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Two races into the playoffs and I am just now making my predictions as to who will win the cup.

Speaking of the cup- surely by now you have seen the new trophy? I have seen and heard both positive and negative comments about the trophy. Personally I like it- I love the section at the top that at a glance to the non-NASCAR trained eye just looks like a random squirrelly design but is really comprised of the outline of the tracks. I LOVE that part of the trophy the most.  I have no problem with the new series sponsor making a new series trophy.

Back to my predictions though. I am going to say that Martin Truex Jr is going to win the championship. I feel that is pretty safe bet to take don’t you? He has all those championship stage win points to carry him through to the final four so unless he has a pretty disastrous stage two I do not see a “final four” in Homestead-Miami without Martin Truex Jr in it.  So since my bet on Martin Truex Jr is so safe- who should I say will be the other drivers he is up against in that last race? I would put my money on Kyle Busch for sure but who else? As much as I would love to see Ryan Blaney or Kasey Kahne or one of the other one win underdogs in the final four I think the other two drivers will be Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson.

The Stewart-Haas Racing fan in me would love to see Harvick take home the cup but I really think that the Toyotas have something that the Fords just do not seem to have under the hood. Not sure what it is not being a technical person with my nose under the hood of either car but it is quite obvious to this race fan that there is something that is favoring the Toyotas this season while leaving the Chevys and Fords in the dust. I also wouldn’t mine seeing Kyle win the Championship- I have always liked Kyle as a driver. He’s got a certain something. And I wouldn’t mind seeing Jimmie Johnson win- if only to get that mythical championship number 8. You can say what you want about Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus and that Lowes 48 team but this is a legacy in the making.  (more…)

(Photo Source: Charlotte Bray for Skirts & Scuffs)

I have to say that so far I am admittedly impressed with Stewart-Haas this season. Yes I know that we are only two races into the season and all but all four cars seem strong so far for the most part.  Oh and no I haven’t forgotten that they switched manufacturers in the off season. To me this makes their showing early in the season even more impressive.  While it was regrettable that Kevin Harvick dominated, and I mean DOMINATED the majority of the race from the pole only to be foiled by his own hand (or foot in this case) with a pit road speeding penalty after a late race caution when many drivers took the wave around, it’s Harvick’s performance that you can judge the team by. He has been a strong teammate since joining Stewart-Haas Racing and while I know that it can make for a boring race when one car is so dominate the way Harvick’s was- it’s a pretty damn good indicator to me that the move from Chevy to Ford is not the learning curve or difficult transition that many thought it would be.  This has always been the little team that could since it’s inception in 2009 and look at them charge up that hill. (more…)

(photo source: zimbio.com/Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)

Start: 21st

Finish: 32nd

Points: 2141 (14th in points)

For Talladega- the race on Sunday was fairly uneventful and that was a good thing.  The big one never came- just a few medium to small sized incidents that did little damage- unlike the big melee during the truck race the day before with 34 laps to go.

(Source: Tony Stewart Official Store Facebook)

Tony dropped to the back of the pack after the drop of the green flag and stayed there for the entire race. When – by chance of caution he was in packs of cars he again would drop back until he was in a smaller group of people whom he trusted.  The plan was to move forward if they thought there would be a chance at gaining position with relatively little danger of being ensnared in “the big one” however even towards the very end of the race Tony radioed in and said that he felt there was something still brewing and he wasn’t going to push it to move forward.  While a couple of smallish accidents happened towards the end of the race- Tony was never really able to climb forward because of the restarts and finished his day 32nd. It was a craps shoot to stay in the back just as much as it was a craps shoot to get up in the main fruckus and possibly get wiped out by someone else’s problem.

I have seen a lot of people online complaining that what the Gibbs cars (minus Denny who took his chances at the front of the pack)  did and what Tony did wasn’t racing.  But wasn’t it? It was a strategic move to keep themselves and their cars safe and it worked well for Gibbs. Why? Because half of the Round of 8 are the four Gibbs cars. So it didn’t work out too well for Tony- but at least he was running at the end of  the race on the lead lap and wasn’t on his way home with nothing but a crumpled mess of car sitting in the Hauler waiting to go back to North Carolina. I have long been of the stance that racing at Talladega and Daytona is dangerous. I don’t know if it’s because of the speeds they run on the high banks, or if it’s due to the restrictor plates putting the cars so close together on the track- but one person messes up and you are in someone else’s mess. Because of the speeds at the superspeedways I am ALWAYS concerned about injury during accidents. Yes I know that those cars are safe- but after seeing two freak accidents injure Tony Stewart (none of which were in Sprint Cup Stock cars) how can I not worry that the intense speeds and “big one” type collisions during these super speedway races will cause a freak accident type injury that severely injures a driver.  Besides- wasn’t it a wreck at Talladega that landed Ryan Newman on his lid on the backstretch several years ago- and he ended up with several cracked teeth because of it?  Minor injury yes but still an injury.  For the possible injury reason alone I can not blame a driver from shying away from running mid-pack when all they have is a mid-pack car. Then you have the cost of the wreck because a lot of times when you wreck at Talladega you wreck big. That’s money out of the owners pockets both in destroyed equipment in addition to any possible purse money depending on where the driver might have finished had the car just suffered a minor ding and gone to the garage to fix it. Therefore it does not surprise me nor do I think it’s cheating or not racing when a team wants to move all or some of it’s cars to be the back to be “safe” when they are in contention for a championship, during an elimination race.  That is just strategy and it will work some times and bite you other times (just ask Tony). (more…)

(photo source: Tony Stewart Facebook)

Start: 14th

Finish: 16th

Points: 2131 (13th in points)

The race in Kansas started out with a good omen for driver Tony Stewart: he was driving the number 14 car, was housed in garage number 14 in the garage area at Kansas and ended up qualifying 14th.  That’s a whole lot of 14 right?

(photo source: Tony Stewart Facebook)

At the drop of the green flag Tony started flying up the field and cracked the top ten within 10 laps.  He reported that the balance was pretty much the same as it had been in practice and it was pretty good. The team did a great first pit stop and no penalties left him in the top ten. By lap 59 he had moved up into 6th place by passing Joey Logano when Tony exclaimed that it was “fun out here.”

Not that I could hear him well. I couldn’t. The static on Tony’s radio from the NASCAR Mobile ap was so terrible it actually hurt my ears to listen and there were times that I would take it out. It would have periods of being better, less staticy but then it would get bad again.  So I missed about half of what went on on the radio. About the time he passed Joey Logano he wanted his spotter to let whom I assume is Joey’s spotter that “he’ll play nice if he does.” Like I said that is what it sounded like anyway because I had a heck of time hearing.

Unfortunately after the laps started to tick away the handling on the Code 3 Associates Chevy went away too and Tony slowly started dropping back as the handing went away.  The team would work on the car during the pitstops but it just didn’t seem to make too big of a difference and I was beginning to think he was going to be lucky to get a top 20 finish but after the last major pit stop of the day- it seemed to turn a corner and Tony was able to gain a few positions and finished the race 16th.   His teammate Kevin Harvick had a great day however and was able to bring home the checkers for his friend/owner Tony Stewart.  This locked Kevin Harvick into advancing into the round of 8 with Jimmie Johnson.

Oh and Tony had another awesome helmet on for the Kansas Weekend:

 

(photo source: Tony Stewart facebook)

While in Kansas Code 3 Associates founder Nan Stuart presented Tony with a plaque commemorating their partnership and sponsorship:

(photo credit: Code 3 Associates facebook)

Here is a great article about Tony Stewart that came out of the Kansas Race weekend by Darron Cummings for the Kansas City Star: Tony Stewart bidding farewell to NASCAR, but he’s not finished racing.

Also- I hope Alex Bowman (who was driving the 88 for Dale Earnhardt Jr) is feeling better. After the race Dale tweeted out a picture of poor Alex in the infield care center hooked up to an IV- apparently he was suffering from a bug all day yet still drove his heart out:

@DaleJr: The Showman @AlexBRacing did good today. Top 10 with a stomach bug. @nationwide88 guys gave him a great car. (Image Source: Dale Earnhardt Jr Twitter)

Next week…I will be watching through my fingers because it’s Talladega!

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:

There is just something about this picture that I love:

(Photo Source: Zimbio.com/Jason Hanna/Getty Images North America)

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#SmokeAlwaysRises #AlwaysRac14g

(photo source: zimbio.com/Sean Gardner/Getty Images North America)

Started: 27th

Finished: 30th (29 laps down)

Points: 400 (6 points behind 26th place Aric Almirola, 85 points ahead of 31st)

Intro Song: Better Man by Pearl Jam, which is apropos in my eyes.

Tony stated it best after qualifying when he said “It’s going to be a long (expletive) day tomorrow.” Unfortunately I don’t think he was talking about the weather delays- which were so plentiful it seemed to me that the race at Bristol was interrupting the rain instead of the other way around.  The race on Saturday night was delayed by rain but did start on Saturday night only to be stopped after 48 laps because of rain.  It was rescheduled for Saturday afternoon but was again delayed by several hours by,  yep- you guessed it, rain.  But they finally got the cars rolling on track because luckily for us all it doesn’t take long to dry Bristol between the banking and the fact that it’s short and concrete. But it was delayed again later in the race for “weather” to the point where it was red flagged again- but no for very long and then they were able to get going again and NASCAR was able to get the full 500 lap event in thankfully.  And thank goodness because you diehard and likely still waterlogged fans were able to get your full money’s worth from your tickets despite being a little…moist. (more…)

The crew of Kevin Harvick’s #4 team donning their NurvGear face shields

Hey SHR Fans! I wanted to introduce you all to a cool new product for us SHR fans made for the outdoor enthusiast in mind: NurvGear now has Face Shields that are made with specifically licensed patterns from your favorite SHR drivers! These face shields offer great protection in the outdoors and I can think of several different uses for them.

NurvGear 4 face shield

So for those unfamiliar, NurvGear was founded as a company devoted to those that live, dream, and explore the great outdoors; fishing, trekking, skiing, biking, racing, and much more. Their products (the faceshields are just one of a line of products by NurvGear including hats and a variety of different kinds of shirts) designed for comfort and function in the great outdoors.

These face shields are not just your typical bandana. Just check out these five features of each NurvGear face shield :

1. Repels moisture keeping you cooler & dryer, for longer

2. Provides SPF 40 protection from the harsh rays of the sun

3. Helps maintain hydration,

4. Antibacterial so you can even share with your friends (not that you will want to- tell them to buy their own)

5. Made with a stain resistant formula

There are several patterns for each SHR racing driver! Can’t decide which one you want- don’t fear! NurvGear has  discount packs of two or four shields where you pick the SHR face shield bandanas you want and you get a discount on the total cost- how awesome is that (they have the same thing for their non-SHR face shields too). Get two (or four) different face shield bandanas or get them all same. Keep them all for yourself or share them with friends.  Use them hiking, fishing, biking, at the races wherever- the possibilities are endless and the designs are cool. I personally have my eye on this Tony Stewart Always A Racer one (and one of their straw hats too):

Although I really like this one too- good think they have those special deal packs:

By the way- have I mentioned how much I love the “Always A Racer, Forever A Champion” logo? I do…A LOT.  As in I would have it painted on the hood of my Chevy Equinox if I had the means…but I am seriously digressing here. Check out the NurvGear guards today and pick up one or two or four.

Mike Casto sporting the NurvGear guard

All-Star Race 2013 (Photo Source: Tony Stewart FaceBook Page)

These items are what have been pinging around my pitbox this week like loose lugnuts during a green flag pitstop:

1. Don’t forget Smoke fans- Tony will be giving the command to fire engines for the All-Star race…how awesome is that. I hope that other tracks have some neat tributes to Tony as the season winds down…I know he said he didn’t want a fuss but…I kind of want a fuss for him.

2. I was going to go on a little rant about silly season rumors and the whole Harvick to HMS rumor. But now I don’t have to do that because Stewart-Haas Racing officially announced today that Harvick has signed a “longterm contract extension” with the team.  I wonder if people will now listen to Kevin when he states emphatically on his social media that he isn’t going anywhere?! For those wondering, Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers signed a contract extension last June so the pair is likely  in it for the long haul.  Of course this doesn’t mean that the whole Kasey Kahne to finish his HMS contract with a different team isn’t true- but like all silly season rumors- only time will tell with that one. (more…)

(Photo Source: Zimbio.com/Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)

Replacement Driver: Ty Dillon

Started: 28th

Finished: 15th (lead lap)

Whenever I watch a race from Phoenix at home I get wistful- and wish that I was at that race.  I love PIR, I love the track and I love the racing quality the track produces and this race looked like it was an awesome one because it’s my assertion that for all the good racing you see on the National Broadcast – the actual racing at the track is at least twice as good.  ”  It  seemed the racing at Phoenix this spring did not disappoint! They could not have had a better day for racing in the desert as it was warm but not hot and no hurricane-like winds of the Vegas race just a week ago. (more…)