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I have been looking forward to  Sonoma Race weekend for so many reasons this year, but mostly because I have been JONESING hardcore for a race (in person).  In general NASCAR fans in the west kind of get the short end of the stick race wise.  There is Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Fontana- which unfortunately for fans (and fortunately for race teams no doubt) are all kind of close together.  Then we have a long wait until late June for Sonoma (and then again another long wait until Fall Phoenix).

Sonoma Raceway (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

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(What? You were expecting a report on the Coca-Cola 600 today? I actually went out of town this long memorial day weekend (love that scheduled post feature of WordPress)  for some non-NASCAR related fun (yes, there is such a thing) and am driving back home today…I will get the Coca-Cola 600 post up as soon as I can this week. Oh and HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY everyone!)

Well we are what 12-13 weeks into the race season and already there is silly season rumors floating around rampantly.  You know- the who is going where next season with what team/sponsor thing that usually starts towards mid-late season as contract negotiations are winding down for those drivers who suddenly find themselves in “free agency.” Everyone likes to play the were will they end up game.

So far this season I have heard rumors (and that is just what they are of course rumors) of Kurt Busch going over to Joe Gibbs Racing to join brother Kyle. The rumor does not specify (as most rumors don’t) whether this ride for Kurt is in a fourth car for the team or in Joey Logano’s 20 car. It’s been rumored for a couple seasons now that Joey Logano may be ride-less at the end of this season.

The other rumor is that Home Depot (current primary c- sponsor of the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Joey Logano) may be interesting in sponsoring Ryan Newman.  I took that to mean that JGR is wooing Ryan Newman who is in the last year of his contract with Stewart-Haas Racing.  However after batting it back and forth with Misty,  it could also mean that Home Depot is looking to go with Stewart-Haas Racing. They did, as Misty kindly pointed out, win the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship after all (and in an impressive fashion I might add). Not to mention the fact that Tony recently said (forgive me for not having a link) that he was really hoping to retain Ryan as a driver.

And then there is the story of Danica- will she be going cup as soon as next season? And will it be with Stewart-Haas?  And just how do I feel about that? (Mixed feelings would be the answer).

Of course, representatives for Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Home Depot, Joe Gibbs Racing and other entities involved in these rumors would deny them if asked. It would only be prudent as negotiations are no doubt still taking place. After all when rumors that Tony Stewart was thinking of leaving Joe Gibbs to start his own race team started rearing their head in summer of 2008- I, along with most, chalked it up to ridiculous silly season rumors. Especially since at the time, Joe Gibbs vehemently denied it.  Of course, we all know what happened there.

So tell me do you have any thoughts on silly season? I usually don’t put too much into the rumors just due to the fact that they are rumors. My interest is always piqued when it has to do with Stewart-Haas Racing though.  So have you heard any good silly season rumors? Do you even pay attention to them?

Inside A Helmet, Everthing Can Seem Different- David Caraviello for NASCAR.COM

Will Ryan Newman Return To SHR In 2013- Jeff Gluck for SBNATION.com

Whittling Crew Chiefs Down To Top Ten- Terry Blount for ESPN

Newman’s Gone Fishing- Ryan Newman for NASCAR.COM

TV Reporter Juggles Motherhood, NASCAR’s Grinding Road- Nate Ryan for USAToday.com

NASCAR At Darlington: Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman Teams Scuffle After Southern 500- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

If I Were A NASCAR Owner, I’d Hire Kurt Busch- Jordan Bianchi for SBNATION.com

Faith On The FrontStretch: A Speedy Apology Calms A Conflict- Beth Reinke for SkirtsandScuffs.com

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

Tony and Danica in the garage at Darlington (Again photo blatently stolen from the Official Tony Stewart Facebook Page. Click on Photo to see the original).)

For some reason every time I type Darlington the Trace Adkins song Arlington runs through my head- to the point where I will break into song…and if you have ever heard that song- it’s not a chipper break-into-song type of song so I can’t explain it. I have NO IDEA why except that they kind of rhyme.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 11, 2012 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

So back to the race report? I honestly don’t have much to say about Darlington. I know…what is WRONG with me- having nothing to say.  Tony finished well- a very respectable 3rd (missed it by that much!). Of course I was hoping Tony would get his first win at Darlington but it wasn’t in the stars I guess.  Tony is still 7th in the points despite his 3rd place finish.

Notes About Darlington:

  1. Kurt Busch was fined $50,000 for his actions during and after the race as well as put on probabtion through July 27th.  One of Kurt’s crew members, Craig Strickler, has also been placed on probation through December 31st.  Ryan Newman’s crew chief, Tony Gibson, has been placed on probation  through June 27th and the gas man, Andrew Rueger has been placed on probation through June 27th and fined $5,000 for his part in the postrace altercation.  I didn’t see the pitstop where Kurt purportedly burned out through Newman’s pit box- but if he did that while members were over the way- that was not a very bright thing to do. Again if he did do that I can see why Andrew Rueger was so pissed off.  I am, however, unclear, what Craig Strickler’s part in the altercation was- all the release would say was “interfering with a member of the broadcast media.”

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

Tony at Darlington (I think he's watching Danica practice). (Photo Credit: Stolen from the Official Tony Stewart Facebook Page- click picture for original location)

We have the All-Star Race on Saturday and the Coca-Cola 600 on the 27th- both at Charlotte.

 

Was it just me or was that race at Dover about 150 laps too long?  Maybe it was just me because when my driver doesn’t do so well I get grumpy about it and the Dover race wasn’t the best for the Tony and the 14 team.  I remember hearing Tony say that Dover was one of the chase tracks that they were concerned with- so I wasn’t surprised to see the team struggle with handling issues.  I do NOT like it when my driver finishes a lap down…and it makes me uber cranky when he finishes more than a lap down.  The car was ill handling the entire weekend as obvious by Tony’s practice speeds, qualifying effort and race. I wasn’t listening to the radio so I don’t know the exacts of HOW the handling was but but I honestly don’t think it matters much. They were bad. They know they were bad. According to the team report for Dover, Darian says that they have been routinely bad at concrete tracks:

The biggest thing is just that we don’t have the concrete tracks figured out yet. It’s obvious. At Bristol and Dover, we’ve just struggled for three years now with Tony there. We just need to figure out what we need to do. It’s not because of a lack of effort. We’re going to keep trying to find a few things and keep fighting.” Darian Grubb, Crew Chief of the #14 Chevy Impala.

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Settling in to watch the race at Richmond, the 26th race of the 2011 season, I was a ball of nerves. It was one of those races that I would have fast forwarded through just to see the results without going the stress (and I mean STRESS) of the race.  Tony was one of the drivers on the chase bubble. So to remain in the chase Tony had to finish in the top 18 because if he fell out of the top 10 in points he would NOT be eligible for a wildcard position because he has no wins (YET).  He qualified 22nd. See what I mean- I am sure Tony Stewart is trying to kill me- or give me an ulcer anyway.

I was encouraged by his little beginning of the race radio pep talk that he ended with: WE CAN DO THIS! I settled in and thought…of course WE CAN DO THIS!

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, drives in the garage area during practice for the Sprint Cup Series Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

It seemed at the beginning of the race that every two or three laps there was a caution because of agressive driving causing someone to spin someone out. I believe I proclaimed a couple of times that at this race the race wouldn’t be over until midnight west coast time (I told you I might have been tempted to fast forward during this race to see what the outcome was).  All my readers know that I was crossing every appendage I physically could in hopes of Tony making the chase. Apparently turning myself into a pretzel worked (yeah sure that’s what did it…I am sure of it).

I started to relax during the end of the race, when I was pretty sure that, barring some catastrophic accident (although I still worried about it slightly) and was able to actually enjoy the racing- but for 90 percent of it I was on pins and needles. PINS AND NEEDLES people.  Were you?  Tony seemed to be able to work his way forward through the field sometimes but other times he seemed stucked where he was.  But in the end- he ended up finishing 7th- well above the 18th place finish he would have needed to clinch his place in the chase.

Tony’s “Honoring Our Heroes” symbolic memorial paint scheme was BEAUTIFUL on the track. It looked like he had an equally amazing helmet.  This is the best picture I could find of it- if you have a better one- please share:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond International Raceway. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

Tony’s car was one of four cars in the field in the Saturday night race who raced a special commemorative paint scheme honoring the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation- a foundation that supports the families of first responders, provides scholarships for their children, as well as supports veteran’s wounded in conflict.  A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the diecasts of Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, David Gilliland and Jamie MacMurray cars will go to the foundation.  Lionel NASCAR Collectibles presented the Stephen Siller Foundation with $125,000 as the first installment of the proceeds of the money raised from the sale of diecasts.

Notes About Richmond:

  1. I was so glad that Dale Junior also made it into chase.
  2. The race coverage by ABC – on what to most NASCAR fans considered a crucial race- wasn’t very good. It seemed to me like there were far too many commercial breaks and a lot of times, when returning from a caution we missed the initial drop of the green flag- to find the cars already taking the first turn of the race.
  3. The race at Richmond had a record tying number of cautions: 15
  4. There were just as many sparks off the tracks as on.  Tony got snippy with AP reporter Jenna Fryer at his media availablity between practices on Friday.  After the race Kurt Busch is reported to had to have been physically restrained in an argument with Joe Menzer (NASCAR.COM), then later exchanged further heated words in the media center with him and even later with Jenna Fryer, when it’s reported that he ripped a transcript from her hand then ripped it in half.  So you think that there were no emotions running high at that race (and after?).  (Ok so I found the video of Kurt tearing the transcript…it appears to me that Jenna just handed it to him- he didn’t “rip it from her hands”- he did tear it in half though.)
  5. Tony helped the Office Depot Foundation donate 2000 sackpacks filled with school supplies to local Virginia children:

Tony Stewart signs a sackpack for a child in Virginia. (Photo Credit: Leon Rubin)

And finally- I just have to point out a favorite quote from the official team post-race report:

“It’s going to be a long 10 weeks, but every Friday when we show up at the track we start with a clean slate and just do the best we can. So, we’ll keep digging.” – Tony Stewart (emphasis mine)

That’s right: #KeepDiggingTony!

Next Race: Chicagoland

These last few races have had Tony Stewart scratching and clawing to make gains in position and Pocono’s race on Sunday was no different.  After qualifying 28th for the race, Stewart was able to claw his way up to 16th and was heading (albeit slowly) in the right direction when a devastating flat left front tire around lap 92 caused Stewart to have to put and put him a lap down the 2.5 mile track and back down in 28th position.  What is worse than being in 28th position I ask you? Being in 28th position and a lap down when the rain comes is my answer.

The #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet of Tony Stewart sits in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam RV Insurance 500 at Pocono Raceway. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images North America)

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Do you have any favorite road trip stories? The kind you relish telling at family gatherings or on other road trips?  Did you know that your story might just win you a $100 Shell Gas gift card or even better a year’s worth of free Shell gasoline?  I don’t know about you but not having to pay for gas for a year would totally rock for me! Last month alone I spent $310.00 in gas.  For your chance at free gas just share your road trip story in 50 words or less at shell.us/roadtrip (click on the link to enter and to read their rules).

I have tons and tons of road trip stories I could share with you. There was the time my bff and I took in 3 concerts in 4 days in 2 states. We were so doughy at the end of that lengthy road trip we were  singing The Ants Come Marching at the top of our lungs on the way home.  Then there was the time I lost the directions to PIR when we were staying all the way over in Scottsdale.  Let’s just say I am not allowed to be in charge of the directions anymore when Misty and I go on road trips because that wasn’t even the first time that I had done that.  There are all the times I have gotten us lost- because apparently I was born with a broken internal compass (I can get lost in a paper bag that has both ends cut off).  Of course I am forgetting to mention the time that Misty and I bonded with a roadside call box in the middle of the desert in the summer because we RAN OUT OF GAS because our rental car had a faulty fuel gauge (not to mention a slipping transmission to make the mountain passes uber fun).

My point is that everyone has a road trip story of some sort! You might as well use yours to try to win some free gas for goodness sake! Just visit http://www.shell.us/roadtrip to enter now!

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Now the people at Shell kindly provided me with a Kurt Busch prize back to give away! Isn’t that awesome?  This package includes a Kurt Busch license plate, a Kurt Busch car flag, a Kurt Busch travel mug and a Kurt Busch can coolie (wow that is a lot of Kurt Busch in one sentence)!

To enter for the Kurt Busch prize package all you need to do is comment on this post. You could share a road trip story, just say hi, tell me you love my site,  doesn’t matter what you say…just comment by the drop of the green flag for Sunday July 17th’s New Hampshire race to win the Kurt Busch Prize pack.  Your comment must have a valid email address for me to contact you.  Only one comment per person will be counted but feel free to comment as many times as you want.  After the drop of the green flag on Sunday- all entries will be placed in a hat and a winner will be picked at random for the Kurt Busch prize pack. (Remember commenting only gives you a chance at the Kurt Busch prize pack…for a chance at free gas you must go to shell.us/roadtrip)!