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The pit crew hard at work

The pit crew of Tony Stewart is hard at work on pit road trying to repair damage at Talladega Super Speedway. (photo credit: Tony Stewart Official Store)

So wow- Talladega was a cluster of a race wasn’t it?  That is two weeks in a row where NASCAR has suffered some sort of major FAIL regarding a Chase (playoff) race.  Last week if you remember – ABC failed to show the first 26 laps of the race at Charlotte because of a college football game.  This week? NASCAR failed themselves by up and changing the qualifying process (yet again). Obviously the drivers themselves didn’t understand it much either- because many big name drivers- including several CHASE eligible drivers only made the race on owner points/championship provisionals. Hey NASCAR- SOMETHING IS WRONG with your new qualifying format if drivers in the Chase only make the field because of owner points/past champions provisionals.  Fans and teams alike just got use to the new qualifying format and then NASCAR had to go throw a wrench in the plans? That is NOT cool.   What also concerns me about this qualifying format is that drivers with full-season funding and sponsorship did not make the field (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) – yet one-off drivers riddled the field (Mike Wallace, Terry Labonte, Michael Waltrip).  I honestly do not know what NASCAR was thinking there.

About the race itself? It was typical Talladega. This track should honestly be eliminated from the chase in my opinion and switched with a road course. Why? Because at Talladega- the finish of the race is really due more to luck and not skill.  Road courses however? They are all driver skill and not luck.  I have been saying this for years. The Chase should showcase what drivers can do to get themselves in the show. Road courses are THE tracks for showcasing driver ability.  What racetrack should be added? Well technically it would be AWESOME if it was Laguna Seca (Mazda Raceway @ Laguna Seca) because that track is 10 miles from my house. But really a second race at either The Glen or Sonoma Raceway would work- or throw something new into the mix like Road America or the road course on Daytona. Or heck, even get really wild and frisky and just barricade streets off to be true to it’s name ala Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Tony Stewart slides throug the infield grass

Tony Stewart slides through the infield grass at Talladega. (Photo Credit: Tony Stewart Official Facebook).

So Tony seemed to believe that he had a fairly decent Bass Pro Chevy until he got damaged in a wreck.  He was destine to spend the rest of the race at Talladega (a heavy areo track) working on repairing the car. He also sustained a second crash after the checker flags flew when a tire blew out.  He ended up finishing 4 laps down. This really just is NOT Tony or Team 14′s year this year.  I am ready for 2015- I hope that the new engine/spoiler package will help Tony’s driving style and not hinder it…and that the team is just able to get themselves together.

The 14 in the garage area of Talladega

The 14 in the garage area of Talladega. (Photo Credit: Tony Stewart Official Store Facebook)

Race winner was Brad Keselowski. This was an elimination race and as it stands right now- Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. do not transfer into the Elimination Rounds. I say as it stands because Ryan Newman’s car did NOT pass post race inspection after Talladega- coming in too low on both sides of the rear end of the car.  We await anxiously word of any penalties tomorrow (penalty Tuesday).  I personally think that if your car does NOT pass post race inspection then you should automatically be eliminated from the Chase.  NASCAR does not want nor need another “spingate” on their hands.

Gratuitous Tony Stewart pictures:

Tony Stewart and his former team owner Joe Gibbs

Tony Stewart and his former team owner coach Joe Gibbs (photo credit: Tony Stewart Official Store Facebook)

Tony Stewart on the Parade Lap

Tony Stewart smiles from the back of a truck on the parade lap at Talladega (Photo Credit: Tony Stewart Official Store)

Next week we are racing at Martinsville- one of my favorites!

I just want to take second to THANK everyone for all the support for the last post (the Open Letter To GMA). It was truly overwhelming to see how many of you out there not just felt the same way as I did but shared the link, shared your thoughts (either on the original post, on FaceBook, on twitter)! While I have no doubt that my letter did little in the overall scheme of things- especially judging on the ABC Nightly News coverage this evening, I like to think that us fans banding together at least showed that Tony Stewart fans NASCAR fans are not blind to slanted, biased reporting.  Hopefully it somehow got back to Tony and his people that we support him on a wide scale. Onto the actual post.

I think after the post-race antics last Saturday night, most of the NASCAR world was waiting and watching to see what the NASCAR sanctioning body would dole out.  I know I certainly was. In case that you haven’t heard yet (and I know most of you have) these were the penalties doled out by NASCAR today:

Brad Keselowski was fined $50,000 and placed on probation through the Phoenix race. Tony Stewart was fined $25,000 and placed on probation through the Phoenix race.

I know everyone has thoughts on what should and should NOT have been done with the penalties. I know I certainly do and judging by some of the things I read on social media afterwards my thoughts may not be the most popular ones. So I ask that you approach my thoughts with an open mind- and remember these are MY opinions and nothing more.

What NASCAR Did Right

NASCAR created this kind of drama. How? The new Chase format.  I find the CHASE format to be a pressure cooker and I am just a fan. I know how stressful I feel every third race- knowing drivers are going to be eliminated, and as a Stewart fan I don’t even really have a horse in the race. Can you imagine how stressful that is for the drivers in the chase? They are fighting tooth and nail to make it through to the next round- when in chases past they wouldn’t have to worry about that elimination. If they had a bad race the could hopefully recover and carry on.  That is not the case this season. Every race counts.  The three major players in the shenanigans after race, Keselowski, Hamlin, and Kenseth, are three of the twelve drivers fighting for those eight spots in the next round.  Tempers are bound to flare.

That, combined with the fact that Hamlin and Kenseth used their words as well as a little physical scuffling- really didn’t warrant NASCAR penalty in my opinion.  No one was in any real danger- especially considering the throngs who showed from all three race teams, as well as NASCAR officials and others to keep the drivers from landing any real blows. I didn’t even see Hamlin throw any blows- just what looked to be a towel in the footage I saw. If NASCAR truly wants to have a “boys have it” attitude- well that is just part of boys having at it.  So not fining Hamlin and Kenseth was the first thing NASCAR did right.

Secondly- while I admit that I think Brad Keselowski should have been fined more, I think just a monetary and probationary fine was indeed appropriate.   He should get one pass to not miss the chase for losing his cool. Yes it was careless to burn out through a garage area rifled with people- which is why I think the fine should be quite a bit more. However, I can’t think of any driver who hasn’t lost his cool at some point. Should it ruin his chances at a championship? Not the first time. (I am not saying that I want him to win the championship mind you- I stand by my grid no matter how busted my brackets may be).  Now if he does something again? Then I say take away enough points so that he is effectively eliminated from the chase. But not the first time, especially when the new chase format seems to breed angst.

What NASCAR Did Wrong

NASCAR, however, was wrong to penalize Tony Stewart.  Yes Tony backed into Brad Keselowski at the entrance to pit road.  We all saw that.  Brad did instigate it, by nailing Tony pretty squarely in the rear bumper.  Whether Brad meant to do it or not, we can’t be sure, it looks like he actually glanced off of “rubbing” Matt Kenseth and may have accidentally bumped into Tony. What Tony did was a knee jerk reaction to being rear ended while he was at a complete stop waiting to be able to turn into the garage area. He had likely just witnessed Brad Keselowski purposely pit Denny Hamlin on the cool down lap (if you look behind the action where Brad hit Denny- you can see Tony Stewart skirt by from behind).  Tony likely didn’t have a beef with Brad and wondered WTF he did to warrant Brad’s ire. I mean wouldn’t you? You just witnessed him try to take out Denny on the cool down lap and then he rear ends you? So that is the first reason, that Tony should not have been penalized. Not to mention the fact that if you take the entire scheme of the post race altercations – what Tony did? Was just a teeny, fairly inconsequential portion of the larger picture.

My second reason that Tony shouldn’t have been penalized- is a little more convoluted.  NASCAR has been promising us fans that they are not levying any “secret” fines, like the ones they use to issue in the days of yore for especially those in the “detrimental to stock car racing” category.  We all know that Tony’s image in the mainstream media is not the best right now.  We also know that the $25,000 fine was a mere slap on the wrist. However, with the position that Tony has been in lately- mainstream media is going to have a field day with it. Or rather ARE having a field day with it (have you seen ABC Nightly New’s report of Tony being fined. Did they even mention Brad getting a fine?). This is not the kind of press that NASCAR needs, nor Tony Stewart.  Makes me wish we were back to the days where fines were sometimes secretive.  That way- mainstream media wouldn’t be given anything to fuel their biased-against-Tony fire.  

One Thing NASCAR Might Consider

Am I the only one who expects to hear an announcement that it will be a rule that you must keep your safety gear on (seatbelts, HANS devices, Helmets, ect) on until your car is parked in the garage? I have seem more drivers than just Matt Kenseth start to unbuckle on the cool down lap or bringing it into the pits over the years.  Things happen- and it should be common sense that you keep your gear on. (Not to say that I wouldn’t be mad if someone hit me while I was unbuckled like Matt Kenseth was on Saturday night. In that moment- I can totally understand his fury with Keselowski). But safety is safety. 

So those are my thoughts on Penalty Tuesday.  Share your thoughts with me as always…I love hearing them.

ALSO:

Have you seen this blogpost by The Orange Cone: It’s Almost Halloween Let the Witch Hunt Begin! I tell you the more I read the Cone- the more I love what he says.

Tony getting into his car at Charlotte

Tony getting into his car at Charlotte Motor Speedway, October 9th, 2014. (Photo credit; Tony Stewart Official Store Facebook/David Yeazell/CIA Stock Photo Copyright)

Dear Robin Roberts, Gio Benitez, and GMA producers (oh and you too Inside Edition):

Your coverage of the post-race tussles after Saturday night’s NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was so off-the-mark that if it didn’t drag Tony Stewart’s name though the mud, it would have been completely laughable. Your story glossed completely over the main points of the brouhaha (involving on and off track incidents between Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth) and instead focused on a tiny portion of the incident where Tony Stewart stood up to Brad Keselowski for being collected as collateral damage in the pit road portion of the skirmish with Matt Kenseth.

Sadly, your report does not surprise me. I watched mainstream media outlets with a limited knowledge of motorsports instantaneously vilify Tony Stewart in August for a tragic accident.  Unfortunately I have to throw you into the trash bin with them- because that piece that you aired? It was so obviously meant to be a sensationalistic piece that it had no real news value other than to stir a pot that should be off the stove by now.

May I ask you this? Have you ever been to a NASCAR race? I have been to more than 20. A lot can happen during a 500 mile race- did you even watch the race you commented on? I did- well all except for the first 26 laps that ABC decided not televise, opting instead to televise a college football game instead of the professional sporting series playoff race (that is that the Chase is- it’s NASCAR’s version of the playoffs) they were scheduled to air. But I digress. What Tony Stewart did there? Any driver would do. That’s NASCAR speak for “Hey don’t involve me in your drama.” It would not have gotten billed as it did if it had been any other driver standing up to being collected as collateral damage from Brad Keselowski’s temper tantrum.  Oh and by the way- all drivers have them at some point. It’s called passion for their sport.

Have you ever bothered to talk to a Tony Stewart fan? I can’t answer for all of them- only myself.  But let me tell you just a little bit about why I am a Tony Stewart fan.  I find Tony’s passion for racing, for being lucky enough to do what he loves, inspiring to witness.  Tony can race nearly anything with wheels and does it with PASSION (have you seen his career highlights). But that is not the only reason I am a fan. I am a fan because Tony races with his heart on his sleeve and has from the very beginning. It’s his honestly (sometimes brutally so) and passion for ALL forms of motorsports that drew me in.  I stay a fan because despite his hardcore, old school, intense racer attitude and driving style, the man has a huge heart.  I was lucky enough to have interviewed Tony several times (Interview 1, Interview 2, Interview 3) for this very blog. He was always thoughtful, more than friendly, and very forthcoming with his all of his answers, but when the topic turned to his charitable foundation and the work they do with children and animal charities- his entire face lit up and body language changed.  THAT right there, is why I am a fan.

Yes, Tony Stewart was involved in a terrible accident where a young driver lost his life.  But this is just it- it was an accident and was deemed so by a Grand Jury for goodness sakes.  As a motorsports enthusiast, a NASCAR blogger and yes a diehard Tony Stewart fan- I do not want to see Tony Stewart forced to filter his words, his actions, or who he is for the rest of his career because news anchors like yourself are going to throw an accident back up into his face at any given moment. It’s already something that Tony has to live with every day, I am sure he does that enough as it is.

So please, the next time you do a piece on a subject unknown to you- do some research, attempt to familiarize yourself with it or at the very least default to someone who does understand it instead of trying to be the first out there to smear someone’s name. It’s not becoming.

Sincerely,

Amy K. Marbach, BadGroove.Com

Tony Stewart with a young fan before the #BOFA500

Tony Stewart with a young fan before the #BOFA500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway October 11th, 2014. (Photo Credit: Tony Stewart Official Store/David Yeazell/CIA Stock Photo Copyright)

Tony Stewart gets serviced on pit road

Tony Stewart’s #14 Bass Pro Chevrolet gets serviced on pit road on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Tony Stewart Facebook Page)

So much for flag-to-flag coverage of the chase races huh?  For all that NASCAR has done building up this new Chase format- building it to be more like traditional playoffs like you see in other series, did they ever have an epic televised coverage fail on Saturday. Did you tune in on Saturday expecting to see the 5th race of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint cup? So did I. Were you disappointed to see college football instead? ME TOO! (more…)

The 14 on Pit Road

The 14 on pit road at New Hampshire Motor Speedway 2014. (Photo Credit: Mobil 1 Facebook Page)

I just can NOT seem to get a good feel for this season and Tony Stewart/Team14. The races I have a good feeling about- they do crummy. The races that I don’t have a good feeling about- they do decent.  I had a good feeling about the race in Loudon. After all- Tony qualified 4th! I listened to qualifying at work on SiriusXM  NASCAR- and was quite pleased! So I felt GREAT about our chances at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  And then the race happened. (more…)

Tony Stewart and his Rush Truck Centers Chevrolet on track in Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Tony Stewart Official Store Facebook/CIA Stock Photography, Inc)

Kentucky Speedway is one of the newest stops on the Sprint Cup Schedule but it seems to me that it has the surface of an old track; bumpy and cantankerous. It’s almost like taking a step backwards to a time when racing was racing, to a time when the vehicle you raced was one you had driven off the showroom floor, when the stock in stock car racing was true.

Tony qualified his number 14 Rush Truck Centers Chevrolet 13th for the Quaker State 400. If you are still unfamiliar with the new “knockout qualifying” format- this means he was the best of the drivers who didn’t advance to the final round of 12 drivers in qualifying. Honestly it isn’t a bad effort if you look at Tony’s qualifying record over the length of his career.  I decided on a lark to listen to qualifying at work using my listen online function of SiriusXM for the first time. I have to say just as with the first time I listened to the race on SiriusXM I loved listened to qualifying for the first time with the PRN crew. They really do do an excellent job. I will definitely make this a regular occurrence as often as I can since qualifying does tend to be while I am at work. (more…)

Tony Stewart’s pit crew rushes around the #14 Bass Pro Chevy (photo credit: Tony Stewart Official Store Facebook Page)

I am not a fan of racing at super speedways- much the way some people aren’t fans of road courses.  There usually isn’t a lot of mixing it up on super speedways- because it’s just too dangerous to press your luck.  I like my races to have at least a little more balance between skill and luck (honstly I like my races to be heavier in the skill than the luck and not vice versa). Races at Talladega are much more luck than skill in my opinion- luck in that IF you can stay out of someone else’s mess then you might have a chance succeed. (more…)

Talk about completely out of order- here it is almost two weeks out from the annual Vegas Racecation and I am just now getting the post up. Urg…forgive me!  This year the Vegas Racecation included some new experiences I hope that you will enjoy hearing about! Be warned- this is LONG but rewards you because it’s photo rich!

Misty and I picked up our credentials at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during her lunch on Thursday from her day job! This  was a harrowing feat because Misty works by McCarran Airport which is probably about 30 miles from the track.  We were able to make it back and forth however, between Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Misty’s work (which is blocks away from McCarran Airport) within the hour without breaking traffic laws- so YEY us.  I picked Misty back up after work so we could head directly to South Point Casino so that we could go to an autograph appearance where several drivers were appearing. So we rush over get parked and go into the Casino and can not FIND the autograph appearance…anywhere.  We were all over that place. We gave up and went to Steak N Shake for dinner since it was right there.

Friday morning saw me getting to the track insanely early and alone- Misty had to tie up some important work business and would join me later in the afternoon.  When I first ventured out of the media center and into the Neon Garage area- it was still fairly early and not crowded at all- so it was no wonder that a Pee Wee Herman impersonator riding his bike through the lower level caught my eye:

Pee Wee Herman

A leisurely ride through the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Neon Garage on Friday morning for Pee Wee. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Only in Vegas right?!

During first practice I hung around the upper level of the Tony Stewart garage trying to catch a picture of Tony Stewart or Chad Johnston.. Luckily I caught Tony arriving to his pit stall with business manager Eddie Jarvis:

The Bossman Arrives

Tony Stewart arrives at his garage bay at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

(more…)