Okay- So our latest trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway was jam packed and full of fun. And I just wanted to use this space to tie everything together between the different postings Misty and I wrote regarding the weekend. (more…)
Here it is three days since “my driver” snapped his 66 race winless draught at PIR and I have yet to comment on the race. It is not that I don’t have a lot of thoughts in my head about the event. In fact, my problem is just the opposite, I have so many thoughts and emotions surrounding Jeff’s long awaited return to Victory Lane that I am not quite sure where to begin.
What I can say is that my reaction during the final 8 laps of Sunday’s race was nothing if not enthusiastic, so enthusiast that had I been in the media center at PIR I not only would have been fired (from a job I do not have), I would have undoubtedly been escorted off the track and possibly out of the city and state. Each lap seemed to last an hour and every second I feared a caution, an engine issue, a calamity of some kind. I breathed a small sigh of relief at the white flag and when the checkered waved that was it- full on celebration ensued. I did stop just short of spraying Pepsi around my living room, but not much short of it.
Here’s the long story short of my reaction: YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!
I am not sure if it’s just because this season is still pretty fresh- only being 2 races in- but I am feeling extremely excited and optimistic this year- and not just about Tony Stewart’s season but about the season in general. The racing seems good and of course it helps my outlook seeing Tony Stewart so competitive so early in the season.
Tony not only lead a lap this race- he actually was the driver who lead the second most laps (second only to race leader Jeff Gordon). He was able to get through several accidents (one that wiped out about a third of the field) unscathed and finished 7th only due to a call for two tires at the second to last caution that gave him the lead. He would have probably held the lead had the race stayed green. Unfortunately there was a caution and it put all the drivers who picked up four tires at the previous caution to be able to out gun him on the restart. Usually that would make me mad- BUT it was great to see the team doing so well that I couldn’t even feel too badly about it. Plus that 7th place finish moved Tony Stewart up to 3rd in points!
It was great to see Jeff Gordon in victory lane!
Next week the boys are racing in Vegas!
If I had been able to flash forward to the end of the Daytona 500 and watch my reaction I would have bet everything I have that Jeff Gordon had just wheeled his Chevrolet to victory lane, because what else would have me on my haunches, screaming, shouting and pumping my fist in the air as the checkered flag waved?! Good thing my flash forward button doesn’t work cause I would have lost my pants in that bet, since Gordon crashed along with a good portion of the field on lap 30 ending his shot to drive to Victory Lane.
So what else could possibly cause me to have such an enthusiastic and heart-felt reaction to this year’s Daytona 500? It’s the kind of ending that we usually only see in Disney movies, but this time we got to see it all unfold for ourselves during this year’s Speed Weeks. It is the story of part-time, rookie driver, Trevor Bayne.
D.W. said it best at the end of the race when he held up a blank piece of paper and said that it was the bio he had on Trevor Bayne before the race. Few people had heard of Trevor before this race. He had only one other Sprint Cup Series start, in last fall’s Texas race, and here he was in Daytona proving himself. First by laying down the fourth fastest lap during Qualifying and then in his eagerness throughout the week leading to the race. He quickly became the talk of the media by being the first in his garage everyday, the first on the track to practice. He wore his eagerness and excitement on his sleeve throughout Speed Weeks.
I, personally, took notice during his Duel race when he waited after his driver intro to talk to Jeff Gordon, presumably to seek advice from the veteran driver. Throughout their Duel Gordon and Bayne worked together, Bayne pushing Gordon in the two car tandem that characterized this year’s races on the newly re-paved track. Despite a last lap crash in the Duel, Bayne clearly earned credibility among the other drivers. Time and again, seasoned drivers looked to Bayne in the 500 as a drafting partner. Again, I took notice when mid-way through the 500 Carl Edwards got on his radio to ask Bayne if he needed someone to push him. Many rookies would have leapt at the chance to work with a proven driver like Edwards, or simply been too intimidated to turn him down, but Bayne showed his intelligence and integrity and told Carl that he was a better pusher and preferred to continue pushing David Ragan. Bayne’s demonstration of integrity, intelligence and independence are all qualities that will serve him well in his career.
So when it came down to the final restart and Bayne looked like he could pull off what had really never been done before – winning the Daytona 500 on his first Daytona 500 start (Lee Petty won his first start at the 500, but since it was the very first 500 does not count), I was on the edge of my seat, screaming for this kid. When he actually pulled it off, I the felt the kind of sweeping emotion and pride that I usually only feel for truly great moments in sports, like the U.S. winning another Gold in the Olympics or the Yankees winning another series. Then again, this is another great moment in sports history.
I admit that I usually do not watch post race, especially when my driver finishes 35 laps down, but today I watched and I continued to be impressed by Bayne. Earlier in the race, D.W. had mentioned that Trevor had taken time before the race to pray with his team and the first thing that Trevor said when he climbed out of his car in Victory Lane was to mention the prayer and the power that God had. What is not to like about NASCAR’s newest hero?
I watched his reaction as David Ragan came over to offer his congratulations and saw Trevor’s genuine concern and empathy to Ragan, who’d been his drafting partner most of the day and had nearly pulled off the win himself, when he prematurely switched lanes during a restart and got black flagged by NASCAR. This is the kind of personality that NASCAR and this country needs – a good hearted, genuine, eager, talented young man to invigorate the fans and make us feel good.
NASCAR promised just such a driver a few years ago in rookie Joey Logano (“Sliced Bread”), but Logano never quite lived up to the hype and you can’t market this kind of a moment and you can’t create this kind of honest emotion.
Before this 500 no one knew who his kid from Knoxville, Tennessee was and now with his remarkable victory, the publicity machine will undoubtedly roar to life, like the engine of his #21, but at least it does so as a response to a hard earned achievement versus a contrived, marketing ploy to draw in fans. This NASCAR fan will take fresh, homemade bread over commercialized sliced bread any day. It’s good for the sport and good for the heart of NASCAR.
2011’s Daytona 500 will go down as one of the greatest moments in NASCAR history and I wouldn’t be surprised if a Disney movie isn’t already on the drawing board. Here’s to a fantastic and unbelievable start to the season that proves that anything can happen!
Last year it was Jeff Gordon helping the Extreme Home Make over team. This Sunday- NASCAR drivers Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards join movie star Emma Roberts and pop singer Justin Bieber in helping the Brown family in Texas. In this episode we learn that the Brown family lost their teenage daughter to a texting-while-driving accident. Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards help the Brown’s cause- which is to prevent distracted driving accidents- by trying their hands at texting-while-driving on a closed course.
This two-hour episode airs this Sunday January 30th on ABC at 8:00 pm ET/PT time. Check your local listings.
And for those who are thinking that the name of designer Leanne Touhy sounds familiar, this is because she was the character Sandra Bullock played in the movie The Blind Side.
Viewership may be down, attendance may be down, but does NASCAR really think changing the rules of the game AGAIN is going to magically cure that? Seems that NASCAR’s answer to all that ails it is to change, change and change things. Apparently they have never heard Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and expecting different results. Well, in this case doing the same thing is changing the sport AGAIN. Can we not just go from one season to another without wholesale changes like this?
Some may not think that the change that has been hinted at is that big of a deal, and may even see the potential change as easier to understand, but as a diehard NASCAR fan I don’t have any issue or problem understanding the current scoring method. Most of us can indeed count past 43. I view the changes as yet one more thing to figure out as the season starts. It distracts from the racing, it distracts from the good part of the sport and frustrates me to no end.
I am also not in favor of changing the Chase format. Why, you may ask? Because in my opinion the integrity of the record books has already been compromised by instituting the Chase in the first place. There is Pre-Chase Era drivers and Championships and Chase Era drivers and Championships, NASCAR doesn’t need a third era. You simply cannot compare Richard Petty’s seven Championships to Jeff Gordon’s four because had the Chase format not been instituted Gordon would have won two additional Championships (2004 and 2007). Carl Edwards would have taken the 2008 Championship, and Jimmie wouldn’t be Mr. Five Time. As it stands there needs to be an asterisk in the books, but the damage is done, let’s move on and leave it be.
If the Chase were eliminated now or God forbid, a whole other format instituted, we will never be able to compare Championship results or have a history of the sport that makes any kind of sense. And to answer those that say, “yeah but Johnson winning all the time is boring and he has this Chase thing figured out”, I say to you, yes indeed it is and he does, but guess what like him or hate him, he has been the best in this format for the last five seasons and it is the burden of the other drivers to rise to the standard set by Johnson the 48 Team. The other 11 teams need to bring it to the track week after week and get it done. If at the end of the season, Johnson is crowned Champion again, then we know the other drivers failed. Simply changing the sport in an attempt to handicap a winner or level a playing field is ridiculous. If the others aren’t up to the challenge then they don’t deserve to win. Hamlin and Harvick came close this year proving the Chase format is not broken.
Confusion is never a good marketing strategy and changing the rules constantly is not going to draw more fans in, but it could frustrate current fans and cause them to move on to a sport they don’t have to re-learn each season. NASCAR, please, leave the drama to the drivers on the track and let the rest ride!
(or how on earth I didn’t pee my pants I am not sure).
Directly after the Victory Lap and Burnouts on Thursday was the After The Lap Q&A at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Which meant Misty and I had to jam! We left our prized burnout spot for the car before the smoke from Jeff Burton’s car had dissipated and started towards the Hard Rock. We had about half an hour and while we weren’t THAT far from the Hard Rock, traffic was backed up from the closing of Las Vegas Blvd for the Victory Lap and the lights at Las Vegas intersections? Are the longest lights I have ever experienced in my entire 30-something years of living. We get to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and basically RUN to into the Joint and grab two seats in the back near where the drivers would be entering. This event was FREE but space was limited and on a first come/first serve. So Las Vegas native Jamie Little was doing the emceeing/hosting of the event and the Chase drivers are announced- walk into the Joint from the back towards a little catwalk then onto the stage. I would have gotten some great pictures of them entering except someone was a little fogger happy at the Joint so all I got were shadowy people in a fog. I will spare you.
The drivers sat on directors chairs on-stage and were asked questions that were submitted on facebook, twitter, on video from the tracks, and even a couple from the audience. Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon were seated next to each other much like at Family Feud the day before and they talked back and forth even when it wasn’t their turn to talk- it was funny. I would love to know what they were saying. Anyway, if you follow me on twitter you might have caught my tweet from the event: I am laughing my ass off at the after the lap q&a. These guys are funny as hell!! And I truly was…laughing my butt off. Best line of the night though? Came from Tony Stewart. Let me set it up:
Someone (Clint Bowyer I think?) brought up that the drivers were all changing from their suits into their firesuits in the same room from the Luncheon early in the day to the Victory Lap in the early afternoon. Apparently Kyle Busch was wearing bright green boxers. The other drivers found that to be uproariously funny and mentioned it several times throughout the evening. Anyway- after much talk of Kyle’s green boxers, Tony gets a hold of one of the microphones and states: I don’t know what you guys over there were doing (motioning towards the drivers on the other side of the stage from him) but you were spending WAY too much time looking at each other’s junk. I nearly fell out of my chair (and I hadn’t had anything to drink so don’t think I was drunk).
In between answering the questions we learned that Jeff Gordon is afraid of needles and doesn’t have any tattoos. And Clint Bowyer? The man is hilarious! Who knew? Not me but indeed Clint Bowyer is HILARIOUS! And we all know that Tony is a great storyteller and he had a couple to tell….needless to say that watching these guys interact with each other outside of the track was great!!
Now we wanted to go to the Stewies but we weren’t sure where they were. Originally we had heard they would be at The Hard Rock as well…but then someone else in the Q&A had mentioned they were going to be at the Rio. There was no way would have time to get all the way to the RIO Q&A and happen onto the Stewies being set up right there outside in the Joint Lobby. We take a prime spot for the taping. Last year by the time we got to the Stewies it was so full of people that we were stuck way up in the balcony and could barely see. We didn’t have that problem this time. And let me just say…poor Kyle Busch’s green underwear were brought up AGAIN on the radio. Here is Misty’s awesome video of the Jeff Gordon section of the Stewies:
(Video credit: Misty Bethany)
I also got some great shots during the Stewies:
(All photos credited to ME).
You can see who won in each Stewie catagory at the Stewies Site on Sirius XM’s website as well as listen / watch snippets of video from the event as well…
While I was pretty much on the go all day both Misty and I laughed our butts off at After The Lap and The Stewies. It was a great day!
The Thursday of NASCAR Champions Week in Vegas was a crazy, chaotic day that had us running all over town…literally. There was the luncheon at the Bellagio (which is a beautiful hotel by the way)…where Dale Earnhardt Jr won his umpteenth favorite driver award…and more importantly- Tony Stewart won the 2010 Home Depot Humanitarian of the Year award (and yes I nearly squealed like a school girl when I found out).
Then it was the Victory Lap and Burnouts down the Las Vegas Strip. Having attended this last year- Misty and I had the perfect spot for viewing (and pictures and video) the burnouts. Also? This year rocked because all top 12 drivers did burn outs- last year just Jimmie burned out- the rest just squirreled around the turn! Anyway, we staked out our spot early. Ok, really early, because we didn’t want to worry about it getting usurped. The weather this year was warmer than last year which was great because by the time they burned out last year I was frozen solid into a Popsicle. We were so cold that by the end of it last year we were both shaking uncontrollably. This year we were prepared with layers but didn’t need to worry. So without further ado…some pictures:
(All photos of the burnouts are credited to ME!)
And Misty with her arms of steel took this great video of the awesome burnouts:
(Video credit: Misty Bethany who is now the chief videographer for badgroove.com)