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Mark Martin at NHMS

Mark Martin, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 / Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, looks on from the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at NHMS on September 20, 2013 in Loudon, New Hampshire.(Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images North America)

There are only eight more races of the 2013 NASCAR season now- eight. Usually at this point in the season I am starting to dread the end of the season- but I find myself looking ahead to 2014 so much that I don’t have that usual foreboding dread about the season ending.  The reasoning behind this is two fold I am certain. The big fold being I want to see (a healed, healthy, raring to go) Tony Stewart back at the helm of the #14 Chevy SS and leading the way for the new Stewart-Haas stable.  I excited about the team dynamic for Stewart-Haas Racing next season- I have made no secret of that.  Tony Stewart, Kevin Havick and Kurt Busch…I think that has potential to be HUGE because while I am a Tony Stewart fan- I see nothing but talent in both Kevin and Kurt and think that having them work together has AWESOME written all over it (and yes I know that I am in the minority here but I do think Kurt Busch has HUGE amounts of talent).


One of my favorite things that come with races are the sponsor events that drivers do for fans. One that happened today in advance of Richmond looks so FUN I wish I had been there (ok I admit it I wish I had been there despite the event- but it still looks REALLY cool)!  Kyle Busch and his wife Samantha as well as the #18 M&M’s Toyota Camry went to Colonial Williamsburg, VA! I would love to go to Colonial Williamsburg anyway but add to NASCAR?!  That sounds PERFECT to me! It would be fun to juxtapose one century with another I think!  One of these days I am going to finagle an interview with Kyle for BadGroove!


#SmokeWillRise over the door of the #14 Chevy in the garage at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Charlotte Bray/SkirtsandScuffs.com)

Was it just me or was the constant talking about who where so-and-so driver was in the chase standings if it started right then irritating as all get out. That is all good and fine- but here is a little news flash for you (and by you I mean TV booth broadcasters) THE CHASE DOES NOT START UNTIL AFTER RICHMOND. I have a feeling that next Saturday night is going to be rifled with it. (more…)

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)


Finished: 15th

Race Winner: Matt Kenseth

Points After Darlington: 21st, 170 points behind current series leader Jimmie Johnson. 62 points behind 10th in the standings – still outside of the top 20 and not eligible for a wild card birth.

My Mood After Darlington: Cautiously optimist (more…)

Two days later and my head is still spinning from the drama that was the Richmond race.  The race at Richmond on Saturday night had more plot lines than a soap opera on a Friday afternoon. Since Tony Stewart was pretty much guaranteed to make the chase- even if he fell out of the top ten- I was strangely relaxed at first.  When I turned on the TV to settle in for the race and saw college football and that it was only in the 3rd quarter I didn’t even freak out as I normally would have.  Nothing ticks me off more, usually, then when I turn on the TV to watch a race and some other programming is on instead. It didn’t bother me Saturday for some reason- possibly because thanks to Twitter I realized that there was a rain delay at Richmond- but I can’t be sure.

By the way- I don’t watch college football ever but I kept the game on as background noise while I did some household chores- because frankly- there wasn’t much else on anyway .  I heard the announcers of the game (it was USC and Someone- see how little I paid attention) talking about how NASCAR was currently in a rain delay which was good for them because they were running late because of a lightning delay.  So they bantered back and forth about The Chase a bit and how it worked.  Or I should say how they THOUGHT it worked. How many drivers they THOUGHT made it to the chase- it was a little sad that they didn’t know.  I mean like I said I don’t watch much football or baseball but I still know for the most part how the games are played. But I digress.

Tony Looks Befuddled At Richmond

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 7, 2012 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)


I don’t know why but I was kind of “eh” about The Prelude To The Dream this year. It doesn’t make ANY sense because I usually count down the days and blog about it incessantly in the preceding months weeks and days. I don’t think I even mentioned it except for putting the details under WE SUPPORT in the navigation bar over there on the left. I even (prepare yourself- this is shocking) almost considered not ordering/watching it.

Tony Stewart drives the #14 Chevrolet during the Feed the Children Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway on June 6, 2012 in Rossburg, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)


Short and sweet this week…just like me (ok…I am short but not usually sweet).

Time and Place (One Week Later Jimmie Johnson Is Still Not Pleased With Ryan Newman)-  David Caraviello for NASCAR.com

Kyle Busch Interview: A Closer At Joe Gibbs Racing’s Rowdy Driver- Jeff Gluck for SBNation

Carl Edwards Responds To Memior- Terry Blount for ESPN

SBNation Video: MSNBC Anchor Thinks NASCAR Cars Go 500 MPH- by Jeff Gluck for SBNation

Your gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 17: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks directly to Nascar Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart during a visit by the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers to the White House on April 17, 2012 in Washington, DC. President Obama hosted the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart to honor his championship season. (Photo Credit: Ned Dishman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Ahh, it was so great to not just have cup cars out on the track but to have those cup cars to be racing.  No matter what the format of the Shootout or how drivers qualify for the Shootout, I look forward it because to me it signals the beginning of the season, points be damned.

I admit during the off season, while reveling in the fact that my driver won his third championship, I’ve been pondering the momentum SHR may or may not carry into the 2012 season.  Last season was not the best of seasons for Tony Stewart and his #14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 team.  I don’t think even Tony would argue with me there. Granted there were some near wins during the regular season, like Las Vegas (which broke my heart because I knew how much he wanted to win there after our interview and to see him come oh-so-close only to not win) and the more positive 2nd place in New Hampshire (where he finished second to teammate Ryan Newman).  But despite a few bright spots (that were not winning so how bright could they really be) was frustrating for our driver (and his fans right).  I honestly don’t think I have ever worried as much as I have about Tony making THE CHASE (NASCAR’s version of playoffs/Championship) as I did this last 2011 season.  Luckily he did by the skin of his teeth (whether or not he thought he deserved it).

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, jokes around during qualifying for the Daytona 500 at Daytona. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America).

Then it was like someone flipped a switch. Tony’s CHASE run was nothing short of amazing, with the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 team winning a record 5 out of 10 CHASE races.  And don’t even get me started about that race at Homestead, that amazing race that Tony NEEDED to win. He not only managed to win but passed 118 cars to do it. A race where the team and driver had to overcome damage early in the race, a bad pit stop, a rain delay and you know 42 competitors. A race where it was quite obvious that the driver was….well driving his ass off.  Oh yeah and they happened to take home a CHAMPIONSHIP because if it.  That rocked.

Even though the season ended on a high note, that doesn’t mean that the momentum will follow through and don’t think that doesn’t worry me.  SHR underwent some fairly major changes at the end of the season and during the off season.  There were sponsor additions (Outback and Quicken Loans) for Ryan Newman’s car. A new crew chief, Steve Addington,  was hired for Tony Stewart, after letting go Darian Grubb. The long empty Director of Competition position was filled by Greg Zipadelli (big surprise there right?) after being vacant most of last season.  And the BIGGEST change of all, the addition of a third, albeit part-time team with the #10 of Danica Patrick.  Yes, technically the car is fielded by TBR but we all know that was done to guarantee Danica a start in the 500 without having to sacrifice Tony or Ryan’s owner points.  So that adds a new crew (maybe- Stewart-Haas has a third pit crew they offered out to other teams) and a new quasi-teammate to the mix.  That is a whole lot of change for an organization. Change that may (or hopefully may NOT) hinder momentum because there are new people getting use to an existing organization and an organization getting use to new people.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona. (Picture Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

That being said, I am VERY pleased with what i saw at the Shootout momentum wise.  Considering that Tony’s car had signifigant damage during practice and the team was able to repair the car and get it to point where he was obviously very competive, it is exciting to witness. Yeah, Tony didn’t win but he came darn close.  Even Kyle Busch mentioned during his postrace that he hooked up with Tony because he knew that the 14 was fast.  So as a fan of SHR and in particular Tony Stewart, I am definitely liking what I am seeing from my team so far this very young season.

Now, as far as the 500 on Sunday? It’s going to be a crazy race.  NASCAR worked hard during the off season to break up the tandem drafting and judging by the Shootout, it worked.  The return of “pack” racing is something I find crazy stressful to watch at the superspeedways.  Packs mean there is less room to correct for an “oopsie” with out hitting someone else.  Recovery space is limited.  When you do make a mistake (and someone always does- it’s human nature) there is a very good chance that multiple cars will be involved, thus a better chance of a more “spectacular” crashes. And when I say “spectacular” I really mean “scary as hell, oh god please let driver x by okay” kind of crashes.  So there is that to worry about.

On the plus side, Tony WAS strong in the shootout. Hopefully he will be equally strong in his Duel race.  And for those who like numbers- this is Tony Stewart’s 14th Daytona 500.  I think it’s time for him to finally win one!  I know Tony must want that jewel in his crown- who wouldn’t.

So…#GoTonyTo and as always #ImWithSmoke!

Also- be sure to check out our new “Misty’s Mazin’ Moment” column- this week she tackles The Shootout. And her Misty’s Messed her unMentionables moment of the Shootout!