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I work Monday- Friday, 8:00am – 5:00pm so I was a wee bit disappointed that Watkin’s Glen was rained out.  Now it’s not to say that I wasn’t tempted to call in to watch the race.  Sure I was tempted, but it is our busiest times of the year right now at work plus I kinda like getting paid and “rain delayus to next dayus- aka race related illness” are not considered appropriate uses of sick leave – of that I am almost certain. So I watched the first several laps on TV until 7:30am (remember I am a west coast fan) when I begrudgingly got in my car mumbling the whole time about wanting to watch the race and drove my butt to work where I wouldn’t be able to watch the race.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, leads Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, during Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images North America)

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So I started Daytona week with a feeling of trepidation after Tony Stewart’s incident with Vickers at Infineon.  The results of the race at Infineon caused a drop in points and I am starting to panic about the points (read about my POINTS PANIC! here) so that finish in Infineon did NOT help at all.  But on Friday I was able to catch a bit of Tony’s Daytona press conference and at least I understood that he was “drawing” his line in the sand.  I have to respect his conviction there…even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.  (POINTS! PANIC AT THE DISCO WE ARE OUT OF THE TOP TEN!) (more…)

If I had been able to flash forward to the end of the Daytona 500 and watch my reaction I would have bet everything I have that Jeff Gordon had just wheeled his Chevrolet to victory lane, because what else would have me on my haunches, screaming, shouting and pumping my fist in the air as the checkered flag waved?! Good thing my flash forward button doesn’t work cause I would have lost my pants in that bet, since Gordon crashed along with a good portion of the field on lap 30 ending his shot to drive to Victory Lane.
So what else could possibly cause me to have such an enthusiastic and heart-felt reaction to this year’s Daytona 500? It’s the kind of ending that we usually only see in Disney movies, but this time we got to see it all unfold for ourselves during this year’s Speed Weeks. It is the story of part-time, rookie driver, Trevor Bayne.
D.W. said it best at the end of the race when he held up a blank piece of paper and said that it was the bio he had on Trevor Bayne before the race. Few people had heard of Trevor before this race. He had only one other Sprint Cup Series start, in last fall’s Texas race, and here he was in Daytona proving himself. First by laying down the fourth fastest lap during Qualifying and then in his eagerness throughout the week leading to the race. He quickly became the talk of the media by being the first in his garage everyday, the first on the track to practice. He wore his eagerness and excitement on his sleeve throughout Speed Weeks.
I, personally, took notice during his Duel race when he waited after his driver intro to talk to Jeff Gordon, presumably to seek advice from the veteran driver. Throughout their Duel Gordon and Bayne worked together, Bayne pushing Gordon in the two car tandem that characterized this year’s races on the newly re-paved track. Despite a last lap crash in the Duel, Bayne clearly earned credibility among the other drivers. Time and again, seasoned drivers looked to Bayne in the 500 as a drafting partner. Again, I took notice when mid-way through the 500 Carl Edwards got on his radio to ask Bayne if he needed someone to push him. Many rookies would have leapt at the chance to work with a proven driver like Edwards, or simply been too intimidated to turn him down, but Bayne showed his intelligence and integrity and told Carl that he was a better pusher and preferred to continue pushing David Ragan. Bayne’s demonstration of integrity, intelligence and independence are all qualities that will serve him well in his career.
So when it came down to the final restart and Bayne looked like he could pull off what had really never been done before – winning the Daytona 500 on his first Daytona 500 start (Lee Petty won his first start at the 500, but since it was the very first 500 does not count), I was on the edge of my seat, screaming for this kid. When he actually pulled it off, I the felt the kind of sweeping emotion and pride that I usually only feel for truly great moments in sports, like the U.S. winning another Gold in the Olympics or the Yankees winning another series. Then again, this is another great moment in sports history.
I admit that I usually do not watch post race, especially when my driver finishes 35 laps down, but today I watched and I continued to be impressed by Bayne. Earlier in the race, D.W. had mentioned that Trevor had taken time before the race to pray with his team and the first thing that Trevor said when he climbed out of his car in Victory Lane was to mention the prayer and the power that God had. What is not to like about NASCAR’s newest hero?
I watched his reaction as David Ragan came over to offer his congratulations and saw Trevor’s genuine concern and empathy to Ragan, who’d been his drafting partner most of the day and had nearly pulled off the win himself, when he prematurely switched lanes during a restart and got black flagged by NASCAR. This is the kind of personality that NASCAR and this country needs – a good hearted, genuine, eager, talented young man to invigorate the fans and make us feel good.
NASCAR promised just such a driver a few years ago in rookie Joey Logano (“Sliced Bread”), but Logano never quite lived up to the hype and you can’t market this kind of a moment and you can’t create this kind of honest emotion.
Before this 500 no one knew who his kid from Knoxville, Tennessee was and now with his remarkable victory, the publicity machine will undoubtedly roar to life, like the engine of his #21, but at least it does so as a response to a hard earned achievement versus a contrived, marketing ploy to draw in fans. This NASCAR fan will take fresh, homemade bread over commercialized sliced bread any day. It’s good for the sport and good for the heart of NASCAR.
2011’s Daytona 500 will go down as one of the greatest moments in NASCAR history and I wouldn’t be surprised if a Disney movie isn’t already on the drawing board. Here’s to a fantastic and unbelievable start to the season that proves that anything can happen!

Bristol- I like you. I really really do. But damn- why did you have to be so mean to Tony on Saturday night?  Tony qualified strong- a 4th place starting position.  And at the begining of the race he was doing so well.  He even led for a lap or two (five points right there). I was optimistic at the beginning!

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Old Spice/Office Depot Chevorlet, prepares to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the Old Spice/Office Depot Chevorlet, prepares to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Then it all went to hell in a hand basket. First David Ragan spun. Tony slowed up on his sponsors advice as to not hit Ragan who was sitting in the middle of the track and sliding ever so slowly towards the infield. Ragan looked like a sitting duck. I was worried that it could get ugly for Ragan. Apparently he was not the one I needed to be worrying about as Stewart ended up with the worse of that deal when Tony Raines smacked him in the right rear as Stewart was slowing to avoid Ragan. It looked ugly- parts sticking out from the car. It took him two trips to pit road for the crew to fix up the damage but Stewart was able to stay on the lead lap- he was 25 or 26 but still on the lead lap (I am pretty sure that he was the last car on the lead lap actually).

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Understandably the car wasn’t handling as well as it was pre-accident…and what might have even been a salvageable evening for Stewart turned to crap when Stewart smacked the wall pretty hard because the car was looser than a caboose.   Then he had a tire start to go down and was forced to pit under green- and lost three laps changing only right side tires (Bristol is that small and the race leaders were running that fast).  He would not come up any farther and unfortunately finished 27th- 6 laps down.  Stewart would lose two positions in the points standing and is now 6th behind points leader Kevin Harvick. Race winner was Kyle Busch who completed the first ever trifecta- winning three series events in a single weekend.

Notes About Bristol:

  • When Tony got the 4th starting position in qualifying, the StewartHaasRacing twitter account claimed it was his second consecutive STEWART POLE…that being the highest qualifying position not required to do after qualifying media.
  • Speaking of media…what does Jeff Gluck have against Tony Stewart anyway? He made a snide twitter comment after Tony’s first incident at Bristol “Fortunately for Tony Stewart, he won’t have to visit the media center tonight. Fortunate for the media, too.” He always has something rude to say about Tony. It riles me up.
  • Best National Anthem of the season so far. I am just saying…maybe they should get away from the weird acts and go for the kids more often.
  • Pre hell in a handbasket radio was interesting. Tony instructed them to calm him down if he got riled up during the race during his pre-race peptalk.
  • After the contact with Ragan but before he had a tire come apart on him Tony got riled up about something and Darian told him to “chill out.” That cracked me up because when I am ramped up and someone says that to me? It just riles me up more.
  • Post hell in a handbasket radio was pretty depressing. Stewart didn’t say hardly anything. Neither did Darian…mostly it was his spotter Bob saying things like “Clear.” And “The x car has a hole if you need it.”
  • Caption:
BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)


Next weekend is an off weekend for the Cup Drivers.

It’s been awhile since I talked NASCAR commercials.  This year has given us a fair share of new ones to consider…and I am prompted to post this entry that has been rolling around in the cargo area that is my brain for about a month now by an email from NASCAR.COM announcing that the winner of their Daytona Commercial Showcase was the David Ragan UPS Three-Wheelin’ Ad (Seriously?? That one?? Did my votes not count because that commercial did nothing for me).

Since I don’t agree with the winner, I am going to tell you Amy’s favorites of the newest round of NASCAR commercials:

1. The Coca-Cola Drivers Commercial. First off you HAVE to give these guys props.  They are race car drivers NOT singers- but there they are putting it all out there.  I have seen the behind the scenes video and it shows that our favorite coke drivers are singing it themselves.  I can’t imagine doing that and then having it broadcast on TV. I LOVE to sing, especially in the car (because I am alone and who can complain except except on the rare occasion I have the sunroof open).  I also like that the commercial incorporates some of the crew chiefs like Darian Grubb and Greg Zipadelli. By far a favorite. (By the way you can hear your favorite coke family driver sing the whole commercial alone if you want just go to MyCokeRewards.com/Nascar and scroll your cursor over the driver you want to hear.  I say Tony and Elliott Sadler are the best).

2. Second  place is a tie but it goes to the same company- Toyota. I can’t decide which I like better Denny Hamlin asking, “Who doesn’t love love?” Or Kyle Busch driving the car with kitties, bunnies and little baby seals. That is some funny stuff…especially the look on Kyle’s face as he is driving, with his head in that kitty cat helmet…Oh I chuckle just thinking about it.

3. My third favorite is the UPS Delivery commercial- I don’t know why but the fact that Santa gets all aggro and tries to climb the fence while Mercury and some of the other delivery guys try to keep him from going over cracks me up.

Now for my least favorite commercials:

Hands down my least favorite is the Martin Truex Jr. Napa commercial.  Mainly the part that bugs me the most are the two Napa guys at the end.

But the Sprint Jimmie Johnson commercial bugs me too…for two reasons. Reason 1: why is Jimmie playing golf in a bathrobe but he’s got full on pjs on underneath the bathrobe? Who does that unless they are in the artic? Reason 2: Wouldn’t everyone they call be “the real Jimmie Johnson” and not just Jimmie Johnson the race car driver? Just sayin’.

NASCAR’s Joey Logano and Kyle Busch will be on RAW on USA (DirecTV 242) today…check your local listings (looks like 9:00 / 8:00 CT).

Also, Thisi week is NASCAR WEEK on Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader (check your local listings).  Watch for drivers David Ragan, Michael Waltrip, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards to compete (one driver each day this week during the first half hour). Money the drivers win benefits The NASCAR Foundation and the driver’s favorite charity.

I probably should have picked a different title because I am sure that some NASCAR fans are going to think this entry is about Chad Knaus running Jimmie Johnson out of fuel at Michigan last weekend.  I am not going to go into that. This is about this coming weekend: Bristol Motor Speedway is doing something a little different this Saturday night. When the cup drivers take to the stage before the race for driver introductions, each driver will enter the stage to approximately 30 seconds of a song snippet from a song of their choosing.  As you would probably expect there is a wide variety of songs- however- it would seem that apparently AC/DC is a favorite as five drivers picked three different AC/DC songs:

Mark Martin will be entering to “For Those About To Rock”

Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and David Ragan all picked “Thunderstruck”

and Jamie McMurray picked “Shook Me All Night Long”

Now I like AC/DC quite a bit. When I drove Doris (the black RAV) my favorite song to pull up in front of home was BACK IN BLACK because– I was back and the car was black, so it just kind of fit.  It also helped that BACK IN BLACK was my favorite of the AC/DC albums so it was often in my car.

There are choices all over the musical spectrum from Elvis Presley (Clint Bowyer picked “C.C. Rider”) to Jerry Reed (Joey Logano picked “Eastbound and Down”) and The Rolling Stones (“Start Me Up” was picked by Jeff Gordon).  I will say, and I don’t know WHY, I am surprised that Jeff Burton decided to walk onstage to Guns N Roses classic “Welcome to the Jungle”.

I have to say that the Stewart-Haas boys picked some awesome songs! Ryan Newman picked Big & Rich’s “Save A Horse, Ride a Cowboy” which I absolutely LOVE! Tony picked to walk onstage with “Bawitdaba” by Kid Rock (David Stemme also picked this song).  While I admit I am not a huge Kid Rock fan he does have about three songs I love…and that is the top one. Both I think are excellent choices.

Which leads me to…what if I were being introduced and needed a song snippet. What would I personally pick. I have pretty wide, varied tastes in music that usually depends highly on my mood.  Some days I might be on a country kick and listening to the likes of Toby Keith, Trace Adkins, Blake Shelton, Diamond Rio, Big & Rich and others. Other days it could be hair metal favorites like Cinderella, Poison, Slaughter and Dokken. Then again it could be a bad day when I want to hear nothing but the “hard stuff” like Disturbed, White Zombie, and Metallica.  Then of course there are my broadway show days (wicked, les mis, mamma mia), classic rock days (Heart, Zep, Sabbath) or my “whatever the heck Mr. IPOD SHUFFLE DJ picks for me” days.

Honestly it would probably depend on my mood:

If I were in a rockin’ mood I would probably pick “Fuel” by Metallica.  (Sing it with me now..”Gimme Fuel, Gimme Fire….”)

If I were in a more country state of mind- I would probably go with Toby Keith’s “How Do You Like Me Now?”

What about you? What would you pick for yourself? Or for me? Talk to me people- I know you are out there!

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I said over the course of the race on Saturday night “This race is never ever ever going to end!” The Lady In Black (Darlington) brought us a record number of cautions (17) for the 501 mile race. Like most race fans- I tend to use cautions to use the facilities and stretch my legs.  Well let me tell you there wasn’t one time during Darlington that I thought to myself “Damn I have to pee but I don’t want to miss anything!” (TMI I know but, unlike most of the drivers- and I honestly don’t know how they do it- I have to pee during the course of a standard race).

I will be the first to admit that I didn’t think that Tony had that stellar of a qualifying run and between that run (he ended up starting 18th) and the fact that Tony had never won at Darlington before- I wasn’t expecting a stellar run on Saturday. (My friend would tell you I am too easily frustrated). I didn’t think all hope was lost for Stewart-Haas Racing since teammate Ryan Newman qualified 3rd.

Once the race got underway- however- I noticed Tony inching closer and closer to the top ten- meanwhile Newman stayed pretty much consistently in the top ten even leading for awhile.  However I have to say that the Office Depot/Old Spice pit crew was ON FIRE Saturday night.  There were a couple of times- especially during that last pit stop- that I jumped off the couch and yelled YES!! excited that they managed to get Tony out of the pits first despite having taken four tires and a full load of fuel.  Even though the last absolutely stellar pit stop put him in 8th (the other seven cars opted to stay out) Tony began to move up through the field at an amazing rate and had the race been any longer I am sure that Tony would have caught both second place Jimmie Johnson and winner Mark Martin.  Another race that was so close…Stewart Haas could nearly taste the victory (I certainly could!)  Tony’s third place finish bumps him up to second in points only 29 points away from leader Jeff Gordon.  Ryan Newman’s fourth place finish bumped him up to 8th in points.  Another great night for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Other Darlington Notes:

  • While I always kinda root for David Ragan because he is on my fantasy team and Juan Pablo Montoya)- was I the only one who didn’t think they should have let that frankensteined car back on the track that last time? I mean the front leftside tire wasn’t even touching the tract completely for goodness sakes!
  • More about commercials I am finding humorous- I am really liking the Bobby Labonte/Ask.com commercials.  I am especially a fan of the one where the woman is raving over about how HOT Bobby Labonte is while looking at him through binoculars when her husband tells her to keep it above the Mason-Dixon line. Too bad ask.com sucks as a search engine.
  • During the national broadcast of the race they played a snippet of radio interaction between Joey Logano and Greg Zipadelli. I don’t even remember what it was about- I think it was about a two versus four tire change on the last stop they had. Joey had a question about it and asked Greg.  However unlike the broadcasters I really don’t think it was a power struggle between the two- more like Joey wanted to know what happened….he is a rookie.
  • Don’t forget the Pit Crew Challenge is this week on Thursday. I LOVE the pit crew challenge and when I make it to Charlotte one of these days for the all-star race- I am so fitting in the Pit Crew Challenge!

The next race is this Saturday on SPEED: The All-Star Race….no points…this one is all about the money!