s last Brickyard. I flew to Phoenix for Tony’s last Phoenix race, and I flew to Vegas for Champions week (I also attended the Vegas and Sonoma races but didn’t fly for those). The thing about flying to Vegas for champions week- is that direct flights to Vegas run from my local regional airport only twice a week- on Thursday and Sunday mornings. Sure I could drive to the nearest BIG airport over an hour away and fly to Vegas nearly any day of the week- but the point was to not drive. Because fan fest is always on Wednesday I decided I would have to fly out Sunday and return home the following Sunday- luckily my best friend and co-blogger Misty lives in nearby Henderson so I didn’t have to worry about paying to stay in a hotel for a week…I could just kick back at her place and love on her dachshunds. Of course I would make my plane reservations before finding out that there would be no Fan Fest this year- so technically I could have flown out on Thursday morning and been fine. Oh well- as mentioned before Misty is my bestest friend and has been since junior high so I just had more friend time than I had anticipated. It was also the longest consecutive days I have gone with out being at work because I flew out to Vegas the Sunday after thanksgiving and didn’t fly back until the next Sunday which meant that was 11 consecutive days without work. It was a tad bit glorious I won’t lie about that.
I have been going to Champions Week in Vegas every year since they moved the festivities from New York. Boy has it changed since that first year. That first year my favorite part- “Fan Fest” was held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. While the track is kind of “out there” from the main downtown Las Vegas that everyone loves and thinks of when they hear “Las Vegas” it was fun being at the track when it wasn’t really operational. The fan fest red carpet was right in the neon garage (which was open for free to all) and when they did the “game show” portion of fan fest which also contained a Q&A if you couldn’t fit in the room- you could sit and watch it on the screens in the garage area- which is what we did. The track is also quite near Nellis Airforce Base and I had fun watching the jets perform maneuvers in between activities and listen to the band and special guests who were on stage. Now everything has been moved so it’s more centrally located on the STRIP which is fine but the last few years it’s gotten worse.
Last year we were bummed out when they dropped doing driver intros before the Victory lap. It was very unceremonious last year and not worth standing in the cold for hours just to watch the drivers get in the cars and take off. There was no ceremony or hooplah. They did most of that during fan fest before the Game Show (last year it was Jeopardy) on Fremont Street. (more…)
(For those not aware- a little over a year ago I undertook a project here on BadGroove that we lovingly called Project Smoke In My Eyes. The concept started out as a way for fans to submit their own stories about Tony Stewart and ended up being put into a book that is currently on it’s way to Tony for delivery sometime in December. The book is pages of fans stories about Tony Stewart. While I was compiling the submissions I worked on creating my own submission for the book. I went through several versions and finally at the end of my own self-imposed deadline came up with the following. It appears as the last entry in the Smoke In My Eyes book- the only thing behind it being The End- But Really Just The Beginning.—- AMY)
This is what seems like my one millionth attempt at writing my own entry for “Smoke In My Eyes.” My most recent previous attempt was pages and pages of me waxing on poetically but as I edited it, I realized that while it said a lot- it wasn’t actually what I wanted to say.
Mostly what I want to say is thank you Tony. (more…)
Points: 2192 (15th in points)
Dear Phoenix- it had been too long. I hadn’t been at your track since November of 2014 and I forgot why I love you so much. Last year I forsake you to attend my first race in Homestead-Miami because Jeff Gordon was retiring and since it’s so close to the Phoenix race there was no way I could attend both. This year- I thought I would miss you. I had decided in the shadow of my driver Tony Stewart retiring to attend my first and his last Brickyard 400 at IMS. I assumed that I would again forgo Phoenix. For no other reason than for me to drive the crazy trek to Phoenix is a taxing one- first to Vegas to pick up my friend which is about 500 miles door -to-door from where I live and usually takes me between 7 and 8 hours. The drive from Vegas to Phoenix is another nearly 5 hours. That’s a lot of time in a car- to then have to turn around and do the same thing in reverse order the Monday and Tuesday after the race. Especially when you consider I would likely be doing the same thing just a few weeks later for Champions Week in Vegas (minus the trip to Phoenix). But then I got a text from Misty asking if I wanted to do something a little bit crazy. See when we went to Indiana for the Brickyard we were caught up in the major meltdown Southwest suffered when it had issues with it’s reservation software in late July. Our outgoing flight to Indianapolis was cancelled with 3 hours notice (not delayed but CANCELLED completely). Despite the stress of us having to figure our own way out to Indiana (because if we stayed with Southwest they MIGHT be able to get us to Indiana on Saturday when we were suppose to be there on Thursday) on another carrier who was more than willing to get us there on Friday- Southwest gave us vouchers for flights to prove they can indeed provide us with the service we expected. Misty’s crazy idea was for me to drive to Vegas and then together we would hop a flight from Vegas to Phoenix stay just long enough to see the race and then fly back to Vegas and I could drive back to my central coast home. That flight ended up being approximately 45 minutes. And let me tell you it was worth every penny. Flying was so so much easier than the long, desolate desert drive between Vegas and Phoenix that I since have a hard time seeing myself doing that drive again. Ever. (more…)
Finish: 31st, 5 laps down
Points: 2166 (14th in points)
Ahh you have heard the saying everything is bigger in Texas right? Well that is also true of the NASCAR race- because was was suppose to be an afternoon race stretched into a HUGE rain delay…and then a rain shortened race. When it started to rain right after the drivers got in and all buckled up there was a lengthy (six hour) rain delay.
Way to stick it out Texas race fans by the way. Rain delay coverage was the usual…I don’t know if they talked about it during the coverage- because I actually left the house for a bit when it was clear that the race wouldn’t restart for at least another couple hours and that was the Team Hendrick pit crews doing the Mannequin Challenge (where you hold still like a mannequin). You can see it here on the Hendrick Motorsports website. I thought that was awesome- it can not be easy to hold those poses like that.
When they finally called the drivers to their cars at just after 7:00 pm local time- I started to get excited. Then we watched the longest warm up laps in recent memory as the drivers ran around the track for twenty something laps before the race trying to help dry the track. Then the race started under a Green/Yellow as that continued for several laps until the track was finally deemed dry enough and the cars were allowed to race. (more…)
Finish: 26th, 4 laps down
Points: 2156 (14th in points)
Tony’s weekend started out with awesome practices and a solid qualifying effort but unfortunately it didn’t end up so swell. After the first caution when a majority of the field pitted and Tony’s team did not he ended up falling back in the field to fresher tires. The car sustained damage when Ryan Blaney came across the nose of Tony’s car as well. Between battling a car that wouldn’t turn and the loss of track position he was unable to make up any ground and eventually ended up loosing laps to the leader and finishing 26th. Tony was discouraged. The team was discouraged. The fans were discouraged. It wasn’t the best of weekends so why dwell on it I say. (more…)
Points: 2141 (14th in points)
For Talladega- the race on Sunday was fairly uneventful and that was a good thing. The big one never came- just a few medium to small sized incidents that did little damage- unlike the big melee during the truck race the day before with 34 laps to go.
Tony dropped to the back of the pack after the drop of the green flag and stayed there for the entire race. When – by chance of caution he was in packs of cars he again would drop back until he was in a smaller group of people whom he trusted. The plan was to move forward if they thought there would be a chance at gaining position with relatively little danger of being ensnared in “the big one” however even towards the very end of the race Tony radioed in and said that he felt there was something still brewing and he wasn’t going to push it to move forward. While a couple of smallish accidents happened towards the end of the race- Tony was never really able to climb forward because of the restarts and finished his day 32nd. It was a craps shoot to stay in the back just as much as it was a craps shoot to get up in the main fruckus and possibly get wiped out by someone else’s problem.
I have seen a lot of people online complaining that what the Gibbs cars (minus Denny who took his chances at the front of the pack) did and what Tony did wasn’t racing. But wasn’t it? It was a strategic move to keep themselves and their cars safe and it worked well for Gibbs. Why? Because half of the Round of 8 are the four Gibbs cars. So it didn’t work out too well for Tony- but at least he was running at the end of the race on the lead lap and wasn’t on his way home with nothing but a crumpled mess of car sitting in the Hauler waiting to go back to North Carolina. I have long been of the stance that racing at Talladega and Daytona is dangerous. I don’t know if it’s because of the speeds they run on the high banks, or if it’s due to the restrictor plates putting the cars so close together on the track- but one person messes up and you are in someone else’s mess. Because of the speeds at the superspeedways I am ALWAYS concerned about injury during accidents. Yes I know that those cars are safe- but after seeing two freak accidents injure Tony Stewart (none of which were in Sprint Cup Stock cars) how can I not worry that the intense speeds and “big one” type collisions during these super speedway races will cause a freak accident type injury that severely injures a driver. Besides- wasn’t it a wreck at Talladega that landed Ryan Newman on his lid on the backstretch several years ago- and he ended up with several cracked teeth because of it? Minor injury yes but still an injury. For the possible injury reason alone I can not blame a driver from shying away from running mid-pack when all they have is a mid-pack car. Then you have the cost of the wreck because a lot of times when you wreck at Talladega you wreck big. That’s money out of the owners pockets both in destroyed equipment in addition to any possible purse money depending on where the driver might have finished had the car just suffered a minor ding and gone to the garage to fix it. Therefore it does not surprise me nor do I think it’s cheating or not racing when a team wants to move all or some of it’s cars to be the back to be “safe” when they are in contention for a championship, during an elimination race. That is just strategy and it will work some times and bite you other times (just ask Tony). (more…)
Points: 2131 (13th in points)
The race in Kansas started out with a good omen for driver Tony Stewart: he was driving the number 14 car, was housed in garage number 14 in the garage area at Kansas and ended up qualifying 14th. That’s a whole lot of 14 right?
At the drop of the green flag Tony started flying up the field and cracked the top ten within 10 laps. He reported that the balance was pretty much the same as it had been in practice and it was pretty good. The team did a great first pit stop and no penalties left him in the top ten. By lap 59 he had moved up into 6th place by passing Joey Logano when Tony exclaimed that it was “fun out here.”
Not that I could hear him well. I couldn’t. The static on Tony’s radio from the NASCAR Mobile ap was so terrible it actually hurt my ears to listen and there were times that I would take it out. It would have periods of being better, less staticy but then it would get bad again. So I missed about half of what went on on the radio. About the time he passed Joey Logano he wanted his spotter to let whom I assume is Joey’s spotter that “he’ll play nice if he does.” Like I said that is what it sounded like anyway because I had a heck of time hearing.
Unfortunately after the laps started to tick away the handling on the Code 3 Associates Chevy went away too and Tony slowly started dropping back as the handing went away. The team would work on the car during the pitstops but it just didn’t seem to make too big of a difference and I was beginning to think he was going to be lucky to get a top 20 finish but after the last major pit stop of the day- it seemed to turn a corner and Tony was able to gain a few positions and finished the race 16th. His teammate Kevin Harvick had a great day however and was able to bring home the checkers for his friend/owner Tony Stewart. This locked Kevin Harvick into advancing into the round of 8 with Jimmie Johnson.
Oh and Tony had another awesome helmet on for the Kansas Weekend:
While in Kansas Code 3 Associates founder Nan Stuart presented Tony with a plaque commemorating their partnership and sponsorship:
Here is a great article about Tony Stewart that came out of the Kansas Race weekend by Darron Cummings for the Kansas City Star: Tony Stewart bidding farewell to NASCAR, but he’s not finished racing.
Also- I hope Alex Bowman (who was driving the 88 for Dale Earnhardt Jr) is feeling better. After the race Dale tweeted out a picture of poor Alex in the infield care center hooked up to an IV- apparently he was suffering from a bug all day yet still drove his heart out:
Next week…I will be watching through my fingers because it’s Talladega!
Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:
There is just something about this picture that I love: