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After what was an extremely hectic race weekend from Vegas (I know I still haven’t posted about it- don’t worry I will-but I want to get Bristol out of the way before I get too far behind), I was looking forward to watching the racing action at Bristol from home.  I love me some Bristol and it was a blustery and stormy day here on the central coast.

It just so happens that Tony Stewart was one of the hot pass drivers this race (his first time this year that I can remember) so I decided to watch on his DirecTv Hot Pass channel.  I knew he hadn’t qualified too well (23rd) and that he didn’t seem to be all that spectacular in practice so I figured it would be one of those days where I was hoping he didn’t get a lap down too early (so easy to go a lap down at short tracks like Bristol and Martinsville).

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images North America)

(Side note: The photographer in me LOVES the above picture…LOVES it).

I happened to catch Tony’s (comical) pre-race interview and one of the questions was about how he and Steve were clicking this early in the season.  He said that they seemed to be getting along quite well and the only issue Tony could even think of was that Steve is soft spoken and sometimes hard to hear on the radio- I have always heard that it is LOUD at Bristol and teams have trouble hearing each other’s radio communications anyway- so I thought that this might be an issue. I was wrong.

Tony started the race by thanking the team for busting butt to make all the changes they made on the race car (uh-oh said my gut that means that the car WAS crap out of the box and what they had was probably hit-or-miss). He also told his spotter to reign him in if he felt Tony was getting easily frustrated.  I wonder how one reigns in their own boss? (Spotter’s jobs fascinate me but that is a story for a different day).  It also didn’t sound to me like they were having any issue hearing each other during the race from what I could tell from the Hot Pass.

I will say this though…yes this is Tony’s third crew chief in however many years he’s been doing this in NASCAR but it means it’s my third crew chief too…and it was different listening to Steve Addington on the radio.  Thanks to my lack of Sprint Cup Mobile on my phone now, this was my first time really listening to their radio communications and my ears (and brain) were use to Darian’s voice and now I have to get use to Steve Addington’s voice.  I do like the way he calls Tony into and out of the pit box though…it reminds me more of Zipadelli.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images North America)

My favorite part of the race was seeing Tony battle Brad Keselowski to stay on the lead lap. It was an epic battle and you could tell that Tony was driving his ass off to keep Keselowski behind him.  He eventually succumbed to Bad Brad but thankfully a caution soon after gained Tony a “Lucky Dog” and he got back on the lead lap.  Between attrition and a better handling car Tony had worked his way up to 9th and was battling for 8th. Tony ended up getting hit by Brendan Gaughan in the #33 and damaging the rear of his car fairly severely.

Another favorite part of the race (thanks to Hot Pass) was this gem between Tony and his spotter Bob Jeffrey (@eyeinthesky14):

Tony: WHO THE F@(K JUST HIT ME?

Bob: Gaughan

Tony: WHO?!?

My second favorite thing was MY witty tweet after Tony got wrecked…that no one seemed to catch:

Ok so I spelled Gaughan wrong but it was STILL damn funny if I don’t say so myself.  Seriously people- I am not usually this witty so soak it up while you can.

Anyway, as my tweet above mentions, Tony ended up having to take two pitstops under the caution to fix damage on the car and was able to not only stay on the lead lap BUT finish a fairly respectable 14th (he would have been 15th but Junior cut a tire on the last lap…perhaps karma was paying him back for cutting Jeff Gordon’s tire early in the race).  Tony is currently 7th in the points standings.

NOTES ABOUT BRISTOL:

  1. I really HATE knowing that the drivers are getting introduced to a song of their choosing and introducing themselves and we don’t get to see it happening on the TV.  In case you are wondering- Tony Stewart picked a different song this time. One of my favorite Toby Keith songs actually- How Do Yo Like Me Now?  so YEY Tony for picking something non-Kid Rockish.  Other songs of note: Brian Vickers- Back In The Saddle Again by Aerosmith (so fitting don’t you think?), Jimmie Johnson- Jimi Thing by Dave Matthews Band, Jeff Gordon- Theme to Flash Gordon by Queen, Kevin Harvick- Save Water, Drink Beer by Chris Young, and Dale Jr picked my second favorite Pantera song by choosing Walk.
  2. The “shit for luck” up there in the title is NOT something I called the race- that was taking words out of Tony’s mouth.  He said on his radio after the race something to the effect of that he was pleased with their performance at Bristol despite having “shit for luck”.

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, is interviewed in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America)

Next race: AUTOCLUB in CALI…and yes I WILL BE THERE.

First off I want to start off by admonishing DirecTV again.  They changed HOT PASS so now that we do not hear the national broadcast- but instead hear MRN. I have nothing against MRN but I don’t want to hear them when listening to Tony’s hotpass I find it more distracting to pick out Tony’s crew audio over the top of MRN. I would rather hear/see the national broadcast with Tony’s audio laid over it.  Of course, I liked it best when each hotpass driver had their own announcers.  I am thinking this might be the “death rattle” as my friend would put it of Hot Pass.

So now about the actual race. Tony qualified 13th.  Not bad for him but definitely not stellar.  He seemed to be doing alright…and the crew seemed to be doing fairly good at getting his stops done quickly. I would basically only switch over to his hotpass channel during pitstops so I could hear them talk about adjustments they were making to the car- because the MRN broadcast was just too annoying for me.  Towards the beginning of the race Tony seemed to be complimenting the crew on their pit stops so I assume they were doing a good job.   At one point I had wandered away from the race momentarily and came back and Tony was in 2nd.  Whoo!  It was not to last.

According to the team release posted on Tony’s website a late race pit stop issue that I didn’t catch and apparently neither did the national broadcast but them down a bit.  And since the race was mired with last minute cautions, Tony was forced to stay out to gain track position. Unfortunately everyone behind him had fresh tires.  But he “valiantly” (that was in the team release- I would love to meet the person who writes them because 9 times out of 10 they humor the heck out of me)  held on for his 9th place finish.  He maintains his 4th place position in the points and is now 192 points away from Jimmie Johnson.  Teammate Ryan Newman also finished in the top ten and is 7th in the points.

Notes About Martinsville:

  • You got to love Martinsville…the racing was pretty exciting!!!
  • What the heck took so long for NASCAR to throw the caution with John Andretti sitting there sideways at the start finish line during the Green-White-Checker? They should have either thrown it a lot sooner (that is my thought) or they shouldn’t have thrown it at all.  I assume that the spotters were notifiying their drivers that John was down there.  Granted I wouldn’t have wanted to be him sitting down there like a duck with 30 3500lb cars careening towards me going all at…so I guess the late caution was better than no caution…but still…
  • I will admit…I am getting sick of the Jimmie Johnson show. At the end- when it was clear that Tony wasn’t going to have a snowball’s chance of winning the race, I was basically cheering for “ANYONE but JOHNSON” to win. Sad but true to quote Metallica.  Sad but true indeed.  Not only is he winning so damn much but he is all they talk about on TV during the race. ARG. I know it can’t be the Tony show but seriously…it is getting old.
  • Speaking of Jimmie Johnson, I think I need some Tums (get it- the race at Martinsville was sponsored by Tums? I should get an award for working a sponsor into my post!) when I think about Tony’s chances of winning the championship.  I have been trying SO HARD to be a glass half full sort of fan…and technically, mathematically he could still win…but I admit…I am starting to think my glass is half empty.  I forget what exactly my friend was telling- (she is way better at math then I am) but for second place Mark Martin to win the Chase right now he would have to win the next four races with Jimmie coming in worse that 10th or 11th?…and that is just for Mark Martin to win.  Not for Tony. Urg…pass me the Tums- I need them.
  • Okay so I have to say…I am fascinated by the Martinsville hotdog because I think it’s kind of gross that they have “slaw” on it. Is it like actual coleslaw? Because I HATE coleslaw!!!  Bleck. And do I even want to know what makes them so red?

Next Week: Dega!!! (urg another reason to pass me the Tums).

Another exciting finish thanks to the new double file restart rule.

Tony qualified and started 32nd in Saturday night’s race.  But once that green flag dropped Tony was on a mission to move forward and that is exactly what he did nearly immediately.  It didn’t take him long to work his way up to the top 15 and then to the top 10- where he stayed around 7th place most of the evening. He seemed to be struggling a bit with the handling of the car into the turns judging by his hotpass audio.  Crew chief Darian Grubb continuously took stabs at adjusting the car to make it work more for Stewart with adjustments to air pressure and trackbar. The race at Chicagoland was actually fairly incident free…the first two cautions of the race thrown for track debris.  Team Office Depot/Old Spice seemed to be working their way towards a solid top 10 possiby even a top 5 finish.

Then there was the bad pit stop and things just seemed to go downhill for a bit.  First there was the pitstop- under caution where Tony took off from the pits two lugnuts short of a full load.  Crew Chief Darian Grubb calls him back in almost immediately- reminding him to be calm about it. Tony may have been mad but if he was I didn’t hear it.   Then during the next caution, after pitting, Tony either cuts down a tire on debris or thinks he cuts down a tire and comes back in to the pits again.  During that last 60 laps he must have pitted 4 or 5 times, luckily all of them were during cautions and he fell no lower than 17th. Each time Stewart and Grubb discussed changes to the car that Tony needed to be able to push through the field.

Tony was determined though and didn’t let a frustrating night get the best of him and continued to push forward through the pack with the help of his spotter.  Before the last restart Tony and Darian had one of my favorite exchanges of the night with Darian telling Tony that it “aint been pretty.” and Tony telling Darian that was true but “he wasn’t done yet.” And how true that was because Tony ended up pushing forward into 4th, retaining his points lead over second place Jeff Gordon.  The race winner was Mark Martin. Teammate Ryan Newman finished 6th to help Stewart-Haas racing land another double top ten for the team.

NOTES on CHICAGOLAND:

  • How cool that Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon were able to finish 1-2 and how great for the fan to get that money! Wish it was me!
  • Boy Jeff Burton doesn’t like the double file restarts…but I do. Of course they have been working to Tony’s advantage so far.
  • I decided that I didn’t much care for the back-to-school paint scheme Tony was running- with the exception of the part of the car that looked like a composition book. I think it would have been cooler to make the whole car look like the book and then maybe have it look like a kid scribbled on it… instead of the crayons on the front and the pens on the side.  Plus I just don’t like the white base to the car.  But that is just me.
  • Speaking of alternate paint schemes…should it be called a paint scheme or a wrap scheme…since technically they wrapped the car?
  • Being alone and watching a race doesn’t stop me from talking to the tv. Or yelling things like “WATCH OUT!” like Tony can here me (regarding when Paul Menard nearly spun into his right side. Tony’s reaction was a nice calm “Wow that was about as close as I wanna get tonight.” Me I was all “WATCH OUT!!!”
  • I really could just slap whoever sits there at DirecTV central with their finger on the censor button where it comes to Tony’s radio feed. I know I have harped on this before…but I really wanted to know what he and Darian said at the end of the race but all I got to hear was something like “Damn….win them and lose them as a team.” I know that there was stuff inbetween.
  • I know that you know I love the commercials.  Did  you catch the new ending to the Toyota Autograph Seeker commercial…when the little flying robot comes back with Kyle Busch and he just kind of moans? It made me laugh.
  • Speaking of the commericals…I also noticed a new version of the old spice commercial that had the girl who in previous versions was “from russia” presenting tony with a big ole turkey leg- which he bites into and then proceeds to say “Thanks Old Spice” complete with mouthful. All I could do is shake my head. At least it wasn’t as disturbing as last week’s Burger King commercial that had Tony and the King (who you all know gives me the creeps) swapping spots in the car so Tony can enjoy himself a Double Whopper (I still can’t find that commercial on youtube or anything or I would post it for your pleasure)…that was just creepy. I wish Tony had just run over the King or something.

Next weekend is an off weekend. The next NASCAR race is on July 26th at Indianapolis Motorspeedway.

Not only am I posting on Saturday but TWICE. Are you lucky or what? Just some quick NASCAR notes that can’t wait until Monday’s recap:

  • Tony Stewart HOTPASS Alert!!! Tony is going to be a DirecTV HotPass driver again this weekend. He will be on channel 796 so tune in to hear Tony and crew work their way around the Evil Little Triangle (Pocono)…or at least the parts that DirecTV wants us to hear anyway.
  • Speaking of Tony Stewart- you can ask Tony your very own interview question. Check out From The Marbles for your chance to submit a question for Tony to answer. What a cool contest. I would LOVE to offer my readers the chance to submit questions to Tony Stewart…(and maybe a question or two of my own..since you know…this is my blog).  It would be cool just to be able to interview the man actually.
  • Valli over at TheFastandTheFabulous has an awesome contest running right now where you could win Jeff Gordon’s Talladega lugnut as part of an awesome Jeff Gordon Prize Package.  Valli always has the coolest contests!

This last long drawn out race weekend was the first weekend I have personally used DirecTV’s HOT PASS (It’s free this season- check channel 795, 796, 797 and 798 to find out the drivers for the week). Why did it take me 13 races into the season to check it out (well really only 12 because they didn’t bother to even carry the All-Star Race)? Well because it was the first race TONY was one of the drivers.  I was excited to use the new HOT PASS mostly because I haven’t really had a chance to actually hear with my own little ears what the group sounded like on the radio. Similarities and differences between this spotter/crew chief/driver combo and what Tony had before with Zippy and Mark was what I was really most curious about.

Well I can only say that I was disappointed in this new incarnation of HotPass.  Unfortunately I was disappointed in what I saw. The first thing that disappointed me was my inability to control the audio.  I could hear the team radio but it was laid over the audio of the national broadcast. So most of the time when Team Office Depot was conferring on the radio it was extremely hard to hear because of the national broadcast announcers.  Previous incarnations of HotPass gave users the ability to cycle through three different audio packages…those being: National Broadcast, Team Radio, and HOT PASS broadcast (which were broadcasters assigned to each Hot Pass Driver).

Another thing I was disappointed with was the camera views seemed to be having some major issues and would often actually go completely black sometimes.  I have a feeling that this might have been due to weather and moisture in the car’s on board equipment than anything else though. So I probably can’t fault DirecTV with that one.

I can fault them with one of my biggest complaints all along and that has been the censorship of the team radio feed. If I was offended by the possibility of cursing on the radio it is something I wouldn’t listen to.  My issue is that they are a bit…bleep happy at DirecTV.  So instead of cutting out just the “bad” word…they cut out the whole freaking conversation.

For instance.  This was a bit of Tony’s radio transmission on Monday (taken from an article on NASCAR.COM because I couldn’t hear it) in regards to some on-track issues with David Reutimann:

“Go tell that ignorant [expletive] that this isn’t the Nationwide Series and if he holds me up like that again, he’ll beat the traffic on the way home,” Stewart told his spotter over the radio. “I love him to death, but I’m not going to [expletive] with him like that again.”

This is what I heard on the Hot Pass Audio:

“Go tell that….(dead air)”

Yeah that is ALL I heard. I don’t know if the spotter replied or not because I didn’t hear that either.  I honestly couldn’t tell much from what I actually heard- except I could tell by the tone of his voice that Tony was …agitated. Now I can’t say that I am paying for the HOT PASS so I want to hear all the audio- not what DirecTV wants me to hear…because HOT PASS is free. But I will say this I WOULD NOT PAY for this current incarnation of HOTPASS.  There are only 4 drivers (the first year I used HOT PASS there were five). The selection this season almost never has Tony as a featured driver. There is no way to control which audio feed I am hearing. AND THEY ARE STILL CENSORING THE RADIO feed.

By censoring the driver radio feeds I think that it is censoring what is going on in the car.  When Tony gets “wound up” about something, if I can hear the feed- I know what’s going on. In this case, he obviously felt like the driver in question above was holding him up- racing him too hard too early. He was frustrated. I can get that from the full feed. From the HOT PASS feed all I get is that he is upset about something but what I don’t know. Is he upset with a driver? Did something go wrong on a pit stop? Did his wheel just fly off? Is he having visibility problems? What is going on??

I am a big girl. Let me decide what I want to hear. If it offends me, I will turn it off.  If they are worried about children happening into the feed- maybe make the team feed lockable or something so that a parent has to unlock the feature for it to work. Whatever- just give me my driver’s radio feeds warts and all.

***Updated***

I will say, however, one of the best things with being able to hear Tony and his crew on DirecTV is when he went four wide at one point in an effort to pass I could hear his spotter go “Um- 4 wide, 4 wide you have the bottom” then after that resolved itself I got to hear Tony giggle and say “That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”