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So I started Daytona week with a feeling of trepidation after Tony Stewart’s incident with Vickers at Infineon.  The results of the race at Infineon caused a drop in points and I am starting to panic about the points (read about my POINTS PANIC! here) so that finish in Infineon did NOT help at all.  But on Friday I was able to catch a bit of Tony’s Daytona press conference and at least I understood that he was “drawing” his line in the sand.  I have to respect his conviction there…even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.  (POINTS! PANIC AT THE DISCO WE ARE OUT OF THE TOP TEN!) (more…)

I was gonna try to fit the entire Infineon post into one…but it was just too large and I couldn’t do that to you. I hope you will enjoy part one. Stay tuned for part 2).

After checking into our hotel, Misty and I went to Infineon Raceway Thursday for like 10 minutes- just to pick up our credentials and remind ourselves how to get there because it had been a couple years (2009 to be exact- where the first time we were there we got misguided and ended up in Petaluma).  We returned bright and early Friday morning  got ourselves situated in the media center- grabbed something to drink and headed out to get some pictures before things filled in. We even wandered through the area of concessions behind the grandstands at the Start/Finish line – which was kinda creepy actually since most if not all of them were still closed.  We got a good look at the Infineon Hall of Fame…which honestly should be called the Wall of Fame…but that’s just semantics I guess.

Rick Hendrick, Infineon Hall Of Fame tile (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

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What was with the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600?  In both races the drivers leading the last lap did NOT get the checker flag and in BOTH races those drivers happened to be driving National Guard sponsored cars. Talk about heartache. (more…)

Okay my Dale Jr fans- can you imagine experiencing this:

Two grandstand tickets to the Nationwide Series Top Gear 300 with pit and garage access with a chance to sit on the pitbox for the May 28th race at Charlotte Motorspeedway.  Two grandstand tickets with infield access for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 29th and participation in a meet and greet with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Not enough for you? Well then why don’t we throw in a track swag bag with everything you need for the complete race experience completely with track scanner/headsets.  Oh and a behind the scenes tour of JR Motorsports by a JRM crew member where you can see everything from car fabrication and set up to the paint shop and everything in between.

Sounds pretty awesome right? Oh and did I forget to mention that you would have three nights accommodations at Dale Earnhardt Jr’s personal residence at Lake Norman?

Accommodations for three (3) nights at Dale Jr.’s personal residence on the banks of beautiful Lake Norman. Spend your mornings in the sun on the home’s private dock. Put your feet up after a long day at the races, relax by the pool and fall asleep to scenic lake views in this relaxing getaway. –direct quote from the auction website

Quit your drooling and start your bidding!  You can bid on this one of a kind experience of a lifetime at the charitybuzz action site- but the action is closing soon (May 10th) so get your bids in now! All proceeds for the auction go to benefit the Dale Jr. Foundation and it’s initiatives supporting underprivileged youth.

Name the common thread between the following (and no you do not have to answer in the form of a question):  Richmond International Speedway, country artist Rodney Atkins, Whisky River, and practical jokes involving a fake snake in a cooler.

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So after a strong start to the 2011 Sprint Cup season it is hard to see Stewart-Haas racing strugggling. As a Tony Stewart fan it’s REALLY hard.

Over a week later I still don’t understand what happened at the end of the race in Fontana. Tony seemed to have a strong car- but that car just faded away that last run. Was it lack of tire? Mechanical? I still don’t understand what caused the fade away that left him finishing 13th after such a strong run all day long.

Then today- we have Martinsville. Tony didn’t have speed in practice earlier in the weekend. He qualified poorly (28th) on Saturday.  Then when the race started, he just seemed to fight an ill handling car all day while trying to conserve tires.  He was able to work his way up to a high of 20th at one point. Judging by radio communications Darian seemed to have some sort of plan to get Tony track position so he has something to work with.  Unfortunately that plan wouldn’t really get placed in effect after Stewart was penalized for changing lanes before reaching the start finish line during a restart.   I admit- that one had me shaking my head.  Okay…shaking my head and cursing like a sailor.  I it is disheartening to watch your team have a couple of bad weeks.  Tony finished 38 laps down in 34th position. He dropped to 11th in points.

Race winner for both Fontana and Martinsville was Kevin Harvick. I can only imagine Junior Nation is NOT a Harvick fan after the last several laps of Martinsville.

Notes:

  • Two drivers who had GREAT days- Dale Earnhart Jr and Jeff Gordon.  I swear I could hear the crowd at Martinsville go wild all the way over here in California when Jr took the lead during the last 30 laps of the race.  Jeff Gordon also had a great finish considering he qualified 21st.  He rose from 19th to points to 12th in points. That puts him right behind Tony.  Jeff is going in the right direction. Tony however is not.  Dont think I am not starting to panic about points.  Yes I know that there is a lot of racing left in the season…but I worry because we are going in the wrong direction.
  • The tire issue that everyone seemed to be concerned about didn’t really seem to be that big of a deal after all.
  • Was it just me or did Martinsville seem to take FOREVER to finish? Maybe it was just because I was cranky because Tony was having a bad day.  Any Kevin Harvick fans want to weigh in on the length of the race?

Next week we are racing under the lights at Texas on Saturday night.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Daytona 500. As a long time NASCAR fan I appreciate the rich history of the track at Daytona, afterall NASCAR was born on the sandy beaches there. I love that modern Daytona 500 races retain some of the history by being the only races in the series to retain the tradition of qualifying races (the duels/twins). Hell I love Daytona for no other reason than it signals the beginning of my NASCAR season; when the “big boys” take to the pavement nearly every weekend from now until Thanksgiving- racing their hearts out, pushing themselves and their equipment to the maximum. I LOVE Daytona for the excitement and optimism of a new season…that this will be Tony Stewart’s year!

However, there are things I don’t like about Daytona. And they all hinge on the fact that I don’t like it when drivers have to rely on other drivers to get around the track and win a race. The kind of driving we see on the super speedways of Daytona and Talladega especially. That being said- I much more preferred the two-car break away drafting (I think some people have been calling it pod racing but that makes me think of Starwars) we saw this year. Cars would pair up and work around the track in little two car teams. I thought it made the racing far more exciting that they long train-style drafting of years past- where two really long trains of drafting cars would jockey back and forth around the track all day. That racing I did NOT like at all. At least the two-car breakaways made it more interesting.

Sure there were a lot of wrecks and spins and cautions but that is to be expected as this style of driving is new to the drivers. They need to learn what work sand what doesn’t work- and they only way to do this is to see how far they can push it. Afterall, isn’t that what racing is about; pushing until you can’t push any longer? You need to know how far you can go- and you can only find that threshold of too far by going over it a few times. Even experienced drivers like Tony Stewart where having occasional trouble with it. Tony said on his radio during the race “Will someone please tell me what I’m doing wrong that spins guys out?!

Speaking of Tony Stewart, it was very very encouraging to me to see both Tony and teammate Ryan Newman both up towards the front of the pack at different points during the race.  That’s definitely a marker towards a good season ahead.  Tony drafted with several different drivers during the course of the 500 mile race but my favorite was when he was listening to him and Junior draft together.   I enjoyed listening to them communicate directly back and forth with each other instead of playing a complicated game of telephone that includes two spotters like he had to do with other drivers he drafted with like Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.  Tony also seemed to be able to talk directly to Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer so I think it was a Chevy driver thing. I just wish Tony hadn’t gotten shuffled back so far during the green/white/checker attempts as everyone jockied for dancing partners all day.  Tony ended up finishing 13th and is currently 12th in series points with 31 points- which is 11 points behind points leader Carl Edwards.

Of course, the real story of the race is the win by 20 year old Trevor Bayne.  They had been poking fun at Trevor during practice- about how he was always the first person out on pit road in the mornings. How he was an eager beaver sort of driver. How he sought out his idol- Jeff Gordon after driver intros then again after the parade lap. How he worked with his idol during the Gatorade Duels.  He was obviously a quick study. That move at the end of the race- how he jumped down in front of Carl Edwards as they were coming to the checkered flag? That move was something you would see from a veteran driver. It was awesome to witness.  Congratulations to Trevor- he’s one to keep your eye on. He will be going places I am sure of it. If you didn’t see Misty’s post on Trevor’s win- it’s a great read: Fresh Bread, not Sliced Bread, is Good for NASCAR.

NOTES ABOUT DAYTONA:

  • Congratulations go out again to Tony Stewart for winning his 4th Daytona Nationwide victory in a row (not to mention he’s won 6 of the last 7 nationwide races).  I LOVED the oreo paint scheme. I think it was great! You can find the diecast to pre-order available here.
  • Okay…I SQUEALED when I saw the Transformers NASCAR cars on the warm up laps.  Those things look AMAZINGLY COOL! I hope they have them at LVMS when I go- I want to see those things up close.
  • Don’t forget to vote daily for your favorite driver at the Wheaties Fuel Most Popular Driver website (formally the Hambuger Helper Most Popular Driver).

Next Race: Phoenix!

The Thursday of NASCAR Champions Week in Vegas was a crazy, chaotic day that had us running all over town…literally.  There was the luncheon at the Bellagio (which is a beautiful hotel by the way)…where Dale Earnhardt Jr won his umpteenth favorite driver award…and more importantly- Tony Stewart won the 2010 Home Depot Humanitarian of the Year award (and yes I nearly squealed like a school girl when I found out).

Then it was the Victory Lap and Burnouts down the Las Vegas Strip.  Having attended this last year- Misty and I had the perfect spot for viewing (and pictures and video) the burnouts.  Also? This year rocked because all top 12 drivers did burn outs- last year just Jimmie burned out- the rest just squirreled around the turn! Anyway, we staked out our spot early. Ok, really early, because we didn’t want to worry about it getting usurped.  The weather this year was warmer than last year which was great because by the time they burned out last year I was frozen solid into a Popsicle.  We were so cold that by the end of it last year we were both shaking uncontrollably. This year we were prepared with layers but didn’t need to worry.  So without further ado…some pictures:

Jimmie Johnson burnout on the Las Vegas Strip for the Champions Victory Lap celebration.

Denny lights them up on Las Vegas Blvd.

Smoke burns some rubber on Las Vegas Blvd.

Kyle burns out on the Las Vegas Strip.

Jeff Gordon takes his turn laying some rubber on the Las Vegas Strip.

Clint Bowyer's Las Vegas burnout.

(All photos of the burnouts are credited to ME!)

And Misty with her arms of steel took this great video of the awesome burnouts:

(Video credit: Misty Bethany who is now the chief videographer for badgroove.com)