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If you have been reading here for any length of time, you know I like love to take pictures. I really do.  I have even taken a couple of online photography classes trying to better my techniques.  It was in one of my classes that I decided that I do not like taking pictures of people…especially when they are posed or posing.  They usually end up with monkey grins or looking like they are wearing the world’s most uncomfortable underwear.  Plus, when you take a picture of a car or a horse or something, they don’t tend to bitch about having to stand still while you take just one more shot.  Portraiture is just not my bag I guess.  I would much rather take pictures of flowers or animals or whatnot.

However when I was at the NASCAR Champions Week celebration and festivities in Las Vegas I got some of the BEST pictures of PEOPLE that I have ever taken.  That is when it dawned on me-  I can take good pictures of people as long as they don’t know I am taking their picture or at the very least aren’t posing for me.  So my best three photos of Champions week are:

Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson

Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson talk during a break at the 2010 Stewie Awards in Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Tony Stewart smiles at the 2010 Stewie Awards in Las Vegas, NV

Probably the best picture of Tony Stewart I have managed to take...because most of them manage to blur because I get nervous and move the camera. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Jimmie Johnson smiles on the red carpet at the Chasers for Charity Fan Fest in Las Vegas, NV

Now I know that here it looks like Jimmie is posing for me but he's NOT! He is actually smiling at a little boy who is sitting on his father's shoulders behind me. The little boy kept calling out "Jimmie Johnson...Jimmie Johnson!" (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Now you might be wondering where on earth Clint Bowyer fits into all this, since clearly my “best” photos were NOT of Clint.  Well as a result of After The Lap and The Stewies, I found out that Clint  is a really funny guy.  Honestly I have never really given Bowyer much thought before but he really is a funny guy and spent most of the time laughing and cutting up at both After the Lap and The Stewies.  But damned if I can get a picture of the man where he doesn’t look grumpy.  I present to you all my pictures of Clint Bowyer as evidence:

My very first picture of Clint Bowyer...grimacing in the garage at LVMS three years ago. Ok so maybe he was working and this is Clint's "race" face...but really he just looks annoyed. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

So that isn’t that bad BUT he looks kind of ticked off right? Well trust me…they only get worse. Check out this picture of Clint signing autographs on the red carpet at Fan Fest:

Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer on the red carpet at Chasers for Charity Fan Fest. (photo credit: Amy K. Marbach)

See? This is NOT Clint Bowyer’s personality- I would know since I was there- he is not the grumpy gus that my camera catches…it’s my apparent inability to catch him in a flattering way.  I am sad to admit that  have an even worse picture of Clint from the Stewies:

Clint Bowyer at the 2010 Stewie Awards

Clint Bowyer at the 2010 Stewie Awards. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

So why I can’t get a decent picture of Clint Bowyer I don’t know. It use to be that I could never get a decent picture of Tony Stewart because he would make me nervous and I would move the camera so all my pictures of the man would be blurry. But that has changed. With Bowyer it’s different…I can’t caught a flattering image of him for the life of me.  I have no explanation for it really.

Also I just wanted to include a side note that while taking pictures to document NASCAR Champions Week 2010 I felt like a paparazzi, especially during the red carpet walk for Fan Fest and during the Stewies.  It was kinda weird.

(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)

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…)

Well that was all she wrote…our beloved NASCAR season is over and we now have a Champion – Mr. Five-Time Jimmie Johnson.  And I really don’t understand people who say the chase system doesn’t make for an exciting finish- because that was a nail biter. I am going to be completely honest…I was so wrapped up in the chase that I don’t honestly have much to say about Tony’s run at Homestead except for this: You can’t keep a good man driver down (a lap). Tony somehow ended up a lap down not once, but TWICE through out the race and each time he was able to get that lap back. That last time he was a lap down (I think it had to do with the caution coming out after he and several others went through a round of pit stops- but I am not 100% sure about that) and it could have been bad since it was at the end of the race- but no Tony was about to pull off an eighth place finish (after being a lap down…TWICE) and moved up two positions in the points standings finishing the year in 7th place.  Race winner was Carl Edwards!

So who were you rooting for of the three contenders at Homestead? Were you rooting for Denny? Kevin? Jimmie?  I will tell you who I was rooting for if you tell me who you were rooting for!

Notes about Homestead:

  • I hate to say this…but that incident between Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle on lap 24- the one that caused Denny to spin – and some damage to the car? That really looked like Denny drifted up into Greg to me anyway.
  • And what about Kyle Busch? That was a fiery crash! I was all STOP THAT SUCKER AND JUMP OUT KYLE!!!  Of course I don’t want to see Kyle burn! I actually enjoy him as a driver (not as much as Tony of course).
  • I always feel bad when the championship is clinched by a driver who is NOT the winner in the race. It made me feel that Carl Edward’s celebration was truncated.  He did win the race.  I was a little worried for his safety when he got out of his car to do his trademark backflip and Jimmie had started burning out right next to him. Yikes!
  • Jimmie’s in-car reaction to having won the championship though? He was so excited! I have to say that Chad Knaus’s Post-It note (Our TEAM won!) to the camera- was appropriate. I liked how he emphasized TEAM especially since the pit crew swap.  (Consequently enough I noticed that nearly right away – with in the week of the swap- the Lowes racing website listed the “new” crew- while the Jeff Gordon website also listed his original crew. Interesting.) Ha! Take that Mike Ford!
  • Speaking of the pit crew swap- I had to say I was concerned that since the swap the wrong crew would get credited with the Tissot Fastest Pit Crew – but luckily they explained that on the national broadcast….that while Jeff Gordon’s crew won the award- it was the original crew….the one that ultimate went to help Jimmie after Texas.
  • Apparently we missed some sort of on track altercation between Logano and Montoya after the wreck? They mentioned it on the national broadcast quite briefly but inquiring minds want to know! What happened?

Next Race:  Daytona 2011.

Seriously though- like last year, I am planning on attending Champion’s week celebrations after Thanksgiving so posting might be light that week. I will tweet and facebook so follow me or friend me or whatever…but of course I will post afterwards!

(SMOKE fans…be sure to check back here Wednesday…Just saying).

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

Tony qualified for the race in Kansas 14th (which I think is funny since he drives the 14 car). He had a good strong run at Kansas and even got the 10 bonus points (5 for leading a lap and 5 for leading the most laps…YEY). Combine that with a strong finish of 4th. While Tony remains 10th in the points after the Kansas race due to several strong finishes by other chase contenders, Stewart’s strong showing at Kansas trimmed his points deficit on the leader from 165 points before the race to 127 after. While Greg Biffle was the race winner, Jimmie Johnson overtook Denny Hamlin for the points lead in the Cup standings.

Did you see Tony during the pre-race ceremonies holding Gavin Grubb (son of crew chief Darian Grubb)…that Gavin is ADORABLE!

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 03: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Office Depot Chevrolet, holds his crew chief's son Gavin Grubb during prerace for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Price Chopper 400 on October 3, 2010 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 03: Tony Stewart, driver of the Office Depot Chevrolet, holds his crew chief's son Gavin Grubb during prerace for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Price Chopper 400 on October 3, 2010 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NOTES ABOUT KANSAS:

  • I can only bet that winner of the OFFICIAL SMALL BUSINESS OF NASCAR (sponsored by the Office Depot) winner from last week at Dover, Mike Pagano of PaganoPhotography, wishes that Greg Biffle had won LAST weekend because that would have been a million dollar award to his small business.  To quote my two and a half year old nephew, AWW MAN!

Next Race: Autoclub Speedway in California! GoTONYGo!