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Ok- I am a sucker for books. Rarely can I walk into a bookstore and not come out with a book or four.   So if you were to combine books,  with say my hobby of photography and my love of racing- you would have a must buy for me.  So was the case when I heard about a book put together by Jimmie Johnson, his wife Chandra Johnson and photographer Missy McLamb.  The minute I heard about the book and that it was a limited run- I found myself at JimmieJohnson.com ordering me up a copy. I couldn’t take a chance of there not being any left by the time I got to Phoenix in November.

For those unfamiliar with the book- it is a coffee table book of photographs detailing the entire 10 week Chase for Jimmie’s sixth championship in a row last season (you know the one that Tony Stewart ended up winning).  Missy McLamb followed the Johnson family the entire 10 weeks of the chase documenting and preserving the high highs and low lows of the race season both from the professional areas of the track as well as the private areas of the Johnson’s life.  I forget the incredible amount of pictures that were taken during the 10 weeks- Jimmie mentioned it in a Facebook post he made announcing the book- I want to say it was something like 15,000 pictures- quite a feat I think when I found that many of the photos were NOT shot with a digital camera (for the non-photography folks reading- film and other format cameras (except for digital) require more time to set up and take the shot- not to mention you usually only have 12-36 shots per roll of film depending the kind you are shooting).

The book is smallish in size- measuring 9 and 1/4 inches square. I admit- I was slightly worried that the quality of the book itself might lack when I heard that Chandra and Jimmie were basically having it printed themselves and marketing it themselves.  I had nothing to worry about- the book is well made and well put together. The photos are a fascinating combination of at track photos- everything from Jimmie doing media or sitting in his car to the crew and car going through inspection to personal photos of Jimmie, Chandra and daughter Evie in their motorcoach or at home.  The photographs in the book range from both color to black and white, crystal clear to artistically blurry. Most of the photos just stand for themselves in the book- however some of them have little one line descriptions of what they are.  The stand out picture in the book to me- is the photo of Jimmie, Chandra and Evie in the motocoach watching coverage of the Dan Wheldon crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There is just something about that photo that catches the shock and emotion of the horrifying moment in motorsports history.

If you are a Jimmie Johnson fan? This book is a must. If you are a photography buff? This book is a must.  If you are a NASCAR fan- this book is a must- as it documents the end of a historical run of 5 consective NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships.

If you happen to live in the Charlotte, NC area or will be in the area between October 13th-20th you may wish to stop by the Hart Wizten Gallery- which will be displaying some of the photos featured in the book.  For more information (location of gallery, hours, etc) visit the On The Road Studio web page.

It is important to note that this book was NOT provided to me to review- I purchased it myself to add to my collection 0f NASCAR coffee table books.

As a Tony Stewart fan, I went into the 2011 Sprint Cup chase extremely pessimistic.  After all, Tony Stewart went into the chase saying he thought the team was wasting a chase berth with the way they had been performing.  Of course we all know what happened; Tony Stewart went on a tear- won FIVE of the ten Chase races (something that had NEVER been done before)  including the season closer at Homestead-Miami, thus winning the Chase by TIEBREAKER.  It was both exhilarating and stressful to be a Tony Stewart fan towards the end of the 2011 chase.  I was AT the Phoenix race and spent most of the race perched on the patio of the media center- watching the race through my fingers.  I don’t even remember much about the Homestead race- except that I was so stoked that I promised my family that if Tony won the championship I would treat them to dinner at the Outback. Guess you all know what I had for dinner that night.  What made the chase so great last year- especially during Homestead was that it was so CLOSE- and to win it Tony Stewart HAD TO WIN THE RACE- a second place wouldn’t cut it.

CHICAGO, IL- SEPTEMBER 12: (L – R) Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Martin Truex Jr, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Clint Boyer, Denny Hamlin, Kaey Kahne and Tony Stewart pose in front of “The Bean” as part of NASCAR Chase Media Day and NASCAR Contenders Live on September 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. They are the twelve drivers competing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. (Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images North America)

This year however, I feel EXCITEMENT going into the chase because this year NASCAR’s Chase for the 2012 Sprint Series Cup could be brought home by ANY of the 12 drivers. I personally do not count ANYONE out.  Sure Tony’s the reigning champion and I would LOVE to see him become a FOUR time champion. Denny Hamlin goes in to the Chase seeded first and his crew chief Darian Grubb no doubt feels he has a point to prove. But I can’t count out Jimmie Johnson- he’s won five and is looking hard for 6. With FOUR of the 12 cars being Hendrick Motorsports cars that means mathematically (and I am NOT good at math people) there is a 1/3 chance that winner could be a Hendrick car- and Junior has been looking strong and CONSISTENT all season. And Jeff Gordon has been driving like a maniac (in a good way) these last few races.  And Kasey’s had some bad luck but pretty much had that first Wild Card spot in the bag in Richmond. Kenseth no doubt would like to leave the 17 team with a Championship before jumping over to Joe Gibbs Racing next season.  Harvick is tenacious and they didn’t give him the nickname THE CLOSER for anything.  Then we have dark horses like Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr and Clint Bowyer who have also been RIGHT there all season long.  And I would NEVER ever ever count out Brad Keselowski. In my mind- right before we go into the first race of the Chase it is ANYONE’s trophy right now.

CHICAGO, IL- SEPTEMBER 12: Front row L-R The Next 9 drivers Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Cameron Hayley, Dylan Kwasniewski, Daniel Suarez, Sergio Pena, Kyle Larson, Darrell Wallace and Corey LaJoie, back row Eleven of the NASCAR Chase drivers L-R Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. at a party as part of NASCAR Chase Media Day and NASCAR Contenders Live on September 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images North America)

As a NASCAR fan, the fact that it is anyone’s championship right now is EXCITING. Of course I still want Tony Stewart to win it!

CHICAGO, IL- SEPTEMBER 12: Tony Stewart (C) speaks with young drivers who are from the Next 9 at a party as part of NASCAR Chase Media Day and NASCAR Contenders Live on September 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images North America)

Who do YOU think will win it all?

Two days later and my head is still spinning from the drama that was the Richmond race.  The race at Richmond on Saturday night had more plot lines than a soap opera on a Friday afternoon. Since Tony Stewart was pretty much guaranteed to make the chase- even if he fell out of the top ten- I was strangely relaxed at first.  When I turned on the TV to settle in for the race and saw college football and that it was only in the 3rd quarter I didn’t even freak out as I normally would have.  Nothing ticks me off more, usually, then when I turn on the TV to watch a race and some other programming is on instead. It didn’t bother me Saturday for some reason- possibly because thanks to Twitter I realized that there was a rain delay at Richmond- but I can’t be sure.

By the way- I don’t watch college football ever but I kept the game on as background noise while I did some household chores- because frankly- there wasn’t much else on anyway .  I heard the announcers of the game (it was USC and Someone- see how little I paid attention) talking about how NASCAR was currently in a rain delay which was good for them because they were running late because of a lightning delay.  So they bantered back and forth about The Chase a bit and how it worked.  Or I should say how they THOUGHT it worked. How many drivers they THOUGHT made it to the chase- it was a little sad that they didn’t know.  I mean like I said I don’t watch much football or baseball but I still know for the most part how the games are played. But I digress.

Tony Looks Befuddled At Richmond

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 7, 2012 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

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Sport’s Illustrated came out with the “Fortunate 50,” simply a list of the top 50 highest earning American athletes based  on salary, winnings, bonuses, endorsements and appearance fees only.  Four NASCAR drivers made the top 50:

8th- Dale Earnhardt Jr

18th- Jeff Gordon

29th- Tony Stewart (technically Tony is tied for 29th with baseball player Cliff Lee).

And

33rd- Jimmie Johnson
I don’t know why but I am surprised Jimmie Johnson is that low on the list. And pleasantly surprised that Tony is above him. But wow…the other three drivers are all Hendrick drivers. Just saying that is a strong team financially.

What a drama filled race weekend both for Tony Stewart and the #14 Team and for NASCAR in general.  There is A LOT to talk about for Daytona- so let’s get right to it.  Tony qualified 2nd.  YES 2nd! I was so stoked because from what I could tell at work, his practice just seemed mediocre.  As a Tony fan, I know he doesn’t always qualify well- so any front row qualifying effort means that the car is on rails to me and the field better watch out!  I was stoked!  Then I checked my FaceBook a little later on Friday and I saw an esoteric status update one of my “Smoke” friends posted that made me think “uh-oh” so I logged into Twitter and that is when I got the full information. Because of a uncapped cockpit air hose, Tony’s qualifying was disqualified and he would be lining up 42nd in a field of 43.  I literally banged my head on my desk and yelled ARG I KNEW IT WAS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Luckily for me- there was no one around when I did it because I even did it with my office door open.

Tony Stewart at Daytona Speedway (Photo Credit: Official Tony Stewart Facebook Page- click for original)

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Miles the monster reached up and bit Tony Stewart square on the left front and left rear of his car.  Stewart was caught up in the “Monster” lap nine melee at Dover.  It isn’t a surprise really.  After all, he qualified his car 29th in the field of 43 cars. I so wasn’t thrilled when I saw the results of qualifying on my cell phone- that is back in the danger zone. The zone where if someone screws up you can be innocently caught up in their mistake because of Dover’s “self cleaning” feature. I made sure that I put on my checker flag socks this morning- just in case. I just had a feeling that starting that far back would not.

(I LOVE this picture because the perspective makes the cars look like toys- AMY). Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Chevrolet, and Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Chevrolet, practice for the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)

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So let’s talk about the Sprint All-Star Race. What did you all think of the new 5 segment format (20 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps, 10 laps with the winners of segments 1-4 coming in P1-4 during the last mandatory pit stop before segment 5)?  I didn’t like it one bit. I felt it was about 2 segments too long and the winners of segments 1-3 sandbagging to stay out of harms way was ridiculous.  I do not think that should have been allowed- however this format encourages that.  My thought on the matter is that there should be 3 segments and 3 segments only: 20 lap, 30 laps, 50 laps with one mandatory pit stop between segments 2 and 3 that require a 4 tire change from everyone.  There would be no reason to sandbag during this race.  Now you can argue with me that what Jimmie and the other guys were doing was strategy- but I still say they weren’t racing…and that really isn’t fair.

Tony’s All-Star race was anything but stellar (get it?). The car had handling issues and then the nose was damaged during segment 3 (I think it was maybe it was four?) and the race just seemed to get worse.  Tony started the race 9th and finished 17th.  Since it’s a non-points race there was no change in points.  The race winner was Jimmie Johnson.

Notes on the All-Star Race:

  1. Speaking of race winner Jimmie Johnson- how CRAZY was it for him to take Rick Hendrick out for a ride on the track after winning? That was crazy. And poor Rick Hendrick looked uncomfortable.
  2. Dustin Long wrote about a GREAT idea he had for the All-Star Race! In a nutshell he proposes that the winner of the race be given the option of the $1 million dollars or an automatic spot in the chase.  I LOVE IT.
  3. Speaking of LOVING things…I also really liked the fan videos introducing the All-Star drivers…maybe next year they can have fans do it in person.

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, walks during pre-race for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America).

Here is this week’s list of recommended NASCAR reads that I liked and thought you might enjoy:

Nationwide’s Eric McClure, his family, starting over a year after tornado- Dustin Long for Sports Illustrated

Kevin Harvick Gives Update on Josh Jones, Better Known As Twitters @Mother_Function- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

Tony Stewart Wins Denny Hamlin’s Charity Race- Hank Kurz, Jr For AP/YahooNews!

Paul Menard Crewman Goes After Hendrick Team Member After Pit Road Incident- Bob Pockrass for Sporting News

Stewart Not Happy With NASCAR, Pit Crew at Richmond- Jon Gunn for Sporting News

Hendrick Motorsports Still Searching For Elusive 200th Win- Dustin Long for Athlon Sports.

Scott Speed Interview (12 Questions)- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

The Daly Planet: Day Two: The TV Bait And Switch- The Daly Planet Editor

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

Tony Stewart at Richmond- (photo credit: Tony Stewart Official Facebook Page- click picture to be taken to original)