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You can read Part 1 here.

I am going to admit something right here…Misty and I played hooky from Infineon on Saturday and played tourists in San Fransisco so I really have NOTHING to tell you of Saturday.  Valli has a post about Saturday though if you want to check out what she was doing (plus you can read about how Dale Jr tried to scare her just like Jimmie did to us the day before).

We were up with the chickens on Sunday- grabbed a quick bite in the room and headed right to the track on Sunday morning and it wasn’t even early enough because the race traffic heading into Infineon was in full effect!  I remembered this from the time we came in 2009 and thought we had left in plenty of time- apparently not.  Not that we were late- but we were later than we wanted to be. So we get into the track plop our stuff down in the media center (I LOVE having a place I can ditch my stuff at the race so that I don’t have to carry all my belongings with me everywhere I go) grab both of my cameras and we decide to spend the morning just wandering before the start of the race.  First we wandered over to the driver introduction stage to get some pictures of three greats: Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bobby Allison. I have to admit…Misty got THE best picture of Bobby Allison:

Bobby Allison talks with PRN host before the race at Infineon Raceway. (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

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I was gonna try to fit the entire Infineon post into one…but it was just too large and I couldn’t do that to you. I hope you will enjoy part one. Stay tuned for part 2).

After checking into our hotel, Misty and I went to Infineon Raceway Thursday for like 10 minutes- just to pick up our credentials and remind ourselves how to get there because it had been a couple years (2009 to be exact- where the first time we were there we got misguided and ended up in Petaluma).  We returned bright and early Friday morning  got ourselves situated in the media center- grabbed something to drink and headed out to get some pictures before things filled in. We even wandered through the area of concessions behind the grandstands at the Start/Finish line – which was kinda creepy actually since most if not all of them were still closed.  We got a good look at the Infineon Hall of Fame…which honestly should be called the Wall of Fame…but that’s just semantics I guess.

Rick Hendrick, Infineon Hall Of Fame tile (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

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Restrictor plate racing brings with it it’s own set of rules and lately it’s own style of racing. The two-by-two “pod” style of racing that we saw at Daytona in February was indeed back again at Talladega. It was no surprise that during the extended first practice when it featured many pod runs (two cars bump drafting all the way around the track).

The two car tango that we have been seeing at the plate tracks brings with it two “issues” that seem to be on everyone’s mind. Of course you know I am going to throw my opinion in the ring. (more…)

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!

My nickname for Tony’s  performance at Louden? The Little Engine That Could! Do you remember that story from when you were a kid? It was one of a handful of favorites…so loved by both myself and my brother that my mom knew it by heart.  Technically though, Louden was a yo-yo race for Tony.  Luckily this time the yo-yo ended up and not down and all strung out- but I am getting ahead of myself.   I was actually sure that when I tuned into the pre-race show on Sunday morning I would see rain. I don’t know why but I just had a feeling. Luckily that feeling was wrong because rain delays or rain outs make Amy a very disgruntled and grumpy NASCAR fan.

So I was watching Tony’s DirecTV channel this time so I could hear most of the radio transmissions (they tend to edit where the NASCAR.COM Trackpass scanner luckily does not) because I didn’t feel like going through the rigmarole of getting out my laptop and finding my headphones (because my laptop does not have very good speakers). It’s really quite the set up…plenty of cords to trip over when I have to get up and go to the bathroom- and if my brother happens to stop by with my nephews I usually just pick up my laptop and run to the bedroom because my older nephew is in his very mischievous stage.

So the first thing I actually hear Tony say during the race is that he is “wicked loose.”  He had started 25 but fell back to 27th while fighting his car during the first several laps.  However the car seemed to “come in” the longer the run went and soon Tony was driving up to and passing cars left and right.  It was exciting to watch.  It was like I would see the car in front of him and he would work it right up to their bumper and out break them in the corner and whoosh right be them (yes whoosh is a very technical term I know).

Then came the first caution and with it the first round of pit stops.  Seemed like a really good pit stop and as soon as the green flag wove Tony seemed to be working his way up the field again….

LOUDON, NH - JUNE 27: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 27, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

LOUDON, NH - JUNE 27: Tony Stewart, driver of the Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 27, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Now either I missed the radio communication or they didn’t really say anything to Tony about the fact that they only got 2 of the 11 gallons into the car that was suppose to go in (it’s amazing how much good information you can actually find if you read the post race team release).  I have a feeling that DirecTV may have censored that little nugget of information because I am pretty sure I would have heard it.  The next thing I heard was Darian tell Tony not to hold anything back because they were going to be bringing him in at a specific lap to pit…and I could tell by the lap number that it couldn’t be the pit window yet. I may not be good at math but even I could figure that out!

Thus began the yo-yo race.  Tony would pit way before everyone else in the field.  This would put him way back in the field but on newer tires.  Since Tony’s #14 car was ALREADY strong this would allow him to work his way up through the field.  Then the leaders would pit. Tony would be near the lead (or lead)…but the leaders would then have fresher tires so he would fall back a little bit to 10-12th or so. Then it would be time for Tony to pit again. Lather Rinse Repeat.

Then during one of these cycles- Tony pitted then not five laps later did a caution come out.  Tony ended up a lap down. At this point I was frustrated.  But the OldSpice /Office Depot crew never gave up.  Darian had Tony stay out and get the wave around…which put him at the end of the line but he was able to work his way back up through the field again…and thanks to some well timed cautions that finally allowed Stewart back on pit sequence he was able to pull out a second place finish! It was hard earned.  As Tony said in the team release It was a long fight there at the end, but we got a top-two out of it. That was pretty cool. Pretty cool, indeed!

Tony is now 9th in the points, 141 points into the top 12 and 331 points behind points leader Kevin Harvick. Race winner was Jimmie Johnson.

Louden Notes:

Next weekend: Coke 400 on Saturday night.

The Coke 600 is not only the LONGEST race they run on the NASCAR Sprint Cup race circuit but it’s also the 13th race of the season. That being said I was really hoping to have something positive to report for our beloved #14 Office Depot Racing- like a win! But alas no win.

So my internet decided to go up and down like a yo-yo during the race. What that means is that I was unable to listen to most of the radio communication on the Trackpass Scanner (and yeah I know Tony was a hotpass driver- but I didn’t watch the hotpass channel because I feel that I lose too much of what is going on with other drivers on the hotpass channel).  I figure that there was some sort of handling issues with the car- but the only radio communications I got to hear was early in the race- Tony complained that Greg Biffle was short pitting and crowding him in the box.  We all know how that ended- with Tony hitting one of Biffle’s crew guys during a later pitstop and knocking him down (for those wondering- scenedaily.com reports that rear tire carrier Kevin McDowell was released early Monday- x-rays showed no broken bones).

On the plus side at least Tony finished 15th- which is better than where he started the race. See I am trying to find the positive- and there it is! He finished better than where he started. Tony is now 16th in the points.  Teammate Ryan Newman finished ninth and is now 12th in points.  I am still hoping for that first win of the season though- hopefully it will come next week since our reader @KevinMBoots77 is going to the race!  Race winner was Kurt Busch.

Notes from the Coke 600:

  • I love the fact that all four Hendrick cars had patriotic paint schemes! That rocked!  (yeah I know other cars had them too- but I still think that the Hendrick stable had the best! And that being said I liked Jeff Gordon’s the best of the four HMS cars).
  • Between the All-Star Race and the Induction ceremony and the Coke 600 it really has Misty and I hankering to go to Charlotte for our next “new” track experience.  We are already planning on going next year…look for a post soon about our excessive planning tactics.

Notes from the Indy 500:

  • This is probably one of the first years in a long time I didn’t sit and watch straight through the Indy 500 and Coke 600. However I did catch the last 100 laps or so of the race at Indy and all I can say it that that wreck on the last lap with Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay.  Yikes.  Racer.com is reporting that Mike Conway underwent surgery to repair fractures to his lower left leg. He also suffered soft tissue injuries as well as a compression fracture of one of his thoracic vertebrae. He will be out of the car for at least three months.   Ryan Hunger Reay also suffered a thumb injury but NOT during the last lap crash but during an earlier altercation on pit road with Scott Dixon.
  • I hope that Dario will take Tony up on his offer of a place in the Prelude To The Dream! That will be an interesting addition to the field.

Next weekend: Pocono. Remember that the races are NOT on Fox any more- we have moved on to TNT.  Also-remember that this is where Tony and the #14 crew got it’s first victory! Let’s hope for a repeat!

First I am actually going to start with the Pit Crew Challenge…I LOVE the Pit Crew Challenge. LOVE IT! I love it so much I purposely stayed off of Twitter because I KNEW it was a delayed broadcast on SpeedTV and I wanted to watch it without knowing who the winner was. Each run I would pick a team and root for them…loud enough for Roxy to go nap in her “safe place” while I watched. The best part of this year’s Pit Crew Challenge was watching Tony Gibson’s show of excitement when Ryan Newman’s US Army pit crew bested the 48 pit crew. All three Stewart-Haas pit crews did extremely well and should be proud! Denny Hamlin’s pit crew ended up winning the Pit Crew Challenge!

I watched the Showdown and the All-Star race. And for the most part I thought the Showdown was a wee bit more exciting than the All-Star race…not that it wasn’t exciting. I love that the Pit Crews get to be a part of the driver introductions for the All-Star race. And what do I love even more? That a lot of the crews bring out goodies for the fans at Driver Intros to toss into the crowd. I saw hats, shirts, I couldn’t tell what Kyle was giving away– but it would make sense if it was M&Ms…Tony Stewart even bent down and handed a fan his full Coke bottle. Those are the kind of things fans love – trust me- I know. I am a fan…and I would love catching a hat, tshirt or even a bag of M&Ms (who doesn’t love M&Ms). I also LOVE that Kyle and his pit crew BOW during their introduction. I LOVE THAT!

The race format is confusing to my parents- but not to me. However I wasn’t not going to watch with them (hello 52 in Flat Screen with SpeedTV in HD- it made it worth explaining the format several times). I did let loose with some curse words when Tony ended up getting collected in the late race accident. I was impressed he was able to finish as well as he did (Tony came in 5th) because the car seemed pretty damaged to me. Of course a lot of the field ended up involved in that last incident.

Congrats to Kurt who brought home the cool million dollars.

NOTES ABOUT THE ALL-STAR RACE:

  • As much as I like Kyle Busch…I still don’t understand what the problem was between him and Denny. I didn’t see the offense.  I saw Denny defending his position not cutting Kyle off.  Of course I only saw what the TV showed…
  • Can ANYONE explain to me why Ryan Newman was positioned 8th on that last restart? It didn’t make any sense to me.
  • Did not Taylor Gibbs give the best invocation? That was adorable!
  • *How can I not reference the song you KNOW is running through your head when you think of the All-Star race.

This is a new feature of Amy’s Bad Groove….a guest column by Misty!  Misty is a great writer, my best friend, and someone who supports badgroove from behind the scenes.  I hope she writes more of them for us and I think you will see why once you read her first post!—Amy

I admit it…I have a competitive streak a country mile wide.  Some say it is due to my astrological sign (Fierce Leo- ROAR!), but I simply don’t get all the people who don’t feel the same desire, no need to win.  The need not only to win, but to decimate your opponent, whether in a debate, a feverish game of Monopoly, a rousing episode of Jeopardy or on the track.  I not only want to win, I want to crush my opponent so there can be no doubt who the King or Queen of the Jungle is (there is that Leo again, ROAR!).  Whatever it is that gives me this irrepressible desire to obliterate, it also draws me to NASCAR.  The competition, yes, but more importantly the individual competition where at the end of the day there is a single victor proving dominance.
 
Of course my competitve nature also raises my stress level to scary levels and transforms me into a sailor many Sunday afternoons when my driver isn’t winning.  It took me a long time to accept that my guy isn’t going to win every weekend and big picture points is as important as the individual races.  I am particularly disconcerted when certain drivers are ahead of my guy:  certain drivers being drivers that my friends or co-workers root for.  It is like it is a personal competition between me and them and having their driver finish ahead of mine, is a personal defeat.  If I am at a race, and the guy in front of me is wearing a Bobby Labonte shirt, then my mission becomes to finish ahead of Labonte or whoever this poor sucker in front of me is supporting, all so that at the end of the race I can smugly think to myself “ha- I win!”  I can bask in my silent victory celebration in my own mind!  Crazy?  Probably.  Competitive and cut-throat?  Without a doubt!
 
All of this digression to set the stage for the horror I felt this weekend at Bristol when I heard Mark Martin ask his spotter to ask Kurt Busch’s spotter if Kurt would “let” Mark lead a lap to get his five bonus points, so that they could both stop racing so hard.  Well… all I can say is- never before have I said this and I never thought I would, but Kudos to the Blue Deuce for NOt accepting Mr. Martin’s offer.  From my perspective on my couch, it did not appear that Kurt was in any danger of losing the lead or running his tires off, so why on earth would he agree to such a deal.  That flies in the face of the competitive nature of the sport and is sheer madness in my opinion!  First of all, where is the competition in such an “arrangement”?!  Secondly, how much of a schmuck would Kurt look like come this summer if Mark bests him for a spot in the Chase by a few points?  Points that Kurt more or less would have given him in such a deal. 
 
Racing is about competition and dominance not sharing and taking turns- this isn’t kindergarten guys!  If you can race for the lead great- do it, if you can’t, perhaps you can steal those five bonus points with a strategy move- stay out a little longer next caution – but don’t ask to be given the points!  As one of my new favorite t-shirts says, Go! Race! Win! ROAR!