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(This is part 2 of our two part  annual Sonoma “Race-cation” post! Check out Part 1: Friday & Saturday here— Amy)

Sunday would prove to be one of our busiest and most interesting race days that we have experienced to date. Thanks to NASCAR we had earned a VIP race experience and what an experience it was.

Sonoma Raceway

Bright and early Sunday morning picture taken from parking lot 1 as I waited for the parking shuttle as tweeted June 22nd, 2014 (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Our race day started as another bright and even earlier day.  We wanted to be absolutely certain we were at Sonoma Raceway in plenty of time so we left quite early knowing that highway 37 towards Sonoma is two lane for much of it (one in each direction) and can back up quite quickly and we wanting to leave nothing to chance. Because we left so early we encountered virtually no traffic except the usual getting into the raceway traffic so by the time we were parked and waiting for the shuttle to the paddock/media center we realized we were there well before we needed to be. So what do an early Misty and Amy do at a race track early? They take a quick walk down the length of the garage and then out to the area behind the pit stalls before they are too crowded.

Early Sunday Morning Pit Road

Pit road at Sonoma Raceway early Sunday morning on June 22nd, 2014 (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

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(I ended up breaking this post up into two parts because it was just too long once I added in all the pictures.  Enjoy and watch for Part 2: Sunday tomorrow–Amy)

As I mentioned in a post several weeks ago- I had really been jonesing for a race.  I LOVE being at a race track and Race Sonoma couldn’t possibly get here fast enough for me. Sonoma Raceway is slowly worming it’s way into my heart as one of my favorite tracks that we get to attend in person.  The weather is almost always beautiful when the NASCAR race is there and we seem to almost always find something fun to do off track as well as have incredible adventures at track. After all it was at Sonoma Raceway that Misty interviewed Jeff Gordon a couple of years ago.  Anyway- I had been looking forward to this race pretty much since March.

I love the smell of oil, gas and nomex in the morning.

Friday morning garage picture as tweeted on June 20th, 2014 from my phone. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Our Friday at Sonoma Raceway started bright and early. It’s kind of ironic to me that Misty and I spend a good majority of the vacation hours that we each earn at our respective jobs for our “racations” where we tend to be up and at it just as early (or in my case specifically – earlier) and just as hard as we do for our jobs.

Anyway- I had heard that both Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick were running patriotic paint schemes at Race Sonoma. So my first mission was to try to capture photos of them. My favorite place to do that is as the cars are being rolled out of the technical inspection tent. I caught them and a few more: (more…)

2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Field

The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase field as it stands from Saturday night after the race at Richmond International Raceway- but should two of the drivers in the field really be there? (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Richmond, a d-shaped 3/4 mile track in Virgina, is one of NASCAR’s crown jewel short tracks and the stage for the last regular season race of the Sprint Cup season or as NASCAR fans know it “The race for the Chase.” The chase- by design is a 10 race shootout of tracks for the championship where the points are basically zeroed out- with a seeding by number of wins for the top ten drivers with the including of two non-seeded, wild card drivers. Only the top 12 drivers in the regular season have a chance at the championship as the Chase currently stands- making these last ten “chase” races the play-offs of NASCAR.  One of the interesting effects since NASCAR went to a “play-offs” type championship seasons is that just making the CHASE becomes the main goal for teams. Also, as a result of this system- there is the “bubble” who is in and who is out.

This particular Richmond race- there were 11 drivers vying for the 6 remaining “non-clinched” spots in the chase (including the two wild card positions).  As the race was run- those drivers that were in and those that were out changed with each lap it seemed.  Ryan Newman was vying for one of those cherished wild card spots- most of the time against Martin Truex Jr.  Ryan pretty much had to win the race, or Martin Truex Jr had to have a tragedy because if they tied for the wild card the only way Ryan would win the wild card spot would be with another win for the tie breaker. Conversely, driver Jeff Gordon could not hope for a wild card spot- if he was to make the chase Jeff Gordon absolutely had to finish with in the top 10 in the points standings since he has no wins yet this season. (more…)

Wow am I late with this race post- but as happens with nearly all races I attend in person- I go to the race- have a blast and then come home and slammed in the face by “reality” when I get back. Sigh. Plus I took 1800+ pictures myself,  with Misty taking an additional 650+ pictures.  I had to then weed through them and process some of them for the blog- which takes time as I am sure you can imagine! A big  thank you to all of my readers for being so patient.

Sonoma Raceway Grandstands

Sonoma Racway 2013. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Misty and I get to Sonoma Raceway early on Friday, pick up our respective credentials, park in lot M as directed by the parking attendants (which in both Misty and I’s opinion seem to be the BEST at nearly any track we have been to thus far), shuttled to the media center- found our respective spots (schwing- right next to each other- no having to ask about swapping and BONUS we had front row window seats that looked out onto pit road and what would eventually be Greg Biffle’s pit stall) and then we headed towards the garage area before it got to crowded. (more…)

Since I got all philosophical, sentimental, or whatever you would call that with the Texas Race Report –I left out the “Notes” section where I usually go into all things NASCAR that didn’t fit nice and tidy in the race post. So I present to you- NASCAR tidbits in no particular order that have been floating around in my brain: (more…)

Fan fest for the 2012 Champions Week festivities in Las Vegas was held at the Fremont Street Experience for the second year.  Personally- I liked it better when it was held at the track because there was just something magical about being at LVMS when it’s quiet.  But then again, I am probably biased because LVMS is where I saw my first ever NASCAR race…it was at LVMS that I turned my already BFF into a NASCAR fan…and it was at LVMS that BG was first granted media credentials – so I have a special place in my heart for LVMS.    I guess that they figure that having at the Fremont Street Experience is easier for fans to get to (since the track is WAY OUT THERE)…plus I think the track has a festival of lights set up as many do during the holiday season.

Anyway-  several of the cup cars were on  display and a red carpet that the drivers would walk down to get to the stage where they would be playing  this year’s game show: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?  The red carpet walk that the drivers take is an experience let me tell you.  People start claiming their spots HOURS before the drivers are scheduled to appear and then other tourists, who are there for non-NASCAR reasons will stroll by and ask what is going on and then upon hearing that they are waiting for NASCAR drivers to walk by in like three hours they give the fans a look like WOW really? You are standing here because a race car driver is going to walk by in like THREE HOURS? It’s kind of funny to judge their reaction- most give looks like the fans are seriously insane.  I don’t know what is more insane…standing around the carpet or walking around in public dressed as a storm trooper and Darth Vader (we seriously saw these characters walking around the red carpet interaction with tourists. Last year it was SpongeBob SquarePants. I don’t think they are official characters- just random people dressed up as them and then trying to make a few extra dollars posing with tourists.

So this year it seemed the red carpet was even MORE chaotic than last year. The drivers were kind of bunched together more than last year so that pretty much everyone was just screaming for their favorite driver’s attention but the actual chances of getting your signature seemed more difficult. I am not sure if the drivers also signed stuff on the way FROM the stage because we left a little early.

Here are some pictures from the event: (more…)

As a Tony Stewart fan, I went into the 2011 Sprint Cup chase extremely pessimistic.  After all, Tony Stewart went into the chase saying he thought the team was wasting a chase berth with the way they had been performing.  Of course we all know what happened; Tony Stewart went on a tear- won FIVE of the ten Chase races (something that had NEVER been done before)  including the season closer at Homestead-Miami, thus winning the Chase by TIEBREAKER.  It was both exhilarating and stressful to be a Tony Stewart fan towards the end of the 2011 chase.  I was AT the Phoenix race and spent most of the race perched on the patio of the media center- watching the race through my fingers.  I don’t even remember much about the Homestead race- except that I was so stoked that I promised my family that if Tony won the championship I would treat them to dinner at the Outback. Guess you all know what I had for dinner that night.  What made the chase so great last year- especially during Homestead was that it was so CLOSE- and to win it Tony Stewart HAD TO WIN THE RACE- a second place wouldn’t cut it.

CHICAGO, IL- SEPTEMBER 12: (L – R) Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Martin Truex Jr, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Clint Boyer, Denny Hamlin, Kaey Kahne and Tony Stewart pose in front of “The Bean” as part of NASCAR Chase Media Day and NASCAR Contenders Live on September 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. They are the twelve drivers competing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. (Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images North America)

This year however, I feel EXCITEMENT going into the chase because this year NASCAR’s Chase for the 2012 Sprint Series Cup could be brought home by ANY of the 12 drivers. I personally do not count ANYONE out.  Sure Tony’s the reigning champion and I would LOVE to see him become a FOUR time champion. Denny Hamlin goes in to the Chase seeded first and his crew chief Darian Grubb no doubt feels he has a point to prove. But I can’t count out Jimmie Johnson- he’s won five and is looking hard for 6. With FOUR of the 12 cars being Hendrick Motorsports cars that means mathematically (and I am NOT good at math people) there is a 1/3 chance that winner could be a Hendrick car- and Junior has been looking strong and CONSISTENT all season. And Jeff Gordon has been driving like a maniac (in a good way) these last few races.  And Kasey’s had some bad luck but pretty much had that first Wild Card spot in the bag in Richmond. Kenseth no doubt would like to leave the 17 team with a Championship before jumping over to Joe Gibbs Racing next season.  Harvick is tenacious and they didn’t give him the nickname THE CLOSER for anything.  Then we have dark horses like Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr and Clint Bowyer who have also been RIGHT there all season long.  And I would NEVER ever ever count out Brad Keselowski. In my mind- right before we go into the first race of the Chase it is ANYONE’s trophy right now.

CHICAGO, IL- SEPTEMBER 12: Front row L-R The Next 9 drivers Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Cameron Hayley, Dylan Kwasniewski, Daniel Suarez, Sergio Pena, Kyle Larson, Darrell Wallace and Corey LaJoie, back row Eleven of the NASCAR Chase drivers L-R Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. at a party as part of NASCAR Chase Media Day and NASCAR Contenders Live on September 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images North America)

As a NASCAR fan, the fact that it is anyone’s championship right now is EXCITING. Of course I still want Tony Stewart to win it!

CHICAGO, IL- SEPTEMBER 12: Tony Stewart (C) speaks with young drivers who are from the Next 9 at a party as part of NASCAR Chase Media Day and NASCAR Contenders Live on September 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images North America)

Who do YOU think will win it all?

A Softer Side Of Smoke- Charlie Leffler for The Mechanicsville Local

Kyle Petty Not Concerned About Direction Of Victory Junction Gang Camp After Removal of Wife Patti- Bob Pockrass for Sporting News

Jimmie Johnson Repeats As ‘America’s Most Influential Athlete”- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

NASCAR Needs More Wrecks and Here’s How It Can Do It- Jeff Owens for SportingNews.com

Birds Of A Feather- Joe Menzer for NASCAR.com

12 Questions with Martin Truex Jr- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:

The expression says it all:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, stands in the garage are during practice for the NASACAR Sprint Cup Series 400 at Kansas Speedway. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images North America)

Tony Stewart changing a fan's oil in Texas. (Photo Credit: Mobil 1 Facebook Page)