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On Thursday Journo at The NASCAR Insiders asked quite simply “Do You Remember Why You Love NASCAR?”  I actually pondered this a bit in my guest entry over at NASCAR THIS WEEK back in April. It is hard for me to put into words why I love the sport that I love…but I do.  As I mentioned in the NTW piece, I have had a love of cars and a love of motorsports in general since I was knee high to a grasshopper and was just naturally drawn to cars since childhood.

Then there is the first hand experiences of being at a track that assault you from the moment you get out of your car; the noise that 43 cars make that can take the breath out of you, the mixture of oil, rubber, sweat, and a myriad of food mixing and giving each track it’s own signature smell, the rush of adrenaline I get during the flyover (and I am not even a driver). It’s a very physical thing to actually be on hand for a race. It’s a feeling that I can not adequately describe despite my many attempt, and it’s definitely something that someone who doesn’t love the sport just can not get.  My uncle still doesn’t get why I would travel 500 miles to “watch cars drive in a circle.”  Even my own best friend didn’t get it until recently…and she knew me back when I was a geeky little junior high school kid (she didn’t get why I had race cars on my walls instead of Charlie Sheen and Tom Cruise). She eventually learned to tolerate it in me until just last year when I finally (only took like what 15-20 years) turned her into a NASCAR fan and now she LOVES it like I do.

Journo’s original point was that the whole Mayfield drug debacle is drawing negative attention to OUR sport- and as fans and lovers of the sport we need to step back, take a breath and remember what is GOOD about NASCAR this season and right now (goes on to give several examples such as Mark Martin winning races at 50 and first time winners Keselowski and Reutimann). His comments got me really thinking about what do I personally love about NASCAR right now at this point in the season (in no particular order):

  • Silly Season. I will proudly stand up and say I LOVE the rumors flying around about silly season. Will Harvick be with RCR next season? Will Brad Keselowski get that full time ride an if he does who will it be for? Will Joe Gibbs Racing be bringing on a fourth car? Will Stewart-Haas be fielding a third car? Will Danica make the jump to NASCAR? Who doesn’t love the surmising and the speculating that comes with this time of the year. Last season? I was all wrapped up in the Stewart-Haas thing (read I was shocked out of my socks) so much that I didn’t have much of a chance to enjoy all that goes with silly season…this year I can sit back and enjoy throwing my twelve cents in for whatever its worth.
  • That Stewart-Haas racing currently has two cars in the top 12 in points. I have been a Tony fan a long long time…I was shocked when he made the jump to owner/driver. I didn’t doubt him, I was concerned but I jumped right on board when I saw how excited he was. But how GREAT is it that he is up there leading the points with teammate Ryan Newman behind him in 7th place in points so far? Yes I know a lot can happen between now and the chase but it’s great right now.
  • Speaking of the chase- I love how drivers are teetering on the edge of making it…or not. It’s better than Bubble Day for the Indy 500! Will Biffle or Reutimann or Bowyer be able to fight their way into the chase? Will Kyle Busch, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth be able to stay in the chase? It’s drama at it’s best people!
  • That NASCAR, tracks and drivers are starting to embrace social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to reach out to us fans. I think that they are important tools- I am on twitter through out the day- more than email. It works for me. I admit to a slight addiction to facebook as well. I love that I can get updates (both personal and official) from these sites without having to hunt around for them. I hope more drivers come on board (hint hint Tony). NASCAR is even working with a group of selected bloggers in creating a Citizen Media Corp- which also rocks because bloggers are fans not journalists or sportscasters and have unique opinions and thoughts that they want heard- and it’s a great feeling to be included and listened to. Plus the more NASCAR bloggers unite in any method the stronger the voices are and thus the more we are heard.
  • The Mayfield drug debacle. Yes it’s turning kind of circus-like and pretty soon we almost expect to see someone like Jerry Springer jump in, however- I am going to disagree with Journo and say that this situation is bringing an important subject to light.  It’s something that hasn’t really been talked about much. And no matter what the ultimate outcome specifically regarding Mayfield’s case in particular- I think that NASCAR will emerge with one thing: a stronger and more broadly understood drug policy.
  • Kyle Busch. You may love him or you may hate him, but everyone has some feeling about him. He’s stepped into the “NASCAR BADBOY” role that some feel has been missing.  He’s young. He’s hot. He drives a mean car. He says the first thing that comes to mind (ok he reminds me of Tony so you know I like him). At Infineon I was actually in the crowd on the track during driver Intros…and when he was announced he was booed so viciously that it made me actually stop taking pictures and turn around to see if I needed to run for cover. Do I think he deserves it? No. Do I think he handles himself well? Most of the time. Do I think he has talent? Hell yeah. I also thinks he brings a little something to the table excitement wise- whether its a war of words between him and Junior or a little bitterness over some on-track action with Tony, you have to admit it adds excitement.

Of course this is not an inclusive list of ALL things I love about NASCAR on any given day. It’s just a brief list I came up with in response to a question. There are more long standing things about the sport that I love too. There are GOOD things to love about this sport all the time.

I may have been kidding when I said that I watch Talladega through my fingers- but races at Talladega make me nervous…because I hate sitting there and waiting for “The Big One.”  You know that wreck that Talladega is famous for– the one that wipes out at least a third to a half of the field in one fail swoop…while I sit there biting my nails (ok so now you know..I am a nail biter…have been since I was a kid) watching and hoping that Tony didn’t become collateral damage in the wreck.

At least this weekend I didn’t have to wait very long- at 8 laps into the race the first Big One happened…and Tony seemed to skate through it relatively unharmed. Team Office Depot/Old Spice did seem to do some work on the front end of the car during subsequent pit stops so some minor damage. However I was left to wonder- why is Tony so far back?  I couldn’t decide if he and Newman were just biding their time in the back waiting to make their move up the track or if they were seriously having issues- and of course the national broadcast gave me no clues. ITowards the end of the race though, Stewart starting moving up towards the front- making his way to a race high 8th place, before he unfortunately lost a cylinder and his car started dropping through the field like a lead weight…ARG!  With some help from Denny Hamlin and Dale Jr, Tony’s teammate Ryan Newman was able to make it up to the front of the pack and was holding on until Carl Edwards/ Brad Keselowski hooked up in a late race draft to the front passing Ryan Newman who was being pushed by Dale Junior.  Keselowski held his line with Edwards at the double yellow- which turned Edwards on front stretch about 120 yards from the finish line. Carl’s car flew up the track, going airborne and smacking hard into Ryan Newman and then rolled up into the catch fence. Despite extensive damage to the number 39 car sponsored by The Prelude To The Dream, Ryan Newman was able to continue to pilot the car over the finishline- finishing in 3rd place. Brad Keselowski came across the finish line first, winning his first Sprint Cup race ever.

Points wise Tony Stewart remains in 4th place (a mere sixty seven points out of the points lead) after finishing 23rd.  Ryan Newman’s 3rd place finish at Talladega catapulted him up into thirteenth in points.

Notes About Talladega:

  • Sam Hornish seemed to do extremely well considering he was suffering from flu like symptoms. While Travis Kvapil stood by in case he needed to be relieved…Hornish worked hard to maintain his position in the race- only to be collected in a late race crash.
  • While I am as much as a fan of alternate paint schemes as the next guy…and I actually have a thing for yellow cars- Jeff Gordon’s yellow Pepsi Challenger paint scheme (and then the blackhooded-yellow and white car) made it extremely hard for me to find him in the pack.
  • Speaking of extremely hard to find in the pack I am starting to be able to zero in on Tony’s new paint scheme..unfortunately I am consistently having to answer “IS THAT TONY?” from whomever I am watching the race with.
  • Joey Logano did excellent during Talladega- I saw him do some great manuevering to avoid crashes…he is coming along well- thanks to the seasoned experience by his crew chief Greg Zipadelli and the Home Depot crew.
  • Am I the only one who thinks its a little ironic that during the pre-show, Carl Edwards was featured piloting Jeff Hammond around in a plane- and then at the end of the race Carl Edward’s car went airborne?
  • Speaking of which- last I heard 8 fans were injured by flying debris from Carl Edward’s car. I wish them all a speedy recovery.

This weekend we go Saturday night racing at Richmond. Let’s go Team Office Depot/Old Spice!!!

When I am at Target (my favorite store in the world) I usually stop by the collectible cards section and pick up a pack or three of NASCAR PressPass cards.  I don’t collect the whole set- mostly I am looking to score Tony cards.  Anyway in my last purchase at Target I actually won an autographed card of Brad Keselowski!  Don’t believe me? Here is the card:

I won Brad Keselowsi

I won Brad Keselowsi- sorry for the sucky camera phone pic.

I rarely win anything but I seem to be on a roll this year.