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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!

Viewership may be down, attendance may be down, but does NASCAR really think changing the rules of the game AGAIN is going to magically cure that?  Seems that NASCAR’s answer to all that ails it is to change, change and change things.  Apparently they have never heard Einstein’s definition of insanity:  doing the same thing over and expecting different results.  Well, in this case doing the same thing is changing the sport AGAIN.  Can we not just go from one season to another without wholesale changes like this?

Some may not think that the change that has been hinted at is that big of a deal, and may even see the potential change as easier to understand, but as a diehard NASCAR  fan I don’t have any issue or problem understanding the current scoring method.  Most of us can indeed count past 43.  I view the changes as yet one more thing to figure out as the season starts.  It distracts from the racing, it distracts from the good part of the sport and frustrates me to no end.

I am also not in favor of changing the Chase format.  Why, you may ask?  Because in my opinion the integrity of the record books has already been compromised by instituting the Chase in the first place.  There is Pre-Chase Era drivers and Championships and Chase Era drivers and Championships, NASCAR doesn’t need a third era.  You simply cannot compare Richard Petty’s seven Championships to Jeff Gordon’s four because had the Chase format not been instituted Gordon would have won two additional Championships (2004 and 2007).  Carl Edwards would have taken the 2008 Championship, and Jimmie wouldn’t be Mr. Five Time.  As it stands there needs to be an asterisk in the books, but the damage is done, let’s move on and leave it be.

If the Chase were eliminated now or God forbid, a whole other format instituted, we will never be able to compare Championship results or have a history of the sport that makes any kind of sense.  And to answer those that say, “yeah but Johnson winning all the time is boring and he has this Chase thing figured out”, I say to you, yes indeed it is and he does, but guess what like him or hate him, he has been the best in this format for the last five seasons and it is the burden of the other drivers to rise to the standard set by Johnson the 48 Team.   The other 11 teams need to bring it to the track week after week and get it done.  If at the end of the season, Johnson is crowned Champion again,   then we know the other drivers failed.  Simply changing the sport in an attempt to handicap a winner or level a playing field is ridiculous.  If the others aren’t up to the challenge then they don’t deserve to win.  Hamlin and Harvick came close this year proving the Chase format is not broken.

Confusion is never a good marketing strategy and changing the rules constantly is not going to draw more fans in, but it could frustrate current fans and cause them to move on to a sport they don’t have to re-learn each season.  NASCAR, please, leave the drama to the drivers on the track and let the rest ride!

If you know me personally or have read me for eons, then you know that I love music and have pretty damn eclectic tastes in music that really runs a wide gamut.  I also absolutely adore a mix cd (ahhh mix tapes) thoughtfully compiled for me of music that the giver thought I would enjoy or that reminds them of me. That is really cool. Because of this I also like to peruse the celebrity playlists on iTunes.

Anyway, I recently received a 2010 Chase Playlist compiled to go along with the chase with songs picked by some of the drivers from this years chase (this was sent to be by a PR person- I didn’t compile it myself):

  1. Not Afraid- by Eminem (Denny Hamlin)
  2. Nothing Else Matters- by Metallica (Jimmie Johnson)
  3. Walk The Line- by Johnny Cash (Kevin Harvick)
  4. CC Rider- by Elvis (Clint Bowyer)
  5. Jukebox Hero- by Foreigner (Carl Edwards)
  6. Everything- by Buck Cherry (Greg Biffle)
  7. Another Way To Die- by Disturbed (Matt Kenseth)
  8. Love The Way You Lie- by Eminem (Denny Hamlin)
  9. It’s Now Or Never – by Elvis (Clint Bowyer)
  10. Say It Ain’t So- by Weezer (Kevin Harvick)
  11. Enter Sandman- by Metallica (Greg Biffle)
  12. Miracle- by Nonpoint (Matt Kenseth)

(yes I know that not ALL chase drivers were represented…but this is the list that was given to me).  Interesting choices don’t you think?

It got me thinking of songs I could add to this list…a 2010 Chase Playlist….here is what I would add:

  1. I Don’t Wanna Stop- By Ozzy Osbourne
  2. Shut Up and Drive- by Rihanna
  3. Right Now- by Korn

So tell me what you would add or what songs remind you of your favorite driver ( in the comments) because honestly? I am looking for some new (to me) music!

So how excited was I that Tony won? Very! WHOO HOO!

Tony and Darian seemed to both be in a good mood before they took even one green flag lap- judging by their radio banter. Darian said something about buying Tony a little pool if he brought back a trophy.  Of course I am envisioning Tony sitting in a kiddie pool but that is probably because I have small nephews who love their kiddie pool on a hot day.

As I was watching, when Tony took the lead the first time I thought to myself…YEY five points! Then he kept leading and leading. There would be some swapping back and forth here and there with Denny or Carl but then I was thinking Hey- we might get 5 more points for leading the MOST laps here.  It really wasn’t until the last 10 laps or so that I starting thinking…DAMN we have been DOMINATE ALL NIGHT  and that is when I start worrying about something going WRONG!

It seemed that the 14 pit crew was ON IT all night (ok they had ONE bad stop- but it wasn’t even THAT bad).  Tony’s only complaint pit-wise was that he was having trouble seeing his stall- but they figured that out- and between Darian counting him down into his pitstall and his dad Nelson waving a flashlight at him he was able to find it much easier on subsequent stops.

It warmed my heart to see the #14 car sooo dominate Sunday night.  I loved it and hope that there is only more of that on the horizon!!

WHOO HOO.

Anyway Congrats to Tony Stewart and Office Depot and all the other sponsors for their win at Atlanta

Tony is now 4th in the series standings and locked into the chase (shwew).

So since Tony won- there are a couple ways you too can win:

Win a Sunoco Checkered Flag autographed by race winner Tony Stewart here from SpeedTV.

You can bid on the Old Spice towel Tony used in  Victory Lane  here (proceeds to benefit The Tony Stewart Foundation).

You can win one of 14 Office Depot Racing autographed hats here at Office Depot Racing’s 14 for 14 Contest.

I celebrated Tony’s win yesterday with a trip to Office Depot- it’s one of my favorite stores anyway. BUT they didn’t have what I was looking for in stock yet but they told me it’s coming September 12th so I will be back I promise.

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