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I try to think of some witty title for each race post and I admit it isn’t always the easiest of tasks.  This time I did NOT come up with it myself: I totally credit my TwitterPeep @darksider14 with coming up with TallaKansas!  So Kansas was a complete wreck fest on Sunday with a new track record of 14 cautions, the previous track record being set the day before at the Nationwide Series race on Saturday with 12.

(Photo Credit: Borrowed Without Asking From The Official Tony Stewart Website- click on photo to be taken to original)

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Tomorrow is February! That means that Daytona is right around the corner! I, personally, can’t wait. The off season always seems extremely long to me (despite the fact that it is pretty much the shortest off season of any sport) and it drags on to me. I am ready to saddle up and watch. I am ready to be out at the track…taking in the sights, sounds and smells. I AM READY.

One thing I am going to admit to you is that as much as I love and look forward to the beginning of the season- there is also the struggle of having to pick out new driver/numbers/crew chiefs etc. There is always having to get use to all the new dynamics out there on top of the new nuances of things like the EFI and how that will effect the cars on the track and whatnot.  Plus did I mention the new numbers/new sponsors thing that ALWAYS throws me for a loop?

Stewart Haas Racing is not immune to changes- especially this season. Probably one of the most profound changes, everyone knows about. That is that Steve Addington will be Tony’s new crew chief this season. It’s not necessarily a change that I understand the reasoning behind but then again I am not a behind the scenes person so I am sure there is a reason for it. Right?

SHR was also able to finally fill the long empty (since May of 2011 if I am not mistaken) Director of Competition position with Greg Zipadelli. This does not surprise me in the least. I had a feeling back when Tony started Stewart-Haas Racing that Greg would end up over at SHR eventually in some capacity. It also seemed to me that there was increasing friction between Joey Logano and Greg Zipadelli towards the end of last season so it seemed like a natural move for everybody involved.

Stewart-Haas Racing also announced at the end of last season that Danica Patrick would be running the 10 car for 10 races (ha 10 for 10) in the cup series under the Stewart-Haas racing banner. But wait? Now it sounds like technically Danica will be running the 10 car for TBR (Tommy Baldwin Racing) and David Ruetimann will be running the rest of the season in the 10 car. Whot? I thought the 10 car was a SHR car? I am unclear as to what exactly this means…but the way I understand it (and this is just me…so it might NOT actually be happening this way): TBR is in a “partnership” with SHR in that SHR will provide the 10 car and the 10 crew chief (Greg Zipadelli) to TBR who will provide the 10 car with their owner points so that Danica is guarenteed to make it into the Daytona 500 without Tony having to give her his points and resting on his Championship provisional to get it.  When Danica isn’t in the 10 car, the car will be totally a TBR car and Ruitimann will have his own (a different) crew chief.  It kind of makes sense because if Tony were to give Danica his points and take the championship provisional, he wouldn’t be locked in the top 35 for the first five races.  That would be wasted on Danica who isn’t running a full schedule.  All I know is that the PR folks in charge of the Stewart-Haas Racing twitter account tells us that it’s a “win-win” for everyone. So there you have it. It’s “Winwin” just deal with it?!  (I am still kind of unclear if this means Danica is still a Stewart-Haas Racing driver).

Other changes including the adding of Quicken Loans and Aspen Dental to the list of sponsors signing up to sponsor Ryan Newman.  Add that to the Outback that was added in Phoenix (I was in the media center for the announcement).

So…what are Stewart-Haas’s chances of fielding two cars in the chase again next season? I don’t know.  The die-hard fan in me wants Tony to go out there and take names next season and win another championship.  GO TONY GO! I’M WITH SMOKE! You know the drill.  I always want Tony to win EVERY race- every single one.  I hope that Tony and team always go out there with that same attitude- the same one we saw at Homestead-Miami.  But we do have to take into consideration there are changes within the organization- the least of which means that Tony will have a new crew chief to build a rapport with.  Plus there is the third car for 10 races (or is there? I am still kind of confused…is it really considered a Stewart-Haas Racing team?).  So there is a 3 car dynamic for nearly a third of the races this coming season.  Can I just say though that I really REALLY want Tony to go out there and get that Daytona 500 win finally? Because I so do!

And just to add this picture from last month from Stewart-Haas Racing Twitter’s account that CRACKS me up:

This photo cracks me up! Photo Credit: Stewart-Haas Racing Twitter Account

Which reminds me- be sure to watch for Tony to be on The Last Man Standing with Tim Allen- it should air sometime around Speed Weeks (I think it comes on Valentines Day- but I will update when I know for sure).

I’m With Tony! Are you?  Let’s go 2012!

Joey “Sliced Bread” Logano isn’t someone I usually blog about.  I am taking the same attitude towards Joey as I am towards Danica (I said it…the D word) and that is very much a “wait and see” attitude because pretty much I decided that you don’t just jump in a stock car and know everything about everything- no matter where you cut your racing teeth.  I do keep tabs on where Joey …just out of habit if nothing else- 10 years following an orange 20 car…I can’t help but occassionally wonder where they are at (although I am now awesome at being able to pick out Tony’s new color – even up against other red cars like Kasey Kahne or Bobby Labonte).  Anyway,  I can’t resist blogging about Joey today.

In case you didn’t know, Joey won his first NASCAR SPRINT CUP pole today.  Exciting right? He SHOULD be excited.  Winning your first pole has got to be a good feeling.

However Joey is not receiving the usual Coors Light Pole award.  Why? Because Joey is only 19 years old.  You might remember me mentioning both last year and this year during the Budweiser Shoot Out position draw that Joey’s crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, would draw Joey’s bottle (the position numbers for the Shoot Out are drawn by picking a bottle of Budweiser containing a flag with the starting number on it).  This was due to the fact that Joey is underage.

So instead of the Coors Light Pole award, Joey gets the 21 Means 21 pole award.  I just find it kind of funny.  I can only imagine that Joey can not WAIT to turn 21 so he can pick his own Bud Shoot Out bottle and that they don’t have to change the name of the pole winner award so he can accept it.

It was also pointed out to me that Mark Martin was going for his 50th pole award (and if I remember correctly there was something about him tying or beating a record from Cale Yarborough too) at Bristol.  And it’s pretty damn ironic that Mark Martin is old enough to be Logano’s father….

Anyway congratulations to Joey and the Home Depot team on their first pole…no matter what they call it.

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’.

Joe Gibbs Racing announced today that as of the race at Texas Motorspeedway, Steve Addington will no longer be the crew chief for Kyle Busch.  He will be replaced by Dave Rogers, while Addington will be “reassigned” within JGR (see official team announcement here).

I admit when I read that this morning I was completely shocked.  Yeah Kyle hasn’t had the best of years- but you know everyone has a run of bad luck…is that any reason to replace your crew chief?  Especially a crew chief that you had a totally awesome run with the season before?

Then I started thinking about it and ruminating over it. Why why why?? Then  my friend sent me an email stating this: You don’t think that they are eventually going to move Addington over to Logano because Zippy is leaving to be with Tony Stewart do you? Well of course that just launched me into playing musical chairs with the crew chief/driver pairings and this is what I came up with should a game of musical crew chiefs arise out of this news:

Addington goes to Logano, Greg Zipadelli goes to Stewart, Grubb goes to Newman, Gibson goes to Junior, but I am still chiefless for Kyle Busch. So I guess the cheese stands alone for right now.

So what do you think is going on? Is it just a simple personality clash between Addington and Busch? Or is it a more involved game of musical crew chiefs that is going to happen? How do you think the drivers and crew chiefs line up (or how should they line up)?

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!

Ok…my non-NASCAR friends are not going to get this…but this has had me chuckling since yesterday:

LOLNASCAR- You crack me up!

I know Logano's a rookie but still this made me laugh!

Thanks LOLNASCAR!

Ahhh do you hear the sound of the engines?  I do and they sound good.  Saturday was the day I was waiting for: The Bud Shootout.  Originally I thought I was going to have to boycott the shootout because the new rules initially left Tony Stewart out of the shootout because he switched from Toyota to Chevy for this season.  But luckily the wildcard system allowed Tony into the Shootout, with new teammate Ryan Newman sitting on his pitbox.  Tony Stewart started the shootout in 6th position and he was all over the track- everywhere from last to even leading for a few laps towards the end of the first segment.  I will say that one of the most incredible jobs driving during that first segment and possibly during the whole race has to go to Jeff Gordon for winding his way through that first wreck. The wreck that took out rookie drivers Joey Logano and Scott Speed.

Stewart’s biggest complaint was that his car was too tight and seemed to struggle during most of the second segment of the race.  During the very last caution he took a gamble on a pit stop and ended up lining up 8th for the green-white checker finish.  I admit I questioned the pitstop but apparently the car wasn’t too his liking (DAMN I MISS MY HOTPASS).   Due to the wreck that ended the race, Tony lucked out and ended up third because the accident tangled up drivers in third through 7th position.

It was my first glimpse of Team Office Depot and they seemed to be right on.  Pit stops looked nice and clean and Tony seemed fairly calm despite having a car that was all over the place. It was a good finish in typical NASCAR style-part effort part luck.  Seeing Team Office Depot in action makes me even more excited for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

And speaking of the Daytona 500 I want to also talk a little bit about Pole day on Sunday.  First off I was esctatic to see Ryan Newman come out of the Stewart Haas stables so strong and nearly make the first row of the 500. I think that says a lot for the Army team.  However- for some reason I thought Tony’s car was the one who was in the top 35 in owner points not Ryans- so that surprised me a little bit that Tony was out there trying to qualify on time (although it makes sense if I think about it considering he would have the past champion’s provisional to fall back on if needed). However this makes for a VERY nervous Amy during qualifying. I didn’t watch all of it but luckily I was able to catch the bits and pieces I needed- including Tony’s run.  During Tony’s run I was actually pleasantly surprised. While he didn’t grab the pole or even get a top five – he did manage a top ten and was able to lock into the field on time and not have to worry about falling back on the past champion provisional.  I know that I read somewhere that Darian Grubb wants to help Tony focus on qualifying better and I think he is off to a great start.

Random NASCAR notes for the week:

  • There are so many changes of drivers and sponsors this season that it is taking me a long time to wrap my head around them all. It seems to me that the one I am having the hardest time remembering is Casey Mears being in the Jack Daniels 07 car.  And I can’t even find Clint Bowyer in that Cheerios car.
  • Speaking of can’t find a car…Tony’s new car too closely resembles Kasey Kahnes car to me. During the shootout I would really have to squint to tell who was who. I have a feeling that the Vegas race is gonna be an experience with me often losing Tony and mistaking him for Kasey Kahne and vice versa. At least until I get my Team 14 eyes trained.
  • Scott Speed.  I hate to say it but I don’t really like him.  He acted like a goof during the National Anthem, he acted like a goof giving his post-accident interview.  He just is a bit too goofy for me.
  • Way to go Travis Kvapil who had an awesome qualifying run and was also able to lock himself into the 500 on speed. Good Job. If you have been reading for any length of time you know that while I love Tony- I am also a strong supporter of Kvapil because I think he has great talent.
  • How embarrassing it must have been being Joey Logano during the Bud Shootout Draw.  Because the starting positions are disguised in Budweiser bottles and because he is only 18 he had to be accompanied by his crew chief Greg Zipadelli who actually had to draw for him.  He was the only driver who did not pick their own bottle.   I will say that I do applaud it though since Logano is technically underage.

Coming Soon: The Tony Stewart Advertisement Machine and Why I Don’t Collect DieCasts