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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)

Unfortunately I am not up in Sonoma watching the Sprint Cup cars.  Last year on Father’s Day I was on the edge of a very hard stone seat in the Coca-Cola Bottle Neck rooting with all my heart for Tony to overtake Kasey Kahne at Infineon. It didn’t happen but a second place finish wasn’t bad.  It was the closest Tony had come to winning a race that I was in attendance of so I was pretty excited (unfortunately this is still the case).  One of the things that really SUCKED about Infineon was leaving after the race.  Traffic was a freaking nightmare compared to the other three tracks I had been to (those being Las Vegas, Fontana and Phoenix). Part of it could have been my unfamiliarity with the area- perhaps if I had gone up through Petaluma and down another way I would have been better off…but I sat there stopped on whatever highway that is up there in front of the track for HOURS. And folks…for those keeping track? Infineon is about 4 hours north of me on a good traffic day.  I didn’t get home until after midnight and that was driving like a bat out of…well you know where…when I finally DID clear race traffic.  This year I am not up there and I am sad…and really itching to see the Cup boys run. The sound and feel of 43 800-hp cars taking a green flag is awesome.  Or heck the sound of 1 car revving in the garage is awesome. But I am digressing…and making myself homesick for a race.

That being said I am down here on the Monterey Peninsula where I live, which is in the height of U.S. Open fever right now.  Every night on the news for the past two weeks or so has been golf this, U.S. Open that, Pebble this, Tiger Woods that.  Now I know very little about golf- especially professional golf.  I am going to admit that to you right up front.  I get the idea that you are suppose to hit the little white ball as few times as possible to get it into the hole and that my friends is where my knowledge of golf ends. Sand wedge, wood, iron, putter? Huh? Whot?  Even though we have a yearly celebrity pro/am hosted on the peninsula- I still don’t really pay attention. Golf has never been on my radar because it always seemed to me that watching paint dry would be more fun than watching golf because then at least- I would have the fumes to entertain my brain cells. But lately- golf has been in my face…and I can’t help but share some totally sweeping generalizations about golf vs. NASCAR:

  • Traffic? Just as crazy.  I know because I have been getting stuck in golf traffic all week on my way to and from work. Much like a race weekend- golf traffic gets worse as the week progresses. They are parking the spectators just blocks from where I work because around the perimeter of campus there are lots of open space/parking lots that were here back when this place use to be an Army Base.
  • Those guys hawking tickets outside the track? They do that for golf too!!!  I figure they pretty much do it for every sporting event though.
  • There are also all these WELCOME GOLF FANS signs at all the businesses around here.
  • Golf fans? They are so limited as to what they can take to the course! No signs, cell phones, NO CAMERAS (that seems insanely dumb to me), no bags bigger than 8x8x8, no containers, no food, no drink. Nothing. Just a jacket (needed here- it’s really foggy today), comfy shoes, and loads of money because you have to buy all your food/beverages there.  If you find yourself by a golfer? You can’t ask him for an autograph.
  • Golf fans do not tailgate. No tents, no coolers or tables, no cornhole or barbecues  in the parking lot. No congregating with others who are not part of your direct party. Makes the parking lot pretty damn boring if you ask me.
  • Golf fans do not show their loyalty outwardly- that I could see.  They do not have flags flying from their cars that say TIGER or TOM! They don’t have bumper stickers supporting their favorite golfer. And from what I tell they don’t wear shirts for their favorite golfer either.   The most fan advertisement for golfing I have seen– a TITLIST license plate frame.  Again pretty damn boring to me. Half the fun of going to a race is people watching.
  • Not to mention the fact that I can’t imagine being at a sporting event where if you get a cough or a sneeze you might get yelled out or asked to leave. Seriously – those quiet paddles are intangible to me- if I wanted to be quiet I would go to a library (or apparently a golf tournament).  Of course I love a sport that is so noisy if I want to communicate with my friend I either have to YELL a centimeter from her ear at the top of my lungs or text her- even though she is sitting two inches from me.  I like to be able to HEAR and FEEL and TASTE my sports!
  • Tiger Woods is to golf media/fandom, what Dale Junior is to NASCAR media/fandom kinda sorta….only less witty.

Ok that’s it…that is my thoughts on GOLF.  Now where are my cup car boys? Oh yeah…four hours north of me.  Dammit.  Go TONY Go!!!!

I know I tend to write here ad nauseum about Tony Stewart….but I am going to break away from that to tell tell you about a promotion PEPSI is doing with Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jimmie Johnson.  Each driver has in IDEA to REFRESH the community (pun totally intended since it’s sponsored by Pepsi Refresh) and has put them out there to a fan vote.  The winner will get a $100,000 grant from Pepsi to fund their idea.  So here are the drivers ideas: (more…)

After a weekend where two of the three practices and the qualifying session were rained out the weather looked beautiful for Sunday’s race at Martinsville.  Martinsville is the shortest track on the circiut but Sunday’s Goody’s 500 was definitely not short on action. I personally, thought Sunday’s race was one of the best this season.

Of course part of that could be because both Stewart-Haas Racing drivers, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman had top ten finishes. Tony finishing the day with an awesome third place finish- the best for Stewart-Haas Racing so far this season.  Ryan Newman finished the day in 8th place- a personal best for his since beginning his tenure at Stewart-Haas racing at the beginning of this season.  Both Tony and Ryan’s teams seemed to be working quite well on Pit Road despite the inherient cramp conditions in the Martinsville pits as well as having some non-choice pitstalls.

Since qualifying was rained out – the field lined up by points.  Initially Jeff Gordon, who started on the pole since he leads the points race right now, took the lead and seemed to stay in the lead a good portion of the race.  His only challenger seemed to be Denny Hamlin- who also looked fairly strong. His car seemed to get stronger while Gordon’s handling seem to fade late in the race- causing him to have a fourth place finish. In the end- it was a shootout between Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson- with the two swapping the lead back and forth several times during the last 22 laps or so. At one point during the swapping back and forth of the lead, Hamlin and Johnson were both practically sideways side by side in the turn.  In the end- Jimmie Johnson was able to get his first cup win of the season.

More Notes on Martinsville:

  • Best Work In of A Sponsor Product: Comes from Saturday’s Practice telecast on SPEEDTv where journalist said to Tony Stewart “This really stinks doesn’t it?” talking about the weather- and Tony retorted “It DOES NOT stink because we have OLD SPICE as a sponsor so it does NOT stink!”
  • Tony was apparently cussing at himself during the end of the race: “I was just cussing at myself because I wasn’t close enough to do anything about it.”
    Tony Stewart, on the winning pass (third)
  • I love how now that Rick Hendrick has been quoted as supporting Tony Eury Jr as Crew Chief for Dale Jr- that the Fox Commentators (I think it was DW) are now stating that part of the reason that Dale is having poor finishes is Tony Stewart’s fault because he recruited Darian Grubb away from HMS.  Um…no.
  • I was glad to hear that even Jeff Gordon gets frustrated during a race- as he threatened to “knock his head off” if Denny (or it might have been Tony- I thought Tony when I first heard it but my friend says no he was talking about Denny) he bumped him again.
  • I had no idea Joey Logano was so tall- (direct from my notes after seeing him standing next to Greg Zipadelli during the national anthem.)
  • Poor Kyle just couldn’t catch a break this race- seemed he was spinning more times than a hula hoop! Neither could Matt Kenseth- always a driver or six short of being the lucky dog.
  • Was it my imagination or did Jeff Gordon slight Tony Stewart’s third place finish in his post race interview?  Jeff felt he had at least a third place car…but he finished fourth (and maintained his points lead).

Next Week: Texas Motor Speedway.