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I can only imagine the kind of high the guys at Stewart-Haas Racing are on- considering that I am still excited about the All-Star win. In my excitement over the win I realized that in my last post I didn’t do my usual NOTES FROM THE ALL STAR RACE so I will include them here in their own little post.

  • Was I the only one who was kind of surprised that Joey Logano got the fan vote? I don’t know WHY I was so surprised but I definitely was surprised.
  • Did Jimmie Johnson really not understand the format of the race? He repeatedly asked crew chief Chad Knaus about it. I figured it out within a minute of hearing the rules. My parent didn’t get it (although you would think my dad would since he use to go to our local dirt track when I was a kid) and I had to explain it to them over and over again- throughout the race. Chad- I understand your pain! You have far more patience than I.
  • Speaking of Jimmie Johnson- I happened to catch him Sunday on Wind Tunnel and I will say this- the (extremely) short hair surprised me.  It’s about the same length as his beard. Apparently if you go to a BBQ at Jimmie’s friend’s house…you might come back with much shorter hair. It’s taken me quite awhile to grow mine back out so- remind me to be weary of BBQ invitations.
  • The mandatory 10 minute stop before the dash for the cash? Genius! I think every race should have that. Not before the last ten laps- but maybe at the half way point or three quarters point.  Just think how that would change strategy.
  • Who do YOU think caused the wreck that took out Jeff Gordon: Kyle Busch? Ryan Newman? Jeff Gordon? It was just a racin’ deal? I am interested to find out what you think. Let me know in the comments.
  • I would have loved to been a fly on the wall to that celebration party let me tell you. Tony told the press there was going to be an over/under wager as to when he would actually wake up on Sunday. Considering that the race wasn’t even over til after midnight on the East Coast and that Tony then had media obligations before he and the crew could go out and really ring in the celebration.  Of course I have no idea, but if I could throw my money on it I would pick 3:45pm. And for when he actually dragged himself out of bed? 4:14 pm. I pretty much just picked them out of the air…but I guess we will never know! I emailed my friend and told her (she was the one who told me about the over/under bet to begin with) and her official thought is I am not taking enough into consideration and am being far kind on my actual out of bed. Her two cents are actually out of bed at 5:00pm. Feel free to play along in the comments…but realize we will never know the actual answer.
  • I also love this quote from Tony after the race and first win for Stewart-Haas Racing and his new Office Depot/Old Spice team:

    “My first reaction was, I wish I could have seen the looks on their faces when we came off [Turn] 4, and we had the lead with two to go,” Stewart said of his team. “I didn’t dare say anything on the radio. I didn’t say a word. But man, I wanted to see what the pit box looked like those last two laps.”  –Tony Stewart post All-Star race quote.

  • I love that quote because I was able to see those guys all lined up on that pit box watching and cheering! And then to see them jump off! It was a great moment. I am glad my celebratory leap from the couch wasn’t caught on film!

This next weekend gives us the longest race on the NASCAR circuit: the Coca-Cola 600 also at Lowes Motor Speedway.  I hope Tony’s luck from the all-star win carries over to the 600!!! YEY!!!

I had a good feeling about Richmond all week last week.  Part of it was due to press I am sure- with Tony stating over and over again how Richmond was not one of his favorites it was THE FAVORITE.  I was hoping that my good feeling meant that Tony would win- or that at the very least Stewart-Haas Racing would get that elusive first win with Ryan Newman. It will probably sound bad but I really want Tony to get that first win for Stewart-Haas Racing- nothing at all against Ryan and I can’t explain why, but I just really REALLY want Tony to be the first win. I also wonder if there isn’t a little bit of competitiveness between the two? Do you think they smack talk each other?

Anyway- it was probably me- since I wasn’t feeling that great on Saturday but I was having a heck of time following where Tony was. Well I mean I obviously could figure out where he was during the Green-Yellow laps- but after that I could It seemed to me like he spent most of the race in the teens and I remember at one point finding that he was being scored 27th and saying to my mom “Twenty-freakin-seventh?? What the hell happened to Stewart?” to which she just shrugged and kinda rolled her eyes.  I do get a little wrapped up in my NASCAR races.  Anyway towards the end of the race my dad came in wearing his 14 hat proudly and asked where Stewart was.   I said I wasn’t sure…because some pitting had just taken place and then it seemed like to me- someone turned Tony on er woke Tony up and told him it was the end of the race because it seemed to me suddenly like he was flying towards the front of the field.  What I didn’t realize was that Tony was one of the cars that took fresh tires that last pit stop. (Why didn’t I know that FoxSports? Why?).  It wasn’t long until Ryan (who had been running top ten most if not all of the day) had a mirror full of Tony.  I said to my dad “I wonder if it makes Ryan a little nervous to have his BOSS driving right behind him like that?” My dad said probably not…but think about it- if my boss decided for whatever reason to sit in my office and watch me do one of the myriad of things I do I would worry that he was critiquing me and my style…even though I think I am damn good at what I do I would worry that he would find flaw in what I was doing.

Tony moves into second and I was really hoping that he would catch up to Kyle- but there was NO catching Kyle- he was on fire and nearly a quarter to half a lap ahead of of Tony.  Kyle took the checkered flag on his birthday- only the second driver to ever do that (the first being Cale Yarborough).  Tony’s late race charge and second place finish gained him a spot in the points- he now sits in third- a mere 39 points out of the lead.  Stewart-Haas teammate Ryan Newman also had a top five finish- finishing in fourth and bringing the US. ARMY Impala into the 10 position in the points standings.

Notes on Richmond:

  • Small business owners: Office Depot Racing wants to give you a $14,000 small business makeover, your logo on Tony Stewart’s #14 Stewart Haas Racing Impala and a VIP Weekend at a NASCAR race. Go here to enter your business now (contest is open now thorugh May 31st)!  I wish I had a small business just fo the the VIP weekend…let alone the money and the name on the car!!
  • Have you seen the World’s Worst Commute Quaker State promotion? About how if you think you have the world’s worse commute you send in a video as to why and I the prize is getting driven to work by Jimmie Johsnon (I think you get some VIP race tickets too).  I would love to have any of the drivers drive me to work? But I have probably the EASIEST commute…ixnay that- my mom has the easiest one- she could walk since she only works about a block away from her house…I drive 15-20 minutes…over a river, through ag fields (not actually through the fields—there is an actual road), and then I am there.  Seriously the worst thing he would have to deal with on my commute would probably be a tractor towing discing rings or something on the side of the road.  So I can’t win that…do you think I could convince them that my commute is to Vegas?  While I do drive to Vegas often (I think my coworkers think I am some sort of big time gambler) I have never been driven there by anyone but me and it’s a pretty long (500 miles door to door) boring and lonely drive let me tell you…
  • Also it just came to me…I assume he would be driving you in your car? Because how else would you get back home? Unless he is gonna stay there for 8 hours while I work (He is welcome to – I even have an extra chair in my office and our break room is AWESOME -you can see the ocean from it plus it is a college campus so if he got bored he could just wander around the campus chatting up people) and then drive me home?
  • Now that we are talking about commercials- you know who can almost always make me laugh? Michael Waltrip.  And when you pair him up with Ron Capps- it’s even better. I love the Napa commercials! The pictionary one is laughs- “You ARE a good drawer”. However the Toyota Autograph Seeker commercial is hilarious too…the one with the little flying robots looking for autographs for the fans…and one approaches Michael Waltrip? If you listen carefully one of the crew guys yells “Watch Out It Has A Pen!” right before Michael sprays it with the extinguisher. That makes me laugh too.
  • I could probably be coaxed very easily to talk about this in another post…but for now all I will say is Amy from Salinas, CA says thanks to Tony Stewart and especially officedepotracing.com.
  • Check out this enthusiastic post about Darlington from TC at The NASCAR INSIDERS. It got me excited about Darlington, and it’s only Monday!

Next Saturday Night? The Southern 500 at Darlington, SC.

Well this was a race that I attended in person. The first leg of my journey was driving 500 to Las Vegas. Hung out with BFFM and on Friday BFFM drove 300+ miles to Phoenix where we checked into the hotel.  We tried to use the hotel’s computer to check qualifying while we were in the lobby but it was running slow so BFFM used her blackberry to get us some answers.  The next morning we drive to the track- it was easy to get to.

Yeah the track is out in the middle of the desert- but it was actually a really nice track. The only kabuffle we had the entire day was figuring out where to trade in our pit pass tickets for actual pit passes and after getting misdirected a couple times we finally got that taken care of.  The midway was probably the smallest midway of the tracks we have been to but then again- the track was a lot smaller in general than the other tracks (Las Vegas and Fontana).

TSR-Jones show car at Team Chevy booth at PIR Midway

TSR-Jones show car at Team Chevy booth at PIR Midway

Joey Loganos merchandise trailer was the LEAST populated one.  The most populated ones were of course Jr, Gordon and Stewart.

Joey Logano's merchandise trailer was the LEAST populated one. The most populated ones were of course Jr, Gordon and Stewart.

We made our way to the pedestrian tunnel and under the track and into the infield and were amazed that basically we were allowed to just meander around the pits pretty much.  That was pretty fun although I admit that occassionally I felt like I was in the way- even though I tried to be extremely cognizant of all the work going on around me- and to be sure not to impede that.

The Garages at PIR were a buzz with activity

The Garages at PIR were buzzing with activity.

Tony Stewarts Office Depot pit crew gets things ready for the evening race.

Tony Stewart's Office Depot pit crew gets things ready for the evening race.

Jimmie Johnsons Lowes pit crew gets things race before the evening race.

Jimmie Johnson's Lowes pit crew gets things ready before the evening race.

Mike Houston, tire carrier for the #24 Dupont pit crew of Jeff Gordon, seeks some shade on pit road.

Mike Houston, tire carrier for the #24 Dupont pit crew of Jeff Gordon, seeks some shade on pit road prior to the start of the race.

Pit Road at Phoenix International raceway

Pit Road at Phoenix International raceway.

Let me speak for a second about the picture above. This I took from pit road looking towards turn four.  See that hill right there? For $35.00 you can drag your chair up the hill- called Rattlesnake Hill and not just for sport and sit there with no midway access. I do not understand why you would want to do that when you can pay $25.00 to sit in the lower level grandstand seats. Crazies. I mean you might get to see a little more of the track but still…I like the ability to be able to go to the bathroom or get a hot dog easily if needed!

Now for the actual race. We were sitting in the AJ Foyt Grandstands in the close seats (row 8 I think) and they might be “cheap” seats but I thought they were pretty damn good- we could see most of the track.  During the warmup laps I was fascinated by the fact that I could actually see in the right side and into the cockpit. I don’t know WHY this fascinated me but it certainly did. I could literally see Tony Stewart sitting in his car hands on the wheel when they drove by (and other drivers as well)…and it was kind of cool to see them right in there car.

When the green flag dropped so did my jaw. Literally.  I think I spent a good 10-15 laps slack jawed.  I do not have the right words to describe the experience but it was louder and faster and just more exciting than any of the previous races I have gone to.  I have mentioned recently that going to an actual race can almost be an assault on your senses…I had no idea!  I don’t know if it was because I was sitting closer to the actual track that I have at other tracks but it was just completely amazing.  It was constant action on that track. I don’t know how the race played on TV because while I did DVR it- I have yet to watch the national broadcast. My brain did not have time to rest at all.  Of course I was paying attention to Tony on the track.  I was trying to keep track of where Ryan Newman was in relation to Tony (the scoring pylon only went up to 15th place) – which became increasingly difficult as the leaders started lapping cars.  I was watching the packs running close together for trouble.  And while I love the smell of a race, being this close actually started to give me a little bit of a headache towards the end from the fumes (of course not leaving my seat for the whole race probably didn’t help the headache).

Tony and Team Office Depot/Old Spice did well throughout the race. There was one kinda crappy pit stop – from which the team rebounded from quickly and well. Tony was in the top five most of the day and even lead the race for a while.  In the end Stewart just did not have enough to catch Mark Martin at the end, coming in second- the highest place finish yet for the newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Office Depot/Old Spice.  I really can’t wait for Stewart-Haas to get their first win.  It’s coming soon. I can feel it. The team is clicking really well- and as soon as that last component snaps into place this team will be in Victory Lane.

This coming weekend: NASCAR is in Talladega.  And Amy will be watching between her fingers!

As humans some of our personality traits are things we can not control- and for me one of those is a slightly anal quality when it comes to planning things out.  I can only speak for myself here- but I have a need to feel like I have some control over a situation and part of that control is planning. That being said I LOVE to plan a trip.  And when I say I love to plan a trip- 98 percent of my travels beyond spontaneous day trips involve planning things out months and months in advance of the actual date.  Case in point- BFM and I purchased our tickets to the Shelby 427 nearly as soon as the tickets were opened up for sale.  Now because BFM lives in Vegas I didn’t need to worry about hotel- but if I had- you can be sure I would have reserved a room at about the same time.

We should have learned our lesson last year with the fall Fontana race.  Once we decided to work in the Fontana race into our year last year- I was calling the box office as soon as I did a little online research about track and it’s facilities.  BFM’s favorite driver might be Jeff Gordon but I knew her second favorite driver was Jimmie Johnson- and I knew from my internet research that sometimes Fontana has a special Jimmie Johnson ticket package that includes not only race tickets but usually some kind of Q&A session with Jimmie and part of the proceeds of the tickets actually go to the Jimmie Johnson Foundation.  Sounded like something that would be fun- something that we would definitely be interested in.  When I called the box office I inquired about if there would be a Jimmie Johnson package for that particular race because I did not see anything about it on their website. The ticket agent told me that he wasn’t pulling anything up but that sometimes these special ticket packages weren’t set up right away. He kindly suggested that I wait about six weeks and call back to see if they had heard anything.  And that is exactly what I did.  Don’t think it wasn’t torture for me and my anal/control freak ways- let me tell you.  I waited six weeks on the dot and called back. Again I asked about the Jimmie Johnson Foundation tickets.  Again I was told that they did not have anything and that maybe I should wait. Well I had waited about as long as my obsessive nature would allow so I got us tickets and was finally at ease. Race Tickets? Check. Hotel? Check.  It’s all good. I am sure that you can tell what is coming up next.  Yep you guessed it- the Jimmie Johnson package came up for sale two or three weeks later.

Learn from my mistakes race fans. If you are like me and plan things out way in advanced- that isn’t always the best way.  While so far the ticketing offices that I have worked with have all been extremely helpful and willing to exchange tickets for others (I did this for the first race in Vegas actually- I had initially ordered up neon garage passes for Sunday and changed my mind- deciding that passes for Friday might let us see more action in the actual garage stalls- and the ticketing office was more than willing to accommodate my request for a change) sometimes it pays in aces to just wait to buy your tickets.  Especially now that tracks aren’t selling as many tickets as they would like- often facilities are forced to drop ticket prices closer to the date of the actual race.  Many tracks, in an attempt to drawn in more fans, are offering special ticket packages that might include things like driver Q&A’s or appearances, special food or hospitality discounts, and other deals on track amenities but these ticket packages are often last minute deals (or last minute to people like me who like to plan everything out well in advance).  Keep in mind that sometimes you will end up sacrificing better seats for some of the package plans- it is still something to consider because it might be that one time you get to get closer to your favorite driver.  So learn from me- sometimes it pays to NOT plan so far ahead.  Case in point,  I personally got a great deal on tickets for the Phoenix race (yes the next race) by going against what is natural to me and not planning the trip until about a month before the race.  By waiting we got seats in a section that was previously earmarked at a higher price for a lower price.  Now there were reasons we waited so long- and that was just one of them. And this whole upcoming trip to the race in Phoenix is going to be fodder for another post I am planning on writing after that trip- so expect this to be revisited a little in a couple of weeks.  But just be aware…sometimes it pays to procrastinate a little.

After a weekend where two of the three practices and the qualifying session were rained out the weather looked beautiful for Sunday’s race at Martinsville.  Martinsville is the shortest track on the circiut but Sunday’s Goody’s 500 was definitely not short on action. I personally, thought Sunday’s race was one of the best this season.

Of course part of that could be because both Stewart-Haas Racing drivers, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman had top ten finishes. Tony finishing the day with an awesome third place finish- the best for Stewart-Haas Racing so far this season.  Ryan Newman finished the day in 8th place- a personal best for his since beginning his tenure at Stewart-Haas racing at the beginning of this season.  Both Tony and Ryan’s teams seemed to be working quite well on Pit Road despite the inherient cramp conditions in the Martinsville pits as well as having some non-choice pitstalls.

Since qualifying was rained out – the field lined up by points.  Initially Jeff Gordon, who started on the pole since he leads the points race right now, took the lead and seemed to stay in the lead a good portion of the race.  His only challenger seemed to be Denny Hamlin- who also looked fairly strong. His car seemed to get stronger while Gordon’s handling seem to fade late in the race- causing him to have a fourth place finish. In the end- it was a shootout between Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson- with the two swapping the lead back and forth several times during the last 22 laps or so. At one point during the swapping back and forth of the lead, Hamlin and Johnson were both practically sideways side by side in the turn.  In the end- Jimmie Johnson was able to get his first cup win of the season.

More Notes on Martinsville:

  • Best Work In of A Sponsor Product: Comes from Saturday’s Practice telecast on SPEEDTv where journalist said to Tony Stewart “This really stinks doesn’t it?” talking about the weather- and Tony retorted “It DOES NOT stink because we have OLD SPICE as a sponsor so it does NOT stink!”
  • Tony was apparently cussing at himself during the end of the race: “I was just cussing at myself because I wasn’t close enough to do anything about it.”
    Tony Stewart, on the winning pass (third)
  • I love how now that Rick Hendrick has been quoted as supporting Tony Eury Jr as Crew Chief for Dale Jr- that the Fox Commentators (I think it was DW) are now stating that part of the reason that Dale is having poor finishes is Tony Stewart’s fault because he recruited Darian Grubb away from HMS.  Um…no.
  • I was glad to hear that even Jeff Gordon gets frustrated during a race- as he threatened to “knock his head off” if Denny (or it might have been Tony- I thought Tony when I first heard it but my friend says no he was talking about Denny) he bumped him again.
  • I had no idea Joey Logano was so tall- (direct from my notes after seeing him standing next to Greg Zipadelli during the national anthem.)
  • Poor Kyle just couldn’t catch a break this race- seemed he was spinning more times than a hula hoop! Neither could Matt Kenseth- always a driver or six short of being the lucky dog.
  • Was it my imagination or did Jeff Gordon slight Tony Stewart’s third place finish in his post race interview?  Jeff felt he had at least a third place car…but he finished fourth (and maintained his points lead).

Next Week: Texas Motor Speedway.

Surprise! I decided to get these out starting today so you wouldn’t be left wondering.  Anyway last year the Vegas race (the UAW 400) was our first NASCAR race live and in person and this year BFM decided to take the reins in planning everything.  I just wrote her a check when she told me how much our tickets would be. She picked the seats and the activities and everything…and let me tell you I had a total blast. She picked us some awesome seats in the Petty Terrace (right across from Pit Exit).  I am going to have to break up my experience into three posts: Qualifying Day, Race Day and Driver Appearances otherwise you all would probably kill me for the length/picture ratio.

QUALIFYING DAY (Friday)

After our great time last year in the Neon Garage BFM and I decided that Qualifying day is the best day to have the garage passes (in Vegas the Garage passes are expensive…friday alone is $99.00 but both of us thing they are WELL worth it).  We got to the track probably around 9:00 ish and spent a good portion of an hour and a half or so just messing around the midway checking out the merch haulers and stuff.  The busiest haulers seemed to be Junior (no suprise), Tony (probably his fans stocking up on new merch) and Digger (yeah Digger has his own little merch booth).  Then it was off to the neon garage:

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