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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).


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.


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)


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)

I am trying to incorporate more blog posts from other NASCAR bloggers in the weekly reads:

Love To Hate The 88- Ryan McGee  for ESPN Magazine

Too Many Wrecks at Talladega?- Jay Busbee for YahooSports!

Vines and Wines: Jeff Gordon Cellars- Jack Berninger for Richmond Times-Dispatch

Danica Patrick Says She Did Not Mean To Wreck Sam Hornish- Bob Pockrass for Sporting News

Dale Jr Reaches New Level of Consistency- JD / Bumpdrafter

One-on-One With Jeff Gluck- Amanda Ebersole for Skirts & Scuffs

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

Tony at Talladega. (Photo Credit: The official Tony Stewart Facebook page- click picture for link)