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As always NASCAR Champions week in Las Vegas was a ton of fun.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup In Las Vegas December 2015. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

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Panoramic of Homestead-Miami before the race (Photo Source: Amy K. Marbach)

Just an fyi this post is going to be different because this is a first person race diary. If you are looking for just a telling of Tony’s race day experience you can read the official Stewart-Haas Racing post race wrap-up here. — Amy

It started back in February when Misty said to me- after hearing of her driver Jeff Gordon’s retirement announcement- “I wish we could go to the race in Miami“.  I responded with “Why can’t we? We can just skip Phoenix this year and head to Miami instead.”  She was surprised- I remember the exact words out of her mouth were “You’d go to Miami with me?” I said “Heck yeah I would.”  And so began our odyssey.  I found out that there was a list you could put yourself on to buy tickets for the race in Miami and I put us on the list to buy tickets as soon as they became available to non-season ticket holders. We didn’t buy anything else or plan anything else until I got a very early phone call from Homestead Miami’s ticket office when they were going through the online list of potential ticket buyers.  The ticketing agent was very helpful in getting us awesome seats (at the end of a row- our favorite spot) in our price range.  As a surprise to Misty, I sprung for the pre-race pit passes because we decided back in February that we were going to this race as fans. No media center for us at Homestead because when you are in the media center there are rules- like no wearing driver gear and there was no way we were going all that way for Jeff Gordon’s last race to have Misty NOT wear her Jeff Gordon gear proudly.  As a matter of fact- I had a great conversation with the ticketing agent about why I only wanted Sunday only tickets (because we wanted to spend the rest of our short time in the area sight seeing having never been to the area before).  After our tickets were secured Misty took over as our travel agent securing us a Hotel right on the beach, securing our direct flight from McCarran Airport (LAS) in Vegas to Miami International Airport, securing us a rental car. She did it all. She even bought us a guide book for Miami that we both poured over in the months prior to the trip so that we could decide in advance what we wanted to see while we were there.  We also knew that we were traveling an airline that charges to check bags and since we weren’t going to be there that long we (Misty) decided we could do this with just our carry-on. I am a notorious over-packer so I really had to limit myself to taking just what I thought I would absolutely need. It would also seriously hamper the amount of souvenirs I could bring home. I also decided for this reason- to only bring a point-and-shoot camera and my cell phone because I didn’t want my camera equipment taking up my clothing allotment in my carryon! (more…)

Phoenix, AZ  November 2015 (Photo Source: Tony Stewart Official Store Facebook/HHP/Harold Hinson)

So- I usually write the “Loose Lugnuts posts” in what is a mostly stream of conscious session on Wednesday night and schedule them to publish on Thursday morning or afternoon- but here it is Monday evening and I am getting a jump start on it because I am going to be traveling and won’t have time to write it up on Wednesday night so I am going to schedule a few while I am gone. Also I realized that I forgot to mention a couple of things in my race report on Monday that I totally spaced on- but will do just fine here. So without further ado here is what has been rolling around my brain like lugnuts rolling around a pitstall after a green flag pit stop during the championship race:

1. Because of the lengthy rain delay in Phoenix- my dad didn’t get to see the F35 flyover that he was so looking forward to watching. While it is not the first flyover the elusive F35 Lightning II has done at a sporting event- it is the first ever at a NASCAR event and my dad is an aviation fan.  He was bummed out. I know the flyover happened (Thanks to someone I follow on Instagram) but you would think that since one of the two jets was carrying a Jeff Gordon Raceway flag you would thank they would have made a bigger hoopla out of it.

(Photo Source: Martin Truex Jr Official Facebook)

2. I watched a heck of a lot of the rain delay coverage that came out of Phoenix last weekend. More than I probably should have. But one thing I didn’t hear mentioned was who Elijah Aschbrenner was and why his name was above the passenger door on Martin Truex Jr’s car at the track. As a matter of fact very little was mentioned about it at all and I think that is a shame.  Elijah was a pediatric cancer patient that was not just part of Martin and Sherry’s Catwalk for a Cause fashion show that raised money for pediatric cancer but he was known and wished well by many many many NASCAR fans and teams. Other drivers such as Kasey Kahne ran special yellow ribbons with Elijah’s likeness on them on their cars during the race as well.  Elijah fought Epitheliod Sarcoma like a hero but earned his angel wings on November 10th.  Here is a wonderful story about Elijah that NASCAR’s Holly Cain did it’s just a shame that they didn’t mention him (or mention him more) during the hours and hours of rain delay coverage.

3. While we are on the topic Martin Truex Jr.’s long time girlfriend Sherry Pollax is battling stage III ovarian cancer as many of you know. She is currently going through once a month maintenance chemo for it.  Well her Chemo session was Monday morning (today).  I can only imagine that she must have been tired- having been in Phoenix so late between it being delayed until all hours, and then I am sure Martin had to do a lot more media than normal after the race considering he made the Final Four.  Go Sherry! (more…)

Tony Stewart at Texas Motor Speedway April 2015. (Photo Source: Tony Stewart Facebook/HHP/Alan Marler)

 

1a. So Matt Kenseth was suspended for two races and put on probation for 6 months (a decision that was upheld by the appeals board I might add but the final appeal is still underway).  As I mentioned I really think that Matt deserved no more than a slap on the wrist because Joey had it coming to him. But suspending Matt for what I can only assume is actions detrimental to stock car racing- is just NASCAR showing how inconsistent they are with their “penalties.” What am I talking about? Well Danica Patrick and David Gilliland have been taking turns turning each other all season (actually according to this article their issues have been going on since 2013) and Danica is docked points and fined (nothing for Gilliland). Why was she not suspended? Oh because Gilliland wasn’t in the running for a championship?  And what about the whole Carl Edwards/Brad Keselowski deal from several years ago (2009/2010 here is a video I found on youtube of some of the instances I am thinking about). NASCAR did nothing in these instances.  NASCAR and certain media members make it seem like retaliation never happens ever in this sport. I call foul on their “this is unprecedented” mindset.  So what Matt was laps down when he made contact- I really don’t see why that matters? I still ascertain that Joey Logano KNEW Matt Kenseth wasn’t the happiest of campers with him after Kansas.  Matt chose not to retaliate at Dega which was actually a smart move- that I might have had issues with because that would have been dangerous on so many levels. I still say that this is a veteran driver standing up for himself- saying look you aren’t going to push me around on the track.  It’s very much you get raced how you race others. That’s how it’s always been.

1b. Part of the issue though is this “Chase Elimination format” (which for my regular readers you all know I am already not a fan of). Ricky Craven- whom I almost never agree with- has some interesting things to say about this in regards to this format breeding this mind set (somewhat). I could argue that Joey Logano purposely performed a pit maneuver on Matt Kenseth. Joey was already locked in- Matt Kenseth was fighting for the championship at that moment. Why was Joey not suspended? The penalties do not fit the “crime.” (more…)

(Photo Source: Zimbio/Jonathan Moore/Getty Images North America)

Tony Qualified: 13th, but started 43rd

Tony Finished: 10th

Points: 661 (26th in the points standings)

Wow what a great race for Tony Stewart. I will gladly take that 10th place finish especially after having started in the back.  Tony Stewart qualified 13th at Martinsville but crashed during practice on Saturday and had to go to a backup car which is never a good thing.  What made me sightly disheartened is when I heard that the team had built that car specifically for Martinsvile and that they didn’t think that the backup car would be as good.  After hearing that my mind was pretty much relegated to the fact that likely it would be another race where Tony struggled in the mid-rear of the field and would end up a lap down early on. It’s so easy to get a lap down on the short tracks like Martinsville and Bristol.  That is what I expected anyway. Thankfully it was NOT what happened. (more…)

Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan talk with Jeff Gordon during the production of “Live! with Kelly and Michael” in New York on Thursday, June 4, 2015. (Photo Credit: David Russell / ABC Home Entertainment and TV Distribution)

In case you were at work (like I was) or missed it, NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon was on LIVE with Kelly and Michael this morning for a brief interview and then the Top 5 Things Jeff Gordon Will Do After Retiring. It was pretty humorous (why did I keep spelling it like an Englishman?). I am not thrilled with the idea of no Jeff Gordon in NASCAR racing- even though I personally am a Tony Stewart fan. Jeff is a great competitor and an overall good guy (and he has the most darling kids- which I have a feeling spending more time with them is why he is retiring). I hope Misty remembered to DVR this – she is a Jeff Gordon fan AND a Michael Strahan fan…win win for her. Here are some videos from the episode:  (more…)

Well here it is- the annual Vegas Racecation Diary with pictures! Sorry for the delay- I had some fairly major issues with my laptop…but those have all been ironed out. Thank you for your patience and I hope that you like the pictures Misty and I have to share with you from the great time we had at the Kobalt 400 in Las Vegas. Also- stay tune next week we will be announcing a contest for some cool Tony Stewart prizes.

The crowd at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday March 8th, 2015 (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

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Sonoma 2014- Happier TimesLast Thursday my world came skidding to a halt quicker than The Drive for Five after the incident with Keslowski at Texas Motorspeedway last fall. My driver dumped me. That’s right! Jeff Gordon is breaking up with us, his fans. He announced that this will be his last season as a driver in NASCAR. Initially I was shocked. Sure there have been murmurings for a few years about the impending R word, especially after the resurgence of some back pain a few seasons ago, but last season, man- last season seemed to have cleared all such nonsense talk out of the air. Jeff Gordon was back – Championship Contending Rainbow Warrior Jeff Gordon (though personally I never thought he went away). Sure the season ended in bitter disappointment for the 24 and his fans, but that just meant reason to look forward to the next season. Right?

Apparently, wrong! Jeff says he made the decision to make this his last season about midway through last year and that he is looking forward to the next chapter in his life. Well, just like any person dumped unexpectedly (no matter how evident the signs were) by their significant other, I say “Well bully for you, but what about me???.” I have shed tears over the announcement. I have received “condolence” texts from not just friends but from casual acquaintances! They recognize the suffering and pain I am enduring over this heartbreak.

I try to think positive. I try to visualize what it will be like without Jeff Gordon on the track and it does nothing to ease my heartache. I try to think about who I will cheer once Jeff is no longer driving. I have rolled a few drivers around in my head and as much as I like those drivers – I don’t love them. I love Jeff. I always have and I always will! I just can’t see myself in another driver’s jacket. It doesn’t feel right!

They say time heals all wounds, and I am sure that at some point there will be another driver, but I expect there will be a rebound driver or two in between that time comes, if it ever does. So fair warning to friends and family: don’t load me up on merch from the next driver I take up for ‘cause I can darn near guarantee that he ain’t a keeper. Not the kind I would take home to momma. It’s just too painful right now to think about giving my all to another driver. My relationship with Jeff lasted over 20 years, I am going to need some time to get through it.

It’s been nearly a week and talking about it still brings tears to my eyes as I think about all the experiences we will no longer share: knee slapping laughs at After the Lap, pit lane brawls leaving the villain spitting blood, pre-race invocation family shots, and most importantly Victory Lane fist pumps.

I am sure Jeff will stay in touch and still be in my life in some way, but it won’t be the same. It’s the end of a beautiful ride. Good luck, Jeff. What we had was special, and though you hate to hear it: DRIVE FOR FIVE, now is the time!
Love Always,
A Jeff Gordon Girl (Misty “24ever” Bethany)