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Bristol, CT – February 25, 2014 – Studio E: Two-time Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the set of Mike and Mike (Photo Credit: by Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

I am going to admit right here that I was rooting for Dale Earnhardt Jr at the end of the Daytona 500.  After all- my driver was clearly out of the running (you’ll get ‘em next year Smoke) and I mean- it’s Dale Earnhardt Jr for goodness sakes.  However- who could have predicted the BUZZ that would come from his 500 win- most of it was the buzz he created himself by up and joining the ranks of those who tweet.

I think it’s a great move honestly because fans love and crave the fun driver interaction that twitter creates.  And this video of Dale reading some of his fan’s tweets is hilarious and shows a side of Dale Earnhardt’s personality that fans don’t usually get to see (which for the record I actually noticed during his segment of NASCAR After The Lap during Champions Week in Vegas last year):

Anyway- with all the online buzz that Dale Jr has caused since his win last Sunday it does NOT surprise me in the least to find out that his Daytona Win Diecast (currently available as a preorder from LionelRacing.com)was the highest selling of any previous win cars- including his own Dark Knight Rises Michigan win car from 2012!  It sold more than DOUBLE any other win car- within 12 hours of his win!  I have heard that the car will even have the piece of debris that was stuck to his grill.

#GoTonyGo #14in14 #StandWithSmoke

Working on the fuel cell

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images North America)

It’s a day that always begins with a ton of pomp and circumstance. No I am not talking about the Olympic closing ceremonies- I am talking the Daytona 500 (which ended up being the Nightona 500 after the Raintona 500 and the #AirTitan 500). It was the day that Smoke fans have been looking forward to for 7 months. The Daytona 500; aka the day Tony Stewart was back racing. Okay, so yeah technically he’d been racing for about a week if you count the non-points paying Sprint Unlimited and the field setting Budweiser Duels but this was a “real” race: A points race, A full-length race; and what turning to an all day- and part of the night race.

Tony qualified 21st but was forced to start from the rear of the field (as was Danica Patrick and Bobby Labonte). Don’t even get me going about that.  Why? Because of an “unscheduled engine change” because he suffered an engine issue during FIRST practice…you know the practice that is BEFORE the “Front Row Qualifying day” (the old CART fan in me keeps wanting to call it Pole day) and BEFORE the Budweiser Duels.  I could see penalizing him into starting at the back for his duel race- but the 500 too? Isn’t that double jeopardy- which is illegal?! Should be anyway.  But I digress.

Superspeedways make me nervous anyway. Knowing Tony’s in the back did NOTHING to assauge those nerves- mostly I was just hoping that Spotter Bob had extra powerful eagle eyes up there and could navigate Tony around the wrecks that would be inevitable. Yes I know he crashed during the Unlimited and was fine but I worry, because it’s one of the things I do best. Honestly- I would worry even if he didn’t have an injury. Because the kind of wrecks that Daytona (and you too Talladega) produce are usually violent (definitely cringe worthy). Case in point: The wreck where Danica smacked the wall but hard.  I mean OUCH.  And did I hear right- that she hit an area that didn’t have SAFER barrier? Why is there ANY spot on ANY track that isn’t edged in SAFER Barrier by now but especially a track like Talladega. Please someone tell me I heard wrong.

Tony in helmet

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images North America)

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Misty and I have been attending NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Champion’s Week celebrations since they started having them in Vegas. I can NOT encourage you to go enough if you can at all swing it! Attend Champion’s Week! Seriously. It’s one of my favorite events of the year!

The fan events usually start with Fan Fest- which is usually held on Wednesday.  They started out having fan fest at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the infield. I loved it there because I enjoyed being at the track when it was “quiet” and I loved watching the fighters from Nellis Air Force Base fly around as we waiting for the red carpet event. Eventually they moved it out to the Fremont Street Experience – since the speedway is off strip quite a ways. Unfortunately it’s usually cold under the awning that covers over Fremont Street and this year was no exception. I was certain there would be less fans- because it was COLD and I mean COLD.  I must have momentarily forgotten the tenacity of my fellow NASCAR fans (after all I was out there in the cold wasn’t I? And my driver wasn’t even there). Here are some of the sights from Fan Fest this season: (more…)

The 14 reflected at Martinsville

Mark Martin drives the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet out of the garage area during practice at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2013. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)

I love Martinsville. There is something about that little paperclip shaped track that makes the racing exciting. This track is HIGH on my list of must visit tracks. Really high.  Quarters are close both on track and on pit road- which makes it easy to slip up. Restart wrong? And you might be getting lapped in a few minutes.  Another car short pitting might block you into your stall and cost you to go from 3rd to 23rd while you try to jockey out of your pitstall.  The cars are in constant danger of contact- and while some of the “rubbing” is unintentional- sometimes- just sometimes it is intentional and nothing will piss you off more that to have your driver intentionally wrecked.   But one of the good things about Martinsville- is that you can bang your car up a bit- and still be in contention for the win as long as you don’t let your temper get too out of hand and end up collecting yourself in the drama.  However, It’s not just the drivers that are in danger of constant contact- just ask race winner Jeff Gordon’s tire carrier who got clipped (by I think Denny Hamlin but I don’t remember) a car on pit road during a pit stop. (more…)

There is just something that I have always loved about watching races at Martinsville. I think it’s the close quarters, the rubbing, the inevitable tempers that eventually flair- it makes for a usually exciting race to watch on TV. Unless, of course, your driver doesn’t have so good of a day. Sigh.  I still enjoyed watching the race on Sunday- don’t get me wrong. According to Tony’s radio on the NASCAR 13 sprint mobile ap it sounded like he was having handling issues.  They missed the first pit stop accidentally (it was a caution and it sounded on the radio like Tony didn’t hear Steve call him in) and didn’t make one- so then when Tony did make it to the pits during the next round of pit stops the team noticed his tire wear on one of his tires was bad.  Tony said something to the effect that this would pretty much mean they would have to change their strategy.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, is interviewed after practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP Gas Booster 500 on April 5, 2013 at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia.
(Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images North America)

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Fan fest for the 2012 Champions Week festivities in Las Vegas was held at the Fremont Street Experience for the second year.  Personally- I liked it better when it was held at the track because there was just something magical about being at LVMS when it’s quiet.  But then again, I am probably biased because LVMS is where I saw my first ever NASCAR race…it was at LVMS that I turned my already BFF into a NASCAR fan…and it was at LVMS that BG was first granted media credentials – so I have a special place in my heart for LVMS.    I guess that they figure that having at the Fremont Street Experience is easier for fans to get to (since the track is WAY OUT THERE)…plus I think the track has a festival of lights set up as many do during the holiday season.

Anyway-  several of the cup cars were on  display and a red carpet that the drivers would walk down to get to the stage where they would be playing  this year’s game show: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?  The red carpet walk that the drivers take is an experience let me tell you.  People start claiming their spots HOURS before the drivers are scheduled to appear and then other tourists, who are there for non-NASCAR reasons will stroll by and ask what is going on and then upon hearing that they are waiting for NASCAR drivers to walk by in like three hours they give the fans a look like WOW really? You are standing here because a race car driver is going to walk by in like THREE HOURS? It’s kind of funny to judge their reaction- most give looks like the fans are seriously insane.  I don’t know what is more insane…standing around the carpet or walking around in public dressed as a storm trooper and Darth Vader (we seriously saw these characters walking around the red carpet interaction with tourists. Last year it was SpongeBob SquarePants. I don’t think they are official characters- just random people dressed up as them and then trying to make a few extra dollars posing with tourists.

So this year it seemed the red carpet was even MORE chaotic than last year. The drivers were kind of bunched together more than last year so that pretty much everyone was just screaming for their favorite driver’s attention but the actual chances of getting your signature seemed more difficult. I am not sure if the drivers also signed stuff on the way FROM the stage because we left a little early.

Here are some pictures from the event: (more…)

Tidbit 1:

The Ask Tony & Ryan video from the appearance in Kansas City, MO has been uploaded by Office Depot Racing! Check it out- it’s quite fun: (more…)

I don’t know if it was just me or what but that race in Charlotte seemed to be the LONGEST race of the season. It just seemed to be the race that would NOT quit.  I find that it’s especially trying to watch race when my driver’s car gets damaged in the first 20 laps of the race.  On lap 16 Tony Stewart damaged the nose of the 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet when cars in front of him checked up during the second restart of the race, causing him to effectively rear end another car (Brad Keselowski I think?) at high speeds. The results were not pretty: (more…)