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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:

Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson talk during the commerical break at The 2010 Stewie Awards.

Tony and Clint Bowyer during to 2010 Stewie Awards.

Tony and Jeff Gordon during the 2010 Stewie Awards.

Tony and Stewie recipient Delana Harvick at the 2010 Stewie Awards.

Tony in the middle of a story at the 2010 Stewie Awards.

(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:

Jimmie Johnson burnout on the Las Vegas Strip for the Champions Victory Lap celebration.

Denny lights them up on Las Vegas Blvd.

Smoke burns some rubber on Las Vegas Blvd.

Kyle burns out on the Las Vegas Strip.

Jeff Gordon takes his turn laying some rubber on the Las Vegas Strip.

Clint Bowyer's Las Vegas burnout.

(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)

It’s a family affair…NASCAR is… and this was never more apparent to me than at this year’s Champions Week  Fan Fest at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  The gates opened at 10 a.m.  for fans to mingle in the Neon Garage in anticipation of the driver’s appearances that afternoon.  Fans of all ages, just like the Christmas song says, “from ages 2-92”, were there and they were ready to see the Chasers. 

There were some activities and sights to entertain the fans before the afternoon’s main event, but most began lining up alongside the red carpet almost immediately, looking to get an autograph or a picture of their favorite Chase driver. 

Nothing like standing in the hot sun, elbow to elbow with complete strangers to create some camaraderie and friendship.  NASCAR fans are a pretty friendly and gregarious group of people and when you are shoulder to shoulder together for hours on end you tend to get pretty close, pretty fast sharing stories to pass the time and take your mind off of how bad your feet hurt, and how much longer before the boys arrive.

This kind of quick camaraderie and sense of belonging among the fans didn’t surprise me.  After all what NASCAR fan hasn’t witnessed the same thing in any parking lot and track on the circuit, but what did surprise me was how that sense of family, recognition and belonging carried on with the drivers.  As the top 12 NASCAR drivers inched their way down the red carpet, it dawned on me how much like a family we all are.  These elite athletes could easily have sauntered down the red carpet, smiling for a few pictures, maybe signing an autograph or two to appear engaged in the moment and then carried on with themselves, but they didn’t do that at all.  In fact, just as I said, they literally “inched” their way down the carpet stopping to sign autographs for most, if not all, the fans who asked, taking time to really engage with the fans.  Some even came back to fans that they had missed on the first pass.  In the big scheme of things, the extra 15 minutes it took these guys to walk down the red carpet probably doesn’t matter much to them, but it made all the difference to those fans who watch them week in and week out, year after year.  I have to admit, that the experiences I have had over the last two years during Fan Fest has given me admiration for drivers that I was previously ambivalent or even antipathetic toward before “meeting” them on the red carpet.

To bring home the family feel even further was the way they guys interacted with one another on stage during “Family Feud”.  Watching them tease, joke and laugh at each other, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own family gatherings and struck by how much these guys remind me of my loud, crazy cousins getting rowdy at grandma’s every holiday.  Who knew Clint Bowyer was such a cut up or that Tony Stewart could make Jeff Gordon laugh so hard he literally slapped his knee???  It was fun to watch and made me feel connected to these drivers and this sport even more than I already did.

Fan Fest is an awesome experience, a place you can bring your whole family to get a glimpse of the personalities they watch on track every week, and feel confident that nobody is going to be disappointed or disillusioned with their favorite driver.  In fact, the only real danger I see is walking away liking one of the drivers that you previously rooted against on Sunday.

This post compliments the post written by Misty about Fan Fest.

NASCAR’s Champion’s Week festivities in Las Vegas started off on Wednesday with the Chasers for Charity Fan Fest at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  Fans mingled around some of the cars (the 24, the 17, the 16, the 99 and the 48 were all present), sampled some tasty bundt cake (from Nothing  Bundt Cakes- whom I have had the pleasure of having before as Misty’s birthday cake in July), mingled and waited for the drivers to arrive.  This year’s fan fest was different than last year. Last year there was a roast- where fairly pricey tickets were sold to the Roast which was held in the Media Center or fans could sit in the neon garage and listen for free.  This year the chase drivers were divided into two teams to play NASCAR Family Fued on the stage in the NEON garage. Anyone could watch. It was much much more fun for the fans who got to interact with the drivers by yelling out answers to help them. It was far more interactive for fans- who enjoyed the game show.   Drivers walked together down the red carpet and up to the stage for family feud so of course I snapped some pictures:

Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, and Tony Stewart make their way down the Red Carpet to the Family Feud Stage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Photo Credit: Me)

Tony Stewart signs autographs for fans at Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Chasers for Charity Fan Fest. (Photo Credit: Me)

Jeff Gordon signs autographs on the red carpet at Chasers For Charity Fan Fest at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Me)

Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer on the red carpet at Chasers for Charity Fan Fest. (Photo Credit: Me)

Take note of Clint Bowyer in this picture. I will be mentioning him in a different post later…but you need to hold this image of Clint in your head for my story later.

Jimmie Johnson and fan on the red carpet at Chasers for Charity fan fest. (Photo Credit: Me)

Jimmie Johnson and fan on the red carpet at Chasers for Charity fan fest. (Photo Credit: Me)

You may have read in Misty’s post about the Family Feud…that Tony Stewart said something that tickled Jeff Gordon so much he was laughing hysterically (and this wouldn’t be the last time Tony cracked Jeff up over the week but more on that later). This actually happened several times during family feud and I would have LOVED to know what the heck was so damn funny Tony:

Jeff Gordon cracks up at something Tony Stewart said during Family Feud...oh to be a fly on that wall. (Photo Credit: Me)

Not the best picture…the lighting was crappy by this point in the afternoon- but you get the picture.  The best part of the Family Feud game was watching the drivers interact with each other off track.  Family indeed!

Ok- so I slacked slightly in posting the points after the Phoenix race (as in I didn’t post em at all) and now poof the season is over.

So first I am going to give you my analysis of the three different points systems then I will give you the numbers if you are interested (after the jump).

I kept track of the NASCAR traditional points system, a Hybrid system that was basically the same NASCAR points structure with NO SEEDING (all 12 chase drivers start at 0), and what I call the BadGroove Cup- a completely stand alone system that had the drivers starting at 0 and had a completely separate points structure.

In all three systems, Jimmie Johnson is your winner.  So that didn’t really make a difference- I guess if you are good you are good.  The Hybrid system made a difference in the top three in that Harvick would have overtook Hamlin for second.  Last place in all three systems was Jeff Burton- so again no difference was made.  Really the only difference was in the in-between drivers that were not in the top three but not last.  For instance in the end Stewart finishes as high as 7th in the standings and as low as 11th  (Hybrid-no seeding).  Greg Biffle finished as high as 5th (BadGroove cup) and as low as 7th (Hybrid-no seeding).  Jeff Gordon finished as high as 8th (Hybrid-no seeding) and as low as 10th (BadGroove Cup).  So the big winner would have remained Jimmie Johnson on all three systems and the big loser would have remained Jeff Burton in all three systems.  Overall the Hybrid system and the BadGroove Cup system rewarded overall consistency in the last 10 races.

I now present to you the results for the last two races (Phoenix and Homestead) in just the raw numbers: (more…)

All I can say is WOW. That was a race! Tony Stewart qualified for the race 11th…and finished the race 11th.  It could have been better yes, but it could have been much much worse (just ask Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, and/or Kyle Busch- whom I will all talk about later in this post).

Via the team release Stewart said this about the team’s choice to come in for fresh tires during the late race caution that had the race going green with only two laps to go:

“Hindsight being 20-20, I probably should’ve stayed out, but we took a gamble and, really, what do we have to lose?” said Stewart, who now has 12 top-12 finishes in 18 career Sprint Cup appearances at the Texas track. “We really don’t have anything to lose. We’re eighth in points, so who cares? I’d rather take a chance on doing something to go forward than worry about losing spots and going backward.” — Team Release

However, I honestly think, the #14 Office Depot team had no option but to pit- having a majority of the field in front of him having fresher (more fresh?) tires from the pit stop before, where they elected to stay out.  As it was Tony restarted 16th and worked his way up to 11th in 2 laps! So obviously the fresh rubber was working- he just ran out of time.

And while Greg Biffle seemed to rule most of the race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, it would be Denny Hamlin edging out a hard charging Matt Kenseth for the win.

***

And now for the “DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA” portion of this post. WOW. How can people say this sport isn’t exciting?? All this drama and Tony wasn’t even involved believe it or not:

First drama one:  Kyle Busch gets held for two laps additional laps (after being held one lap for a pit road speeding penalty) for giving a NASCAR official the finger.  Now personally I think that the 2 laps was a bit excessive for flipping off an official.  I mean, seriously? That totally put him out of contention for even coming close to winning the race.  You can’t tell me that it wasn’t because he was caught doing this accidentally by ESPN, who flipped over to Busch’s in-car camera right as Kyle expressed his displeasure with the call, live as it was happening.  Now I hear that NASCAR is considering even MORE penalties for Kyle’s heat-of-the-moment gesticulation! Really? Think about this, I flipped someone off this morning…and you know what granted while I do this sometimes in fun or jest  sometimes I am really pissed off and it’s the only thing I can do to express myself.  Kyle is right- it kind of is trampling on his freedom of speech or um…gesture.  Yes,  I have already debated this stand with my father who is of the feeling that it was incredibly unprofessional and immature for Kyle to do.  While I do see that point- he was already punished for it by being held two laps in race so do we really need to trample on it further? Because if we do the consequences may backfire as drivers refuse to express themselves at all.  And no one wants to see that. It is the drivers and their personalities that MAKE this sport!

Ok…now onto drama number two: The Jeff vs Jeff battle on the backstretch.  For those that missed that little gem you can check out this video recap of the incident (you will also see dramas one and three mentioned as well).  Unfortunately ESPN didn’t catch the whole on-track altercation as they were distracted by Martin Truex Jr, who was gracefully spinning through the grass causing his third caution of the day.  From what I saw, it looked like Jeff Burton intentionally spun Jeff Gordon under the yellow. Gordon’s car hit the outside wall hard, pretty much destroying the car.  It was a hard impact- you could see pieces of car and what looked like SAFER barrier flying after the impact.  Burton’s car came to rest further down the track at the inside retaining wall.  Gordon was pissed. You could tell by the video of him in his car that he was pissed.  He then walked down the banking and towards Burton’s car which was parked against the inside wall.  Next thing you know Gordon is shoving Burton and the two go fist-a-cuffs for a bit, with some NASCAR officials jumping in between the two of them.  That was some EXCITEMENT right there!  Now from what I have heard and seen of it I think that there was some sort of incident on track, possibly even before the yellow flew between Gordon and Burton and Burton took out Gordon in a fit of frustration. I hate to say this but I LIKE it when the drivers go toe-to-toe out of the car when they are pissed off.  As I have mentioned before I do not advocate using (stock cars or otherwise) cars to retaliate- but get into a good, old-fashion shoving match there against the infield wall and I am all about that! It shows that this sport is intense when you have two respected drivers getting in each other’s face after an on-track incident.  Good for Jeff Gordon for sticking up for what he believes was right, that Jeff Burton wrecked him and under caution no less.  Bravo.

And for the final drama of the race- After the above mentioned wreck, it was decided to have Jeff Gordon’s pit crew pit Jimmie Johnson’s 48 car while the 48 pit crew packed up the 24 group’s pit box. Ouch.  However, whomever made that call- made a wise one.  Jimmie’s crew seemed to be falling apart at the seams all day, after repeated poor pit stops- including one four tire stop in the 16+ second mark.  Yeah I am sure there are some majorly bruised egos on the 48 pit crew…but one bad pit stop I can see…but FOUR bad ones? Really? You are a four-time champion’s pit crew…your driver is contending for his record breaking fifth consecutive cup title. Yes I am sure you are all under immense pressure…but FOUR? Really??  Jeff’s over-the-wall crew stepped in under what I am assume was Chad’s call and they did not just step in…but they stepped UP and were able to pit Jimmie with decent times.  That is what I call GOOD teamwork.   Just this afternoon Hendrick Motorsports announced that the 24 pit crew will be going over-the-wall for Jimmie Johnson for the last two races of the season.  This is good for Jimmie who I understand is in title contention- but wow- why punish Jeff because his pit crew is ON IT!  I mean his pit crew has been in the running for the fastest pit crew for most of the year! It seems like they are punishing Jeff Gordon for having a good pit crew.  Hopefully the 48 crew can figure out where the disconnect was and get it ironed out for the next two races for Jeff.

One final note about Texas- two fans were hurt during the race when a brake pad flew through the eighth story window of the Speedway club in the first turn. From what I was able to find out, it doesn’t seem like the injuries were life-threatening, thank goodness. I wish them a speedy recovery- no one wants to see anyone get hurt at a race!

Next race: Phoenix

Well I don’t have much to day about the race from Saturday evening. Tony qualified 15th for the race at Richmond.  His car seemed to start off really strong as he managed to work his way up to third at one point.  Then he just started falling back further and further. Unfortunately I was not listening to his radio communications and I am unsure as to why he had this drop…I assume it was poor handling that they were chasing.

Tony finished 16th, one lap down to race winner Denny Hamlin. However- it doesn’t really matter because Richmond was the last race of the “regular” season for NASCAR. Now it get’s stressful for us fans.  Now it’s the playoffs.

Tony is seeded 6th in the Chase fifty points behind chase leader Denny Hamlin.

Notes About Richmond:

  • I was surprised that since the Richmond race fell on Patriot’s day this year that there wasn’t more patriot paint schemes ran.  I think I saw maybe two (Jeff Gordon and Kevin Conway).  I don’t count Ryan Newman’s Army paint scheme- as it was the usual Army paint scheme he runs…but if you want to count it-that is 3.
  • I was saddened to hear that Tony Stewart’s grandfather passed away the morning of the race. I was dismayed when one of the journalists (Lee Spencer) asked Tony to “reflect” on it at the post race presser all the chase drivers went through. DISMAYED. Why don’t you rub some more salt into that wound there?  Tony handled the question with the utmost professionalism…but still I am dismayed it was even brought up.  (Still shaking my head at that one).

The Chase begins Sunday September 19th at Louden, NH. GO TONY GO!