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Working on the fuel cell

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images North America)

It’s a day that always begins with a ton of pomp and circumstance. No I am not talking about the Olympic closing ceremonies- I am talking the Daytona 500 (which ended up being the Nightona 500 after the Raintona 500 and the #AirTitan 500). It was the day that Smoke fans have been looking forward to for 7 months. The Daytona 500; aka the day Tony Stewart was back racing. Okay, so yeah technically he’d been racing for about a week if you count the non-points paying Sprint Unlimited and the field setting Budweiser Duels but this was a “real” race: A points race, A full-length race; and what turning to an all day- and part of the night race.

Tony qualified 21st but was forced to start from the rear of the field (as was Danica Patrick and Bobby Labonte). Don’t even get me going about that.  Why? Because of an “unscheduled engine change” because he suffered an engine issue during FIRST practice…you know the practice that is BEFORE the “Front Row Qualifying day” (the old CART fan in me keeps wanting to call it Pole day) and BEFORE the Budweiser Duels.  I could see penalizing him into starting at the back for his duel race- but the 500 too? Isn’t that double jeopardy- which is illegal?! Should be anyway.  But I digress.

Superspeedways make me nervous anyway. Knowing Tony’s in the back did NOTHING to assauge those nerves- mostly I was just hoping that Spotter Bob had extra powerful eagle eyes up there and could navigate Tony around the wrecks that would be inevitable. Yes I know he crashed during the Unlimited and was fine but I worry, because it’s one of the things I do best. Honestly- I would worry even if he didn’t have an injury. Because the kind of wrecks that Daytona (and you too Talladega) produce are usually violent (definitely cringe worthy). Case in point: The wreck where Danica smacked the wall but hard.  I mean OUCH.  And did I hear right- that she hit an area that didn’t have SAFER barrier? Why is there ANY spot on ANY track that isn’t edged in SAFER Barrier by now but especially a track like Talladega. Please someone tell me I heard wrong.

Tony in helmet

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images North America)

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I can’t even tell you how much I wanted to title this post “Tony Stewart-Finally A Daytona 500 Winner” but instead I had to refrain from using “Welcome To Daytona- This Bitch Bites.” This was not the way any fan wants to see their driver start the season.  Tony went from being the favorite in Las Vegas to win the race to finishing the race 82 laps down in 41st place after sustaining considerable damage on lap 33.  Needless to say this Smoke fan threw a bit of a hissy fit- stringing along words that are not fit for mixed company.  Some of the tamer things I said during my little fit: “$#!& our day is already over. @#*&%^@*@$ may as well not even bother to watch the rest of the race.” Yeah I was not a happy camper. I had my iPhone headset in because I was using it to listen to Tony’s scanner on the NASCAR13 Sprint Mobile ap and I can’t even tell you what he said on the radio after the wreck if anything because I ripped my headphones out of my ears and tossed my phone (harder than I meant) onto the table.  All I can say is THANK YOU OTTERBOX (my phone has never NOT been in an otterbox- I bought one at the same time I bought my iPhone and put it directly in).

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Am I the only one starting to get antsy for the beginning of the NASCAR season? I can’t be the only one who hears a revving engine and is like…MAN when does NASCAR start- NOT SOON ENOUGH that is when! But our “long off season” – which isn’t actually so long in the grand scheme of other sports – is coming to an end sooner than you can shake a broken transmission at (PSA: do NOT attempt to shake a broken transmission- those things look quite heavy).

The Sprint Unlimited is just a little more than week away (Feb 16th) – this race takes the place of what use to be called The Bud Shootout and then just The Shootout.  Then the Bud Duels (formally the Gatorade Duels) are Thursday Feb 21st (URG I have to work and they are in the middle of the dang day! WHY NASCAR WHY DO YOU TORTURE ME SO?). Then of course, the DAYTONA 500 is on the 24th. So it’s all happening and soon!  I CAN’T WAIT!  Sorry for the excessive caplock usage- but when I get excited I have no other way to let you know that to YELL it in my post.

Can you say (or tweet) #GoTonyGo? (more…)

Since the Shootout I had been dreading the 500. The truck race and the NW race did little to curb the knot in my tummy. The rain delay only served to further my anxiety levels and when the race finally commenced at 4 pm Pacific on Monday, I found myself at work. Now, I am blessed to work in a friendly family office that is not only cool with me watching the race but actually accommodates us by having flat screens in each office. I turn on the race and didn’t have to wait long for the inevitable to happen. Sure enough at lap 2 a big wreck erupted. Forgetting where I was, I leapt up and screeched- searching the field to see if my driver was caught up in the mayhem and then I had to go apologize and explain to my co-worker that should he hear any screams or cursing to ignore them as it was just me watching the 500.  While this was just the start of the crashes and calamities that made up the Daytona 500, it was the moment when my pent up dread burst out and after that initial wreck, I was actually able to settle in and watch the race without as much trepidation.

I am glad the tandem draft is over and the “pack is back” at the super speedways – I think, but I have a feeling I am not going to get much sleep the night before the Dega races or the next Daytona race this season.

Hands down the most amazing moment of the much anticipated and long delayed (thank you very much Mother Nature) Daytona 500 was the explosive collision between Juan Pablo Montoya and the jet dryer. While certainly not an amazingly good moment- it is a moment that will go down in NASCAR history and will forever make the replay reels. From the collision, to the fire, to the massive cleanup to get the last 40 laps in, this was a truly captivating moment of the 500, but the most amazing thing is that everyone involved was able to walk away.

Personally I was secretly hoping that the race would not conclude and Blaney would have been deemed the winner- that would almost match last year’s stunning win by Bayne, but amazingly the track surface survived and Kenseth took the checkers. Despite the delays, this is a 500 to remember.

What a wild and crazy Daytona 500! Congratulations to winner Matt Kenseth!

I don’t know if I am a big fan of the “pack” racing being back.  To me “pack racing” is just asking for crashes that damage multiple cars.  It’s scary and dangerous and I am glad they don’t race super speedways more because THIS type of racing is what made me watch super speedways through my fingers to begin with.  The drivers seem to like it though- because I guess they feel more in control of their own destiny during the course of the race.  I don’t know about that though…let’s ask Tony Stewart how in control of his own destiny he felt right about here:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #6, spin after an on track incident during the Daytona 500 February 27, 2012. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)

Tony was able to avoid multiple crashes until the very end. Despite taking a spin (above) and hitting (below) Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart was still able to bring the Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy home 16th!  I credit this entirely to Misty’s assertions that you “can’t keep Stewart down” – she was so right about that!

Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet, spins in front of Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 during the Daytona 500 on February 27, 2012. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

The result wasn’t exactly what I wanted to see as a Tony fan (I REALLY wanted him to get that first Daytona 500 win!) but judging by all the mayhem he avoided/overcame? We’ll take it!  Tony is currently 16th in the points standings eighteen points behind race winner and current points leader Matt Kenseth.

Notes About Daytona:

  • Fox’s broadcast confused me- as the end was suppose to be that side-by-side coverage. They fully utilized side-by-side during the red-flag incident. And honestly it was kind of fun- especially when we see a group of drivers, including Brad Keselowski, walking from their cars towards turn 3 to see what on earth was going on (they were eventually requested by safety officials to turn back).  However, when they went green there were times that they ran full commercials and other times (during cautions) where they ran side-by-side.  Confusing! Maybe they were befuddled because of the lengthy red-flag? I dunno- but that seemed odd to me.
  • Speaking of Brad Keselowski- there are mumblings about him getting in trouble for having a phone in his car with him.  Um…it’s not like he was out there tweeting and driving.  He was using it during a red flag- so I don’t really see the big deal.  Now if there was proof he was out there tweeting while driving (even during yellows) I think that is a MAJOR no-no, but I don’t see an issue with him using it during a red flag.
  • As of this writing we are still waiting to hear if there will be any penalties for Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus resulting from inspection infractions from the 48- who was found to have a non-standard c-post (or something like that).  I guess I am wrong because I always thought if infractions were found BEFORE practice/qualifying that they just made you fix the issue and roll back through technical inspection again.  Guess I am wrong there. Sounds like beyond monetary/points fines- there could very well be a suspension for Chad Knaus. I hope not because I know one of his fans will most likely be in the Neon Garage during the upcoming Las Vegas race, and I don’t want her to miss seeing her favorite crew chief.
  • I am still really disappointed in Sprint for having discontinued Sprint Cup Mobile on non-droid phones (see my original post: Dear Sprint You Have Disappointed Me).  I missed it ALOT during the race and didn’t realize just how much I did use it until I grabbed my phone and thought ARG FOILED AGAIN!
  • One bright side to the lengthy rain delay on Saturday AND the red flag delay on Sunday? Were the tweets from the Stewart-Haas Racing twitter account.  Funny stuff right there. Don’t follow? You definitely should

Gratuitous Tony Picture(s) of the Week:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, (and PR Guru Mike Arning) walks on the grid while rain falls prior to the start of the Daytona 500 on February 26th, 2012. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images North America)

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 on February 27, 2012. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images North America)

The Next Race: Phoenix Raceway.

#GoTonyGo! #ImWithSmoke!

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!

I have had tires on the brain lately. Mostly because I think that its time to get new ones on my HHR- the current ones have just under 50k on them so it’s probably about time. Unfortunately since they are those fancy low profile suckers- I am pretty sure that they will cost me an arm and a leg. I might as well get to sawing them off now so that I can pay for the tires when the time comes.

Anyway, as most NASCAR fans know- Goodyear is the official tire of NASCAR- and every NASCAR Sprint cup series car (and NATIONWIDE series too) will take the green flag with four Goodyear Eagle racing tires underneath it.  I have been fortunate enough to have pit passes (sidebar: just the kind you can buy at the track- nothing like those fancy hot or cold garage passes that I would DIE to have…ok not die because then what would be the point since I’d be dead and wouldn’t be able to use them- but I am SURE you get the point. So if you are reading this and you can hook me up for two cold garage passes for LVMS in March check out the ABOUT tab for how to contact me or leave me a comment on this entry- sorry for the shameless act of begging. AMY) for different races on the west coast and I love walking the pits and taking pictures.  Invaribly I will end up with pictures of tires.  Tires stacked, tires laid out in rows, the specially made tire dolly the crew guys use to transport tires from the Goodyear area to their pits, the “stickers” that indicate the tires are new, and my favorite shot to get- crew members gluing lugnuts onto to tires on Sunday morning.  At one track…I believe it was Fontana- I actually ended up walking right through the area the Goodyear guys were set up in in the pit area and was fascinated to watch them setting up the tires for the race.  I could have stood there and watched longer but I was in danger of melting into a big puddle- because the Auto Club Speedway in the Fall..is almost always HOT!

Back to tires.  As we all know and will no doubt be told a bazillion times between now and Sunday- Daytona went through a historic repave.  They didn’t just resurface Daytona- they dug it up down to the sand and put down new surface all the way around that sucker.    However did you know that the tire they are using at Daytona was developed before the repave was completed? The fascinating part is that they knew the repave would most likely be similar to the Talladega repave of 2006 because it was being done by the same company.  So that’s how they were able to get a useable compound for Daytona.  Just a little fun fact for you.

Another fun thing I have for you is this little video from Goodyear. It’s got a little bit of everything for the NASCAR fan including driver commentary and some behind the scenes looks at Goodyear…I thought it was pretty interesting. I hope you will too:

You can also find more vidoes at the Goodyear channel on youtube and of course you can always visit the Goodyear website as well.

Oh and am I not on a roll with witty titles for posts lately??