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Sometimes when I am bored or I see something I like or don’t like I mentally compose a letter to whatever it is.  Here are some NASCAR related ones (hey it’s on off week- give me a break):

Dear Office Depot Racing Website- I love your website. I love the different backgrounds on the different tabs and moving my mouse from side to side to change the perspective slightly (ok so maybe I am just easily amused).  I actually hit your site at least every other day or so.  However…I need new content!!!  I did notice you have pages for all the crew members now and that occupied me for a tad.  But I am  looking for new wallpapers and maybe some answers to the ASK TONY questions that have been submitted this far?  Or maybe another contest or something??  Just a thought- Amy

Dear Stewart-Haas Racing Website- I visit you quite often too. I have several things to say to you.  First off- kudos to the team managing your VIP Garage section. I had some troubles with my VIP Garage account and they went out of their way to get me all set up- and did it extremely quickly.  Also regarding the VIP garage- it’s taking me forever to be able to open up my gallery…and I want to post some pictures!  Maybe you should lower the number of points needed for the first gallery and up the points needed for the last. Or figure out a way for us to get more points faster.  One of the two will work.  Also- your store is taking forever to open. Please open it soon.  And when you do I would LOVE it if you would have a sticker of just the Stewart-Haas racing logo. I think that is a sweet logo and my car is begging for one.  Every day when I go out to start her up she asks me “DID YOU GET ME ONE OF THOSE COOL STEWART-HAAS LOGO stickers yet? I am feeling pretty plain.” Thanks- AMY (PS-no my car does NOT really talk to me- please don’t call the looney bin- I was just being dramatic).

Dear Team Office Depot: I really think that you guys are gelling awesomely.  Your win will come soon!  Keep digging in and not giving up (Atlanta was awesome- finishing 8th after being 2 laps down at one point! Talk about digging your heels in!).  Good Job–keep it up!!- AMY

Dear Kyle Busch- Your M&M’s car really makes me crave peanut M&Ms. I think it’s because its yellow and has M&M’s on it. Just thought you should know. Thanks. AMY  (PS. Your Pedigree car has never made me crave dog food though. Just in case you were wondering).

Dear NASCAR.COM- I really really really DO NOT like your new layout.  Amy

Dear Old Spice- Ok- I have seen the Tony Stewart Swagger commercials several times now. And I have to ask…what is the deal with being Russian?  Why does the nationality of the gorgeous trophy girl have anything to do with anything? Unsure- Amy

Team OfficeDepot/OldSpice Guys work on the the number 14 Impala

Team OfficeDepot/OldSpice Guys work on the the number 14 Impala

I was cruising through my pictures on Flickr and thinking about the race and the picture above brought up a very vivid memory for me. It’s probably one of the reasons I LOVE the NEON GARAGE at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  I was probably 6 or 7 no more than 8.  It was back when my dad did all his own maintenence on his vehicles. We had a pick-up (depending on which year it was it was either a GMC or a Ford that part I don’t remember) and it was a spring day and my dad was in the driveway changing the spark plugs and giving the pickup a general tune-up.  How do I remember he was changing the spark plugs nearly 28 years ago and not what I had for dinner two days ago? That is easily answered. I was out there watching and asking all kinds of questions. I had always been inquisitive and I distinctly remember my dad sitting there in front of the truck on the ground explaining what a spark plug was, how it worked and how to gap them…and then he proceeded to let me gap them all- so I felt like I was really helping. It was fun for me and I stood there (on a plastic yellow step stool so I could see) and watched him put them all in.  I remember rummaging through is tool box looking for something when I came across an “timing light” and thought WHAT THE HECK IS THIS?  I asked my dad…and not only did he explain what it was and how it worked but he showed me me how it worked.  I still remember leaning into the engine watching him use the timing light to show me how it worked.  Of course a little while later my Grandpa came over told me to get him a beer and when I did then told me that girls didn’t belong under the hood of a car.

Anyway- I think that is why I am inately curious about what is going on in the garage areas. I know it probably looks like I spent my whole day camped out in front of the 14 garage but I didn’t. I actually probably spent more time at the 48 garage stall in Vegas because they seemed to be doing a lot of adjustments on the car…and it was fun for me to watch. It’s a good thing we don’t have a way to talk to the crew members! I would probably pester them to death. What’s that? What do you do with it? Or my all time favorite when I was a kid- WHY?

Speaking of talking to crew members and having questions- have you noticed ASK THE INSIDERS WEDNESDAY over at NASCAR INSIDERS? It’s kinda like having an intercom into the garage! You should check it out.

One of my earliest memories revolves around cars and cameras. Both of them are still loves of mine today.  My dad has always loved photography and from the time I was very young would put a camera in my hand.  The first picture I ever took was at age three or four- it’s of my parents bending over waving because I wasn’t pointing it up at them- standing in front of our pontiac sunbird. Going to the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway really got the photographer juices flowing through me again.  Part of it has to do with it being spring-type weather and the light was great at the track most of the time.  On friday when I was walking around the Neon Garage I saw lots of “official” race photographers.  They were easy to spot- they wore roadwork type vests that said PHOTO on them.  And don’t think I didn’t have camera envy too.  I remember wandering around the garage area and my head whipping around- to check out a camera or seven.  Yeah a little embarassing I admit but it’s totally true.

During Friday I used my trusty Canon I5 IS that I LOVE- it’s not a dslr- but its more than just your average point and shoot).  I am completely self taught (as is my dad I must tell you and he takes great pictures) and mostly do that by trial and error and let me tell you it was definitely a trial and error type of day.  I got some great pictures and some horrendous pictures (blurry, out of focus, etc).

Let me give you some examples:

While visiting Tony’s garage stall I saw him get out of the car during practice, talk to crew chief Darian Grubb and then go check out something under the front splitter. These were my pictures (keep in mind that these are from the upstairs viewing galley through the glass windows):

Tony Peeks Under the Splitter- obvious autofocus problem- focused on the beam and the glare and not on Tony causing blur)

Tony Peeks Under the Splitter- obvious auto-focus problem- focused on the beam and the glare and not on Tony -causing blur)

Close-up of Tony peeking under the splitter (image degredation due to being taken through window coupled with digital zoom crispness loss)

Close-up of Tony peeking under the splitter (image degradation due to being taken through window coupled with digital zoom -crispness loss).

Now here is the same shot (kinda) being taken by a professional photographer (of course realize also that this picture is not taken through glass and is at the ground level obviously in Tony’s garage stall):

See the difference? Way better. Of course this photographer is more than likely standing right in his garage stall so access is different).

See the difference? Way better. Of course this photographer is more than likely standing right in his garage stall so access is different). THIS IS NOT MY PHOTO- it's from tonystewart.com

Now I know in my heart that the reason my pictures are crummy in comparison are:

1. I am not a professional nor do I have the kind of equipment those guys (and girls) carry around (how they do it I don’t know- it about killed my neck carrying around the Digital Rebel I used on Sunday).  My dad and I were looking at a professional lens the other day? 8 grand! Like I told my dad when he told me I could get it for him for his birthday: Yeah let me pull that kinda money outta my butt cuz I sure don’t have it in the bank.

2. I am not a professional and do not have the kind of access these guys (and girls) have to get the shot.

3. I am a self-taught, shoot-from-the-hip kinda person. I don’t take time to set up a shot. And while I have an awareness of concepts like the rules of three- I don’t often take the time to consider it and set up the shot accordingly. Usually I am more of a “Oh that’s a great picture opportunity” and start snapping.

I did get some good pictures that day.  This is my favorite:

Tony gets out of the car during a practice break. Why did this one come out so much better? I honestly have no clue. Angle maybe reduced glare through window?  This is one of my favorite shots from Fridays Practice (that I took).

Tony gets out of the car during a practice break. Why did this one come out so much better? I have no clue. Angle maybe reduced glare through window? There was slight blur of motion towards the bottom because he was swinging his leg out of the car.

Of course as I said that is one of my favorites that I took that day (and definitely my favorite Tony Stewart shot that day). However this is my favorite of other people’s shots from that day. It was another one I found on the Tony Stewart website:

Tony looks either perplexed or determined I cant decide which. (photo is NOT MINE. From: tonystewart.com)

Tony looks either perplexed or determined I can't decide which. (photo is NOT MINE. From: tonystewart.com)

What is it that I love about this shot? Well first of all the vivid red. The car in the forground yet slightly out of focus- but not out of focus so much as to not be able to recognize its parts. The hood up. The expression on Tony’s face. This is a picture I wish I had taken.

First Friday Fill-in 115

1. When I look to the left, I see Roxy sleeping in one of her favorite spots (the recliner).

2. The living room is the room that has the best view in my home.

3. Let it work itself out.

4. Dirty deeds done dirt cheap! (although I use to think the lyrics were Dirty deeds done with sheep).

5. Sense of community is a responsibility that all qualified citizens must share.

6. If you have any questions feel free to ask (seriously- use the comments).

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to getting done with the work day and going home, tomorrow my plans include mundane chores like laundry and dusting and Sunday, I want to finish up a crochet project and get a chunk done on a writing project (it’s an off weekend in NASCAR what do you expect?)!

And now the Springtime MI-5 (by yours truly):

1. Now that it’s warmer (or when it gets warmer if it’s still cold where you are) what are you looking forward to doing outside? Taking some pictures. Walking Roxy more.
2. Are there any special memories or moments that you associate with spring? Suffering from what we called cabin fever, BFM and I use to occasionally take off driving until we hit an area of sun somewhere. That was always fun.
3. It’s definitely greener here now. Is it green yet where you are? What are some of the first signs of spring you have seen or look forward to seeing?  The wildflowers they seeded the dirt with infront of our building are in bloom. Yellow, blue, purple and red flowers everywhere.
4. Do you have any spring cleaning rituals? Not really but I do usually have more of an instinct to organize things- especially at work during this time of the year. I blame it on the extra light (oh who am I kidding I love the extra light!)
5. Are you Irish? Do you take part in any special St. Patricks Day celebrations? I do have a wee bit of the Irish in me on my mother’s side. The only thing I partake in that is probably traditional is corned beef and cabbage…which I love.

Because of the picture-intense race posts about the Shelby 427- I use the extend the entry function of wordpress- so people on dialup (I know you are still out there peeps- don’t be ashamed- I too am still doing the dialup) don’t have to wait six years for my page to load. Just FYI. Contine on with your regularly scheduled programming.

If you were keeping track- last year when we decided to go to the Vegas race, BFM woke up Thursday morning really sick- as in throwing up sick.  We were going to go see Tony Stewart’s driver appearance at the local Home Depot and at her insistence I went anyway with her brother instead.  That was the only driver appearance we got to that race. This year- however was quite the different beast.  To begin with no one was too sick to go.  Also there were tons of driver appearances – unfortunately it seemed that 85 percent of them were all at the same time (what is it with the Thursday from 4-6 time slot that the drivers love to use for their appearances?).  I told BFM that since I got to see Tony at both races we went to last year that this year she could pick our driver appearances.  So she picked:

Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Casey Mears.  The major problem there? Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch were doing their appearances at the same time at separate ends of the Vegas Strip (Kahne was in the Stratosphere and Kyle Busch was at M&M World which was just down from the MGM Grand).

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Walking in on Sunday Morning

Walking in on Sunday Morning

I honestly don’t remember what time we got to the track on Sunday- but I want to say probably around 9:00 again.  We perused the midway- partaking in free COKE ZERO samples as well as getting free Bobby Labonte flash drives preinstalled with the ask.com nascar tool bar wiget thingy mabob.  Mostly though we scoped out a place by the SPEED stage and waited.  We were there solely to see Jeff Gordon’s interview by the PRN guys- but be cause we also got to see Richard Childress and Kyle Busch during their interviews and we got to watch Hermie Sadler film one of the cut-away car segments-which was fun too.  I got a few mediocre pictures of Richard Childress and one of Jeff Gordon:

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Surprise! I decided to get these out starting today so you wouldn’t be left wondering.  Anyway last year the Vegas race (the UAW 400) was our first NASCAR race live and in person and this year BFM decided to take the reins in planning everything.  I just wrote her a check when she told me how much our tickets would be. She picked the seats and the activities and everything…and let me tell you I had a total blast. She picked us some awesome seats in the Petty Terrace (right across from Pit Exit).  I am going to have to break up my experience into three posts: Qualifying Day, Race Day and Driver Appearances otherwise you all would probably kill me for the length/picture ratio.

QUALIFYING DAY (Friday)

After our great time last year in the Neon Garage BFM and I decided that Qualifying day is the best day to have the garage passes (in Vegas the Garage passes are expensive…friday alone is $99.00 but both of us thing they are WELL worth it).  We got to the track probably around 9:00 ish and spent a good portion of an hour and a half or so just messing around the midway checking out the merch haulers and stuff.  The busiest haulers seemed to be Junior (no suprise), Tony (probably his fans stocking up on new merch) and Digger (yeah Digger has his own little merch booth).  Then it was off to the neon garage:

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