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I am a NASCAR fan- but moreover I am a motorsports fan and there is no day quite as good for us motorsports fans as May 28th. It’s a day of solid motorsports- starting with Monaco in the wee (for a weekend day) morning and ended with NASCAR’s version of the endurance race, the Coca-Cola 600. And sandwiched in the middle was the ultimate event in all of motorsports- the Indy 500.

(photo source: Zimbio.com/Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

I will be the first to admit that as much as I love motorsports- I also love sleep- so I didn’t catch much of the F1 race in Monaco (remember I am on the West Coast). But I caught every lap of the Indy 500. There is just something about the race that makes it special- so special I will even sit there and watch the pre-race pomp and circumstance that surrounds it- and I will do it with glee in my motorsports loving heart.  I agree with the people online who state that “Back Home Again” without Jim Nabors is just not the same. It totally isn’t.  I am pretty sure I am the only native born Californian (who had never even been to Indiana) who knew the words to it in elementary school. It was because when I was a kid- I looked forward to the INDY 500 with great abandon. Bubble Day was my favorite qualifying day and I would sit there on the edge of my seat waiting to find out who would make the field and who would be bumped. It was my thing.

I found this year’s Indy 500 to be much more exciting than those of Indy 500′s in the recent past. There seemed to be more racing for position and less follow the leader train style. THAT is what I look for in a race to make it exciting for me. I like to see people passing each other…trying to pass each other.  It was a good race with an exciting finish. What was NOT exciting was the Jay Howard/Scott Dixon crash- for many reasons. I was of course rooting for Jay Howard (and Pippa Mann) since he was the Team OneCure driver…but that withstanding that accident was horrifying. With all the safety measures taken across ALL forms of motorsports it’s easy as a fan to become complacent when it comes to the dangers associated with all forms of racing.  And while it was wonderful to see that driver capsule hold strong around Scott Dixon- it was scary to see the car take flight like that and come crashing down nearly cockpit down on the retaining wall…only to then roll and indeed land cockpit down on the pavement before righting itself. I was sure we were going to see him removed on a stretcher. When he got out of the car and WALK to the ambulance. Wow.

After a walk of the dogs and doing some other chore like things in between I sat down ready to start the second half of my motorsports day and I was just as excited. This is NASCAR’s version of the endurance race- it’s 600 miles! That is THE longest race. And I know some people don’t like the long races- honestly most of the time I am one of them…but I still think there needs to be at least one 600 mile race. It’s a whole different skillset for the drivers. Just like I am a hearty believer in the road courses- I love road courses because they again require a whole other skillset of the drivers.  Do I think the resin helped the 600? Yes I do. I saw lots of passing and racing for position. What didn’t help was the rain delay- but that happens. I am glad it wasn’t along delay as far as rain delays go. It rained and they were able to get the track dry and the race underway in an hour and forty minutes or something like that? That’s pretty quick for a weather related delay.  I am thankful that the air titans where there to help with that and get the race back underway.

Now that I consider myself a fan without a driver I necessarily pull for- I find fuel mileage races more exciting I will admit that. It’s a part of racing- who figured out their fuel mileage the best. Who was able to each out that extra little dribble of fuel in their car? Congratulations go to Austin Dillon’s team for doing just that.

(photo source: Zimbio.com/Sarah Crabill/Getty Images North America)

Now let’s talk about the post-race event that everyone seems to want to talk about- Kyle Busch’s short comment in post-race media. “Nothing surprises me any more. Congratulates. *mic drop*” As always there are people on both sides of the fence with Kyle’s comments. I can see and acknowledge both sides of it. I see he’s obviously disappointed. He’s probably hungry (I agree with Dale Jr) and tired. The last place he wants to be is answering questions about a race he REALLY wanted to win but didn’t. Yes it’s his job and he should meet all his media obligations as part of that job. Does it bother me? Not really. He was rude. People have bad days. He was in a bad mood. I am not going to defend his actions but I am not offended by them either. It is what it is and I take them at face value. Drivers say things in the heat of the moment and the face of defeat out of their passion for the sport- as a Tony Stewart fan this is something that I know and expect from drivers so it does not bother me. This behavior and passion for his sport is what makes Kyle Busch Kyle Busch and without a Kyle Busch the sport would be boring.

Now I want you to ready for this because I am probably going to blow some socks off here- because I am about to defend Brad Keselowski.  After the media got a hold of Kyle’s words,  Brad tweeted something to the effect of him not being sure that Kyle Busch’s behavior is the way to define “hating losing” and that he should probably just keep his mouth shut but he “was taught to hate losing by working harder next time, not by being disrespectful to others.”  That is Brad’s opinion and it’s articulately voiced. Andy Graves, a Toyota Racing Development executive got involved and tweeted at Brad that “should have just kept his mouth shut.” That was totally uncalled for in my opinion. You either like Kyle or you don’t. You either like Brad or your don’t, but as an executive representing a manufacturer in the sport I think you should be held to a slightly higher standard in how you voice your opinions.  (You can watch Kyle’s comments, read Brad Keselowski and Andy Grave’s tweets in one place here in this article on Fox Sports: NASCAR).

Indy 500 drivers that impressed: Fernando Alonso

Indy 500 drivers that disappointed: I am going with a manufacturer instead: Honda

Coca-Cola 600 drivers that impressed: Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch

Coca-Cola 600 drivers that disappointed: Jimmie Johnson (more Chad Knaus really for the fuel mileage fail), Ryan Blaney

 

(photo source: zimbio.com/ Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)

Started: 39th (after qualifying 21st but getting dinged for “unapproved body modification” when pushing the car out to the grid on Sunday afternoon)

Finished: 24th

Points: 111 points, 35th in the standings and 60 points from 30th position (David Ragan)

When you have a race as long as the Coca-Cola 600 (the longest race on the NASCAR circuit) and your driver is having a good day it’s a great and glorious culmination to a day chocked full of racing.  When your driver is struggling, and laps down by the end of the race- it’s just a long-ass day and it’s hard to find good in the day when your driver finishes four laps down after struggling for hours and hours with a car that is “up out of the track.”

(photo credit: zimbio.com/Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images North America))

Unfortunately for Tony Stewart and team 14, Martin Truex Jr set a dominating and blistering pace for the first quarter of the Coca-Cola 600 and by lap 87 while improving his position from 39th to 24th, Stewart ended up getting put a lap down. Handling would be an issue for the entire race and the team would ultimately end up finishing 4 laps down in 24th spot.

But being the glass half-full person I try to be, I found two “little” things that make the race a little easier to swallow.  First off being that Tony despite finishing 24th Tony was able to gain two spots in the points standings and is now 35th (although he still remains 60 points from 30th place David Ragan).  The second little thing is that at the beginning of the race- through the competition caution Tony was able to move UP through the field to 24th after starting 39th despite the ill-handling machine he struggled with all night. It could have been worse…he could have been relegated to a last place or near last place finish- or worse suffer a DNF.  So there was good in the race if you look hard enough. (more…)

Coke 600 2015 (photo source: Tony Stewart Facebook)

Here is what’s been pinging around my brain this week like lugnuts during a green flag pitstop.

1. While I always love the day of racing that is presented on the last Sunday in May- us Smoke fans have something extra special to look forward to- a Kenny Wallace interview with Tony Stewart on NASCAR RaceDay on FS1 prior to the CocaCola 600.  If you don’t watch RaceDay (I plan on watching the Indy 500 myself so I might miss it) you might want to set your DVRs to record it!

2. Also if you are interested in The Smoke Show at Texas Motor Speedway- the date has been released as Wednesday October 12th. You can get more information and sign up by visiting SCCTEXAS.ORG or calling 817-215-8567. BadGroove reader and supporter Judy Seigworth attended last year’s SMOKE Show and shared her experiences with us here at Badgroove. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t yet and consider attending this awesome event for charity.

3. You know how a lot of the drivers honor fallen veteran’s and their families by running their name on the windshield header of their cars? Well Tony Stewart will be honoring Master Sgt. Paul D. Karpowich. Karpowich was one of 22 Americans killed by a suicide bomber in a mess tent in Iraq four days before Christmas 2004.  Sgt Karpowich has a 12 year military career including four years of active duty and working his way up to a senior drill sargent in the Army Reserves.  He was hand-selected to train new Iraqi troops in Northern Iraq in fall of 2004. The #14 crew chief Mike Bugarewicz and his wife Krysten asked to honor Sgt Paul Karpowich since Krysten family knows the Karpowich family.

(more…)

The 14 Car on Pit Road

Tony Stewart’s #14 Bass Pro/Mobil 1 Chevy sits in the pits at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: The Tony Stewart Official Store Facebook Page/ Andrew Coppley/CIA Stock Photo Copyright, CIA Stock Photography, Inc)

Over my life, my racing fandom has wavered between NASCAR, IRL and even NHRA for awhile before I settled back on NASCAR in the late 90s. I know I have mentioned this here before (usually right around this time of year) but I started off as a mostly IRL fan  (technically it was before the inception of what is now called IRL- back then it was called CART and if anyone mentions that I am showing my age- I will sock you in the eye) likely because that was the premier racing series that the track closest to my home ran at the that time.  I remember watching many an Indy500 “bubble day” with bated breath wondering who was going to make the field and who was going to go home sad. I knew the words to “Back Home Again In Indiana” before my own state song. I have no trouble sitting down and watching an IRL race, and did so with even more glee than usual on Sunday – all because Kurt Busch was running the double. As I listened to the Indy500 pre race show as I flitted about the house before settling into watch some racing, I said after the pre-race interview with Kurt “If he doesn’t crash the Indy car I have no doubt he will do it.” Little did I know what exactly he would do that could in the Indy500 side of the double.  I mean- technically it was his first time in a IRL race. And racing is different than testing, and qualifying and all that.  When Kurt tied Tony’s best Indy double finish…I was IMPRESSED!  I was so disappointed for him when he suffered an engine failure in Charlotte.  I HOPE that doesn’t dissuade him from attempting this again! I love the double and would actually LOVE to see more drivers attempt it- it adds something to the Indy 500 to me as well as the Coca-Cola 600.

The pit crew of the #14 Bass Pro/Mobil 1 Chevy services the car. (Photo Credit: Tony Stewart FaceBook page)

That said- let’s talk Coca-Cola 600.  It’s the longest race of the NASCAR season- I know that there has been talk that it’s too long- but I think there needs to be at least one 600 mile race in the season.  In a time when the trend is to want to shorten races in general- I think it’s important to have a long race to showcase the endurance of the drivers, team and equipment.  I think of it as the endurance race of NASCAR. (more…)

Have you seen the movie Almost Famous? There is a scene in that movie where Frances McDormand who plays lead character William’s mother and a college professor stands in front of one of the classes she is teaching and states: “Rockstars have kidnapped my son.” Well I stand before you today and state: The Coca-Cola 600 kidnapped my long weekend. I have also heard it called the 24 Hours At Lowes Motorspeedway (Thanks Trixie…that’s a good one).

So- The Coca-Cola 600 was scheduled to start on Sunday but never really got the chance because of rain delay after rain delay.  I continued to watch Rain Delay coverage…until suddenly my Fox affiliate went out and decided to play Fosters & Smith infomercials disguised as television shows.  No warning or anything…one minute I was watching the DW and Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond and the next minute I was learning about how to care for my turtle, frog, or bearded lizard using Fosters & Smith products of course.  It annoyed me.  I waited and waited and finally decided to check online and apparently it had been postponed until Monday.

Since I live on the west coast the race started at 9:00 am for me…on the last day of my long weekend so there would be no sleeping in for me.  Yey finally the race started. Tony did not have the best of qualifying efforts (he started 28th) so he was mired way down in the pack. The track was green because of the rain- but Tony seemed happy and comfortable with his car and able to move up the field- breaking into the Top Ten inbetween more rain delays.

Unfortunately that last rain delay at lap 227 (mile 340.5) would kind of screw Tony’s Office Depot team.  Having just cycled though some green flag pitstops- he was 19th and trying to work his way back through the field when that last red flag for rain came out.  about three and a half hours later David Reutimann would be declared the winner of the SHORTEST ever Coca-Cola 600- winning on pitting strategy- the same strategy that gave Tony Stewart’s teammate a second place finish.  Tony Stewart remains second in points and is now 44 points out of the lead.  Teammate Ryan Newman moved up to 7th in points after his second place finish.

Notes about the 600:

  • Seriously David Reutimann- Why did you insist on standing around your car for nearly three and a half hours in the rain without an umbrella? It was a little silly.  Did you really think it would make a difference?
  • Ok- I admit I chuckled at the “Billy Bad-Butt” incident.  When Tony called the crew guy Billy Bad-Butt” I laughed.  And we may have even taken turns calling each other Billy Bad-Butt for the rest of the day.  Mostly I thought it was funny because I was pretty sure Tony would have rather said bad ass but didn’t want to get docked 10K for it.  However- Fox displaying it while focused on the crew guy was a little tacky (ok I still laughed…I admit it). And NASCAR.COM leading off this morning’s headline with MEET BILLY BAD BUTT was even worse.
  • I was hoping they would be able to go green as much as the next guy- really I was (especially since Tony was stuck in 19th at the time of that last red flag) but three and a half hours? Is too freaking long to wait!
  • It’s one of my biggest fears? Being at a race that is postponed to the next day. Usually I would end up not being able to go because I tend to use the day after the race as my day to get myself back home and then I am off to work the next day….have you ever experienced the postponement of a race? What happened?

Next Sunday is our first visit of the season to the Monster Mile at Dover.