Ok…my non-NASCAR friends are not going to get this…but this has had me chuckling since yesterday:
Ok…my non-NASCAR friends are not going to get this…but this has had me chuckling since yesterday:
Sunday was a clear but blustery day at Texas Motor Speedway. Team Office Depot/Old Spice started seventh on the starting grid and Stewart was soon quickly moving his Chevy Impala up the field as the race starts- and is in 3rd position by lap 30 of the race. Because of the long initial green flag run – the field begins to cycle through a round of green flag pit stops starting around lap 50 and ending around lap 54. Stewart stays out long enough to lead a lap before coming in for his service coming out third. Stewart quickly begins working his way up the field again and soon he passes Matt Kenseth to take the lead when Kenseth gets a little loose. The first caution of the day, due to debris- no doubt because of the wind, has Tony coming in to pit from first place- a slight miscue by the pit crew caused him to lose valuable time in the pits- dropping him two places down to third on his way out. Stewart remained consistent throughout the day- maintaining no further back than the top ten. The Office Depot/Old Spice pit crew rebounded quite well from their early race miscue and was then able to get Stewart out efficiently and quickly at the end of the race- when track position was most valuable.
Said Stewart, in his post race team release, of the crew:
“Our guys had a couple rough spots on pit road in the beginning, so I just calmed them down, told them to take a deep breath and just slow down a little bit. They had great stops the rest of the day. I am proud of those guys they rebounded really well.” — team release
Tony was able to keep his car in the top five- finishing in fourth after a late charge and pass by Greg Biffle. Stewart advanced to fifth in the points standings. Teammate Ryan Newman spent most of his day a lap down in positions 24th-26th- but was able to gain late in the race as well- getting not only his lap back but finishing 15th. Jeff Gordon, was able to hold off an impressive blistering charge through the pack late in the race made by teammate Jimmie Johnson to win his first ever race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Other Notes about Texas:
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:
Next Week: Texas Motor Speedway.
Well I have said it before and I will say it again. I love short track racing. My dad was watching with me and was bored – frankly I think there is too much going on for him to keep track of at any one time.
Unfortunately it was not a great day for the Office Depot/Old Spice Impala judging by their 17th place finish. It really bites to be stuck having to watch the National Broadcast of a race and be a fan of a driver who is not in the top ten or so- because not enough coverage is available. I know the broadcasters can not cover an entire 43 car field- so I do understand that…it just bites because there isn’t enough information on what isn’t going right with my team and it is that that I do not like. I do thank DirecTV for the free hotpass this season but I guess because it is free they eliminated my favorite part of hotpass- the channel known as the SD Channel last season which would let you watch the national broadcast while listening to one of several driver audios (and if Tony wasn’t a Hot Pass driver his audio was ALWAYS in the SD line up). I really REALLY miss that (and the fact that Tony has yet to be a hot pass driver).
Ok- so since the change to the track at Bristol- I think the cars can move around better on the track for the most part- so I loved the increase in side-by-side racing. That rocked. I was also glad to see that Ryan’s US Army team seemed to be doing better and stayed in the top 10 most of the day finishing in 7th and removing them from the “danger zone” when it comes to being in the top 35 in owner points.
Since Tony definitely wasn’t really in any sort of contention to win I was glad to see Kyle win there- especially after such disappointment at the Nationwide race on Saturday. If you missed the Nationwide race, Kyle ran quite strongly in it only to have a tire problem late in the race foil the win and Kevin Harvick eventually went on to win the Nationwide race).
More Notes on Bristol:
Saturday started with final Daytona 500 practice for Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman of Stewart-Haas racing- and ended badly for the pair. Ryan Newman blew a tire- sending him up the banking and into the wall where he collected his teammate/owner Tony Stewart. That was not the way one wanted to start their day. However only hours later Tony Stewart stood in victory lane at the Nationwide race where he drove the Number 80 Hendrick car to victory. Not a bad turn around in one day. However, Sunday would be the day where all eyes were on Stewart-Haas racing’s number 14 and 39 Chevrolet Impalas.
Watching this Daytona 500 was much like driving while blind deaf. I did not have the advantage of having HOTPASS this year since DirecTV decided to drop the only sports package I cared about. I really missed being able to tune into Tony’s in-car radio because it’s how I judge how he feels about the car and his progress during the race. That way I am not relying on the race announcer’s view of what is going on- I can pretty much tell for myself.
Anyway- during this first race weekend for the newly Stewart-Haas racing, emotions had to run the complete gamet during the week. The team went through three race cars before the race on Sunday- a feat I am pretty darn sure they were not pleased with. Ryan Newman’s primary car was wrecked during the Gatorade Duel number 2 on Thursday when he was wrecked by David Reutimann- forcing Newman into his backup car. Then during the final practice on Saturday, a tire blew and Newman collected teammate/owner Stewart. Because of the late practice tangle, Stewart had to go to his backup car and Ryan Newman was forced to use Tony’s backup Shootout car, thus sending both cars to start at the back of the field for Sunday’s Great American race.
By lap 25 Stewart had driven his car from 37th to 14th. After taking on gas and tires during the competition yellow, Stewart was in obvious high spirits as the broadcast switched over to his radio to catch him singing “Ole Ole Ole Ole” and then telling his crew chief Darian Grubb that he didn’t have anything else to do. Announcers later state that Tony believes he has the best handling car out there. And during short runs on fresh tires Tony seems to be able to draft well and pass cars- charging towards the front. However it seemed to me that the longer the green flag run, Stewart’s car just didn’t seem to have the ability to cut through the field with the ease it did early in the runs. Also a big kudos to the Team Office Depot pit crew who seemed to get Tony in and out of the pits quickly…Tony rarely, if ever, dropped position after a pitstop…he always seemed to gain a position or two. I hate to say it but it seemed last year Tony would lose three -five positions during pitstops alone.
Meanwhile teammate Ryan Newman never seemed to really get a feel for the car under him. He was at a serious disadvantage- in a car that was not set up for him or for this race. The US AMY team did a great job getting the car rewrapped and decal’ed up so that at least it looked like Ryan’s car and not Tony’s. However they did have a slight problem in the pits when Ryan came in for what he thought was a problem with the tire, the crew somehow dropped the car off the jack after the tire had been removed and then had to pick it back up to put the tire up – costing Newman valuable spots in the pits and on the track- a mistake that he was never able to overcome on the track.
At the end of the evening, however, Matt Kenseth ended up winning the rained-shortened Daytona 500 after having led just one green flag lap. Tony Stewart finished 8th while teammate Ryan Newman finished 36th.
As for Stewart-Haas racing- I think they accomplished one of the bigger tasks on their to-do list for the start of the 2009 (their inaugural) season. They came to Daytona extremely competitive. I think good things are going to come out of this team in the very near future.
Other Notes on Daytona:
Next weekend NASCAR takes us to the Autoclub Speedway in Fontana California.
Ahhh do you hear the sound of the engines? I do and they sound good. Saturday was the day I was waiting for: The Bud Shootout. Originally I thought I was going to have to boycott the shootout because the new rules initially left Tony Stewart out of the shootout because he switched from Toyota to Chevy for this season. But luckily the wildcard system allowed Tony into the Shootout, with new teammate Ryan Newman sitting on his pitbox. Tony Stewart started the shootout in 6th position and he was all over the track- everywhere from last to even leading for a few laps towards the end of the first segment. I will say that one of the most incredible jobs driving during that first segment and possibly during the whole race has to go to Jeff Gordon for winding his way through that first wreck. The wreck that took out rookie drivers Joey Logano and Scott Speed.
Stewart’s biggest complaint was that his car was too tight and seemed to struggle during most of the second segment of the race. During the very last caution he took a gamble on a pit stop and ended up lining up 8th for the green-white checker finish. I admit I questioned the pitstop but apparently the car wasn’t too his liking (DAMN I MISS MY HOTPASS). Due to the wreck that ended the race, Tony lucked out and ended up third because the accident tangled up drivers in third through 7th position.
It was my first glimpse of Team Office Depot and they seemed to be right on. Pit stops looked nice and clean and Tony seemed fairly calm despite having a car that was all over the place. It was a good finish in typical NASCAR style-part effort part luck. Seeing Team Office Depot in action makes me even more excited for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
And speaking of the Daytona 500 I want to also talk a little bit about Pole day on Sunday. First off I was esctatic to see Ryan Newman come out of the Stewart Haas stables so strong and nearly make the first row of the 500. I think that says a lot for the Army team. However- for some reason I thought Tony’s car was the one who was in the top 35 in owner points not Ryans- so that surprised me a little bit that Tony was out there trying to qualify on time (although it makes sense if I think about it considering he would have the past champion’s provisional to fall back on if needed). However this makes for a VERY nervous Amy during qualifying. I didn’t watch all of it but luckily I was able to catch the bits and pieces I needed- including Tony’s run. During Tony’s run I was actually pleasantly surprised. While he didn’t grab the pole or even get a top five – he did manage a top ten and was able to lock into the field on time and not have to worry about falling back on the past champion provisional. I know that I read somewhere that Darian Grubb wants to help Tony focus on qualifying better and I think he is off to a great start.
Random NASCAR notes for the week:
Coming Soon: The Tony Stewart Advertisement Machine and Why I Don’t Collect DieCasts