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This down to the wire stuff with the Chase is absofreakinglutely killing me. Today at work I even referred to a co-worker (to a client no less) as Carl Edwards (completely by accident- his first name is Carl so I think I get a pass there).  I have been referring to my boss as Tony (his name is NOT Tony so no excuse there- and don’t go getting all Freudian on me) for weeks.  How do I explain to people that my fairly severe case of  “CHASE BRAIN” will be gone after next Sunday?

As I took my seat before the race at Phoenix I had a case of butterflies that wouldn’t quell. I was almost more nervous during the race then I was that first time I interviewed Tony Stewart (and trust me- I was a BALL of nerves that day- just ask Misty).  The actual race at Phoenix was a stress-fest because I felt the need to keep steady vigil on Tony and Carl and who was where and who led a lap and who led the most laps, who pitted when and how many tires they took and so on.  People- I tried doing math in my head while at a track.  MATH- IN MY HEAD!  I am not a dumb person- but I am not great with numbers unless I have a calculator- or paper and pencil at the very least.  The number 3 is taunting me…with our three point deficit on the points leader, Carl Edwards.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car prior to practice for the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images North America)

It isn’t helping that Tony and Carl can’t seem to break free from each other.  They qualified for Phoenix Tony right in front of Carl. They finished Carl right in front of Tony.  There has been virtually no separation between the two competitors.   It is killing me! KILLING ME!  I was hoping to go into Homestead with a couple of points on Carl and here we are sitting exactly where we were before the Phoenix race.  I know I should be grateful that Tony didn’t fall further behind Carl- but I am not.  I am bitter that we did NOT best him- it’s the sore loser in me…even though I was not the one who was racing.Yeah…so I am not the most graceful loser.

That damn duck on Carl’s firesuit mocks me…quacking THREE THREE THREE at me.  A couple of years ago at Champions Week we got our hands on some little stuffed ducks that say AFLAC when you squeeze them.  It’s been in my nephew’s toy box since I came home from champions week that year…but last night was the day he decided to play with it. AFLAC AFLAC AFLAC. That damn duck needs to go that is for sure.  On the other hand- my oldest nephew discovered my 1:64 Tony Stewart diecasts up on the shelf and wanted to know “If they were real?” and “Why can’t I play with them?” because to him they look like matchbox cars.

Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, and Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy, speak during a press conference following the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

Usually by this time in the season I am beginning to mourn the end of the season, already missing my racing fix until next February, and looking a head to a fresh season for Tony to kick ass in.  However, I can NOT think that far ahead right now.   Right now all I can think is:

#KeepDiggingTony

#GoTonyGo

#BookendChampionships

XXX

By the way here are a couple of great articles about Tony in advance of the final race of the season:

Tony Stewart Vs Carl Edwards: The Championship Contenders Press Conference Score Card by Jeff Gluck

Stewart Balances Life As Driver/Owner In Quest For Cup by Cary Estes

Tony Stewart Would Make A Best Cup Champ by Terry Blount

 

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:

Wow, what a weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing.   I admit I was quite pleased when Ryan and Tony qualified 1-2 (although that little teeny competitive person inside me was chagrined that it wasn’t the other way around).  Tony isn’t always the best qualifier- so when he qualifies top 10 I get pretty happy. When he qualifies top 5 I get damn happy. When he qualifies top 2? I do a jig. Ok not really- but I was ecstatic and hopeful for his run on Sunday.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, poses with his team and Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet, and his team on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)

It appears I had every reason to be hopeful.  EVERY REASON.  I settled in for the race with my cell phone and my note pad close.  I started off on the TNT national broadcast- only for the pre-race. Once the command was given to start engines I switched it over to Stewart’s DirecTV HotPass channel where for the second week in a row I just stayed on the HotPass Channel.  I have decided that I like the HotPass because I get the radio communications between Tony, Darian and Bob without draining my battery on my phone and having to relaunch the Sprint ap every time I go to read a text or a tweet- which during the race is quite often.

Anyway- it was quite obvious by the way Tony Stewart moved through the field that he had a car to be reckoned with.  Especially if you consider that during the pre-race show all the drivers interviewed mentioned how hard it would be to pass at Louden.  I don’t remember anyone saying anything different.  Tony seemed to be able to work his way up through the field a couple times and made it look easy.  EASY!  Whoo.

Ryan Newman (R), driver of the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet, is congratulated by team owner and second place finisher, Tony Stewart (L), driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America)

I will readily admit that the competitive side of me came out when Tony was running hard trying to catch Ryan.  I was standing there in front of the TV-hoping Ryan would run out of gas. I know, I should hang my head in shame a little for hoping Ryan would run out of gas, after all that is Tony’s  teammate.  All I can say is that, Tony is my driver and he could be racing my mom out there and I would still be rooting for Tony. It’s just how this fan/driver relationship works.

Tony’s second place finish has moved him into a tie for 10th place with Denny Hamlin.  I can only hope that this 1-2 weekend at New Hampshire signals the start of better luck for Tony Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing.

Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet, is congratulated by teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, after Newman won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

Notes on Loudon:

  1. You see that picture up there of Tony congratulating Ryan in the car. The one right above this notes section? You might have to look carefully because it’s small but Tony’s hand is out congratulating Ryan.  I LOVE that picture.  Why? Well, as I mentioned I was watching the race on Tony’s HotPass channel and seeing him celebrate Ryan’s win and his second place from his incar camera was GREAT!  He was UBER excited!!!  Then hearing that one of the first things Tony said when he got out of his car was that he was “so damn proud” that he “couldn’t see straight” made me laugh.
  2. I love listening in on the radio communication. How else would I have known that Tony was mad because the hose that cools his feet wasn’t hooked up and I found that out because he stated over his radio that he in charge of hooking up said hose could drive the car the next time the hose didn’t get hooked up.  So Tony wasn’t hot-headed he was hot-footed.  Ha! I crack myself up.  Not to mention the kind words he had to say about Andy Lally.  LOVE it because that is what is going on right then and there in the car in my driver’s head.
  3. Oh and I am hearing that there is a rumor out there that Carl Edwards may be signing with JGR for next season…I am not sure if JGR is going to a 4 car team or if that means someone is out of one of the JGR cars.  I guess we will find out soon enough.
  4. I still have to say that I would be happier if Ryan and Tony’s finishes were reversed, but still pretty damn happy.
  5. But we really need a win now. Just saying.
  6. Oh and before I forget- Tony mentioned during his post-race press conference that Darian was dealing with pneumonia while on the pit box…I sure hope he’s feeling better soon!

Gratuitous Tony picture:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 15, 2011 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images North America)

Don’t forget next weekend is an off weekend for the Cup cars…they will be back the following weekend at Indy. Go Tony Go!

You can read Part 1 here.

I am going to admit something right here…Misty and I played hooky from Infineon on Saturday and played tourists in San Fransisco so I really have NOTHING to tell you of Saturday.  Valli has a post about Saturday though if you want to check out what she was doing (plus you can read about how Dale Jr tried to scare her just like Jimmie did to us the day before).

We were up with the chickens on Sunday- grabbed a quick bite in the room and headed right to the track on Sunday morning and it wasn’t even early enough because the race traffic heading into Infineon was in full effect!  I remembered this from the time we came in 2009 and thought we had left in plenty of time- apparently not.  Not that we were late- but we were later than we wanted to be. So we get into the track plop our stuff down in the media center (I LOVE having a place I can ditch my stuff at the race so that I don’t have to carry all my belongings with me everywhere I go) grab both of my cameras and we decide to spend the morning just wandering before the start of the race.  First we wandered over to the driver introduction stage to get some pictures of three greats: Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bobby Allison. I have to admit…Misty got THE best picture of Bobby Allison:

Bobby Allison talks with PRN host before the race at Infineon Raceway. (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

(more…)

So on Wednesday some guys got together at a little half-mile dirt track in Ohio and played in the dirt raced around it.  They raced for fun and glory….proceeds went to four great children’s hospitals.

I watched the event as I do every year on PPV…but the other day I was searching around and I found a photo album that had some GREAT photos from the event. I wanted to share some of my favorites  (after the jump): (more…)

Or maybe it’s the other way around and the A&E show THE GLADES invades NASCAR? Either way,  keep your peepers open for Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Tony Stewart to by on an episode of the A&E television show THE GLADES (which stars Matt Passmore).

I first found out about this episode when Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted this photo of  Tony last week: (more…)

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!

If I had been able to flash forward to the end of the Daytona 500 and watch my reaction I would have bet everything I have that Jeff Gordon had just wheeled his Chevrolet to victory lane, because what else would have me on my haunches, screaming, shouting and pumping my fist in the air as the checkered flag waved?! Good thing my flash forward button doesn’t work cause I would have lost my pants in that bet, since Gordon crashed along with a good portion of the field on lap 30 ending his shot to drive to Victory Lane.
So what else could possibly cause me to have such an enthusiastic and heart-felt reaction to this year’s Daytona 500? It’s the kind of ending that we usually only see in Disney movies, but this time we got to see it all unfold for ourselves during this year’s Speed Weeks. It is the story of part-time, rookie driver, Trevor Bayne.
D.W. said it best at the end of the race when he held up a blank piece of paper and said that it was the bio he had on Trevor Bayne before the race. Few people had heard of Trevor before this race. He had only one other Sprint Cup Series start, in last fall’s Texas race, and here he was in Daytona proving himself. First by laying down the fourth fastest lap during Qualifying and then in his eagerness throughout the week leading to the race. He quickly became the talk of the media by being the first in his garage everyday, the first on the track to practice. He wore his eagerness and excitement on his sleeve throughout Speed Weeks.
I, personally, took notice during his Duel race when he waited after his driver intro to talk to Jeff Gordon, presumably to seek advice from the veteran driver. Throughout their Duel Gordon and Bayne worked together, Bayne pushing Gordon in the two car tandem that characterized this year’s races on the newly re-paved track. Despite a last lap crash in the Duel, Bayne clearly earned credibility among the other drivers. Time and again, seasoned drivers looked to Bayne in the 500 as a drafting partner. Again, I took notice when mid-way through the 500 Carl Edwards got on his radio to ask Bayne if he needed someone to push him. Many rookies would have leapt at the chance to work with a proven driver like Edwards, or simply been too intimidated to turn him down, but Bayne showed his intelligence and integrity and told Carl that he was a better pusher and preferred to continue pushing David Ragan. Bayne’s demonstration of integrity, intelligence and independence are all qualities that will serve him well in his career.
So when it came down to the final restart and Bayne looked like he could pull off what had really never been done before – winning the Daytona 500 on his first Daytona 500 start (Lee Petty won his first start at the 500, but since it was the very first 500 does not count), I was on the edge of my seat, screaming for this kid. When he actually pulled it off, I the felt the kind of sweeping emotion and pride that I usually only feel for truly great moments in sports, like the U.S. winning another Gold in the Olympics or the Yankees winning another series. Then again, this is another great moment in sports history.
I admit that I usually do not watch post race, especially when my driver finishes 35 laps down, but today I watched and I continued to be impressed by Bayne. Earlier in the race, D.W. had mentioned that Trevor had taken time before the race to pray with his team and the first thing that Trevor said when he climbed out of his car in Victory Lane was to mention the prayer and the power that God had. What is not to like about NASCAR’s newest hero?
I watched his reaction as David Ragan came over to offer his congratulations and saw Trevor’s genuine concern and empathy to Ragan, who’d been his drafting partner most of the day and had nearly pulled off the win himself, when he prematurely switched lanes during a restart and got black flagged by NASCAR. This is the kind of personality that NASCAR and this country needs – a good hearted, genuine, eager, talented young man to invigorate the fans and make us feel good.
NASCAR promised just such a driver a few years ago in rookie Joey Logano (“Sliced Bread”), but Logano never quite lived up to the hype and you can’t market this kind of a moment and you can’t create this kind of honest emotion.
Before this 500 no one knew who his kid from Knoxville, Tennessee was and now with his remarkable victory, the publicity machine will undoubtedly roar to life, like the engine of his #21, but at least it does so as a response to a hard earned achievement versus a contrived, marketing ploy to draw in fans. This NASCAR fan will take fresh, homemade bread over commercialized sliced bread any day. It’s good for the sport and good for the heart of NASCAR.
2011’s Daytona 500 will go down as one of the greatest moments in NASCAR history and I wouldn’t be surprised if a Disney movie isn’t already on the drawing board. Here’s to a fantastic and unbelievable start to the season that proves that anything can happen!