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Dale Junior’s Car Graveyard: A Bird’s Eye View- Jay Busbee for Yahoo!Sports

NASCAR’s Pre-Race Pairings Make For Some Interesting Conversation- Dustin Long for SportsIllustrated.com

Danica Patrick Doesn’t Deserve Her Ride? Give Me A Break- Bob Pockrass for SportingNews.Com

An Open Letter To Bruton Smith- Pete Pistone Eye On NASCAR forCBSSports.com

Backseat Drivers Council- 2012 surprises, tips for the track and listening to NASCAR on SiriusXM Radio- Dustin Long for Athlon Sports

Telltale Signs: Key Questions That Could Be Answered In The Next Four Races- Bob Pockrass for SportingNews.Com

A Tony Stewart Quote for you:

For us to battle through all the variables that were thrown at us throughout the year makes our championship even more remarkable. It definitely makes you go, ‘How did we do this? How did we overcome all these variables to get to where we are?’ At the same time, it made the championship very gratifying because we were able to take a less-than-perfect scenario and have success with it. (Tony Stewart answering a fan’s question about his favorite part of the 2011 Championship. Office Depot Racing website)

Your Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

Blatantly Stolen from The Official TSR Fan Page (Click picture to be taken to Official TSR Facebook Fanpage).

Ahh, it was so great to not just have cup cars out on the track but to have those cup cars to be racing.  No matter what the format of the Shootout or how drivers qualify for the Shootout, I look forward it because to me it signals the beginning of the season, points be damned.

I admit during the off season, while reveling in the fact that my driver won his third championship, I’ve been pondering the momentum SHR may or may not carry into the 2012 season.  Last season was not the best of seasons for Tony Stewart and his #14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 team.  I don’t think even Tony would argue with me there. Granted there were some near wins during the regular season, like Las Vegas (which broke my heart because I knew how much he wanted to win there after our interview and to see him come oh-so-close only to not win) and the more positive 2nd place in New Hampshire (where he finished second to teammate Ryan Newman).  But despite a few bright spots (that were not winning so how bright could they really be) was frustrating for our driver (and his fans right).  I honestly don’t think I have ever worried as much as I have about Tony making THE CHASE (NASCAR’s version of playoffs/Championship) as I did this last 2011 season.  Luckily he did by the skin of his teeth (whether or not he thought he deserved it).

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, jokes around during qualifying for the Daytona 500 at Daytona. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America).

Then it was like someone flipped a switch. Tony’s CHASE run was nothing short of amazing, with the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 team winning a record 5 out of 10 CHASE races.  And don’t even get me started about that race at Homestead, that amazing race that Tony NEEDED to win. He not only managed to win but passed 118 cars to do it. A race where the team and driver had to overcome damage early in the race, a bad pit stop, a rain delay and you know 42 competitors. A race where it was quite obvious that the driver was….well driving his ass off.  Oh yeah and they happened to take home a CHAMPIONSHIP because if it.  That rocked.

Even though the season ended on a high note, that doesn’t mean that the momentum will follow through and don’t think that doesn’t worry me.  SHR underwent some fairly major changes at the end of the season and during the off season.  There were sponsor additions (Outback and Quicken Loans) for Ryan Newman’s car. A new crew chief, Steve Addington,  was hired for Tony Stewart, after letting go Darian Grubb. The long empty Director of Competition position was filled by Greg Zipadelli (big surprise there right?) after being vacant most of last season.  And the BIGGEST change of all, the addition of a third, albeit part-time team with the #10 of Danica Patrick.  Yes, technically the car is fielded by TBR but we all know that was done to guarantee Danica a start in the 500 without having to sacrifice Tony or Ryan’s owner points.  So that adds a new crew (maybe- Stewart-Haas has a third pit crew they offered out to other teams) and a new quasi-teammate to the mix.  That is a whole lot of change for an organization. Change that may (or hopefully may NOT) hinder momentum because there are new people getting use to an existing organization and an organization getting use to new people.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona. (Picture Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

That being said, I am VERY pleased with what i saw at the Shootout momentum wise.  Considering that Tony’s car had signifigant damage during practice and the team was able to repair the car and get it to point where he was obviously very competive, it is exciting to witness. Yeah, Tony didn’t win but he came darn close.  Even Kyle Busch mentioned during his postrace that he hooked up with Tony because he knew that the 14 was fast.  So as a fan of SHR and in particular Tony Stewart, I am definitely liking what I am seeing from my team so far this very young season.

Now, as far as the 500 on Sunday? It’s going to be a crazy race.  NASCAR worked hard during the off season to break up the tandem drafting and judging by the Shootout, it worked.  The return of “pack” racing is something I find crazy stressful to watch at the superspeedways.  Packs mean there is less room to correct for an “oopsie” with out hitting someone else.  Recovery space is limited.  When you do make a mistake (and someone always does- it’s human nature) there is a very good chance that multiple cars will be involved, thus a better chance of a more “spectacular” crashes. And when I say “spectacular” I really mean “scary as hell, oh god please let driver x by okay” kind of crashes.  So there is that to worry about.

On the plus side, Tony WAS strong in the shootout. Hopefully he will be equally strong in his Duel race.  And for those who like numbers- this is Tony Stewart’s 14th Daytona 500.  I think it’s time for him to finally win one!  I know Tony must want that jewel in his crown- who wouldn’t.

So…#GoTonyTo and as always #ImWithSmoke!

Also- be sure to check out our new “Misty’s Mazin’ Moment” column- this week she tackles The Shootout. And her Misty’s Messed her unMentionables moment of the Shootout!

Tomorrow is February! That means that Daytona is right around the corner! I, personally, can’t wait. The off season always seems extremely long to me (despite the fact that it is pretty much the shortest off season of any sport) and it drags on to me. I am ready to saddle up and watch. I am ready to be out at the track…taking in the sights, sounds and smells. I AM READY.

One thing I am going to admit to you is that as much as I love and look forward to the beginning of the season- there is also the struggle of having to pick out new driver/numbers/crew chiefs etc. There is always having to get use to all the new dynamics out there on top of the new nuances of things like the EFI and how that will effect the cars on the track and whatnot.  Plus did I mention the new numbers/new sponsors thing that ALWAYS throws me for a loop?

Stewart Haas Racing is not immune to changes- especially this season. Probably one of the most profound changes, everyone knows about. That is that Steve Addington will be Tony’s new crew chief this season. It’s not necessarily a change that I understand the reasoning behind but then again I am not a behind the scenes person so I am sure there is a reason for it. Right?

SHR was also able to finally fill the long empty (since May of 2011 if I am not mistaken) Director of Competition position with Greg Zipadelli. This does not surprise me in the least. I had a feeling back when Tony started Stewart-Haas Racing that Greg would end up over at SHR eventually in some capacity. It also seemed to me that there was increasing friction between Joey Logano and Greg Zipadelli towards the end of last season so it seemed like a natural move for everybody involved.

Stewart-Haas Racing also announced at the end of last season that Danica Patrick would be running the 10 car for 10 races (ha 10 for 10) in the cup series under the Stewart-Haas racing banner. But wait? Now it sounds like technically Danica will be running the 10 car for TBR (Tommy Baldwin Racing) and David Ruetimann will be running the rest of the season in the 10 car. Whot? I thought the 10 car was a SHR car? I am unclear as to what exactly this means…but the way I understand it (and this is just me…so it might NOT actually be happening this way): TBR is in a “partnership” with SHR in that SHR will provide the 10 car and the 10 crew chief (Greg Zipadelli) to TBR who will provide the 10 car with their owner points so that Danica is guarenteed to make it into the Daytona 500 without Tony having to give her his points and resting on his Championship provisional to get it.  When Danica isn’t in the 10 car, the car will be totally a TBR car and Ruitimann will have his own (a different) crew chief.  It kind of makes sense because if Tony were to give Danica his points and take the championship provisional, he wouldn’t be locked in the top 35 for the first five races.  That would be wasted on Danica who isn’t running a full schedule.  All I know is that the PR folks in charge of the Stewart-Haas Racing twitter account tells us that it’s a “win-win” for everyone. So there you have it. It’s “Winwin” just deal with it?!  (I am still kind of unclear if this means Danica is still a Stewart-Haas Racing driver).

Other changes including the adding of Quicken Loans and Aspen Dental to the list of sponsors signing up to sponsor Ryan Newman.  Add that to the Outback that was added in Phoenix (I was in the media center for the announcement).

So…what are Stewart-Haas’s chances of fielding two cars in the chase again next season? I don’t know.  The die-hard fan in me wants Tony to go out there and take names next season and win another championship.  GO TONY GO! I’M WITH SMOKE! You know the drill.  I always want Tony to win EVERY race- every single one.  I hope that Tony and team always go out there with that same attitude- the same one we saw at Homestead-Miami.  But we do have to take into consideration there are changes within the organization- the least of which means that Tony will have a new crew chief to build a rapport with.  Plus there is the third car for 10 races (or is there? I am still kind of confused…is it really considered a Stewart-Haas Racing team?).  So there is a 3 car dynamic for nearly a third of the races this coming season.  Can I just say though that I really REALLY want Tony to go out there and get that Daytona 500 win finally? Because I so do!

And just to add this picture from last month from Stewart-Haas Racing Twitter’s account that CRACKS me up:

This photo cracks me up! Photo Credit: Stewart-Haas Racing Twitter Account

Which reminds me- be sure to watch for Tony to be on The Last Man Standing with Tim Allen- it should air sometime around Speed Weeks (I think it comes on Valentines Day- but I will update when I know for sure).

I’m With Tony! Are you?  Let’s go 2012!

I find it kind of weird to write a about a rumor (that is exactly what it is- a rumor- as  Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted on August 17 that “it’s all speculation until you hear it from Tony Stewart” and I don’t know about you all- but Tony hasn’t called* to tell me anything so I will continue to treat it as such until I read a formal announcement). The silly season stuff can get kind of crazy and I don’t really delve too deeply into it because it’s all speculation anyway.  But you know if has to do with Stewart-Haas Racing I am probably going to at least ponder it, and possibly even write about it.

(more…)

Tony Stewart will be one of several drivers running a special “Honoring Our Heroes” paint scheme commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the world trade center in 2001.  The #14 Office Depot Chevy will carry a red, white and blue patriotic theme during the September 10th race to be run at Richmond and will look something like this:

Tony Stewart - Honoring Our Heros Diecast (Image Courtesy of Lionel NASCAR Collectibles)

The paint scheme is one of many running under the “Honoring Our Heroes” program which is a partnership with Lionel NASCAR Collectibles and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.  A portion of the proceeds from merchandise sales from all of the “Remembering Our Heroes” merchandise will be donated to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which children who have lost a parent, firefighters, and military who have been seriously injured and sacrifice their quality of life in the line of duty.  Other drivers carrying themes under this banner are: Danica Patrick, David Gilliland, Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray.

The diecast is already available through pre-orders.  There is a reason I don’t collect diecasts:  I would be the type of collector that would have to have every variation of every paint scheme out there…and my bank account would never have any money in it. EVER.  And Roxy kind of likes to eat.  And frankly so do I.  But with a portion of the proceeds going to a wonderful cause, how can I not add this special paint scheme to my collection? You can too here.

For more information on the paint scheme, other drivers running similar schemes and the partnership between Lionel NASCAR collectibles and The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation visit here.

IRL and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Danica Patrick will be on THE DOCTORS this Friday May 13th to talk about COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) as well as her involvement with DRIVE4COPD.  DRIVE4COPD is a charity who’s mission it is to get the word out about COPD and urge people to get screened. (more…)

Okay- So our latest trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway was jam packed and full of fun. And I just wanted to use this space to tie everything together between the different postings Misty and I wrote regarding the weekend. (more…)

On Friday I had the chance to watch Tony’s media session on NASCAR.COM at work (I was on lunch)….I even took notes people. But unfortunately in my haste to escape work on Friday evening and get home I left my post-it notes in a little pile on my desk (I knew I should have slipped them into my purse right after the media session).  Anyway, while I was watching his media I happened to have TWITTER going at the same time.  And the general consensus among several of the media people I follow was that Tony was in a bad mood.  However from where I was sitting he seemed to be in a pretty good mood- he may have been a bit of a smart-ass- but that is why I like him.  Whatever his mood he had several interesting things to say…and they are all sitting on my desk at work…so this is from my shoddy memory instead of cute little post-its (they are cute- and I got them at Office Depot- they say TOTAL CRAP on them. Today I went to Office Depot to get more of them but they were out so I had to settle for post-it’s that say WHEN PIGS FLY instead).

When asked about his frustration with never having won a Daytona 500 he said that well it was frustrating sure BUT at least he still has opportunities to win the Daytona 500…he does not feel he has any more opportunities for a shot at an Indy 500 win and that frustrates him more.  He wants that Daytona 500 trophy even if his legs are on fire- give him him trophy.  He was also asked if he thought NASCAR was too safe or if he thought fans thought NASCAR was too safe.  This is where he got a little bit of his smart ass answer going by replying that what if he thought that the media center was too safe because all the media present were sitting in chairs with four legs so he was going to come through and saw a leg off of each of their chairs…what would they think about that? Then he stated that no fan wants to see their favorite driver get hurt so no NASCAR is not too safe.  I have to say personally I agree with him there- and anyone who thinks NASCAR is too safe is …sick. Because if they weren’t as safe as they are Dale Jr would have probably gotten hurt, maimed or killed in the wreck during the Nationwide race today but more on the Nationwide race later.   He also was asked how much more winning this year’s Daytona 500 would mean after the loss of Bobby Hutchens wife Sharon in the off-season (Bobby is the Director of Competition at SHR). The thing that stood out for me that Tony mentioned was when he said that before he even decided to take on partial cup ownership one of the most important things for him was that family comes first for them.  Tony also gave away to the media in a “raffle” two of those awesome Tony Stewart Edition office chairs offered by Office Depot- which was kind of fun.  I would love one of those chairs- they rock!!

Also on Friday I ran across this great Tony Stewart interview that the Racing Fashionista’sdid with Tony down in Daytona…It’s a great read!

And can I just say YEY!!! Tony Stewart won the Nationwide Drive4COP race at Daytona today!!!  I admit that I didn’t watch the whole race- I saw probably about 70 percent of it between loads of laundry and cleaning and that kind of thing. But the parts I did see were action packed.  I believe Tony started 32nd or something like that…and within the first 10 laps of the race only 2 of them were green flag laps because of accidents.  I think that Chrissy Wallace was wrecked out by lap 2?  Danica made it to lap 64 or something like that. While her start wasn’t what I would call stellar it also wasn’t what I would call terrible. She had some good evasive maneuvers that got her out of trouble.  She complained that her car had “oversteer” which I think might mean it was a little to loose but I could be wrong there- I am not up on my IRL terminology.  She was taken out by an accident that was not of her creating- she got tangled mostly because she had fallen back to the rear of the field because of her ill handling car and lack of comfort in the car.  After about half way Tony’s car seemed to really take off towards the front of the pack.  He just seemed to be either in front or behind accidents enough to keep his nose pretty clean.  What gave him one of the best chances to win is when Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski got together and took half the field with him..including the likes of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Dale Jr who went on a wild ride upside down for awhile.  As Tony took the checkered flag Kyle Busch and others were wrecking further back in the field.  Was it just me or did Tony’s car make you want an Oreo cookie?