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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)!

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!