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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!

All I can say is WOW. That was a race! Tony Stewart qualified for the race 11th…and finished the race 11th.  It could have been better yes, but it could have been much much worse (just ask Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, and/or Kyle Busch- whom I will all talk about later in this post).

Via the team release Stewart said this about the team’s choice to come in for fresh tires during the late race caution that had the race going green with only two laps to go:

“Hindsight being 20-20, I probably should’ve stayed out, but we took a gamble and, really, what do we have to lose?” said Stewart, who now has 12 top-12 finishes in 18 career Sprint Cup appearances at the Texas track. “We really don’t have anything to lose. We’re eighth in points, so who cares? I’d rather take a chance on doing something to go forward than worry about losing spots and going backward.” — Team Release

However, I honestly think, the #14 Office Depot team had no option but to pit- having a majority of the field in front of him having fresher (more fresh?) tires from the pit stop before, where they elected to stay out.  As it was Tony restarted 16th and worked his way up to 11th in 2 laps! So obviously the fresh rubber was working- he just ran out of time.

And while Greg Biffle seemed to rule most of the race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, it would be Denny Hamlin edging out a hard charging Matt Kenseth for the win.

***

And now for the “DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA” portion of this post. WOW. How can people say this sport isn’t exciting?? All this drama and Tony wasn’t even involved believe it or not:

First drama one:  Kyle Busch gets held for two laps additional laps (after being held one lap for a pit road speeding penalty) for giving a NASCAR official the finger.  Now personally I think that the 2 laps was a bit excessive for flipping off an official.  I mean, seriously? That totally put him out of contention for even coming close to winning the race.  You can’t tell me that it wasn’t because he was caught doing this accidentally by ESPN, who flipped over to Busch’s in-car camera right as Kyle expressed his displeasure with the call, live as it was happening.  Now I hear that NASCAR is considering even MORE penalties for Kyle’s heat-of-the-moment gesticulation! Really? Think about this, I flipped someone off this morning…and you know what granted while I do this sometimes in fun or jest  sometimes I am really pissed off and it’s the only thing I can do to express myself.  Kyle is right- it kind of is trampling on his freedom of speech or um…gesture.  Yes,  I have already debated this stand with my father who is of the feeling that it was incredibly unprofessional and immature for Kyle to do.  While I do see that point- he was already punished for it by being held two laps in race so do we really need to trample on it further? Because if we do the consequences may backfire as drivers refuse to express themselves at all.  And no one wants to see that. It is the drivers and their personalities that MAKE this sport!

Ok…now onto drama number two: The Jeff vs Jeff battle on the backstretch.  For those that missed that little gem you can check out this video recap of the incident (you will also see dramas one and three mentioned as well).  Unfortunately ESPN didn’t catch the whole on-track altercation as they were distracted by Martin Truex Jr, who was gracefully spinning through the grass causing his third caution of the day.  From what I saw, it looked like Jeff Burton intentionally spun Jeff Gordon under the yellow. Gordon’s car hit the outside wall hard, pretty much destroying the car.  It was a hard impact- you could see pieces of car and what looked like SAFER barrier flying after the impact.  Burton’s car came to rest further down the track at the inside retaining wall.  Gordon was pissed. You could tell by the video of him in his car that he was pissed.  He then walked down the banking and towards Burton’s car which was parked against the inside wall.  Next thing you know Gordon is shoving Burton and the two go fist-a-cuffs for a bit, with some NASCAR officials jumping in between the two of them.  That was some EXCITEMENT right there!  Now from what I have heard and seen of it I think that there was some sort of incident on track, possibly even before the yellow flew between Gordon and Burton and Burton took out Gordon in a fit of frustration. I hate to say this but I LIKE it when the drivers go toe-to-toe out of the car when they are pissed off.  As I have mentioned before I do not advocate using (stock cars or otherwise) cars to retaliate- but get into a good, old-fashion shoving match there against the infield wall and I am all about that! It shows that this sport is intense when you have two respected drivers getting in each other’s face after an on-track incident.  Good for Jeff Gordon for sticking up for what he believes was right, that Jeff Burton wrecked him and under caution no less.  Bravo.

And for the final drama of the race- After the above mentioned wreck, it was decided to have Jeff Gordon’s pit crew pit Jimmie Johnson’s 48 car while the 48 pit crew packed up the 24 group’s pit box. Ouch.  However, whomever made that call- made a wise one.  Jimmie’s crew seemed to be falling apart at the seams all day, after repeated poor pit stops- including one four tire stop in the 16+ second mark.  Yeah I am sure there are some majorly bruised egos on the 48 pit crew…but one bad pit stop I can see…but FOUR bad ones? Really? You are a four-time champion’s pit crew…your driver is contending for his record breaking fifth consecutive cup title. Yes I am sure you are all under immense pressure…but FOUR? Really??  Jeff’s over-the-wall crew stepped in under what I am assume was Chad’s call and they did not just step in…but they stepped UP and were able to pit Jimmie with decent times.  That is what I call GOOD teamwork.   Just this afternoon Hendrick Motorsports announced that the 24 pit crew will be going over-the-wall for Jimmie Johnson for the last two races of the season.  This is good for Jimmie who I understand is in title contention- but wow- why punish Jeff because his pit crew is ON IT!  I mean his pit crew has been in the running for the fastest pit crew for most of the year! It seems like they are punishing Jeff Gordon for having a good pit crew.  Hopefully the 48 crew can figure out where the disconnect was and get it ironed out for the next two races for Jeff.

One final note about Texas- two fans were hurt during the race when a brake pad flew through the eighth story window of the Speedway club in the first turn. From what I was able to find out, it doesn’t seem like the injuries were life-threatening, thank goodness. I wish them a speedy recovery- no one wants to see anyone get hurt at a race!

Next race: Phoenix

Bristol- I like you. I really really do. But damn- why did you have to be so mean to Tony on Saturday night?  Tony qualified strong- a 4th place starting position.  And at the begining of the race he was doing so well.  He even led for a lap or two (five points right there). I was optimistic at the beginning!

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Old Spice/Office Depot Chevorlet, prepares to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the Old Spice/Office Depot Chevorlet, prepares to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Then it all went to hell in a hand basket. First David Ragan spun. Tony slowed up on his sponsors advice as to not hit Ragan who was sitting in the middle of the track and sliding ever so slowly towards the infield. Ragan looked like a sitting duck. I was worried that it could get ugly for Ragan. Apparently he was not the one I needed to be worrying about as Stewart ended up with the worse of that deal when Tony Raines smacked him in the right rear as Stewart was slowing to avoid Ragan. It looked ugly- parts sticking out from the car. It took him two trips to pit road for the crew to fix up the damage but Stewart was able to stay on the lead lap- he was 25 or 26 but still on the lead lap (I am pretty sure that he was the last car on the lead lap actually).

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Understandably the car wasn’t handling as well as it was pre-accident…and what might have even been a salvageable evening for Stewart turned to crap when Stewart smacked the wall pretty hard because the car was looser than a caboose.   Then he had a tire start to go down and was forced to pit under green- and lost three laps changing only right side tires (Bristol is that small and the race leaders were running that fast).  He would not come up any farther and unfortunately finished 27th- 6 laps down.  Stewart would lose two positions in the points standing and is now 6th behind points leader Kevin Harvick. Race winner was Kyle Busch who completed the first ever trifecta- winning three series events in a single weekend.

Notes About Bristol:

  • When Tony got the 4th starting position in qualifying, the StewartHaasRacing twitter account claimed it was his second consecutive STEWART POLE…that being the highest qualifying position not required to do after qualifying media.
  • Speaking of media…what does Jeff Gluck have against Tony Stewart anyway? He made a snide twitter comment after Tony’s first incident at Bristol “Fortunately for Tony Stewart, he won’t have to visit the media center tonight. Fortunate for the media, too.” He always has something rude to say about Tony. It riles me up.
  • Best National Anthem of the season so far. I am just saying…maybe they should get away from the weird acts and go for the kids more often.
  • Pre hell in a handbasket radio was interesting. Tony instructed them to calm him down if he got riled up during the race during his pre-race peptalk.
  • After the contact with Ragan but before he had a tire come apart on him Tony got riled up about something and Darian told him to “chill out.” That cracked me up because when I am ramped up and someone says that to me? It just riles me up more.
  • Post hell in a handbasket radio was pretty depressing. Stewart didn’t say hardly anything. Neither did Darian…mostly it was his spotter Bob saying things like “Clear.” And “The x car has a hole if you need it.”
  • Caption:
BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)


Next weekend is an off weekend for the Cup Drivers.

You may have noticed that lately Kyle Busch has been driving the Pretzel M&M car (it’s the blue one).  I will tell you this? I LOVE the Pretzel M&M’s- and if it hadn’t been for Kyle and that car I probably would have never discovered them because I am not a big M&M eater in general- so that is your marketing money at work right there M&M/Mars! The Pretzel M&M’s are my new favorite candy and if you come to me bearing a baggie of Pretzel M&M’s* I will love you forever and probably do nearly anything you wanted.  Every time I see the Pretzel M&M car I want a baggie.  It’s like the crack of candy with its tons of chocolatey, crunchy, salty goodness.

And how on earth did I get stuck on that tangent of too much information? By wanting to tell you about the M&M’s Most Colorful Fans contest.  This contest is actually the perfect pairing because as many of you know,  NASCAR fans are a varied, colorful, loving, devoted breed of people (as demonstrated in my favorite NASCAR book THE WEEKEND STARTS ON WEDNESDAY- pick up a copy- you know you want it!) and M&M’s being the colorful candy they are want to recognize the most colorful NASCAR fan.

This is the third year M&M has run this particular contest…and entering is easy.  Enter your favorite NASCAR themed photo (fan – ha that is a funny typo so I am leaving it…enter your fan- not your photo…good luck with figuring out how to upload a fan!) that showcases your love of the sport/your favorite driver and/or team  by uploading it to NASCAR.com/mostcolorfulfans between now and September 6th! Just by uploading a picture you get a fifteen percent off a one-time purchase at the NASCAR.COM Superstore, including free shipping so you are already a winner!  Other fans vote on their favorite photo and you could win one of the weekly $500 gift cards if you are chosen!  There is also an instant win game were you could win a $50.00 gift card.  Three finalist will be chosen to vie for the title of M&M Most Colorful fan.

The NASCAR fan deemed most colorful will win a trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, $10,000 and a yearlong featured display within the Hall of Fame!  Awesome prize right? Just watch this video about last year’s winner:

I bet you could sneak in a trip to your favorite race team’s shop while in Charlotte at the Hall of Fame if you won. If I won you know I would be like “yah yah that’s fine…now where is Stewart-Haas Racing again?”

____

*No M&M’s were consumed during the writing of this post-pretzel or otherwise…and that is a shame!

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.

So Dover is one of those tracks that I don’t have feelings for one way or the other. I don’t look at the schedule and think to myself YEY DOVER or AW HELL DOVER.   However I will admit that I might have been thinking something along the lines of  Oh please let Tony get at least a top ten…a win would be all kinds of AWESOME but please please pretty please at least a top ten before the race on Sunday -all the way through the pre-race tv coverage.

So Tony qualified 16th for Sunday’s race and right off the bat he seemed pretty pleased with his car- telling crew chief Darian Grubb with less that ten laps under his belt that the car seemed pretty good from the get-go.  He was passing people and was soon in the top ten.  Ahh maybe my good thoughts were working after all.  Listening in on the radio communications Tony seemed pretty pleased with the car’s handling except that he was a tick tight in the center of the turn (center third as he put it).

Pit stops seemed clean and well executed- a good job all around for the #14 team.  Unfortunately a trackbar adjustment on the third pit stop and changing track conditions made the car’s handling go to pieces and the #14 began to fall back in the field and was soon the last car on the lead lap.  It was not looking good.  I sat there just waiting for the leader to catch and pass him.  Luckily a caution came out and Darian and crew went back on some of the adjustments.  Tony was able to claw his way back up through the field and was also helped by a two tire pit stop with about 41 laps to go.  Tony finished 9th and moved up four spots in the points standings and is now only 37 points behind 12th place (currently held by Martin Truex Jr).  Race winner was Kyle Busch.

Notes:

  • After the race in Dover Tony headed out to Nashville, TN to help with the GAC Telethon benefiting the flood victims.
  • It was great to hear Tony and Darian working well together on the radio. I loved that they were maintaining a fairly positive attitude even after the handling on the car went catywhompus on them. YEY. The pit crew seemed to be spot on with their timing as well.
  • Speaking of the pit crew…it’s the ALL-STAR race this weekend…and what do I love about that? It means that Wednesday is the Pit Crew Challenge.  I LOVE THE PIT CREW CHALLENGE! LOVE IT!!!  It’s on Wednesday night on SPEED at 9 PM eastern time. Cheer on the 14 crew!!
  • Also on Wednesday for those of you with facebook accounts you will want to check out the ARMORALL Facebook page for a  NEW Off Track With Tony Stewart. This episode – entitled the ROOKIE is actually a comedic web episode that was filmed at Stewart-Haas racing…I can not WAIT for that either.
  • And for those of you with Twitter feeds…did you know Stewart-Haas Racing has an official twitter account? It’s @StewartHaasRcng. Follow them for race day updates as well as updates throughout the week.  You might also want to follow my feed at @badgroove.
  • Speaking of twitter…if you are tweeting about Tony…try using the #goTONYgo hashtags….I am using them until he wins. Hopefully it won’t be long!

All-Star Race is this Saturday. The Showdown starts at 6pm eastern and the All-Star race at 9:00pm Both are on SPEED this time.

I was looking forward to Richmond because I was SURE that Tony would have a great run! It is, afterall, his favorite track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit (he said this many times last week during his media).  However that would NOT be the case.

Tony qualified 18th for the race.  That didn’t worry me though, as Tony isn’t usually the best of qualifiers. However as soon as the green flag dropped on Saturday night- Tony slowly began dropping positions in the race because his car wasn’t handling well.  By lap 10 he was reporting the car was loose off and tight in the center.  Thanks to a blistering pace set by Kyle Busch early on and a  long green flag runs- Tony was a lap down by lap 86- not even a quarter into the race. It was going to be a long night. 

Tony and Darian worked on the radio, making adjustments throughout the evening but they just couldn’t seem to get the car handling well enough for Tony to be able to move through the field.  Darian did keep Tony out during one caution that allowed him get a lap back but it was all for naught as he was still fighting the handling on his car and fell back off the lead lap again.   Tony did seem a little better towards the end of the race-  As he began to move back up the field slightly to a hard fought 23rd place finish.  The race winner was Kyle Busch who edged out Jeff Gordon on the third Green-White-Checker of the evening. Teammate Ryan Newman finished 8th.  Tony is now 15th in the points, 307 points behind points leader Kevin Harvick.

  • The best thing about the race? When, over texts exchanged with Misty during the race, I was obsessing that Tony was going to take another hits in the points standings, she texted me with “Remember what I say: You can’t keep Stewart down.” It made me feel better- but I still worry. 
  • I am really enjoying the NASCAR trackpass scanner. The only issue I have it means I have to sit in front of the tv with my laptop on and plugged into my ear. I am sure I look the site. TV on, laptop on my lap, one ear bud in one ear bud out…and my cell phone within arms reach so that I can watch the race, listen to Tony’s scanner and text Misty!
  • I am also ready for the races to move on from Fox to the next station.

This week we will be racing on Saturday Night again (weather permitting of course) at Darlington!  Go Tony!

The following is a day-by-day account of the great annual Vegas RACECATION. It includes race pictures, lots of words including a detailed account of what was going on in my head before and during our Tony Stewart Interview!!! as well as some choice Tony and Ryan quotes from their appearance at the Q&A at the Lagasse Stadium at The Palazzo, and did I  not mention race pictures? I am putting a jump in here because this entry is really LONG but I couldn’t bear to break it up.

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