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If you know me- you know I love to take pictures. If you know me you also know that I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to those pictures so I can come back from any given event or outing with 300-3000 pictures and only find maybe 50 that I actually like (sometimes more- occasionally less). Here are some of my favorite pictures from the Kobalt 400 Race:

I don’t know why but I love this one of Tony Stewart’s number 14 pulling out of his garage stall- which happened to be directly under me at the time:

Heading out for practice

Tony Stewart pulls his #14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Chevy out of his garage bay at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 2014 (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

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(Here are links to Celebrating A NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion…Vegas Style Part One and Celebrating Part Two)

First off I wanted to let you know that you can see all of our pictures from Champions Week over in our Sprint Cup Champion’s Week 2013  flickr set (all pictures no commentary) so I hope you enjoy those.

Here are my favorite (often times silly and possibly only funny to us) “outtake” moments from this year’s NASCAR Champion’s Week celebration:

1. That the only part of Tony Stewart Live that Misty and I managed to catch (since Tuesday was my travel day) was Jimmie Johnson saying that Chad Knaus was aging in dog years and he didn’t know how much more he had in him. (For those not in the know- Misty’s favorite driver is Jeff Gordon- but Chad is her favorite crew chief). Okay- well maybe only I (Amy) found that hilarious- am pretty sure Misty didn’t find it too funny but don’t worry- she gets me back in this department with outtake 3. Needless to say “aging in dog years” became the catchphrase of the week.

2. That time Robin Leach (yes he of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous fame) photobombed Misty’s picture of Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth during The Victory Lap (and all three of the drivers were smiling- not an easy thing to catch):

Robin Leach, Photobomber extraordinaire

Thanks for the photobomb Robin Leach. (Also from left to right  after the photobomber are: 6 time champion Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth). (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

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I don’t know what it is- but the Pit Crew Challenge on Thursday this year did nothing for me.  It’s something I usually LOVE to watch but I just couldn’t get into it this year. I think it’s because it doesn’t move fast enough between rounds for me and really what these guys are doing is not a real pit stop. I want it to be a REAL pit stop.  Speaking of REAL pit stops have you seen this from Quicken Loans Racing (Ryan Newman’s Primary co-sponsor?)? It is a really visual of what a pit stop looks like through the eyes of the different crew members: Pit Crew Experience. I love this and highly suggest you check it out!

I also want to share a gratuitous Tony Stewart picture from the event:

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot-Mobile 1 Chevrolet jokes with a crew member during the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

And this humorous picture from the winner’s (the 48 crew) celebration:

Crew chief Chad Knaus celebrates with a member of the No. 48 My Lowe's Chevrolet after winning the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Wow…what a bizarre race Richmond ended up being!  I guess the three major issues ended up being clashing crew members in the pits (between Menard and Johnson who were pitted side-by-side), Carl being black flagged for jumping the restart, and that last debris caution. And I have opinions on ALL of it of course. The problem is where to start.

So Tony didn’t have such a great qualifying effort and started the race from 22nd position.  Despite what Tony said about the pit crew issues during the race? I think having a crappy pit box may have been part of his pit road issues. Not that there weren’t other issues- I am sure there were. But the crappy pit box that comes with a mediocre qualifying run can damper your race on/off of pit road.  However, I think it speaks volumes about the car and the team (and of course our smokin’ driver Tony) that the car seemed to be able to slowly work up the field despite the pit road issues- whatever they may have been.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, makes a pitstop during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

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Far and away the most amazing thing about Race 3 in Las Vegas was Jimmie Johnson’s runner-up finish after crashing in Happy Hour Saturday and having to start from the rear of the field in a backup car.  Within minutes of Jimmie losing control and hitting the wall Saturday afternoon, Chad and the 48 team were unloading the backup car. Amy and I had the privilege of witnessing much of the hardwork that went into getting the car race ready – I am sure it was a long night for the 48 team, but it paid off with that awesome finish.

Where There's a Chad , There's a Way (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

Now, the messy moment of the race for me probably didn’t even make it into the TV coverage, but it was a moment that brought out my potty mouth and made me bite my nails literally.  I think I may even have embarrassed Amy by my exclamation!  About 80 laps in, my driver was racing mid pack for P15 (I think) and a certain driver that I have had issues with before decided to go three wide into turn 1, causing my far more sensible driver to fall back a few places, where he then seemed to struggle the remainder of the day!   I wish that someone would pass out my “space bubble memo” at the next Driver’s Meeting, so that my driver can maintain a safe space bubble in which he can freely race however he wants and the heck with the other 42 cars.  :)

On February 17th (seems like ages ago doesn’t it?) the 48 car entered in the Daytona 500 field failed it’s initial race entry inspection because of illegal C-posts.  The C-Posts were confiscated by NASCAR and the team was allowed to repair the 48 car and go back through inspection and then into practice.  First thought is where the heck is the C-Post…well I found and stole this graphic from an old article on NASCAR.com:

Click graphic to be taken to the story on NASCAR.com that it was borrowed from.

Anyway- today NASCAR announced the “punishment” for the illegal parts. They were found to be in violation of three sections of the NASCAR rulebook*:

Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-2.1E (if in the judgment of NASCAR officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance will not be permitted – unapproved car body modifications)

Chad Knaus, crew chief of the 48, was fined $100,000 and suspended for 6 weeks. Car chief of the 48, Ron Malec, was also suspended for 6 weeks.  Jimmie Johnson was fined 25 driver points. Jeff Gordon was fined 25 owner points.

Wow…is it me or is that a little heavy handed? I posted a sentiment like that on my facebook and I guess it might just be me. But never the less I stand by my initial reaction that it’s a harsh penalty…too harsh.  I have several reasons why I think the fines are a bit much:

  1. It’s my understanding that this particular car had been used several times last season. If that is the case- why did it not fail any of those numerous inspections? (Initial inspection, post qualifying inspection, post race inspection). I mean sure I suppose the car could have been completely changed during the off season- but really?
  2. NASCAR needs to be more consistant with it’s fines.  What do I mean by this? Consider this- Clint Bowyer’s car failed post-qualifying inspection.  Yet NASCAR did not offer any fines whatsoever there- not even a mention of possible fines the whole week between qualifying and race day. Yet as soon as the 48 failed inspection on Friday- it was news and talk of heavy fines floated around the team ALL week long.  While the parts that failed inspection are apples and oranges- the end result is this- the cars were both non-standard and thus failed inspection. Yet one team was heavily penalized and the other was let go without even a slap on the wrist.  This is unfair and unequal treatment between teams. NASCAR needs to decide whether or not they are going to be heavy handed rulebook thumpers or the nice “give a team the benefit of the doubt” kind of sanctioning body. It can’t be both.
  3. Since it was the initial inspection and the team never practiced or qualified with the offending parts on the car, I don’t think it should be fined at all. Technically the team gained nothing from the offending parts because they did not USE said parts- the car never touched track.  They removed them and I assume that the car that Jimmie raced in the 500 this past Monday had no technical issues (with the exception of the big technical issue of being crashed in lap two). This, going back to the Clint Bowyer senario mentioned in 2, is really unfair because if there was something unstandard on Bowyer’s car he practiced and qualified the offending part- having gained some possible benefit from it.

Now I am sure some people will argue with “But Chad has done this before- remember when he was suspended and Darian Grubb took the helm as crew chief?” Yes, I have not forgotten this.  My thought in this- Chad and the 48 team have already paid for those mistakes…Chad was removed and fined for those issues. That issue is closed. This is a separate issue. To that arguement doesn’t make any sense. It’s like a tardy student getting expelled instead of suspended this year because they had an unexcused absence and and an additional unexcused absence five years ago, that they already served a detention for five years ago.

So there you have my three reasons I think NASCAR was heavy handed with the fines.  Misty, while agreeing with me in general that the NASCAR punishment is too harsh, also has some good albeit different points about the situation and I highly suggest that you read her post about it as well: The 48 Smackdown: Overkill.

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* I want a rulebook. Just because.

Pushing limits to be the best in any other field is called innovation and leads to better competition and tremendous advancements, but not in NASCAR. NASCAR says how much and how far and if the teams don’t heed there is hell to pay, or at least there is this time for the 48 team. Somehow throughout the years NASCAR has tightened its “rulebook” and standards to a point that no longer leaves room for anyone or any team to “push” the limits.

But, even worse that that, NASCAR does not seem to have consistent or predictable fines or penalties for infractions. The 48′s supposed rule violation before the Daytona 500 resulted in a dramatic penalty for the team that if not reversed through appeal by Hendrick Motorsports will make it virtually impossible for Jimmie Johnson to win a 6th championship in 2012.

Knaus’ last major violation was 5 years ago, so why issue such a steep penalty? Perhaps because of his comment last season to Jimmie at Talladega hinting at something? Well that car was inspected post race and passed. Perhaps past violations from Knaus? Did he not already serve his punishment for these? I say today’s extreme penalties were overkill by NASCAR. The car did not race – the problem with the c-post was found during pre-race inspection. Isn’t that what pre-race inspection is for?

So what should NASCAR have done? A probation for Knaus and Malec- sure, maybe even all season. Suspension for crew chief and car chief, too much for the first offense of season. Monetary fine- OK, heck double it even. Points penalty for driver and owner? Too much! Jimmie will go into Phoenix negative 23 points. As good as he can be, and like him or not, he can be good, that is a deep hole to dig out from especially without Knaus and Malec for six races.

Too often it seems NASCAR selects certain teams and incidents to use as “examples” and yet others skate by with hardly a slap.

I will say this for NASCAR’s decision, it has got some press and brought some attention to the sport (Chad Knaus was a trending topic on twitter today). So perhaps the only good that will come out of penalizing Five Time so steeply is some added attention to the sport from those that otherwise wouldn’t pay any attention at all.

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!