I have to tell you I have been working on this post a long long time- I will write something and then decide I don’t like it and backspace it all out- then I start over and change the name… I just can’t figure out the right way to get my words out…not a problem I usually have.
The NASCAR season is starting to draw to close–ending on November 16th. I am sure some of my regulars like Bill and Janet will be glad to hear it- not being fans. That doesn’t mean that I stop thinking about NASCAR- the season will start back up again in February and there is a lot to keep up on during the “off” season. Ask anyone involved in NASCAR about off season and they will look at you like you are nuts- and say “What off season?” The end of this season and beginning of the next season is somehow very…bittersweet is the only thing I can think of that kind of describes it.
When Tony Stewart announced earlier in the season that this would be his last season with Joe Gibbs Racing (even though technically he was contracted through the end of the 2009 season) to take an driver/part-ownership role at CNCHaas (now to be Stewart-Haas) I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t figure out why you would want to leave a winning team like Joe Gibbs Racing…a team that Tony himself has described on several occasions as like a family to him- for such a risky situation like partial ownership of a team that is currently…mediocre. Then I actually watched some of the press conferences and heard Tony talk about it and he seemed really excited about the challenge aspect of ownership as well as leaving a legacy when he decides he doesn’t want to drive anymore. That not only made me understand why he was doing it – but get excited about why he was doing it.
Then a little later the news comes out that the only crew chief he has had, Greg Zipadelli, will be staying with Joe Gibbs Racing. That news saddened me immensely because i think that the two of them work extremely well together. They are both obviously driven people who live for winning. However- I understand what Zippy is saying about being loyal to Joe Gibbs Racing. I understand this because tomorrow marks the 10th year I have worked for the company I work for as a full time employee and my 13th year if you count when I worked part time. I understand about loyalty. I cherish loyalty. I try to exemplify loyalty myself.
Then I got wrapped up in the season and put the fact that my driver** and my crew chief** I have been supporting for years are basically divorcing into the back of my mind and concentrated on the season at hand. However I try to not think about the split- I kept getting little or not so little reminders dropped on me here and there. There was the bringing on Joey Logano into a cup car to gain experience (driving both the 02 and the 96)…since he will be taking over Tony’s car next year. Then there was the removal of Tony’s usual spotter Mark…whom thanks to HotPass I could recognize his voice during the national broadcast. Yet still I was able to kinda ignore it. Then there was the announcement that Darian Grubb will be serving as crew chief for Tony’s #14 Office Depot/Old Spice car….and while I acknowledged that it was a wise choice since he is familiar with Hendrick Motorsports equipment…and I again I was able to let it go back to recesses of the mind. On with THIS season my brain would say. That’s next season. That’s a lifetime from now.
However, after last weekend’s win at Talladega, the fact that my driver and crew chief will not be together anymore basically stood up and smacked me in the face! Between crew chief Zipadelli’s emotional post race interview and the videoconference where Tony stated that the final race of the season, Homestead-Miami, will be the hardest race for both he and Zippy no matter where they finish. That made me really sad to hear. It really makes a melancholy ending to the season…a season frankly I don’t want to end because then I have no reason NOT to face it.
I am excited for Tony’s new venture…but I am kind of excited for Zippy and the guys to start with a new driver too. Thus I feel…torn. Today I was walking across the parking lot towards my car and I saw my little 20 sticker in the corner of my window (I am not big on stickers on my car mind you…the ONLY sticker I have is a small round 20 on the corner of my back window) I thought…what am I gonna do? Do I change it? Peel it off and buy a 14 next season? Or do I just add a 14? Its a hard decision because like I said…I am not big on putting stickers on my car. I could hear BFM’s voice when we were hiking back to the car after the Fontana race- “Friend- I think you might have to take Logano as your second favorite driver just so you can keep up with Zippy and the crew.”
** I recently read somewhere that NASCAR is one of the few sports where fans will include themselves in the reference of their favorite team. I find that I am indeed one of those people. I too will say: “MY driver”, “MY crew chief”, “WE wrecked”, “We are having a bad day.”