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(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.


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.