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First thing I wanted to share about the Kansas race is this picture of Richard Petty (and driver Aric Almirola) being honored by STP at Kansas Speedway since I wrote about the event here:

STP donates $43,000 to Victory Junction to celebrate their 40th Anniversary with “The King” at Kansas Speedway on Friday, April 20. STP Senior Brand Manager, Jamie Kistner (right), presents the $43,000 check to Richard Petty (center), Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 STP Ford Fusion (second from right), and Victory Junction Camper Ambassadors (Photo Credit: CIA Stock Photo)

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Oh EFI how you disappoint this Stewart fan.  Tony was within striking distance of the lead- and hanging out mostly right around 6th for most of the day.  Only to get quite the surprise when he switched his car off to save gas as requested by his new crew chief Steve Addington.

(R-L) Crew chief Steve Addington talks with Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 Chevrolet, in the garage prior to practice for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images North America)

However the car would not switch back on. It was sad to see him sink further and further behind the field as he tried to refire the car multiple times.  Unfortunately he had to be pushed back to the pits to have assistance to get the car fired back up.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 Chevrolet, is pushed down pit road during the NASCAR SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

URG.  He went from possibly in the hunt to 2 laps down in a flash. Unfortunately he finished 22nd, 2 laps down. He is now in 15th in the standings (but technically he is really in a four way tie for 12th with Brad Keselowski, Jeff Burton, and Paul Menard).

Notes on Phoenix:

- It didn’t take TIDE long to create a commercial based on their involvement in the cleanup efforts after the Daytona Jet Dryer Explosion did it:

My major thing is that it would flash across the screen and for a split second I would think MOLY! What just happened at PIR…but then I would realize…it’s that Tide commercial again.  You have to admit that was rather quick that they were able to take the footage from the wreck at Daytona (remember that happened on Monday night!) and make it into a commercial!

-Am I the only one who misses the dog-leg portion of Phoenix Raceway? I also hate that the drivers seem to cut across the apron now…it honestly looks like they are cheating and if they wanted the drivers to drive on that part – they need to re paint the yellow line.

- I totally admit that I was REALLY hoping that Tony Stewart/Steve Addington would get a win before the Denny Hamlin/Darian Grubb pairing did.  It’s because I am fiercely competitive when it comes to my driver…sigh.

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 Chevrolet, reacts from inside the garage prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 2, 2012. (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

Next Race: Las Vegas Motor Speedway! I’ll Be THERE :-)

On February 17th (seems like ages ago doesn’t it?) the 48 car entered in the Daytona 500 field failed it’s initial race entry inspection because of illegal C-posts.  The C-Posts were confiscated by NASCAR and the team was allowed to repair the 48 car and go back through inspection and then into practice.  First thought is where the heck is the C-Post…well I found and stole this graphic from an old article on NASCAR.com:

Click graphic to be taken to the story on NASCAR.com that it was borrowed from.

Anyway- today NASCAR announced the “punishment” for the illegal parts. They were found to be in violation of three sections of the NASCAR rulebook*:

Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-2.1E (if in the judgment of NASCAR officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance will not be permitted – unapproved car body modifications)

Chad Knaus, crew chief of the 48, was fined $100,000 and suspended for 6 weeks. Car chief of the 48, Ron Malec, was also suspended for 6 weeks.  Jimmie Johnson was fined 25 driver points. Jeff Gordon was fined 25 owner points.

Wow…is it me or is that a little heavy handed? I posted a sentiment like that on my facebook and I guess it might just be me. But never the less I stand by my initial reaction that it’s a harsh penalty…too harsh.  I have several reasons why I think the fines are a bit much:

  1. It’s my understanding that this particular car had been used several times last season. If that is the case- why did it not fail any of those numerous inspections? (Initial inspection, post qualifying inspection, post race inspection). I mean sure I suppose the car could have been completely changed during the off season- but really?
  2. NASCAR needs to be more consistant with it’s fines.  What do I mean by this? Consider this- Clint Bowyer’s car failed post-qualifying inspection.  Yet NASCAR did not offer any fines whatsoever there- not even a mention of possible fines the whole week between qualifying and race day. Yet as soon as the 48 failed inspection on Friday- it was news and talk of heavy fines floated around the team ALL week long.  While the parts that failed inspection are apples and oranges- the end result is this- the cars were both non-standard and thus failed inspection. Yet one team was heavily penalized and the other was let go without even a slap on the wrist.  This is unfair and unequal treatment between teams. NASCAR needs to decide whether or not they are going to be heavy handed rulebook thumpers or the nice “give a team the benefit of the doubt” kind of sanctioning body. It can’t be both.
  3. Since it was the initial inspection and the team never practiced or qualified with the offending parts on the car, I don’t think it should be fined at all. Technically the team gained nothing from the offending parts because they did not USE said parts- the car never touched track.  They removed them and I assume that the car that Jimmie raced in the 500 this past Monday had no technical issues (with the exception of the big technical issue of being crashed in lap two). This, going back to the Clint Bowyer senario mentioned in 2, is really unfair because if there was something unstandard on Bowyer’s car he practiced and qualified the offending part- having gained some possible benefit from it.

Now I am sure some people will argue with “But Chad has done this before- remember when he was suspended and Darian Grubb took the helm as crew chief?” Yes, I have not forgotten this.  My thought in this- Chad and the 48 team have already paid for those mistakes…Chad was removed and fined for those issues. That issue is closed. This is a separate issue. To that arguement doesn’t make any sense. It’s like a tardy student getting expelled instead of suspended this year because they had an unexcused absence and and an additional unexcused absence five years ago, that they already served a detention for five years ago.

So there you have my three reasons I think NASCAR was heavy handed with the fines.  Misty, while agreeing with me in general that the NASCAR punishment is too harsh, also has some good albeit different points about the situation and I highly suggest that you read her post about it as well: The 48 Smackdown: Overkill.

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* I want a rulebook. Just because.

Was it just me or was that race at Dover about 150 laps too long?  Maybe it was just me because when my driver doesn’t do so well I get grumpy about it and the Dover race wasn’t the best for the Tony and the 14 team.  I remember hearing Tony say that Dover was one of the chase tracks that they were concerned with- so I wasn’t surprised to see the team struggle with handling issues.  I do NOT like it when my driver finishes a lap down…and it makes me uber cranky when he finishes more than a lap down.  The car was ill handling the entire weekend as obvious by Tony’s practice speeds, qualifying effort and race. I wasn’t listening to the radio so I don’t know the exacts of HOW the handling was but but I honestly don’t think it matters much. They were bad. They know they were bad. According to the team report for Dover, Darian says that they have been routinely bad at concrete tracks:

The biggest thing is just that we don’t have the concrete tracks figured out yet. It’s obvious. At Bristol and Dover, we’ve just struggled for three years now with Tony there. We just need to figure out what we need to do. It’s not because of a lack of effort. We’re going to keep trying to find a few things and keep fighting.” Darian Grubb, Crew Chief of the #14 Chevy Impala.

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Okay- seriously it was all I could do not to use WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER as the title of this post.  Now that it’s out of my system (kind of) I can move on with the post.

Monday morning, while I was getting ready for work,  I nearly forgot to put on my pink checker flag socks. I wear them every race day.  I was up earlier than normal after a fairly crappy night of (lack of) sleep and more worried about getting my car to its service appointment by 7:30 and wasn’t thinking about it being race day. Thus, I nearly forgot to wear my socks.  Fear not- I remembered at the last minute that I was about to put on the wrong socks and grabbed the right pair.  Then as I was slipping them on I thought to myself- I should snap a picture of my checker flag socks and post them on my blog…but then common sense took over and I decided no one would want to see my socks. So consider yourself lucky that you aren’t looking at a pink sock emblazoned with checkered flags encasing my foot right now.  You are welcome.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 19, 2011 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images North America)

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You would have thought the results of the Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend would have taught me something.  To help with getting my post-race posting out in a timely manner I had written the bulk of my first paragraph for the Brickyard 400 before the caution flag for the wreck that changed everything.  The problem in doing that, I learned, is that the whole mood of the race can change in an instant- thus rendering the article I started irrelevant.  My pre-caution paragraph was wrought with disappointing statements like “It’s always disheartening to me when Tony has a bad run but it’s especially disparaging when it’s at his home track of Indianapolis Motor Speedway” or better yet my favorite “The momentum from Tony’s first WoO win earlier this week was not enough to carry him through the Brickyard 400 weekend.” See those statements were definitely not written by Miss Sunshine that is for certain.

(ed.- I love this picture...LOVE it) AN INFRARED CAMERA WAS USED TO CREATE THIS IMAGE) Tony Stewart drives the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet to the garage during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 30, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

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Wow, what a weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing.   I admit I was quite pleased when Ryan and Tony qualified 1-2 (although that little teeny competitive person inside me was chagrined that it wasn’t the other way around).  Tony isn’t always the best qualifier- so when he qualifies top 10 I get pretty happy. When he qualifies top 5 I get damn happy. When he qualifies top 2? I do a jig. Ok not really- but I was ecstatic and hopeful for his run on Sunday.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, poses with his team and Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet, and his team on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)

It appears I had every reason to be hopeful.  EVERY REASON.  I settled in for the race with my cell phone and my note pad close.  I started off on the TNT national broadcast- only for the pre-race. Once the command was given to start engines I switched it over to Stewart’s DirecTV HotPass channel where for the second week in a row I just stayed on the HotPass Channel.  I have decided that I like the HotPass because I get the radio communications between Tony, Darian and Bob without draining my battery on my phone and having to relaunch the Sprint ap every time I go to read a text or a tweet- which during the race is quite often.

Anyway- it was quite obvious by the way Tony Stewart moved through the field that he had a car to be reckoned with.  Especially if you consider that during the pre-race show all the drivers interviewed mentioned how hard it would be to pass at Louden.  I don’t remember anyone saying anything different.  Tony seemed to be able to work his way up through the field a couple times and made it look easy.  EASY!  Whoo.

Ryan Newman (R), driver of the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet, is congratulated by team owner and second place finisher, Tony Stewart (L), driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America)

I will readily admit that the competitive side of me came out when Tony was running hard trying to catch Ryan.  I was standing there in front of the TV-hoping Ryan would run out of gas. I know, I should hang my head in shame a little for hoping Ryan would run out of gas, after all that is Tony’s  teammate.  All I can say is that, Tony is my driver and he could be racing my mom out there and I would still be rooting for Tony. It’s just how this fan/driver relationship works.

Tony’s second place finish has moved him into a tie for 10th place with Denny Hamlin.  I can only hope that this 1-2 weekend at New Hampshire signals the start of better luck for Tony Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing.

Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet, is congratulated by teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, after Newman won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

Notes on Loudon:

  1. You see that picture up there of Tony congratulating Ryan in the car. The one right above this notes section? You might have to look carefully because it’s small but Tony’s hand is out congratulating Ryan.  I LOVE that picture.  Why? Well, as I mentioned I was watching the race on Tony’s HotPass channel and seeing him celebrate Ryan’s win and his second place from his incar camera was GREAT!  He was UBER excited!!!  Then hearing that one of the first things Tony said when he got out of his car was that he was “so damn proud” that he “couldn’t see straight” made me laugh.
  2. I love listening in on the radio communication. How else would I have known that Tony was mad because the hose that cools his feet wasn’t hooked up and I found that out because he stated over his radio that he in charge of hooking up said hose could drive the car the next time the hose didn’t get hooked up.  So Tony wasn’t hot-headed he was hot-footed.  Ha! I crack myself up.  Not to mention the kind words he had to say about Andy Lally.  LOVE it because that is what is going on right then and there in the car in my driver’s head.
  3. Oh and I am hearing that there is a rumor out there that Carl Edwards may be signing with JGR for next season…I am not sure if JGR is going to a 4 car team or if that means someone is out of one of the JGR cars.  I guess we will find out soon enough.
  4. I still have to say that I would be happier if Ryan and Tony’s finishes were reversed, but still pretty damn happy.
  5. But we really need a win now. Just saying.
  6. Oh and before I forget- Tony mentioned during his post-race press conference that Darian was dealing with pneumonia while on the pit box…I sure hope he’s feeling better soon!

Gratuitous Tony picture:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 15, 2011 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images North America)

Don’t forget next weekend is an off weekend for the Cup cars…they will be back the following weekend at Indy. Go Tony Go!

And I thought Richmond was a long race. Seriously- Darlington was LONG- and I have to say that I agree with Tony’s comment on Race Day- Darlington should be shortened. I understand the history behind Darlington and The Southern 500- but really? I can’t imagine what it was like for those on the east coast!

My favorite part of the Mother’s Day weekend race is ALWAYS the command to start engines because it is given by a bunch of the driver’s moms! I LOVE that part.

Tony Stewart and his mom, Pam Boas, at driver introductions for the Southern 500 at Darlington (photo Credit: CIA Stock Photography, Inc.- borrowed from Tony Stewart facebook page)

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