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Dear Sprint,

I use to be a loyal Verizon customer.  I can’t even remember how many years I was their customer because I had been with them THAT long.  Then about 18 months ago, I had finally had enough of Verizon’s crap; the adding on of fees a dollar at a time, the fact that for my nearly 90 bucks a month I didn’t even have a data plan and only had 500 texts a month, and then there was the fact of the incredibly CRAPPY customer service.  I broke up with Verizon (and let me tell you it was an ugly breakup that took 3 months to finally severe all ties because they just did NOT want to let go).

My jump to you, Sprint, was two prong. My friend had recently switched to you (hello Unlimited EVERYTHING plan) and I really wanted to use NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile. And use it I did.  Last year I used it a ton. I used it at home while watching races on TV, I used it while at the track watching races from the stands, and I used it on those evil rain postponed Mondays when I was toiling at the salt mines.  I LOVE Sprint’s NASCAR Mobile.  Or I should say LOVED.

My access to Sprint Cup mobile was GREAT last season.  I even launched it a couple weeks ago just to make sure it was still working. It was.  I saw my driver was still my default driver.  I was pleased. Little did I know that would be the last time I was able to access my beloved NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile.

With NO warning whatsoever, my Sprint Cup Mobile stopped working.  My friend, you know the one who talked me into coming to Sprint to begin with, was the one who discovered it and told me.  Of course, when she mentioned it to me I launched my ap only to be told it wasn’t compatible with my phone anymore (despite that I had used it just last season…and just a few weeks ago as a matter of fact).

Now my phone is not one of those fancy SMART phones. I have a LG Rumor Touch.  I use it for twitter and facebook, and of course calling and texting. And I used Sprint Cup Mobile…ALOT  Further research into the issue found that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile is now only available for Droid phones.  Not even the iPhone (which I was seriously considering going to- but that is another story).

NASCAR fans are some of the most brand-loyal fans, which no doubt is why I ended up switching to Sprint in the first place.  But now I feel like you have left myself and other fans who do not qualify for an upgrade of any sort high and dry.  We have been abandoned….left on race day to wonder where our driver is or what our driver is thinking (My FAVORITE part was the in car audio)!

I can’t imagine I am the only NASCAR fan who finds it inconvenient and disappointing to have a product I used all last season taken from me- no warning, at the beginning of the season. I can’t help but wonder if this means that soon The Sprint Cup will be re-branded into the Droid Cup? In any case, color me disappointed. I thought you might actually care about ALL of your customers.

Amy, your very disappointed customer.

Ahh, it was so great to not just have cup cars out on the track but to have those cup cars to be racing.  No matter what the format of the Shootout or how drivers qualify for the Shootout, I look forward it because to me it signals the beginning of the season, points be damned.

I admit during the off season, while reveling in the fact that my driver won his third championship, I’ve been pondering the momentum SHR may or may not carry into the 2012 season.  Last season was not the best of seasons for Tony Stewart and his #14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 team.  I don’t think even Tony would argue with me there. Granted there were some near wins during the regular season, like Las Vegas (which broke my heart because I knew how much he wanted to win there after our interview and to see him come oh-so-close only to not win) and the more positive 2nd place in New Hampshire (where he finished second to teammate Ryan Newman).  But despite a few bright spots (that were not winning so how bright could they really be) was frustrating for our driver (and his fans right).  I honestly don’t think I have ever worried as much as I have about Tony making THE CHASE (NASCAR’s version of playoffs/Championship) as I did this last 2011 season.  Luckily he did by the skin of his teeth (whether or not he thought he deserved it).

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, jokes around during qualifying for the Daytona 500 at Daytona. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America).

Then it was like someone flipped a switch. Tony’s CHASE run was nothing short of amazing, with the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 team winning a record 5 out of 10 CHASE races.  And don’t even get me started about that race at Homestead, that amazing race that Tony NEEDED to win. He not only managed to win but passed 118 cars to do it. A race where the team and driver had to overcome damage early in the race, a bad pit stop, a rain delay and you know 42 competitors. A race where it was quite obvious that the driver was….well driving his ass off.  Oh yeah and they happened to take home a CHAMPIONSHIP because if it.  That rocked.

Even though the season ended on a high note, that doesn’t mean that the momentum will follow through and don’t think that doesn’t worry me.  SHR underwent some fairly major changes at the end of the season and during the off season.  There were sponsor additions (Outback and Quicken Loans) for Ryan Newman’s car. A new crew chief, Steve Addington,  was hired for Tony Stewart, after letting go Darian Grubb. The long empty Director of Competition position was filled by Greg Zipadelli (big surprise there right?) after being vacant most of last season.  And the BIGGEST change of all, the addition of a third, albeit part-time team with the #10 of Danica Patrick.  Yes, technically the car is fielded by TBR but we all know that was done to guarantee Danica a start in the 500 without having to sacrifice Tony or Ryan’s owner points.  So that adds a new crew (maybe- Stewart-Haas has a third pit crew they offered out to other teams) and a new quasi-teammate to the mix.  That is a whole lot of change for an organization. Change that may (or hopefully may NOT) hinder momentum because there are new people getting use to an existing organization and an organization getting use to new people.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona. (Picture Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

That being said, I am VERY pleased with what i saw at the Shootout momentum wise.  Considering that Tony’s car had signifigant damage during practice and the team was able to repair the car and get it to point where he was obviously very competive, it is exciting to witness. Yeah, Tony didn’t win but he came darn close.  Even Kyle Busch mentioned during his postrace that he hooked up with Tony because he knew that the 14 was fast.  So as a fan of SHR and in particular Tony Stewart, I am definitely liking what I am seeing from my team so far this very young season.

Now, as far as the 500 on Sunday? It’s going to be a crazy race.  NASCAR worked hard during the off season to break up the tandem drafting and judging by the Shootout, it worked.  The return of “pack” racing is something I find crazy stressful to watch at the superspeedways.  Packs mean there is less room to correct for an “oopsie” with out hitting someone else.  Recovery space is limited.  When you do make a mistake (and someone always does- it’s human nature) there is a very good chance that multiple cars will be involved, thus a better chance of a more “spectacular” crashes. And when I say “spectacular” I really mean “scary as hell, oh god please let driver x by okay” kind of crashes.  So there is that to worry about.

On the plus side, Tony WAS strong in the shootout. Hopefully he will be equally strong in his Duel race.  And for those who like numbers- this is Tony Stewart’s 14th Daytona 500.  I think it’s time for him to finally win one!  I know Tony must want that jewel in his crown- who wouldn’t.

So…#GoTonyTo and as always #ImWithSmoke!

Also- be sure to check out our new “Misty’s Mazin’ Moment” column- this week she tackles The Shootout. And her Misty’s Messed her unMentionables moment of the Shootout!

No surprise here- Jeff Gordon’s crash late in the Shootout nearly gave me a nervous breakdown. I am quite sure I didn’t breathe from the time he started rolling til he was out and standing. Even then, I was left wondering if I would have the stomach to sit through 500 miles next weekend. To paraphrase Jeff Gordon’s tweet the morning after, “Thankful for 4 safe race cars.”

These kind of moments serve to remind us all exactly what kind of risk all the drivers take each time they strap in and let’s all pray for a safe and fun season.

And on a final gratuitous fan note: Here’s to all the craziness getting out of the way for the 24 and to a winning, safe champion season! ;)

Kyle Busch’s “spin-catch-spin catch” move was by far the most amazing moment of the race for me. Love him or hate him, that was some great driving and certainly got my attention. The fact that he later went on to win the Shootout was just icing on this moment in the race.

Hey Smoke fans in the Daytona Beach area- I have some great news for you! Tony Stewart is scheduled to greet fans and sign autographs at the local Office Depot store in Daytona Beach, Florida on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 beginning at 3:30pm local time.

The store is located at: 1560 South Nova Road in Daytona.

As always, wristbands are required and may be obtained on a first-come, first-served basis at the store beginning at 8 a.m. local time on the day of the event only.  There are only 600 wristbands available. One wristband per person, one autograph per wrist band and you must be in line no later than 4:30pm receive an autograph.

Office Depot Racing is giving FIVE lucky fans the chance to win a trip to Las the race in LAS VEGAS on March 11th, 2012!

Visit the Office Depot Racing I’m With Smoke website and enter in to win in the bar on the right. Five winners will receive: 2 tickets to the March 11th race (I will be there won’t you?), $750 dollars, $50 Office Depot gift card, and a 1:24 Autographed Diecast of the #14 Office Depot Chevy!

You can’t win if you don’t enter but you must enter by 2.23.2012, 11:59PM ET! Good luck!!

I just wanted to share this video that has some great behind the scenes banter from Tony’s appearance (TOMORROW Feb 14th on ABC- be sure to check your local listings) on Last Man Standing with actor Tim Allen:

Also- Tim Allen has been named the Grand Marshall of the Kobalt Tools 400 in Las Vegas. I couldn’t THINK of a better grand marshall since Tim Allen’s a self professed “car guy” and his iconic role on Home Improvement was Tim “the Toolman” Taylor! A perfect fit if you ask me!

Have you set your DVR to record LAST MAN STANDING on February 14th to catch THREE TIME Spring up champion Tony Stewart? I have. Here’s a preview for your viewing pleasure:

I hope the whole episode is as funny as the preview!