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This weekend had me watching the race at THE NASCAR CAFE in Las Vegas with my BFF.  This is the second race I would have watched there and let me tell you this: the NASCAR CAFE has changed a lot in less than a year…and it’s not for the better.  First off they changed the menu drastically. Secondly- they closed the top part of the restaurant…which was always my favorite place to sit. Now you have to sit downstairs by the bar- that sucks too.  And lastly? They have stopped doing the thing where you pay a ten dollar cover and get free cola and are entered in a drawing.

Also? They have this huge burrito. I mean I think I heard it has 27000 calories (no that isn’t a mistake).  And if you can eat it all- it’s free.  Well each time a person decided to try it…they interrupt the race for it…and march it around the bar. Um NO! We were there to watch the race. Not watch a burrito parade.

Anyway- I was glad to see Tony not only qualified in the top ten but that he was able to remain in the top ten through most of the race. I was glad to see him pass Biffle late in the race to take over third. He retained his points lead over a new second place – Jimmie Johnson.  Teammate Ryan Newman finished 14th retaining his 7th position in the overall points standing.

  • One of the things I love about the racing at Indy is the pageantry.  It’s much like Daytona that way.  I think ESPN did a great job by incorporating the driver intros into the broadcast.
  • In my rush to get to Vegas on Thursday I didn’t think to DVR the Stewart HotPass channel. Urg.
  • Interesting Observation One: While at the cafe, when Junior blew an engine? The whole place errupted in CHEERS! I was shocked- normally there would be a collective AWWW MAN or something but not cheers for Juniors misfortune.  I was not shocked however, when the place erupted into cheers when Kyle Busch crashed.
  • Interesting Observation two: Conversation heard at the table behind us during the last five laps of the race: Friend One: GO JJ GO! Friend Two: Who’s in the 5 car? Friend One: Uh I dunno some guy. Of course this was right before Friend Two referred to Jimmie Johnson as junior. I am not sure if they were just not really NASCAR fans or if they were drunk…in Vegas it could be either.
  • Ok…I have been saying for a long time that I didn’t get the “She’s From Russia” version of the Tony Stewart/ Old Spice commercial.  I REALLY don’t get the talking with food in his mouth commercial.  It’s rather gross.

Next weekend we are back at that evil little triangle track Pocono already. Tony won there last race…can he do it agan?

As many NASCAR fans know…ASK.COM is the official search engine of NASCAR and sponsor of driver Bobby Labonte.

I always like to see what kind of searches lead people to my site…and sometimes they are from Ask.com. I recently got my grubby little mitts on the top 10 NASCAR driver searches for ASK.COM and they are not surprising- well the fact that Kyle Busch is so low on the list is surprising but other than that…not surprising:

1.  Tony Stewart
2.  Jeremy Mayfield
3.  Dale Earnhardt Jr
4.  Jeff Gordon
5.  Dale Earnhardt
6.  Kasey Kahne
7.  Mark Martin
8.  Jimmie Johnson
9.  Kyle Busch
10. Carl Edwards

However my favorite part of the data I got was the Top-10 NASCAR related questions on ASK.COM (my snide helpful answers and comments in  bold italics):

1.  How do NASCAR drivers use the bathroom? The same way you and I do- a via a toilet. I just hope they wash their hands when they are done.
2.  What does NASCAR stand for? If you don’t know you probably aren’t a fan since this is a basic trivia question: National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.
3.  How many times has Jeremy Mayfield been married? Don’t know, don’t really care.
4.  Who won the Lifelock 400? The Lifelock 400 at Michigan was won by Mark Martin. The Lifelock.com 400 at Chicagoland was won by…wait for it…Mark Martin. Jeff Gordon came in second for both races as well. What are the odds of that?
5.  Who is Tony Stewart dating? Don’t know, don’t really care.
6.  How much do NASCAR drivers get paid? A whole hell of a lot more than I do but then again I don’t drive 200 mph for 3-4 hours….
7.  How do NASCAR drivers go to the bathroom? They stand up and walk to the nearest facility.
8.  At Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 1/8 mile short straight-aways between the first and second, and third and fourth turns are termed what? Don’t quote me on this but I am about 90 percent sure they are called short chutes.  5 percent of me thinks I made it up the other 5 percent is thinking that is a bull riding term…and I am just confused from last weekend’s rodeo.
9.  Who holds the cup series qualifying record at Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Believe it or not I believe that is Casey Mears.
10. When is the next NASCAR race? Usually Sunday (this weekend its Sunday). Some times Saturday.

On Thursday Journo at The NASCAR Insiders asked quite simply “Do You Remember Why You Love NASCAR?”  I actually pondered this a bit in my guest entry over at NASCAR THIS WEEK back in April. It is hard for me to put into words why I love the sport that I love…but I do.  As I mentioned in the NTW piece, I have had a love of cars and a love of motorsports in general since I was knee high to a grasshopper and was just naturally drawn to cars since childhood.

Then there is the first hand experiences of being at a track that assault you from the moment you get out of your car; the noise that 43 cars make that can take the breath out of you, the mixture of oil, rubber, sweat, and a myriad of food mixing and giving each track it’s own signature smell, the rush of adrenaline I get during the flyover (and I am not even a driver). It’s a very physical thing to actually be on hand for a race. It’s a feeling that I can not adequately describe despite my many attempt, and it’s definitely something that someone who doesn’t love the sport just can not get.  My uncle still doesn’t get why I would travel 500 miles to “watch cars drive in a circle.”  Even my own best friend didn’t get it until recently…and she knew me back when I was a geeky little junior high school kid (she didn’t get why I had race cars on my walls instead of Charlie Sheen and Tom Cruise). She eventually learned to tolerate it in me until just last year when I finally (only took like what 15-20 years) turned her into a NASCAR fan and now she LOVES it like I do.

Journo’s original point was that the whole Mayfield drug debacle is drawing negative attention to OUR sport- and as fans and lovers of the sport we need to step back, take a breath and remember what is GOOD about NASCAR this season and right now (goes on to give several examples such as Mark Martin winning races at 50 and first time winners Keselowski and Reutimann). His comments got me really thinking about what do I personally love about NASCAR right now at this point in the season (in no particular order):

  • Silly Season. I will proudly stand up and say I LOVE the rumors flying around about silly season. Will Harvick be with RCR next season? Will Brad Keselowski get that full time ride an if he does who will it be for? Will Joe Gibbs Racing be bringing on a fourth car? Will Stewart-Haas be fielding a third car? Will Danica make the jump to NASCAR? Who doesn’t love the surmising and the speculating that comes with this time of the year. Last season? I was all wrapped up in the Stewart-Haas thing (read I was shocked out of my socks) so much that I didn’t have much of a chance to enjoy all that goes with silly season…this year I can sit back and enjoy throwing my twelve cents in for whatever its worth.
  • That Stewart-Haas racing currently has two cars in the top 12 in points. I have been a Tony fan a long long time…I was shocked when he made the jump to owner/driver. I didn’t doubt him, I was concerned but I jumped right on board when I saw how excited he was. But how GREAT is it that he is up there leading the points with teammate Ryan Newman behind him in 7th place in points so far? Yes I know a lot can happen between now and the chase but it’s great right now.
  • Speaking of the chase- I love how drivers are teetering on the edge of making it…or not. It’s better than Bubble Day for the Indy 500! Will Biffle or Reutimann or Bowyer be able to fight their way into the chase? Will Kyle Busch, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth be able to stay in the chase? It’s drama at it’s best people!
  • That NASCAR, tracks and drivers are starting to embrace social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to reach out to us fans. I think that they are important tools- I am on twitter through out the day- more than email. It works for me. I admit to a slight addiction to facebook as well. I love that I can get updates (both personal and official) from these sites without having to hunt around for them. I hope more drivers come on board (hint hint Tony). NASCAR is even working with a group of selected bloggers in creating a Citizen Media Corp- which also rocks because bloggers are fans not journalists or sportscasters and have unique opinions and thoughts that they want heard- and it’s a great feeling to be included and listened to. Plus the more NASCAR bloggers unite in any method the stronger the voices are and thus the more we are heard.
  • The Mayfield drug debacle. Yes it’s turning kind of circus-like and pretty soon we almost expect to see someone like Jerry Springer jump in, however- I am going to disagree with Journo and say that this situation is bringing an important subject to light.  It’s something that hasn’t really been talked about much. And no matter what the ultimate outcome specifically regarding Mayfield’s case in particular- I think that NASCAR will emerge with one thing: a stronger and more broadly understood drug policy.
  • Kyle Busch. You may love him or you may hate him, but everyone has some feeling about him. He’s stepped into the “NASCAR BADBOY” role that some feel has been missing.  He’s young. He’s hot. He drives a mean car. He says the first thing that comes to mind (ok he reminds me of Tony so you know I like him). At Infineon I was actually in the crowd on the track during driver Intros…and when he was announced he was booed so viciously that it made me actually stop taking pictures and turn around to see if I needed to run for cover. Do I think he deserves it? No. Do I think he handles himself well? Most of the time. Do I think he has talent? Hell yeah. I also thinks he brings a little something to the table excitement wise- whether its a war of words between him and Junior or a little bitterness over some on-track action with Tony, you have to admit it adds excitement.

Of course this is not an inclusive list of ALL things I love about NASCAR on any given day. It’s just a brief list I came up with in response to a question. There are more long standing things about the sport that I love too. There are GOOD things to love about this sport all the time.

Another exciting finish thanks to the new double file restart rule.

Tony qualified and started 32nd in Saturday night’s race.  But once that green flag dropped Tony was on a mission to move forward and that is exactly what he did nearly immediately.  It didn’t take him long to work his way up to the top 15 and then to the top 10- where he stayed around 7th place most of the evening. He seemed to be struggling a bit with the handling of the car into the turns judging by his hotpass audio.  Crew chief Darian Grubb continuously took stabs at adjusting the car to make it work more for Stewart with adjustments to air pressure and trackbar. The race at Chicagoland was actually fairly incident free…the first two cautions of the race thrown for track debris.  Team Office Depot/Old Spice seemed to be working their way towards a solid top 10 possiby even a top 5 finish.

Then there was the bad pit stop and things just seemed to go downhill for a bit.  First there was the pitstop- under caution where Tony took off from the pits two lugnuts short of a full load.  Crew Chief Darian Grubb calls him back in almost immediately- reminding him to be calm about it. Tony may have been mad but if he was I didn’t hear it.   Then during the next caution, after pitting, Tony either cuts down a tire on debris or thinks he cuts down a tire and comes back in to the pits again.  During that last 60 laps he must have pitted 4 or 5 times, luckily all of them were during cautions and he fell no lower than 17th. Each time Stewart and Grubb discussed changes to the car that Tony needed to be able to push through the field.

Tony was determined though and didn’t let a frustrating night get the best of him and continued to push forward through the pack with the help of his spotter.  Before the last restart Tony and Darian had one of my favorite exchanges of the night with Darian telling Tony that it “aint been pretty.” and Tony telling Darian that was true but “he wasn’t done yet.” And how true that was because Tony ended up pushing forward into 4th, retaining his points lead over second place Jeff Gordon.  The race winner was Mark Martin. Teammate Ryan Newman finished 6th to help Stewart-Haas racing land another double top ten for the team.

NOTES on CHICAGOLAND:

  • How cool that Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon were able to finish 1-2 and how great for the fan to get that money! Wish it was me!
  • Boy Jeff Burton doesn’t like the double file restarts…but I do. Of course they have been working to Tony’s advantage so far.
  • I decided that I didn’t much care for the back-to-school paint scheme Tony was running- with the exception of the part of the car that looked like a composition book. I think it would have been cooler to make the whole car look like the book and then maybe have it look like a kid scribbled on it… instead of the crayons on the front and the pens on the side.  Plus I just don’t like the white base to the car.  But that is just me.
  • Speaking of alternate paint schemes…should it be called a paint scheme or a wrap scheme…since technically they wrapped the car?
  • Being alone and watching a race doesn’t stop me from talking to the tv. Or yelling things like “WATCH OUT!” like Tony can here me (regarding when Paul Menard nearly spun into his right side. Tony’s reaction was a nice calm “Wow that was about as close as I wanna get tonight.” Me I was all “WATCH OUT!!!”
  • I really could just slap whoever sits there at DirecTV central with their finger on the censor button where it comes to Tony’s radio feed. I know I have harped on this before…but I really wanted to know what he and Darian said at the end of the race but all I got to hear was something like “Damn….win them and lose them as a team.” I know that there was stuff inbetween.
  • I know that you know I love the commercials.  Did  you catch the new ending to the Toyota Autograph Seeker commercial…when the little flying robot comes back with Kyle Busch and he just kind of moans? It made me laugh.
  • Speaking of the commericals…I also noticed a new version of the old spice commercial that had the girl who in previous versions was “from russia” presenting tony with a big ole turkey leg- which he bites into and then proceeds to say “Thanks Old Spice” complete with mouthful. All I could do is shake my head. At least it wasn’t as disturbing as last week’s Burger King commercial that had Tony and the King (who you all know gives me the creeps) swapping spots in the car so Tony can enjoy himself a Double Whopper (I still can’t find that commercial on youtube or anything or I would post it for your pleasure)…that was just creepy. I wish Tony had just run over the King or something.

Next weekend is an off weekend. The next NASCAR race is on July 26th at Indianapolis Motorspeedway.

All I can say is wow. I was able to catch most of Kyle’s press conference, along with snippets of Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and all of Tony Stewart’s today thanks to live streaming video (gotta love the internet!!) And wow.

I heard Tony’s statement yesterday (I think it was yesterday) about him talking to Kyle about the incident and that they were on the “same page” regarding the last lap incident at Daytona (don’t know what I am talking about? Click here for video of the last 5 laps). I don’t necessarily know what that page is- but there must be a pretty darn big page break in the middle of it.

Frankly, I was kind of surprised yesterday when Tony made it sound like it was pretty much water under the bridge, these things happen let’s get on with Chicago kind of thing (that wasn’t exactly what Tony said mind you but that is the impression I got)  because Saturday night…Kyle LOOKED pissed. And frankly- he probably WAS pissed- especially being in the heat of the moment on a hot evening.

Well today during the media session with Kyle- not only did he look pissed but he sounded pissed.  Kyle was asked what could be done about incidents like the one that happened on Saturday at Daytona and he said that “If the second place car purposely dumps the first place car- NASCAR should black flag them and they should definitely not be called the race winner.” Then he was asked by the same reporter (I believe it was Dustin Long) to clarify- did he believe that he was dumped on Saturday to which Kyle definitely responded with an emphatic affirmative.

Fast forward through the media sessions a bit- other drivers have come and gone including Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne- both of whom were asked about their views on the incident and both of whom said they did not believe the incident was on purpose.   Tony comes out for his session and starts off by stating straight away that he’s not going to say anything any different than what he said previously- he has spoke with Kyle and they are on the same page.  Someone immediately brings up that he probably didn’t hear what Kyle said earlier and he tells them he read the transcript he knows what he said- his statement still stands. The media in the room were mostly respectful in that they didn’t go where clearly Tony didn’t want to go…except for one guy who wanted to ask about Kyle’s stance that in a situation like that a black flag should be given to which Tony answered “I am not going to bite on your lure.”  I can’t really blame him. He clearly stated at the beginning of the session that he didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

Now I don’t know what the “same page” is Tony was talking about because  seems that Tony is in a different chapter of the book than Kyle is.  Does it surprise me? No. Kyle is a young, very aggressive driver. I have been to a race and heard half the track boo the guy. He had a hot season last year. This year he is struggling a little bit (in comparison to last year).  It was obvious by hearing Kyle talk today (I am speaking of his comments about Stewart-Haas Racing’s affiliation with Hendrick Motorsports) that he is still a little bitter about being let go from Hendrick Motorsports (and I bet after Kyle’s season last year Rick Hendrick might have been wondering if he made the right move there).

Kyle doesn’t have a yellow stripe on his bumper but he is only 24 years old.  I personally think that the younger you are the more likely you are to lash out. The more likely you are to try to fight EVERY battle. I think of where I was when I was 24 years old compared to where I am now personally- I was different. I was more aggressive (where know I tend to refine passive-agressiveness into an art).  Best I can figure it, at that age I had just hired on at my job in a permanent basis and just thinking about my attitude towards difficulties on my commute has changed  (got to carry the whole cars theme here)…I now don’t get as angry. Someone cuts me off- most days now I will just mutter under my breath and carry on with myself (notice I said MOST days…not ALL). Back then…I would have made sure the driver knew I felt I was “wronged” somehow.  People change (I like to think mostly for the better) as they get older.

If you were to compare Kyle to a book, Kyle is still in the preface (and Joey Logano- in case you are wondering- he has barely made it to the Title Page). Tony is probably about a a quarter to a third of the way into the story (I have to say this – cuz Tony’s only a couple years older than me). It’s not too far into the story that Tony doesn’t understand where Kyle is…but he understands a little bit more of the plot.

I actually REALLY like Kyle…and honestly had he won Daytona- I would have been a little disappointed that Tony didn’t win (I am, after all a Tony fan first and foremost) but I would have been glad for Kyle.  (I did get to see Kyle win in Vegas this year- and let me tell you that rocked! Seeing him win at his hometown track was awesome).  I am still of the stance that this was “one of those racing deals.” I don’t think Kyle expected Tony to be pulled up to his right rear quarter panel as far as he did when he moved right for the block any more than  Tony expected Kyle to move up on him.  These cars are moving extremely fast and you have to remember the drivers have limited vision in the car (various factors do play into this including lack of side view mirrors and safety restraints- which Kyle and Kasey and Joey should all be very thankful for seeing as they all took hard hits and walked away to play another day).

Originally I planned to write this entry right after the race on Saturday night, so I could get it up and published and enjoy my rare Sunday.  I like writing out my thoughts about the races but I definitely don’t like lagging behind a day or three to publish them. However, with a finish like that? I decided I needed to time to digest exactly what happened.

Let’s start with the beginning of the race.  Tony had the pole since qualifying was rained out and he is the points leader.  This week I honestly didn’t pay too much attention to practice like I usually do so I don’t even know where he was there. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even until Friday afternoon that I remembered that Tony was running his Burger King paint scheme.  This had him and his crew leaving behind the usual Red  for a mostly white and blue car (the firesuits on the other hand were a gorgeous BLUE color! I loved them- and don’t get me started about Tony’s helmet!)  I am glad Tony spent so much time at the front of the field on Saturday frankly, because I don’t think I could have found him mixed in.  Seeing Tony in a mostly white car…did not compute.

Because of Tony’s starting postion they were able to pick any pitstall they wanted. The team picked the box closest to the exit of pitroad and Team OfficeDepot/OldSpice Burger King were on the ball!  Let me tell you that every pit stop whether it be  green flag or caution stops, that team had Tony coming out of the pits first all night long. It’s not like the crew weren’t adjusting on the car for Tony too…because they threw all kinds of changes at that car including trackbar and wedge.  They were just on top of it.

Between awesome pit stops and good adjustments on the car I don’t think I saw Tony scored any lower than 5th position the whole night and that was just one of those drafting deals where Tony got bumped out of the draft early in the race and couldn’t fall back in line until he was 5th. He quickly moved himself back up. Tony also led the most laps so gets a bonus point for that too (something he was swapping back and forth with Denny Hamlin most of the race).

Now to the white flag lap. Kyle got around Tony for the lead. Tony was able to hook up with Jimmie Johnson for a little drafting help. Tony gets a run on Kyle and looks to pass him. Kyle moves over to block him (as he should have done).  Tony again gets a run on Kyle and moves to the outside to pass him. Too late Kyle tries to block (as he should have done) thus tony clips him and kyle is then completely out of control and smacks the wall hard. Then in something extremely reminiscent of Talladega- Kasey Kahne gets into Kyle HARD. Lifting Kyle into the air (again- thanks to the roof flaps Kyle didn’t sail too far up) and Kyle smacks Kasey Kahne square in the windshield.  It was a hard hit for both of them:

Kyle takes a ride...

This then caused a major pile up just yards from the start-finish line.

Again, like in Talladega, neither driver did anything wrong. You wouldn’t want a driver to pull over and not throw a block when someone is trying to pass him. You also wouldn’t want a driver who was just content to run around behind someone and be ok with second place.  No one is at fault.  It’s “one of those racin’ deals”.  I said that after Talladega and I say it again after Daytona.  The most important thing was that no one was hurt really…just a big bunch of torn up race cars and probably some bruised egos and sad hearts.

I was kind of sad for Tony because it was very obvious he did not like the outcome.  He did not go into that lap wanting to wreck Kyle or cause mass havoc. Tony was very…calm when he came in after the winning his second points race (third race all around including the all-star race) this season with his new team.  I watched him on hot pass pull all the way around and usually he’s talking on the radio and cheering in the car. He did none of that. He was very tame in the car.  It was probably one of THE tamest victory lane celebrations I have ever seen. And he apologized afterwards by saying “if it was my fault I am sorry” but seriously it wasn’t is fault (or Kyles).

Was Kyle mad? Probably. Wouldn’t you be? I would be- especially in the heat of the moment.

More Notes on Daytona II:

  • Ok, the new Coke/Coke Zero brand manager NASCAR commericial? FUNNY. “Are you a NASCAR driver or a NAS-SCARED driver?” Oh that cracks me up.  As does Jeff Burton taking off after the guys.
  • The Tony Stewart/ Burger King Commercials? Eeek. First one was bad enough- I have nightmares where someone pops up in the backseat of my car. Let alone the king- who is creepy anyway. But the one where Tony and the King “swap” spots in the car? That one was just way beyond. Unfortunately they aren’t on youtube yet so I can’t share them with you and show you all that is WRONG with that!
  • Because of the finish- there are lots of articles out there about the big accident and there probably will be all week. But the first bullet in this one is absolutely ridiculous: 1. Tony Stewart will never lift off the throttle on the final lap. DUMB! Why? Because why would ANY DRIVER lift off the throttle?  That would be one fired driver!
  • My favorite saying of the race though? Wally Dallenbach gets credit for this one: Never second guess your butt.

Next weekend we are racing under the lights on Saturday night at CHICAGO!

Our last installment of the Road Course Adventure had us never making it to the track on Saturday. Well not past the parking gate anyway. I am warning you right now that this is a LONG post (filled with lots of pictures) as Sunday was A LONG day.  If you are on dialup though I don’t want to kill your ability to see my site so continue on to read the adventure of Sunday at the Races….

(more…)

Wow…that was an interesting albeit short race on Sunday.  Well at least it seemed short to me. I don’t know why – since they ran the full race. Maybe it was the lack of cautions?

Tony was a Hot Pass driver this week.  I don’t know if HOT PASS was listening to me or snoozing on the job but I did get to hear Tony complain that his car was “Looser than shit!” on the radio. Despite seeming to wrestle an ill-handling car for most of the race- overall Tony seemed pretty good- he was in the Top 10 most of the day. After the last caution, crew cheif Darian Grubb called on Stewart to save gas- which he did- however about 100 feet from the start finish line Tony ran out of gas but was still able to coast across the finishline in a very respectable 7th place. Tony retained the points lead- leading second place (in both the race and the points) Gordon by 47 points.  Tony’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman also struggles with an ill-handling car all day- at one point actually replacing a spring during a pitstop. Ryan Newman is currently fifth in the points 225 points behind his teammate.

Notes About Michigan:

  • Ok- seriously I didn’t see that it was that big of a deal that Kyle smashed the guitar/trophy.  It is his trophy. It was done in a “rock n roll” kinda spirit. Can we please move on now?
  • Also I am kinda finding the whole Kyle vs Jr and Jr. Nation thing a guilty pleasure to witness. It is slightly humorous. I don’t know why I am finding it humorous to watch the two slug insults back and forth but I am.
  • Wow two races in a row where fuel mileage played a heavy hand.  I don’t see how people can not think it’s exciting. This time we had not only our race leader run out of gas well before the start finish line, but the second place car run out of gas too (Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle). It’s all part of the strategy component of it all.