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Here is my almost weekly list of recommended articles out there on the internet:

What I Learned From The NASCAR Sprint Cupt Series Rulebook- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

Interview: Tony Stewart on Hunting, Fishing and Racing-The editors of Outdoor Life

Have Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus Lost Their Edge?- Dustin Long for AthlonSports.com

Earnhardt Jr, Keselowski lambaste Reutimann’s Costly Move- Nate Ryan for USAToday.com

Tony Stewart Joins A Legend- Matt Willis for ESPN Blogs

Dale Earnhardt Jr Saves The Day for Tardy Reporter- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

Tony Stewart Just Getting Warmed Up- Ed Hinton For ESPN.com

David Stremme Interview: “You’ve Got To Understand Where You Fit In”- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

Stewart, Newman Setting Strong Pace- Mike Hembree for SpeedTV.com

Amanda Beard Slams Former Boyfriend Carl Edwards- Bob Pockrass for Sporting News

Your Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:

(Blatantly Stolen from the Official Tony Stewart Facebook Page)

This one needs a witty caption don't you think? (Blatantly stolen from the Official Tony Stewart Facebook Page).

What a wild and crazy Daytona 500! Congratulations to winner Matt Kenseth!

I don’t know if I am a big fan of the “pack” racing being back.  To me “pack racing” is just asking for crashes that damage multiple cars.  It’s scary and dangerous and I am glad they don’t race super speedways more because THIS type of racing is what made me watch super speedways through my fingers to begin with.  The drivers seem to like it though- because I guess they feel more in control of their own destiny during the course of the race.  I don’t know about that though…let’s ask Tony Stewart how in control of his own destiny he felt right about here:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #6, spin after an on track incident during the Daytona 500 February 27, 2012. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)

Tony was able to avoid multiple crashes until the very end. Despite taking a spin (above) and hitting (below) Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart was still able to bring the Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy home 16th!  I credit this entirely to Misty’s assertions that you “can’t keep Stewart down” – she was so right about that!

Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet, spins in front of Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 during the Daytona 500 on February 27, 2012. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

The result wasn’t exactly what I wanted to see as a Tony fan (I REALLY wanted him to get that first Daytona 500 win!) but judging by all the mayhem he avoided/overcame? We’ll take it!  Tony is currently 16th in the points standings eighteen points behind race winner and current points leader Matt Kenseth.

Notes About Daytona:

  • Fox’s broadcast confused me- as the end was suppose to be that side-by-side coverage. They fully utilized side-by-side during the red-flag incident. And honestly it was kind of fun- especially when we see a group of drivers, including Brad Keselowski, walking from their cars towards turn 3 to see what on earth was going on (they were eventually requested by safety officials to turn back).  However, when they went green there were times that they ran full commercials and other times (during cautions) where they ran side-by-side.  Confusing! Maybe they were befuddled because of the lengthy red-flag? I dunno- but that seemed odd to me.
  • Speaking of Brad Keselowski- there are mumblings about him getting in trouble for having a phone in his car with him.  Um…it’s not like he was out there tweeting and driving.  He was using it during a red flag- so I don’t really see the big deal.  Now if there was proof he was out there tweeting while driving (even during yellows) I think that is a MAJOR no-no, but I don’t see an issue with him using it during a red flag.
  • As of this writing we are still waiting to hear if there will be any penalties for Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus resulting from inspection infractions from the 48- who was found to have a non-standard c-post (or something like that).  I guess I am wrong because I always thought if infractions were found BEFORE practice/qualifying that they just made you fix the issue and roll back through technical inspection again.  Guess I am wrong there. Sounds like beyond monetary/points fines- there could very well be a suspension for Chad Knaus. I hope not because I know one of his fans will most likely be in the Neon Garage during the upcoming Las Vegas race, and I don’t want her to miss seeing her favorite crew chief.
  • I am still really disappointed in Sprint for having discontinued Sprint Cup Mobile on non-droid phones (see my original post: Dear Sprint You Have Disappointed Me).  I missed it ALOT during the race and didn’t realize just how much I did use it until I grabbed my phone and thought ARG FOILED AGAIN!
  • One bright side to the lengthy rain delay on Saturday AND the red flag delay on Sunday? Were the tweets from the Stewart-Haas Racing twitter account.  Funny stuff right there. Don’t follow? You definitely should

Gratuitous Tony Picture(s) of the Week:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, (and PR Guru Mike Arning) walks on the grid while rain falls prior to the start of the Daytona 500 on February 26th, 2012. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images North America)

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 on February 27, 2012. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images North America)

The Next Race: Phoenix Raceway.

#GoTonyGo! #ImWithSmoke!

Several of the Chase drivers were asked in their media session today at Martinsville Speedway if they were going to attend a NASCAR themed Halloween party- what would they dress up as and why?  The answers are pretty funny….so I had to share the video with you.

I love the look on Tony Stewart’s face when he is asked the question is priceless- I think he was nearly speechless and it was obvious that the question caught him kinda off guard.  His answer is pretty darn funny too.   Also? Dale Earnhardt Jr’s answer cracks me the heck up.  Just what I needed on a Friday afternoon. Enjoy:

I don’t know what I can say about Tony’s run at Bristol. (more…)

Okay- So our latest trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway was jam packed and full of fun. And I just wanted to use this space to tie everything together between the different postings Misty and I wrote regarding the weekend. (more…)

When Badgroove.com was presented with an opportunity to meet with one of NASCAR’s most controversial drivers and talk to him about the sport that he is so passionate about, we welcomed the opportunity.  Little did we know that we would get to take part in one of the coolest sponsor promotions for fans that I have heard of in quite some time.  Early Friday, Miller Lite sent some reps out to talk to fans in the campground and gauge their interest in Miller and Coors.  The reps promised they would return with some free beer later that evening, but what they didn’t know was that the beer would be delivered by the driver of the Miller Lite Dodge, Brad Keselowski.  Badgroove got to ride along for the surprise deliveries and it was a blast. 

In total we surprised three lucky camp sites and Brad met with numerous fans, some stunned, some amorous, but most impressed and excited to get a chance to talk to the driver, get some free beer and a memory that will surely, last a lifetime. 

At the first site, as Brad held court in the center of the make-shift camper quad, one older man, approached and whispered with what can only be described as both awe and disbelief, “Is that Brad Keselowski?”  Yes, sir, it is.  Things heated up at the second site, when an amorous and adoring lady took a liking to Mr. Keselowski and wanted to show him that “rubbing is racing”, but the last site was the ultimate, as fans from other camp sites poured in to see what was going on and get a chance to talk to Brad and take part in this unique experience.  The excitement level was off the charts and even as the cart pulled away, fans continued to run over asking for a picture.  Brad was more than accommodating to everyone and impressed me with just how personable and open he truly is with the fans.

On the way back from the event, we did indeed get more than a few minutes to talk with Brad and what I learned is that this young man is in the right profession.  His love of the sport comes through in every answer he gives, and even more impressive to me was how he described his competitors.  Read for yourself and I think you, too, will be impressed by a driver that is sure to make a lasting mark in NASCAR.

Brad and a fan at the campsite. (Photo Credit: Misty)

****

Misty:   Tell us a little bit about what you thought about doing this [the Miller Lite promotion for the fans]?

Brad:    Well, it’s fun you know.  This is like the grass roots of the sport.  People that come out to races and camp out, just hang out and enjoy it as a weekend.  Have some fun with the guys, or girls, the family and watch a great race, ya know? Racing has a huge allure to it because of just the campground lifestyle, so it’s great to kinda rejoin it and have some fun with it.

Misty:  You get to see some fans and be a part of it?

Brad:    Absolutely! The fans are the life blood of our sport, without them we are nothing.

Misty:   You have the new sponsor, new number this year.  We heard Kurt say earlier that for him it’s a whole new vibe this season.  Do you feel the same way?

Brad:    Oh yeah, absolutely! Lots of changes, and I think they are mostly good (chuckle).  So hopefully we will continue to pick up on the performance side.  I think that is the heart of the sport and uh, from there we will see where it goes, but I feel good about everything and the way we are going, and we will just kinda play it one day at a time.

Misty:  Absolutely, and we heard a lot today in the media center about how drivers are surprised at how aggressive it has gotten in just the early part of the season, and early on in the races.  What do you attribute that to?

Brad:    We are all just ready to race.  No testing, no off season, we are all just hungry. The competition level is unprecedented.  You know, there are so many drivers, the same age, the same talent level, that the only way you are really going to make a mark in this sport is by being extremely aggressive, because you are not going to out talent anyone.  Ya know, you are not going to out work them.  You just have to be more aggressive, and make smarter decisions.  So that is really, really tough and when people get really aggressive that is when accidents happen.

Misty:  We have seen the slogan on the back of the car, “Have At It Brad”…

Brad:    Yeah, yeah (laughs) that was cool, wasn’t it?

Misty:   Yeah, definitely. So it sounds like that is a characteristic you are willing to embrace and run with?

Brad:    It’s a core, uh, it’s part of the core of the sport…the whole boys have it and basically we kinda got away from it the last few years and now we are kinda coming back to it, and I think it is starting to pay dividends and I think the fans are starting to recognize just how fun racing is.

Misty:   Yeah, that was my next question; do you think the fans like this a lot more?

Brad:    I think so; I like it a lot more.  Hell, a couple years ago I wouldn’t even watch one of our races and now I watch ‘em all.  So, that’s cool.

Misty:   Alright, and last question is what would you want our readers, or NASCAR fans in general, to know about you?

Brad:    Oooh… what would I want them to know about me…uh, well…you know basically that the biggest thing and the message that I try to get across whether verbally or non verbally is that I am all in to the sport, I eat it, drink it, sleep it, and leave everything there is on the table on the race track, and uh, that is what I am all about.  That’s why I love this sport; it has that ability to get that out in me.  And sometimes different people might disagree with different things I have done, but they are all done in the name of the sport and trying to honor it and the opportunity that was given to me.

Misty:   Alright, I actually lied ’cause I have one more question for you, what’s your primary goal this season?

Brad:    Just continue to get better, and everything I do, everything we do as a team affects the racing.

Misty:   Alright, well thank you very much.

Brad:    You got it!

 

Brad presents fans at a campground with some Miller Lite. (photo credit: Amy)

-MAB

I have a love/hate relationship with the Daytona 500. As a long time NASCAR fan I appreciate the rich history of the track at Daytona, afterall NASCAR was born on the sandy beaches there. I love that modern Daytona 500 races retain some of the history by being the only races in the series to retain the tradition of qualifying races (the duels/twins). Hell I love Daytona for no other reason than it signals the beginning of my NASCAR season; when the “big boys” take to the pavement nearly every weekend from now until Thanksgiving- racing their hearts out, pushing themselves and their equipment to the maximum. I LOVE Daytona for the excitement and optimism of a new season…that this will be Tony Stewart’s year!

However, there are things I don’t like about Daytona. And they all hinge on the fact that I don’t like it when drivers have to rely on other drivers to get around the track and win a race. The kind of driving we see on the super speedways of Daytona and Talladega especially. That being said- I much more preferred the two-car break away drafting (I think some people have been calling it pod racing but that makes me think of Starwars) we saw this year. Cars would pair up and work around the track in little two car teams. I thought it made the racing far more exciting that they long train-style drafting of years past- where two really long trains of drafting cars would jockey back and forth around the track all day. That racing I did NOT like at all. At least the two-car breakaways made it more interesting.

Sure there were a lot of wrecks and spins and cautions but that is to be expected as this style of driving is new to the drivers. They need to learn what work sand what doesn’t work- and they only way to do this is to see how far they can push it. Afterall, isn’t that what racing is about; pushing until you can’t push any longer? You need to know how far you can go- and you can only find that threshold of too far by going over it a few times. Even experienced drivers like Tony Stewart where having occasional trouble with it. Tony said on his radio during the race “Will someone please tell me what I’m doing wrong that spins guys out?!

Speaking of Tony Stewart, it was very very encouraging to me to see both Tony and teammate Ryan Newman both up towards the front of the pack at different points during the race.  That’s definitely a marker towards a good season ahead.  Tony drafted with several different drivers during the course of the 500 mile race but my favorite was when he was listening to him and Junior draft together.   I enjoyed listening to them communicate directly back and forth with each other instead of playing a complicated game of telephone that includes two spotters like he had to do with other drivers he drafted with like Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.  Tony also seemed to be able to talk directly to Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer so I think it was a Chevy driver thing. I just wish Tony hadn’t gotten shuffled back so far during the green/white/checker attempts as everyone jockied for dancing partners all day.  Tony ended up finishing 13th and is currently 12th in series points with 31 points- which is 11 points behind points leader Carl Edwards.

Of course, the real story of the race is the win by 20 year old Trevor Bayne.  They had been poking fun at Trevor during practice- about how he was always the first person out on pit road in the mornings. How he was an eager beaver sort of driver. How he sought out his idol- Jeff Gordon after driver intros then again after the parade lap. How he worked with his idol during the Gatorade Duels.  He was obviously a quick study. That move at the end of the race- how he jumped down in front of Carl Edwards as they were coming to the checkered flag? That move was something you would see from a veteran driver. It was awesome to witness.  Congratulations to Trevor- he’s one to keep your eye on. He will be going places I am sure of it. If you didn’t see Misty’s post on Trevor’s win- it’s a great read: Fresh Bread, not Sliced Bread, is Good for NASCAR.

NOTES ABOUT DAYTONA:

  • Congratulations go out again to Tony Stewart for winning his 4th Daytona Nationwide victory in a row (not to mention he’s won 6 of the last 7 nationwide races).  I LOVED the oreo paint scheme. I think it was great! You can find the diecast to pre-order available here.
  • Okay…I SQUEALED when I saw the Transformers NASCAR cars on the warm up laps.  Those things look AMAZINGLY COOL! I hope they have them at LVMS when I go- I want to see those things up close.
  • Don’t forget to vote daily for your favorite driver at the Wheaties Fuel Most Popular Driver website (formally the Hambuger Helper Most Popular Driver).

Next Race: Phoenix!

So the evil little tricky triangle- the place that holds the spot as being the first points paying win for Stewart-Haas racing.  Tony qualified fairly well- even holding the pole position for awhile but as usually happens with early qualifying draws he was knocked off the pole eventually.  He still  started avery respectable 6th for the days race.   I turned on the race that morning.  Then came the rain.  I get very restless during rain delays so I honestly don’t know how the drivers can NOT.  It poured for what looked like a good 15-20 minutes. Then it would take time to dry the track (and patch a small hole apparently- but I missed that part completely).

I found the best way to spend a rain delay though! It’s across the street at my brother’s house playing with my nephews.  Ok technically only MXM is old enough for play…which we did both inside and out (that boy loves to play with his plastic lawn mower- I say enjoy it now because I doubt he will want to mow when he’s old enough to do the real thing).  But I did get JXM (who is now 15 weeks old or so) to laugh pretty hard- and who doesn’t love toothless, gummy baby laughs?  That rocked. But then it was back to the race.

Tony spent most of the race in between positions 12 and 21.  It did get exciting when pit stops came under caution at around lap 160.  Crew chief Darian Grubb called Tony in and they packed the number 14 full of fuel, planning on staying out no matter what happened to gain track position.  Of course I wasn’t listening to my Trackpass Scanner at this time so I had no idea what they were planning.   When there was another caution on lap 169- a lot of the cars in front of Tony (who was 16th or 17th at this time) came in to pack their cars with fuel. This put Tony into second place behind Kurt Busch.   I always get nervous when the national broadcast shows Tony puttering around under caution flipping his car on and off.  Even before they said it I am exclaimed “look- he’s saving fuel! Arg this could get ugly if this race ends up going to three green-white-checkers!!!”

The field took off at the green and it was looking good for Tony. He was second! Then…right before the last lap there was the Harvick-Logano tangle that caused Logano to spin and put the field into it’s first Green-White-Checker. Not to mention that this bunched the field back up.  So now not only did I have to worry about the fuel situation (don’t you love how I say I have to worry about it…like I am the one on top of the pit box crunching numbers…or even know what numbers to crunch…trust me- you don’t want me crunching numbers). I now also have to worry about Tony getting shuffled back or someone driving like an idiot to get to the front and crashing into Tony.  I was very much  on the edge of my seat.  Denny Hamlin jumped out into the lead and Tony was second with Kyle Busch on his tail.  Tony would eventually be passed by Busch but still came in third despite a horrendous last lap crash (no further green-white-checker since race leader had taken the white flag) happening that seemed to collect about half the field.

With his third place finish Tony moved up to 13th in the points standings, one point out of the top 12 chase.  Teammate Ryan Newman, who crossed the finish line with a damaged car- having been part of that last lap melee finished 14th, dropping him to 14th in the standings, only 18 points out of the top 12.

Notes and Pictures from Pocono:

  • TNT race coverage bites.  They were having sound difficulties. That might have been due to the rain I guess.  But I have two major complaints about their coverage. Complaint one: their timing of commercial breaks sucks. I hate coming back from commercial to see cars in the pits.  I say break AFTER green flag pit stops not before. I know they know about when the drivers will be coming in- pay attention to that.  Complaint number 2: the handling of the last lap accident.  That was a pretty horrendous looking accident.  There were damaged cars ALL over that track.  Several drivers look HARD hits in that wreck!  TNT, while they showed the wreck several times did not update us on driver conditions except for Kasey Kahne. And while yeah- Kasey appeared to take one of the harder hits there were other drivers there…I mean I saw a paramedic leaned into Jeff Gordon’s window and then they never said ANYTHING about his condition.  They did happen to catch a brief glimpse of Jeff Gordon walking past Kasey during his post race interview but if you happened to be looking down you would have missed that.
  • One of my favorite moments from the race? Was seeing Ryan Newman limp his car across the start-finish line. NOT because I wish any ill will against Ryan at all- but because he had the gusto to fight hard to pull that beat-up car across the start finish! Go Ryan!
  • In his after race comments Tony said that “There’s days like today where you’re not proud of how you got there, but you take it anyway because you know for every one you get like this, there’s one that gets robbed from you the same way” (credit team release). I don’t know why you wouldn’t be  proud of it. Sure he didn’t come in first but he came in top 5.  Fuel mileage is just as much a part of the “game” as anything else. Be proud Tony! Darian did good calling you in and you saved enough fuel. YEY.
  • Speaking of NASCAR being a game…I am loving the NASCAR “everything else is just a game” ads. LOVE THEM. Especially this one.
  • I am sure by now you have all heard about the post race fireworks between Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick.  Judging by what I saw on the TV- the accident was nobody’s fault.  To me it looked like Joey got a little loose and came down the track across Kevin’s nose. The pushing and shoving thing? Sure it adds to excitement and it’s all in the heat of the moment.  Joey may have been pushing on his own team guys (and his dad) but that is just youth.  I would rather see this then Joey go out on the track and hunt down Kevin and try to put him in the wall (ala Carl Edwards/Brad Keselowski).  These things happen, drivers need to push/shove/yell get it out of their system and move on.  I don’t think that insulting Kevin through his wife Delana was necessarily called for…but again-that was probably youth talking.  And what a great sound bite…and Delana has turned it into a shirt (I wear the firesuit in my family).  I kind of want one…but it wouldn’t really work for me since I am not married. I still LOVE the shirt idea. UPDATED: You too can have a I Wear The Firesuit In My Family shirt.
  • Am I the only one who thought Carl Edwards absconded away with Mark Martin’s car? I mean the paint scheme on that 99 car looked like something you would see on Mark’s car.

Did Carl steal Mark Martin's car?? Carl Edwards sports a different paint scheme at Pocono. Photo Credit: Glenn Bure

  • Speaking of drivers stealing from each other…are Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart sharing sunglasses? Ok probably not- but still I want to point out that they were wearing the same Oakleys.  Ok I might be pointing this out only to be able to showcase some photos provided to me. So what. Case in point:

Pay attention to Kasey Kahne's Oakley sunglasses here. Photo credit: Glenn Bure

The same sunglasses Kasey was wearing! They look better on Tony IMO. Photo Credit: Glenn Bure

Gratuitous Martin Truex Jr Picture for Lauren! Photo taken at Pocono Driver Intros. Photo Credit: Glenn Bure

  • Speaking of photos,  reader and commenter @KevinMBoots77 was at the Pocono race (his first time at the tricky triangle) and had a great time despite getting a little soggy. He agreed to let me direct you all to his Pocono photo gallery for the race. I highly suggest you all check it out- he got some great pictures.
  • Ok you all talked me into it. One more gratuitous picture…this time for me. It’s Tony during driver intros of course:

I couldn't help it...he's kind of smiling and everything. Photo Credit: Glenn Bure

A big thanks goes to Glenn Bure for the photos you see here (I have some more from Glenn of Tony on Trackside I will share later this week)…and to Kevin Boots for sharing his pictures with me and with you!

Next week:  Michigan