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Anyone who knows me knows I have always been a bit of a worrier.  I have been this way since I was a child. So you can imagine that when I found out that Office Depot would not be renewing it’s primary co-sponsor status on Tony Stewart’s Stewart-Haas Racing #14 Chevy- panic and dread immediately set in.  That means in 2013 the 3 car stable at Stewart-Haas racing currently has TWO of its THREE cars unfunding for the season.  Ryan Newman, who was already underfunded, lost ARMY as a sponsor for 2013 and now Tony Stewart has lost Office Depot. And I honestly don’t know if GoDaddy is Danica’s full-time sponsor next season, if they have other primary co-sponsors already lined up for her, or if Stewart-Hass Racing has 3 partially funded cars.  Damn this economy. Hello worry, thy name is sponsorship.

Tony Stewart before the race at New Hampshire last weekend. (Photo Credit: Glenn Bure for BadGroove)

I immediately began listing any and all companies that I thought would be good sponsors. Heck even Misty joined in with me and we batted around possible sponsors for Tony and it soon became a game.  I would receive texts and emails of just names of companies.  I became fairly ruthless in my imaginary quest for sponorship- by “stealing” sponsors from other teams.  I believe at one point I even joked that if I were independently wealthy I would sponsor a race or two (or more- depending just how weathly my independence was). It was admittedly silly but fueled by the very REAL fear that the sponsorship hole will not be filled by Daytona.

All silliness aside- losing a sponsor is NOT GOOD (obviously). It is becoming increasingly rare to find a cup car with a single primary sponsorship.  Even drivers associated with the sport for years like four time Cup champion Jeff Gordon has had to find additional sponsors in recent years (The AARP’s Drive To End Hunger, Pepsi, National Guard) to fill sponsorship gaps. The number 20- is now sponsored by Home Depot and Dollar General (and Game Stop).   Even NASCAR’s perpetual favorite driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr has not only multiple primary sponsors but Diet Mountain Dew has reduced the number of races that they will sponsor next year.

Of course it’s all related to the retched state of the economy.  Yet it would be the perfect time for new companies to look into sponsoring NASCAR teams.  Hotel chains, food companies, stores. What better way to reach 100,000s of fans face-to-face (and many many more on TV) than by sponsoring a NASCAR cup car. Hint hint.

Meanwhile- I personally will mourn the loss of Office Depot.  I LOVE office supplies- I have a serious love of writing implements and post-it notes, an all paper products in general. Office Depot was a sponsor I could relate to personally.  I am definitely sad to see them leave the #14 car sponsorship.  Office Depot as a sponsor was good for the fans- often hosting autograph sessions and show car events.  I can definitely say they were good to us here at BadGroove. They made sure we got to interview Tony Stewart multiple times ( Interview 1, Interview 2, Interview 3, Interview 4).  Which really helped bring BadGroove to the next level (so I think anyway).  I can only hope that whomever does sponsor Tony’s car in their place- is as good to fans (AND BLOGGERS) as Office Depot was.

Tony Stewart autographs a tire before the race at New Hampshire last weekend. (Photo Credit: Glenn Bure for BadGroove)

It is being RUMORED that Bass Pro Shops may be moving over to the #14 car to take over the spots left open by Office Depot’s departure.  If that is the case all I can think of is YEY!  I actually LOVE Bass Pro Shops.  I don’t live in an area with one but I go to the one in Vegas nearly every time I am in town (I have a very outdoorsy brother and father to shop for birthdays, Christmas, and Father’s day for. Not to mention three nephews). It wouldn’t surprise me since Bass Pro already has a relationship with Tony Stewart- sponsoring several of his dirt endeavors.  If the Bass Pro sponsorship turns out to be true- I can only hope that they announce it soon- so that I can stop worrying about the state of sponsorship for Tony’s car (Phoenix would be a GREAT place to announce it – since I will be at the race and all).  I mean Tony Stewart is a THREE TIME cup champion and the CURRENT cup champion for goodness sakes.   I do hope that whomever sponsor’s Tony is as fan (& BLOGGER) friendly as Office Depot was.

As a Tony Stewart fan, I went into the 2011 Sprint Cup chase extremely pessimistic.  After all, Tony Stewart went into the chase saying he thought the team was wasting a chase berth with the way they had been performing.  Of course we all know what happened; Tony Stewart went on a tear- won FIVE of the ten Chase races (something that had NEVER been done before)  including the season closer at Homestead-Miami, thus winning the Chase by TIEBREAKER.  It was both exhilarating and stressful to be a Tony Stewart fan towards the end of the 2011 chase.  I was AT the Phoenix race and spent most of the race perched on the patio of the media center- watching the race through my fingers.  I don’t even remember much about the Homestead race- except that I was so stoked that I promised my family that if Tony won the championship I would treat them to dinner at the Outback. Guess you all know what I had for dinner that night.  What made the chase so great last year- especially during Homestead was that it was so CLOSE- and to win it Tony Stewart HAD TO WIN THE RACE- a second place wouldn’t cut it.

CHICAGO, IL- SEPTEMBER 12: (L – R) Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Martin Truex Jr, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Clint Boyer, Denny Hamlin, Kaey Kahne and Tony Stewart pose in front of “The Bean” as part of NASCAR Chase Media Day and NASCAR Contenders Live on September 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. They are the twelve drivers competing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. (Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images North America)

This year however, I feel EXCITEMENT going into the chase because this year NASCAR’s Chase for the 2012 Sprint Series Cup could be brought home by ANY of the 12 drivers. I personally do not count ANYONE out.  Sure Tony’s the reigning champion and I would LOVE to see him become a FOUR time champion. Denny Hamlin goes in to the Chase seeded first and his crew chief Darian Grubb no doubt feels he has a point to prove. But I can’t count out Jimmie Johnson- he’s won five and is looking hard for 6. With FOUR of the 12 cars being Hendrick Motorsports cars that means mathematically (and I am NOT good at math people) there is a 1/3 chance that winner could be a Hendrick car- and Junior has been looking strong and CONSISTENT all season. And Jeff Gordon has been driving like a maniac (in a good way) these last few races.  And Kasey’s had some bad luck but pretty much had that first Wild Card spot in the bag in Richmond. Kenseth no doubt would like to leave the 17 team with a Championship before jumping over to Joe Gibbs Racing next season.  Harvick is tenacious and they didn’t give him the nickname THE CLOSER for anything.  Then we have dark horses like Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr and Clint Bowyer who have also been RIGHT there all season long.  And I would NEVER ever ever count out Brad Keselowski. In my mind- right before we go into the first race of the Chase it is ANYONE’s trophy right now.

CHICAGO, IL- SEPTEMBER 12: Front row L-R The Next 9 drivers Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Cameron Hayley, Dylan Kwasniewski, Daniel Suarez, Sergio Pena, Kyle Larson, Darrell Wallace and Corey LaJoie, back row Eleven of the NASCAR Chase drivers L-R Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. at a party as part of NASCAR Chase Media Day and NASCAR Contenders Live on September 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images North America)

As a NASCAR fan, the fact that it is anyone’s championship right now is EXCITING. Of course I still want Tony Stewart to win it!

CHICAGO, IL- SEPTEMBER 12: Tony Stewart (C) speaks with young drivers who are from the Next 9 at a party as part of NASCAR Chase Media Day and NASCAR Contenders Live on September 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images North America)

Who do YOU think will win it all?

Okay- so I set my dvr to record CBS This Morning because when I caught wind yesterday that they would be airing Dale Jr Writes A Letter To Himself at 16 I was extremely curious and wanted to watch it. Not even because it was JR- but just because the idea of writing to yourself at 16 fascinates the heck out of me. I couldn’t help myself this morning and during a brief lull at work I started checking the CBS This Morning webpage because I wanted to watch it (now you know- I am impatient sometimes). I found it on their website and have to say…WOW. I highly suggest you watch- even if you aren’t a JR fan…because it’s telling and makes me wonder what I would tell myself at that age:

I am still wondering what I would say. Do you know what you would say?

This guest post is written by LONG time BadGroove reader and commenter, Kevin M. Boots, who many of you may remember from his first guest post about Tony Stewart’s Mobil 1 F1 Seat Swap with Louis Hamilton.  Kevin is a transplanted Hoosier living in New York and is going to attend the race this coming weekend at THE GLEN.  He will be posting about his experiences at the Glen in an exclusive to BadGroove.  I also highly suggest you follow him on twitter for track updates this weekend:  KevinMBoots77.  —Amy

I’m a Tony Stewart fan. I’ve been a fan of Smoke since he moved to the #20 car in 1999. He wasn’t my favorite driver though, that was Dale Earnhardt Sr. My whole family were Sr fans.  We never got the chance to see him race in person. When he died I split my attention between 3 drivers; Smoke, Harvick and Dale Jr.  Smoke, of course, became my favorite and Harvick was second.  Jr., I tried to be a fan but he just never did anything. Another thing that turned me off was what I call “the Cubs Effect.” The Chicago Cubs have not won a world series in 100 years, yet their fans are die hard and cheer them on still. Its annoying, at least to myself.

Jr Nation is just like those Cubs fans, they cheer for him even though he has only one win in the last four years. So why am I writing about a driver I am not a huge fan? He did something at Pocono that I have not seen another drive do in a long time. Jr got out of his car, which had just broke a transmission, got the jack and jacked his car up!  He was trying to get it ready for the crew to start working on replacing the transmission.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, talks with crew members in the garage after mechanical problems at Pocono Raceway. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

This shows me that he knows what has to be done to win the championship. It shows me that he knows he has to do more to get what he wants. He did not waiting for the crew to get there and sit there doing nothing till they get it fixed. He realized that every second counted. He understand that every point counts, Smoke showed them all that last year. He showed me that he can do wait he needs to do to deserve the legion of fans he has.

Today Dale Earnhardt Jr earned my respect, and that my friends, is hard to earn.

Sport’s Illustrated came out with the “Fortunate 50,” simply a list of the top 50 highest earning American athletes based  on salary, winnings, bonuses, endorsements and appearance fees only.  Four NASCAR drivers made the top 50:

8th- Dale Earnhardt Jr

18th- Jeff Gordon

29th- Tony Stewart (technically Tony is tied for 29th with baseball player Cliff Lee).

And

33rd- Jimmie Johnson
I don’t know why but I am surprised Jimmie Johnson is that low on the list. And pleasantly surprised that Tony is above him. But wow…the other three drivers are all Hendrick drivers. Just saying that is a strong team financially.

I tweeted something to this effect on Sunday morning before the race but I want to expound on it in more than 140 characters. When thinking about the NASCAR season as a whole- I automatically consider any restrictor plate race a wild card, meaning anything at all can happen to any driver at any point so I can’t count on that track being good to my driver(s) points wise.  This year- because of the repave I considered Pocono grouped in there- forgetting totally about Michigan’s repave.

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Miles the monster reached up and bit Tony Stewart square on the left front and left rear of his car.  Stewart was caught up in the “Monster” lap nine melee at Dover.  It isn’t a surprise really.  After all, he qualified his car 29th in the field of 43 cars. I so wasn’t thrilled when I saw the results of qualifying on my cell phone- that is back in the danger zone. The zone where if someone screws up you can be innocently caught up in their mistake because of Dover’s “self cleaning” feature. I made sure that I put on my checker flag socks this morning- just in case. I just had a feeling that starting that far back would not.

(I LOVE this picture because the perspective makes the cars look like toys- AMY). Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Chevrolet, and Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Chevrolet, practice for the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)

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Can Motor Oil Really Make A Difference In NASCAR?- Jeff Gluck for SBNATION.com

Dick Berggren Says Farewell At Dover- Amanda Ebersole for SkirtsandScuffs.com

NASCAR At Dover 2012: Drivers Theorize on Lack Of Caution Flags- Jeff Gluck for SBNATION.com

Improve Racing? Harder Cars!- Terry Blount for ESPN.com

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dreads Upcoming Pocono Test- Jeff Gluck for SBNATION.com

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

I don’t know who’s expression humors me more- Jr’s or Steve Addington’s. Anyone have a great caption?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (R), driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, talks with Tony Stewart (C), driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, and Steve Addington (L), crew chief for the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, in the garage prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway. (Picture Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images North America)