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Happy 2012 everyone! I hope your holidays were wonderful! Mine were. I have to tell you the story of the Christmas Standee.

Picture if you will- Christmas Eve with family starting to arrive for dinner and the festivities to follow. My uncle comes in and asks me if I wouldn’t mind wrapping up a couple of his last minute presents that he didn’t have time to wrap. This is nothing new to me- I tend to do most of the wrapping in my family that isn’t a present FOR me. He gives them to me- one is for my dad and one for my brother. I proceed to grab some wrapping paper and go wrap them in a back room. Little did I know that the present wrapping request was a ruse to distract me away from the main part of the house. I finish up and return to the main part of the house and put the newly wrapped presents under the tree, project accomplished. I then go to the kitchen where most people have assembled. My dad, who is in the middle of cooking a turkey on the barbecue pit, asks me to go into the garage and get him a specific beer (that would be oatmeal stout for you keeping track at home- my dad likes the weird beers) to put in the fridge to cool down for later. I walk out into the garage, over to where the beverages are stored, bend down and start rummaging through the bag of specialty beers looking for the oatmeal one- not even noticing that the bag had been placed at the feet of a lifesize Tony Stewart Standee (or more accurately the Tony Stewart standee had been placed right behind the bag o’ beer- which was in it’s usual place). Yeah…I was that unobservant.

Yes I rummaged at the feet of this standee and didn't even notice it (shake my head). And NO the Santa Hat was NOT on it. I added that later.(photo credit: Ralph Marbach)

I then stood up and was about to walk back to the kitchen when I FINALLY caught sight of it out of the corner of my eye. Big laugh on my account.Tony then proceeded to stay in the garage the rest of the evening (mostly because I didn’t want to take the chance of one of the nephews deciding to try to climb him, use him as a surfboard, or whatever else young nephews might do to a lifesize (or darn near) Tony Stewart standee).  He later scared the crap out of my mom who forgot he was out there. That made ME laugh.

What rocks about my new (to me) Tony Stewart standee? Is that my uncle managed to recognize Tony Stewart enough to recognize that the standee in the shop where he buys welding supplies for work was my Tony Stewart.  My uncle is not into racing at all and has often said that he doesn’t understand how I can manage to watch cars drive in circles for hours on end.  That, to me is really COOL.  Plus he’s holding a Nextel cup so that is kind of cool too- (so yeah he’s like 6 years old…and a little faded…but I still think he rocks) considering that he managed to win the Sprint cup this year.

So that is the story of the great Christmas Standee.

So it’s probably pretty obvious that I am a big NASCAR fan- even to the most casual observer. I have a Tony Stewart vanity plate for goodness sake. My office at work has a life size Standee of Tony in the corner and several favorite pictures, tons of Tony’s cars (including the Tony Stewart Burger King Kid’s Meal Toys) and well obviously this BLOG is a huge indication right? It just screams A NASCAR FAN LIVES HERE!

So anyway a couple weeks ago I got a NASCAR.COM Store catalog in the mail- I usually do this time of year. This year the cover was Christmas themed- complete with stockings hung on a hearth with the names of several drivers. On the mantle of the hearth were Christmas card featuring the specific likeness of a couple of the most popular drivers. However don’t expect to find NASCAR Christmas cards in the catalog- they aren’t there nor are they in the online store:

No Christmas Cards found when doing a search at the NASCAR.COM online store (screen capture by Amy Marbach- That's me!)

I am not saying that they should only feature items that they have on the cover of the catalog. Just simply that I have LONG thought that NASCAR should consider some products such as Christmas cards, birthday cards (now I have found JR and Jimmie Johnson birthday cards at the store on occasion…but they are a rare find that is for certain), and most especially some officially licensed wrapping paper both for the holidays and not. I would stock up!

I even had a cute idea for a Tony Stewart themed Christmas card that could feature a picture of Tony with the championship confetti- kind of like this picture:

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. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

And on the inside it could say something like Wishing you a magical Christmas and A New Year Worthy of A Championship (or something like that).* Plus the idea could be easily modified for a birthday card (I would LOVE to get this as a birthday card…wouldn’t you?)  You could do something playful like that with a lot of the cards for other drivers too…by picking out something relevant from that year and coming up with a witty saying about it.  But mostly? I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have NASCAR themed (or even more specific driver themed) wrapping paper (holiday paper would be awesome- but even just generic paper that could be used for birthdays or whatever.  I can’t be the only one thinking this…or maybe I am because I have a love of wrapping paper (and a love of wrapping gifts in general).

So yeah…I think NASCAR might be missing out on a money making product…what do you think?

___

*If you think that is a good idea for a card you should hear some of the ideas I have for Office Depot and Mobil 1 commercials featuring Tony Stewart…I tell you I am an untapped resource. I should have been in marketing or something.

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.