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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

 

Before battling Carl Edwards in Homestead this Sunday, Sprint Cup Chase driver Tony Stewart will be signing autographs for 600 fans at the Office Depot located at 1940 S. University Drive in Davie Florida TOMORROW November 15th at 4:00 PM. Wristbands will be available at the location in Davie Florida starting at 8:00 am local time.  One wristband per person and one autograph per wristband.  While you are there you should enter the Office Depot Ultimate fan sweepstakes to win two tickets to the race, an autographed diecast, a private meet n greet with Tony and MORE at the location in Davie Florida. There will be 14 winners and you do need to be present to win the drawing- which will take place at 4:00pm local time.

If you get to go be sure to tell Tony to #KeepDiggingTony because #ImWithSmoke.

Speaking of being with Smoke YOU can enter now to win the I’M With Smoke Tshirt from Office Depot Racing online but you only have until November 18th to do it. 14 will be given away.

GO TONY GO (egads are you all as nervous as I am?)

I leave Wednesday for PIR (actually Vegas Wednesday to pick up Misty- Phoenix on Thursday)….

While I am gone be sure to follow me on twitter and Misty too…we will both send updates as our phones permit!!!

I will tell all and show all when I get back!

#KeepDiggingTony

I mentioned this in yesterday’s Chase Race post- but I fear that it may have gotten buried in the “YEY Tony won!” and “Look Tony went fishing” pictures and video: If you go to the I’m With Smoke Office Depot racing page you can enter to win tickets to Homestead-Miami race (along with some cash and other goodies). You only have until November 11th 2011 to do this- so enter today. FIVE people will win!! While there you can also download the I’M WITH SMOKE avatar for your Facebook/twitter accounts or the I’M WITH SMOKE Wallpaper to show your support for Tony and the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 race team!

I'm With Smoke...from the OfficeDepotRacing.com website

You also have through November 11th, 2011 to bid on the race worn Office Depot back to school paint scheme firesuit and/or a helmet of Tony’s.  Proceeds to benefit the Office Depot Foundation! Visit the Office Depot Racing Auction page for more information.

And you have until November 14th, 2011 to enter the monthly 14 for 14 contest from Office Depot Racing. This month it’s a 14 mouse pad autographed by Tony Stewart. You can’t win if you don’t enter!! Enter today!

So 4 wins in the last eight races is pretty awesome right? I think so.  You know what else is awesome? That this is the fifth season that Tony has had four wins!  GO TONY!  I will admit though, Jeff Burton did have me a little worried though yesterday. The last 12 laps or so I was standing right in front  of the TV hoping Jeff Burton would run out of gas.   Luckily he did- with just 5 laps to go resigning the lead to Stewart who went on to win the race at Texas Motor Speedway….putting him a mere 3 points behind points leader Carl Edwards with two races left (Phoenix and Homestead).  I think I need a really big bottle of Tums and for next week most likely a muzzle.

The best part about the win at Texas was that Tony totally backed up his smack talk from his win at Martinsville Speedway the week before.  I am the first to admit that when Tony got out of the car and during his post race press conference said “my adrenaline has worn off and I still mean he better not sleep too long these last three weeks” I cringed a little.  I mean that is some major smack talking but Tony and Stewart-Haas Racing was prepared to back it up and  I  LOVED that!!  After Smoke’s win at Martinsville the race at Texas Motor Speedway was billed as a sparring match between Stewart and Edwards so I also loved that TMS Track president brought out the boxing gloves to have Tony’s picture taken with in victory lane:

Tony Stewart (right, with Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage) wins the boxing match...er the AAA Texas 500 race at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, TX. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography)

That's right Tony...show 'em Stewart-Haas Racing has muscle! (photo credit: Action Sports Photography)

And WHOO FREAKING HOO:

Tony wins Texas! (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography)

 

Notes On Texas:

  1. Cute story – at about the 10 laps to go mark I was standing there watching (and hoping Burton would run out of gas) when my 3 and 1/2 year old nephew walked in.  He wasn’t sure what was going on and he stood by his grandpa.  My dad tried to explain it to him- that there was a race and we were rooting for Tony. So he stood next to me and kept saying Go Tony! everytime I would say Go Tony! If you asked him who Tony was he would say  “Tony our friend!”  Now since Tony won- he thinks that Tony is Lightning McQueen because he won and his car is red.
  2. On the Wednesday before Texas- Tony went to Lake Okeechobee again to fishin the third-annual Office Depot Foundation Charity Fishing Tournament:

Tony with his catch (Photo Credit: Corporate Image Photography)

Tony shows off his mad fishing skills for the Office Depot Foundation. (Photo credit: Corporate Image Photography)

Also Office Depot Racing is doing an I’M WITH SMOKE promo where you can download the “I’m With Smoke” icon to use as your twitter/facebook avatar as well as a wallpaper. Plus you can enter to win a trip to the Homestead Miami race (you must enter by November 11th, 2011). Next week’s race is at Phoenix. GO TONY GO! KEEP DIGGING TONY! See ya there!

By now most, if not all, race fans know that NASCAR’s sanctioning body parked driver Kyle Busch all weekend for an incident involving Ron Hornaday Jr. during the Camping World Truck series race on Friday night.  Instead Denny Hamlin piloted the Nationwide race car Kyle was suppose to run on Saturday and Michael McDowell drove the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing car in today’s Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Busch’s stead.

I don’t often watch the truck series races and that was the case this past Friday night. I only heard about the dust-up after the face. I’ve seen the replays multiple times. I’ve heard Kyle’s post race words and read his open letter of apology.  I’ve listened to Mike Helton’s explanation of the penatly. I’ve listen to Coach Gibbs. I’ve read parts of the letter from sponsor Mars. I’ve listened to commentators and drivers and fans.

I do realize that Ron Hornaday Jr is/was running for a championship. So was Matt Kenseth at Martinsville when Vickers repeatedly wrecked him last weekend. NASCAR took no action there- after all isnt it “boys have at it?” Is the idea not that the drivers are to police themselves? I also realize that Kyle did wreck Hornaday intentionally under a caution. A caution that had just come out and there were no safety vehicles in their vacinity.

I am not saying that Kyle didn’t take it too far. He did, afterall, wreck a championship contender intentionally under a caution.  NASCAR should not look the other way and I am not suggesting that they do.  Parking the truck for the remainder of the race was a good start. Points and monteary fines for Kyle Busch and Kyle Busch Motorsports should probably follow.  My big issue is parking Busch for the Sprint Cup race.  At the time of the incident Kyle was not driving for Joe Gibbs racing during the truck race.  It’s no different then when Tony stewart or Kasey Kahne go racing for their own dirt teams on friday nights.  Their actions at those tracks should not effect their current sprint cup rides much in the same way that Kyle’s incident in the truck series should not effect his Sprint Cup ride. Sure penalize and fine the everloving hell out of Kyle Busch and KBM but not JGR. This is the same stand that I took when Kyle got in trouble for his excessive speeding in North Carolina earlier this year. That had nothing to do with Joe Gibbs Racing either.

I admit I am surprised that according to the ESPN pre-race pole that 55 percent of those polled think that Kyle Busch should be let go by Joe Gibbs racing. I wholeheartedly disagree with that, which should not be a surprise.  I have a feeling that many of the NASCAR fans voting for the pro-firing must be the Kyle Busch haters. You know the ones. The booers. The same fans who write things like Kyle Busch Crash HERE X on the Safer Barrier by the start-finish lines at the tracks. The same fans who boo his crew as they push their car onto the qualifying grid. The same fans who harassed his wife on twitter- which is so beyond not cool to me.  It’s one thing to use social networking to call out a driver for their actions – it’s a completely other thing to call out or harass their spouse, girlfriend, or other family member or loved one.  That is not cool at alll.

Taking Kyle out of the race effectively ruined any remote chance at a decent chase finish. He is now mathematically eliminated from the chase. It also pretty much ruined the race at Texas Motor Speedway for both Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano- his teammates. They spend the weekend sharing notes on their cars and handling. Kyle is very obviously a BIG part of that looking at the finishes by both Hamlin and Logano.  Joe Gibbs Racing has already suffered enough for Kyle Busch’s actions while racing for Kyle Busch Motorsports. I don’t think any further action is necessitated by NASCAR or any of the JGR sponsors.  I keep hearing the voice of Kyle Busch singing in the newest Toyota commercial “Everybody wants a second chance.”