I have never made it a secret that I do not like watching races at Talladega. I watch it through my fingers worried about “the big one” and fretting about my driver’s position (the closer you are to the middle of the field the more likely you are to get caught up in said “big one”). However after watching the flip during Friday’s Arca race and Eric McClure slam (and I mean SLAM) into the wall during the Nationwide race- I was even more unsettled as I settled in to watch the delayed start of the race at Talladega on Sunday.
Well…it seems with Texas just days away it is time to face reality and finally accept that the 4/1/12 Martinsville race was no April Fool’s joke, despite the number of fools that crowded the race stage in the final laps. What could have been Hendrick Motorsports 200th Sprint Cup win, either from the race lap leader and dominant 24 car, or by 5-time Champ, Jimmie Johnson, turned into madness and disaster for the HMS team when a caution was called for Fool of the Day, Reutimann, who had been circling the track for several laps seemingly without rhyme or reason. I won’t bother to recap the rest, it is done and over and as much as I had hoped that NASCAR was playing a grand practical joke, sadly for Jeff Gordon and his fans that was not the case.
My trip to the race at Autoclub Speedway was a gift. The tickets were part of my Christmas present from Misty and the hotel was part of my birthday present from her (my birthday is about 3 weeks after Christmas). We met in southern California on Friday and spent Saturday hanging out at the Victoria Gardens Shopping Center in nearby Rancho Cucamonga. It’s a really nice outdoor shopping village- and the two of us laughed probably way more than two grown women probably should. (more…)
Martinsville- what can I say except Tony Stewart lucked into a 7th place finish by attrition thanks to that big wreck at the end there that took out several of the front runners.
After an abysmal start to the season that includes a mechanical DNF at Daytona, a team mate spurred DNF (don’t even get me started) at Bristol and a couple of mediocre finishes in Phoenix and Vegas, it was AMAZING to see Jeff Gordon’s terrific run at AutoClub Speedway this weekend. After qualifying 21st for Sunday’s race, he quickly moved up the leader board finding himself firmly in the top 5 by the time the race reached its half-way mark. The Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet was strong and Jeff was able to take positions seemingly at will. It truly was AMAZING…amazing right up until it got messy!
With rain imminent and only green flag laps, cars were reaching their fuel window and had to pit. Jeff stayed out on track the longest leading a few laps before coming down pit road for his scheduled stop. This is where it got MESSY (to say the least). After receiving the GO signal from his crew, Jeff pulled away dragging the gas man and the still engaged gas can out of the stall with him, resulting in a pass through penalty that left him a lap down in P19. Even so, his car was fast and strong; he quickly passed some lap down cars and moved up to 16th. His lap times were equal to and at some times quicker than the dominant leader, Stewart. In fact, it looked as if Jeff had a decent shot of racing his way back to the lead lap until Mother Nature intervened and opened her skies over Turn 3, bringing out the Yellow.
Now had the 24 stayed on track and taken the wave around the bleeding could have at least stopped there, but oh no! A poor decision to pit under caution (did the team not have access to the same report we in the stands had? Once the rain started it wasn’t going to let up until Monday, so there was absolutely no chance the race would go back GREEN).
Another pit stop resulted in another penalty when the tire changer lost control of the front tire and went bouncing across pit road. I sat in the stands watching in horror! I could not believe this kind of epic fail from a team of this caliber.
Sure enough within a few laps the race went Red and was shortly called due to the torrential down pour, which everyone knew was coming! Jeff finished P26, and slid two more positions in the points to 25th! I hate to be Debbie Downer, but unless this team gets it together and quick they are not likely to recover from this atrocious start to the season and may just miss the Chase and that is more than enough reason for me to mess my unmentionables!
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).
(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.
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?
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:
- 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.
- 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:
Next race: AUTOCLUB in CALI…and yes I WILL BE THERE.
No surprise here- Jeff Gordon’s crash late in the Shootout nearly gave me a nervous breakdown. I am quite sure I didn’t breathe from the time he started rolling til he was out and standing. Even then, I was left wondering if I would have the stomach to sit through 500 miles next weekend. To paraphrase Jeff Gordon’s tweet the morning after, “Thankful for 4 safe race cars.”
These kind of moments serve to remind us all exactly what kind of risk all the drivers take each time they strap in and let’s all pray for a safe and fun season.
And on a final gratuitous fan note: Here’s to all the craziness getting out of the way for the 24 and to a winning, safe champion season!
“We’re not giving up (expletive)” could be heard on Tony Stewart’s radio near the midway point in the race as he battled hard to keep the race leader at the time, Denny Hamlin, behind him and himself on the lead lap. Stewart’s car had been brough to Martinsville with teammate Ryan Newman’s race set up in the hopes of hitting on something that would work better for Stewart. Unfortunately with only one practice because of weather the set up was mostly an unknown. It’s frustrating because Martinsville is my favorite track. I love it’s close quarters, the bumping and rubbing, the short tempers. It makes for good racing but I can only imagine that 500 laps of fighting an ill-handling car can take a toll on a driver physically and mentally. I know at the point during the race that Stewart was fighting so hard to keep from going a lap down I was disheartened that he was in that position (but proud as hell he was putting up a right good fight).