What a drama filled race weekend both for Tony Stewart and the #14 Team and for NASCAR in general. There is A LOT to talk about for Daytona- so let’s get right to it. Tony qualified 2nd. YES 2nd! I was so stoked because from what I could tell at work, his practice just seemed mediocre. As a Tony fan, I know he doesn’t always qualify well- so any front row qualifying effort means that the car is on rails to me and the field better watch out! I was stoked! Then I checked my FaceBook a little later on Friday and I saw an esoteric status update one of my “Smoke” friends posted that made me think “uh-oh” so I logged into Twitter and that is when I got the full information. Because of a uncapped cockpit air hose, Tony’s qualifying was disqualified and he would be lining up 42nd in a field of 43. I literally banged my head on my desk and yelled ARG I KNEW IT WAS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Luckily for me- there was no one around when I did it because I even did it with my office door open.
I am so excited for the Daytona 500 it’s hard to put it into coherent words. I LOVE RACING. I don’t know how to say it any other way. Let me try to give you a couple examples. In 2008 Tony Stewart did a Home Depot appearance in Pleasanton California in advance of the race at Infineon up in Sonoma. It was on a Thursday and it so happens that around the corner from the Home Depot is a pretty decent mall. I begged my mom to go with me- (she had the day off but I had to use a vacation day) basically promising to take her to The Cheesecake Factory if she would go with me to see Tony. Pleasanton is about a 90 minute drive from where we live…and it’s a lot hotter there than it is here. Anyway- we get there- she get’s her Cheesecake Factory lunch and we go off to the Home Depot to get our wrist bands. While we were standing in line (for hours and hours) there was a whelen modified series car on display in the parking lot and someone got in it and fired it up. My mom looked over at me at about the same time and said “Why are you smiling like that?” and I just shrugged and said “I can’t help it. I love the sound of a race car.” She rolled her eyes and said “You are your father’s daughter.” That same year my dad got complimentary tickets to go see the Daytona Prototype cars run at Laguna Seca- so the three of us went and were walking around the paddock area and my dad was off doing the photographer thing and I was standing back with my mom and she looked over at me and said “What is that smell?” I chuckled and said “That is the smell of speed. Techically its rubber, gas and oil…and probably some sweat.” She doesn’t get it. It’s a smell I LOVE. If I could bottle it? I would.
Daytona marks the beginning of the new season. We are warmed up with the Bud Shootout and the Gatorade Duels were on Thursday while I was toiling away at work…I dvr’d them and promised myself I would wait…but I lied to myself and peeked so by the time I got home to watch them I already knew who won (Jimmie won in Duel 1 and Kasey Kahne won Duel 2) but that didn’t stop me from rooting for Tony.
Mostly I am excited about Daytona because it means that in two weeks I will be at a track. Walking around with my friend and my camera…taking in the sites and sounds of a race. The last race I was at was Phoenix- and it was in November- but it was TOO LONG ago. The track at Las Vegas calls to me. This will be my third year in a row going to the Vegas race…and I can’t wait.
For now though, I will be contented to cheer on Tony and hope that he gets his first elusive 500 win on Sunday. Gentlemen…start your engines.
If you are looking to enter my Dale Jr Prize pack contest go here.
Originally I planned to write this entry right after the race on Saturday night, so I could get it up and published and enjoy my rare Sunday. I like writing out my thoughts about the races but I definitely don’t like lagging behind a day or three to publish them. However, with a finish like that? I decided I needed to time to digest exactly what happened.
Let’s start with the beginning of the race. Tony had the pole since qualifying was rained out and he is the points leader. This week I honestly didn’t pay too much attention to practice like I usually do so I don’t even know where he was there. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even until Friday afternoon that I remembered that Tony was running his Burger King paint scheme. This had him and his crew leaving behind the usual Red for a mostly white and blue car (the firesuits on the other hand were a gorgeous BLUE color! I loved them- and don’t get me started about Tony’s helmet!) I am glad Tony spent so much time at the front of the field on Saturday frankly, because I don’t think I could have found him mixed in. Seeing Tony in a mostly white car…did not compute.
Because of Tony’s starting postion they were able to pick any pitstall they wanted. The team picked the box closest to the exit of pitroad and Team OfficeDepot/OldSpice Burger King were on the ball! Let me tell you that every pit stop whether it be green flag or caution stops, that team had Tony coming out of the pits first all night long. It’s not like the crew weren’t adjusting on the car for Tony too…because they threw all kinds of changes at that car including trackbar and wedge. They were just on top of it.
Between awesome pit stops and good adjustments on the car I don’t think I saw Tony scored any lower than 5th position the whole night and that was just one of those drafting deals where Tony got bumped out of the draft early in the race and couldn’t fall back in line until he was 5th. He quickly moved himself back up. Tony also led the most laps so gets a bonus point for that too (something he was swapping back and forth with Denny Hamlin most of the race).
Now to the white flag lap. Kyle got around Tony for the lead. Tony was able to hook up with Jimmie Johnson for a little drafting help. Tony gets a run on Kyle and looks to pass him. Kyle moves over to block him (as he should have done). Tony again gets a run on Kyle and moves to the outside to pass him. Too late Kyle tries to block (as he should have done) thus tony clips him and kyle is then completely out of control and smacks the wall hard. Then in something extremely reminiscent of Talladega- Kasey Kahne gets into Kyle HARD. Lifting Kyle into the air (again- thanks to the roof flaps Kyle didn’t sail too far up) and Kyle smacks Kasey Kahne square in the windshield. It was a hard hit for both of them:
This then caused a major pile up just yards from the start-finish line.
Again, like in Talladega, neither driver did anything wrong. You wouldn’t want a driver to pull over and not throw a block when someone is trying to pass him. You also wouldn’t want a driver who was just content to run around behind someone and be ok with second place. No one is at fault. It’s “one of those racin’ deals”. I said that after Talladega and I say it again after Daytona. The most important thing was that no one was hurt really…just a big bunch of torn up race cars and probably some bruised egos and sad hearts.
I was kind of sad for Tony because it was very obvious he did not like the outcome. He did not go into that lap wanting to wreck Kyle or cause mass havoc. Tony was very…calm when he came in after the winning his second points race (third race all around including the all-star race) this season with his new team. I watched him on hot pass pull all the way around and usually he’s talking on the radio and cheering in the car. He did none of that. He was very tame in the car. It was probably one of THE tamest victory lane celebrations I have ever seen. And he apologized afterwards by saying “if it was my fault I am sorry” but seriously it wasn’t is fault (or Kyles).
Was Kyle mad? Probably. Wouldn’t you be? I would be- especially in the heat of the moment.
More Notes on Daytona II:
- Ok, the new Coke/Coke Zero brand manager NASCAR commericial? FUNNY. “Are you a NASCAR driver or a NAS-SCARED driver?” Oh that cracks me up. As does Jeff Burton taking off after the guys.
- The Tony Stewart/ Burger King Commercials? Eeek. First one was bad enough- I have nightmares where someone pops up in the backseat of my car. Let alone the king- who is creepy anyway. But the one where Tony and the King “swap” spots in the car? That one was just way beyond. Unfortunately they aren’t on youtube yet so I can’t share them with you and show you all that is WRONG with that!
- Because of the finish- there are lots of articles out there about the big accident and there probably will be all week. But the first bullet in this one is absolutely ridiculous: 1. Tony Stewart will never lift off the throttle on the final lap. DUMB! Why? Because why would ANY DRIVER lift off the throttle? That would be one fired driver!
- My favorite saying of the race though? Wally Dallenbach gets credit for this one: Never second guess your butt.
Next weekend we are racing under the lights on Saturday night at CHICAGO!