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Here’s a story of a girl named Amy, who went to Infineon for the first time on June 19-21st to see the NASCAR race.  In tow- her BFF.

On Friday on a semi lark,  we left my home, drove to Santa Rosa to see Tony’s show car:

Tonys Show Car at Office Depot in Santa Rosa, CA

Tony's Show Car at Office Depot in Santa Rosa, CA. Did you know that the office depot car is sparkly? It is when you are up close to it. Photo Credit: ME

From there we were off to the hotel. We were staying in in Concord, CA. All I can say is that HOTWIRE has not led us astray yet. This was a nice hotel- centrally located for our purposes. After a moment to refresh we were on our way to Infineon to check out the track- get our bearings and hopefully catch qualifying since we definitely did not catch practice.

You all know I have a fear of heights.  Its actually a fairly intense fear- so much that I the Ferris Wheel at Disney’s California Adventure made me cry (as an adult). Well this fear also extends to extremely tall bridges…and I knew we would have to be crossing one so I was a little freaked out to have to drive across a bridge. I must have been envisioning like the Bay Bridge or The Golden Gate- because this one didn’t freak me out at all.  So YEY there- since we would have to cross it several times.  The other thing I would have to deal with that I have never dealt with before would be a toll! $4.00!! That is crazy- or so I think anyway! That would be 20 bucks a week if I had to cross that bridge everyday for work or something! Of course I would also have one of those fancy fastrac things and not have to wait to hand my money to a person.

Anyway- we follow our directions to the speedway- and in trying to find the parking area- end up by passing the track and the parking area only to end up in nearby Petaluma. Whoops.  I never said I had a great sense of direction. So we get turned back towards the speedway and I see that I totally missed the parking area turn off- and get turned into the speedway and parked (next to a pasture filled with sheep and goats I might add).  So we walked up to the shuttle stop and just as I was cresting the top of the hill I hear what sounds like my car being pelted with pebbles. I turn to see a jerk in a car peeling out of the gravel lot and peppering my car (which was parked in an end spot) with dirt. Both my friend and I turn and instinctively yell “REAL NICE JERK” and apparently we did it loud enough they heard cuz the passenger turned towards us.  I mean seriously use your freaking head people.  Anyway, we just happened to hit it right so that the shuttle was there at the stop and made our way down to the grandstand area of the track. We were going to watch qualifying in our Turn 7 seats…but problem there was that we were kinda late by the time we made it to the grandstands and it would require either quite the hike or a shuttle ride!! So we took a place right next to the start/finish line about halfway up- which was actually the optimum place to watch qualifying:

Martin Truex Qualifies at Infineon Raceway

Martin Truex Jr. Qualifies at Infineon Raceway. I really liked Martin's blue car for Infineon. Photo Credit: ME

Denny Hamlin takes the green flag at the beginning of his qualifying run. Photo Credit: ME!

Denny Hamlin takes the green flag at the beginning of his qualifying run. Photo Credit: ME!

Jeff Gordon qualifies. I have to say that Jeffs car is extremely pretty in person.  It stands out well.

Jeff Gordon qualifies. I have to say that Jeff's car is extremely pretty in person. It stands out well. Photo Credit: ME

Junior makes his qualifying attempt at Infineon

Junior makes his qualifying attempt at Infineon. Photo Credit: ME

I am going to have to admit that it was a little more disorientating than I thought it would be to be sitting in stands on the “wrong” side of the track. By that I mean that the grandstands at the startfinish line they are on the side of the track that would be considered “infield” at an oval. That was just a little odd to me.

After qualifying we wandered through the tunnel to the merchandise area (you can see it on the otherside of the track over there in the qualifying pictures). I don’t know if it was me or not but there seemed to be signifigantly fewer merchandise haulers at infineon than elsewhere. I don’t know if the others were located somewhere else but I didn’t see that many. When were done with merchandise we wandered back over to the shuttle and left for the day.

Next Up: Infineon: A Road Course Adventure Day 2: Saturday

I am surprised I didn’t get the cops called on me this Sunday during the last 20 laps or so of the Autism Speaks 400 race at Dover.  I was watching alone for a change and when Tony was chasing Biffle down, passing Biffle, and then working that track to make his car seem as wide as possible when Jimmie was doing the same to him, I was screaming. And standing about two feet infront of the television- as if my mere proximity to the tube and yelling my cheers that loudly would somehow propell that 14 car on my voice alone.  Because I was alone I wasn’t shy about being LOUD and PROUD in my rooting for Tony and Team. And because I was alone I admit that I may have had a few choice words for Jimmie Johnson when he passed Tony (even though I actually kinda like Jimmie) that didn’t get filtered out by my internal sesor when I watch with other people.

Team Office Depot/Old Spice didn’t have the most stellar first practice or qualifying run on Friday so honestly I wasn’t sure it was going to be the best weekend for us.  Then I made the mistake of reading the transcript from Tony’s Friday media session- which is something I almost never do- and he just seemed rather grumpy and overly concerned about his car.  Yet another reason to think that Dover would not be a great weekend for Team Office Depot/Old Spice. I was reassured a bit on Saturday morning when I caught glimpses of the last two practices- to see that Tony’s car seemed to be picking it up.

Qualifying 31st, Tony spent most of the race mired in heavy traffic but working his way up the field slowly but surely.  Not having the best of pit stalls I think kind of messed him up in the pits and he often lost one or two spots during a stop.  Tony eventually worked his way into the top ten- running consistently at about 8th or so.  Then there was a lucky debris caution. Darian called Tony in at the last minute for two tires. And because Team Office Depot/Old Spice only took two tires, they found themselves slowly hunting down race leader (at the time) Greg Biffle- and eventually catching him. They raced hard for awhile and Stewart eventually become the race leader.  Unfortunately Jimmie Johnson was also moving up the field- and Jimmie was on four fresh tires.  Tony held Jimmie off as long as he could- but Jimmie eventually got around Tony with two laps to go and never looked back.  Tony came in second at Dover. Partly because of his second place finish and also because of Jeff Gordon’s inability to get either of his laps back, Stewart and Team Office Depot/Old Spice left Dover first in the points, with Jeff Gordon a mere 46 points behind him. Stewart-Haas teamate Ryan Newman also had yet another top ten finish (way to go RYAN!!) and moved up two spots in the points and is now up to fifth.

Notes on Dover:

  • This race had too many debris cautions for my taste. People- if your race car has parts falling off of it- pull into the pits! That is my PSA for Dover.
  • I am kind of glad its the end of the Fox coverage because DW kind of pissed me off with an offhanded comment he made regarding drivers not having original thoughts during the preshow (in reference to Kyle Busch’s comment about Dale Jr.)
  • Well judging by the results this weekend- the crew chief switch on the #88 seems to at least done SOME good. Jr finished 12th. Not bad.  Still- Junior seemed down in his afterrace interview. As a side note, my friend says Dale Jr. reminds her of Jeff Boomhauer when he talks.
  • As mentioned by Kyle Busch during the preshow- don’t forget to go to RealChocolate.com to try for your chance at a free Mars product this friday. (Thanks Kyle!)
  • *Technically most NASCAR fans would call Dover race 13 on the schedule because for some unknown reason they don’t count the All-Star race (yeah I know you don’t get points…but you get a million bucks and a cool ring? What more do you want?).

Next weekend the race is at Pocono (aka the Evil Little Triangle). Also don’t forget race fans that NASCAR coverage switches to TNT this weekend.

Saturday started with final Daytona 500 practice for Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman of Stewart-Haas racing- and ended badly for the pair. Ryan Newman blew a tire- sending him up the banking and into the wall where he collected his teammate/owner Tony Stewart.  That was not the way one wanted to start their day.  However only hours later Tony Stewart stood in victory lane at the Nationwide race where he drove the Number 80 Hendrick car to victory.  Not a bad turn around in one day. However, Sunday would be the day where all eyes were on Stewart-Haas racing’s number 14 and 39 Chevrolet Impalas.

Watching this Daytona 500 was much like driving while blind deaf.  I did not have the advantage of having HOTPASS this year since DirecTV decided to drop the only sports package I cared about.  I really missed being able to tune into Tony’s in-car radio because it’s how I judge how he feels about the car and his progress during the race.  That way I am not relying on the race announcer’s view of what is going on- I can pretty much tell for myself.

Anyway- during this first race weekend for the newly Stewart-Haas racing, emotions had to run the complete gamet during the week.  The team went through three race cars before the race on Sunday- a feat I am pretty darn sure they were not pleased with.  Ryan Newman’s primary car was wrecked during the Gatorade Duel number 2 on Thursday when he was wrecked by David Reutimann- forcing Newman into his backup car.  Then during the final practice on Saturday, a tire blew and Newman collected teammate/owner Stewart.  Because of the late practice tangle, Stewart had to go to his backup car and Ryan Newman was forced to use Tony’s backup Shootout car, thus sending both cars to start at the back of the field for Sunday’s Great American race.

By lap 25 Stewart had driven his car from 37th to 14th.  After taking on gas and tires during the competition yellow, Stewart was in obvious high spirits as the broadcast switched over to his radio to catch him singing “Ole Ole Ole Ole” and then telling his crew chief Darian Grubb that he didn’t have anything else to do. Announcers later state that Tony believes he has the best handling car out there.  And during short runs on fresh tires Tony seems to be able to draft well and pass cars- charging towards the front. However it seemed to me that the longer the green flag run, Stewart’s car just didn’t seem to have the ability to cut through the field with the ease it did early in the runs.  Also a big kudos to the Team Office Depot pit crew who seemed to get Tony in and out of the pits quickly…Tony rarely, if ever, dropped position after a pitstop…he always seemed to gain a position or two.  I hate to say it but it seemed last year Tony would lose three -five positions during pitstops alone.

Meanwhile teammate Ryan Newman never seemed to really get a feel for the car under him. He was at a serious disadvantage- in a car that was not set up for him or for this race.  The US AMY team did a great job getting the car rewrapped and decal’ed up so that at least it looked like Ryan’s car and not Tony’s. However they did have a slight problem in the pits when Ryan came in for what he thought was a problem with the tire, the crew somehow dropped the car off the jack after the tire had been removed and then had to pick it back up to put the tire up – costing Newman valuable spots in the pits and on the track- a mistake that he was never able to overcome on the track.

At the end of the evening, however, Matt Kenseth ended up winning the rained-shortened Daytona 500 after having led just one green flag lap.  Tony Stewart finished 8th while teammate Ryan Newman finished 36th.

As for Stewart-Haas racing- I think they accomplished one of the bigger tasks on their to-do list for the start of the 2009 (their inaugural) season.  They came to Daytona extremely competitive.  I think good things are going to come out of this team in the very near future.

Other Notes on Daytona:

  • I heard from the national broadcast that Ryan Newman’s crew chief Tony Gibson even used Sharpie markers to cover over some of the last bits of red on the backup car. This I think deserves the race award for most innovative use of a sponsor product.
  • Best quote from the entire speedweeks session at Daytona? Comes from none other than Mr. Tony Stewart who was quoted as responding to the question if going to a backup car after the happy hour crash was a disadvantage to his ability to win the 500 with “I don’t know, Rocket Scientist-I’m sitting here with a backup car. What do you think?”
  • I am probably going to feel the wrath of Jr. Nation for saying this but I really think that frustration was a definite mitigating factor that lead to Junior’s on track skirmish with Brian Vicker’s that ended up taking out a lot of the key players in the race.  I think Junior might not have been thinking clearly because he was pissed about the penalty that he incurred at the previous pit stop.  Junior was held one lap for having the right front tire on the pitbox line which apparently is considered out of bounds.
  • I am also still questioning Joe Gibbs Racings decision to rush Logano into a full-time cup ride. I seriously don’t think he was ready. He seemed to be smacking that car against the wall everytime he went out there and that last incident with Scott Speed  Logano nosed the car into the wall pretty damn hard.  I said this last year and I will say it again…Logano might be too green to be out there with the cup guys on a weekly basis. I still say that Logano should have run a full season or two in the Nationwide series first to break in slowly to the Sprint cup series.

Next weekend NASCAR takes us to the Autoclub Speedway in Fontana California.