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One of NASCAR’s journalists and four time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association’s George Cunningham Award, David Poole passed away on Monday. It’s a sad day for motorsports indeed but most of all for his family- as he was only 50 years old and leaves behind a family: a wife, two sons, a daughter and a grandson.  Lots of bloggers and journalists are writing wonderful tributes to him- so I would like to point you in the direction of a couple of ones that stand out to me:

The NASCAR INSIDERS: The End of an Era

Dustin Long: Bidding A Friend Fairwell

Monte Dutton: David Poole Leaves A Void, Personally and Professionally

Revvin’ Jim’s Rants and Raves: David Poole Will Be Missed

NASCAR.COM: Charlotte Writer Poole dies

Well this was a race that I attended in person. The first leg of my journey was driving 500 to Las Vegas. Hung out with BFFM and on Friday BFFM drove 300+ miles to Phoenix where we checked into the hotel.  We tried to use the hotel’s computer to check qualifying while we were in the lobby but it was running slow so BFFM used her blackberry to get us some answers.  The next morning we drive to the track- it was easy to get to.

Yeah the track is out in the middle of the desert- but it was actually a really nice track. The only kabuffle we had the entire day was figuring out where to trade in our pit pass tickets for actual pit passes and after getting misdirected a couple times we finally got that taken care of.  The midway was probably the smallest midway of the tracks we have been to but then again- the track was a lot smaller in general than the other tracks (Las Vegas and Fontana).

TSR-Jones show car at Team Chevy booth at PIR Midway

TSR-Jones show car at Team Chevy booth at PIR Midway

Joey Loganos merchandise trailer was the LEAST populated one.  The most populated ones were of course Jr, Gordon and Stewart.

Joey Logano's merchandise trailer was the LEAST populated one. The most populated ones were of course Jr, Gordon and Stewart.

We made our way to the pedestrian tunnel and under the track and into the infield and were amazed that basically we were allowed to just meander around the pits pretty much.  That was pretty fun although I admit that occassionally I felt like I was in the way- even though I tried to be extremely cognizant of all the work going on around me- and to be sure not to impede that.

The Garages at PIR were a buzz with activity

The Garages at PIR were buzzing with activity.

Tony Stewarts Office Depot pit crew gets things ready for the evening race.

Tony Stewart's Office Depot pit crew gets things ready for the evening race.

Jimmie Johnsons Lowes pit crew gets things race before the evening race.

Jimmie Johnson's Lowes pit crew gets things ready before the evening race.

Mike Houston, tire carrier for the #24 Dupont pit crew of Jeff Gordon, seeks some shade on pit road.

Mike Houston, tire carrier for the #24 Dupont pit crew of Jeff Gordon, seeks some shade on pit road prior to the start of the race.

Pit Road at Phoenix International raceway

Pit Road at Phoenix International raceway.

Let me speak for a second about the picture above. This I took from pit road looking towards turn four.  See that hill right there? For $35.00 you can drag your chair up the hill- called Rattlesnake Hill and not just for sport and sit there with no midway access. I do not understand why you would want to do that when you can pay $25.00 to sit in the lower level grandstand seats. Crazies. I mean you might get to see a little more of the track but still…I like the ability to be able to go to the bathroom or get a hot dog easily if needed!

Now for the actual race. We were sitting in the AJ Foyt Grandstands in the close seats (row 8 I think) and they might be “cheap” seats but I thought they were pretty damn good- we could see most of the track.  During the warmup laps I was fascinated by the fact that I could actually see in the right side and into the cockpit. I don’t know WHY this fascinated me but it certainly did. I could literally see Tony Stewart sitting in his car hands on the wheel when they drove by (and other drivers as well)…and it was kind of cool to see them right in there car.

When the green flag dropped so did my jaw. Literally.  I think I spent a good 10-15 laps slack jawed.  I do not have the right words to describe the experience but it was louder and faster and just more exciting than any of the previous races I have gone to.  I have mentioned recently that going to an actual race can almost be an assault on your senses…I had no idea!  I don’t know if it was because I was sitting closer to the actual track that I have at other tracks but it was just completely amazing.  It was constant action on that track. I don’t know how the race played on TV because while I did DVR it- I have yet to watch the national broadcast. My brain did not have time to rest at all.  Of course I was paying attention to Tony on the track.  I was trying to keep track of where Ryan Newman was in relation to Tony (the scoring pylon only went up to 15th place) – which became increasingly difficult as the leaders started lapping cars.  I was watching the packs running close together for trouble.  And while I love the smell of a race, being this close actually started to give me a little bit of a headache towards the end from the fumes (of course not leaving my seat for the whole race probably didn’t help the headache).

Tony and Team Office Depot/Old Spice did well throughout the race. There was one kinda crappy pit stop – from which the team rebounded from quickly and well. Tony was in the top five most of the day and even lead the race for a while.  In the end Stewart just did not have enough to catch Mark Martin at the end, coming in second- the highest place finish yet for the newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Office Depot/Old Spice.  I really can’t wait for Stewart-Haas to get their first win.  It’s coming soon. I can feel it. The team is clicking really well- and as soon as that last component snaps into place this team will be in Victory Lane.

This coming weekend: NASCAR is in Talladega.  And Amy will be watching between her fingers!

Ok…my non-NASCAR friends are not going to get this…but this has had me chuckling since yesterday:

LOLNASCAR- You crack me up!

I know Logano's a rookie but still this made me laugh!

Thanks LOLNASCAR!

I did a guest column over at NASCAR THS WEEK…check it out and tell them I sent you!

As humans some of our personality traits are things we can not control- and for me one of those is a slightly anal quality when it comes to planning things out.  I can only speak for myself here- but I have a need to feel like I have some control over a situation and part of that control is planning. That being said I LOVE to plan a trip.  And when I say I love to plan a trip- 98 percent of my travels beyond spontaneous day trips involve planning things out months and months in advance of the actual date.  Case in point- BFM and I purchased our tickets to the Shelby 427 nearly as soon as the tickets were opened up for sale.  Now because BFM lives in Vegas I didn’t need to worry about hotel- but if I had- you can be sure I would have reserved a room at about the same time.

We should have learned our lesson last year with the fall Fontana race.  Once we decided to work in the Fontana race into our year last year- I was calling the box office as soon as I did a little online research about track and it’s facilities.  BFM’s favorite driver might be Jeff Gordon but I knew her second favorite driver was Jimmie Johnson- and I knew from my internet research that sometimes Fontana has a special Jimmie Johnson ticket package that includes not only race tickets but usually some kind of Q&A session with Jimmie and part of the proceeds of the tickets actually go to the Jimmie Johnson Foundation.  Sounded like something that would be fun- something that we would definitely be interested in.  When I called the box office I inquired about if there would be a Jimmie Johnson package for that particular race because I did not see anything about it on their website. The ticket agent told me that he wasn’t pulling anything up but that sometimes these special ticket packages weren’t set up right away. He kindly suggested that I wait about six weeks and call back to see if they had heard anything.  And that is exactly what I did.  Don’t think it wasn’t torture for me and my anal/control freak ways- let me tell you.  I waited six weeks on the dot and called back. Again I asked about the Jimmie Johnson Foundation tickets.  Again I was told that they did not have anything and that maybe I should wait. Well I had waited about as long as my obsessive nature would allow so I got us tickets and was finally at ease. Race Tickets? Check. Hotel? Check.  It’s all good. I am sure that you can tell what is coming up next.  Yep you guessed it- the Jimmie Johnson package came up for sale two or three weeks later.

Learn from my mistakes race fans. If you are like me and plan things out way in advanced- that isn’t always the best way.  While so far the ticketing offices that I have worked with have all been extremely helpful and willing to exchange tickets for others (I did this for the first race in Vegas actually- I had initially ordered up neon garage passes for Sunday and changed my mind- deciding that passes for Friday might let us see more action in the actual garage stalls- and the ticketing office was more than willing to accommodate my request for a change) sometimes it pays in aces to just wait to buy your tickets.  Especially now that tracks aren’t selling as many tickets as they would like- often facilities are forced to drop ticket prices closer to the date of the actual race.  Many tracks, in an attempt to drawn in more fans, are offering special ticket packages that might include things like driver Q&A’s or appearances, special food or hospitality discounts, and other deals on track amenities but these ticket packages are often last minute deals (or last minute to people like me who like to plan everything out well in advance).  Keep in mind that sometimes you will end up sacrificing better seats for some of the package plans- it is still something to consider because it might be that one time you get to get closer to your favorite driver.  So learn from me- sometimes it pays to NOT plan so far ahead.  Case in point,  I personally got a great deal on tickets for the Phoenix race (yes the next race) by going against what is natural to me and not planning the trip until about a month before the race.  By waiting we got seats in a section that was previously earmarked at a higher price for a lower price.  Now there were reasons we waited so long- and that was just one of them. And this whole upcoming trip to the race in Phoenix is going to be fodder for another post I am planning on writing after that trip- so expect this to be revisited a little in a couple of weeks.  But just be aware…sometimes it pays to procrastinate a little.

Sometimes when I am bored or I see something I like or don’t like I mentally compose a letter to whatever it is.  Here are some NASCAR related ones (hey it’s on off week- give me a break):

Dear Office Depot Racing Website- I love your website. I love the different backgrounds on the different tabs and moving my mouse from side to side to change the perspective slightly (ok so maybe I am just easily amused).  I actually hit your site at least every other day or so.  However…I need new content!!!  I did notice you have pages for all the crew members now and that occupied me for a tad.  But I am  looking for new wallpapers and maybe some answers to the ASK TONY questions that have been submitted this far?  Or maybe another contest or something??  Just a thought- Amy

Dear Stewart-Haas Racing Website- I visit you quite often too. I have several things to say to you.  First off- kudos to the team managing your VIP Garage section. I had some troubles with my VIP Garage account and they went out of their way to get me all set up- and did it extremely quickly.  Also regarding the VIP garage- it’s taking me forever to be able to open up my gallery…and I want to post some pictures!  Maybe you should lower the number of points needed for the first gallery and up the points needed for the last. Or figure out a way for us to get more points faster.  One of the two will work.  Also- your store is taking forever to open. Please open it soon.  And when you do I would LOVE it if you would have a sticker of just the Stewart-Haas racing logo. I think that is a sweet logo and my car is begging for one.  Every day when I go out to start her up she asks me “DID YOU GET ME ONE OF THOSE COOL STEWART-HAAS LOGO stickers yet? I am feeling pretty plain.” Thanks- AMY (PS-no my car does NOT really talk to me- please don’t call the looney bin- I was just being dramatic).

Dear Team Office Depot: I really think that you guys are gelling awesomely.  Your win will come soon!  Keep digging in and not giving up (Atlanta was awesome- finishing 8th after being 2 laps down at one point! Talk about digging your heels in!).  Good Job–keep it up!!- AMY

Dear Kyle Busch- Your M&M’s car really makes me crave peanut M&Ms. I think it’s because its yellow and has M&M’s on it. Just thought you should know. Thanks. AMY  (PS. Your Pedigree car has never made me crave dog food though. Just in case you were wondering).

Dear NASCAR.COM- I really really really DO NOT like your new layout.  Amy

Dear Old Spice- Ok- I have seen the Tony Stewart Swagger commercials several times now. And I have to ask…what is the deal with being Russian?  Why does the nationality of the gorgeous trophy girl have anything to do with anything? Unsure- Amy

Surprise! I decided to get these out starting today so you wouldn’t be left wondering.  Anyway last year the Vegas race (the UAW 400) was our first NASCAR race live and in person and this year BFM decided to take the reins in planning everything.  I just wrote her a check when she told me how much our tickets would be. She picked the seats and the activities and everything…and let me tell you I had a total blast. She picked us some awesome seats in the Petty Terrace (right across from Pit Exit).  I am going to have to break up my experience into three posts: Qualifying Day, Race Day and Driver Appearances otherwise you all would probably kill me for the length/picture ratio.

QUALIFYING DAY (Friday)

After our great time last year in the Neon Garage BFM and I decided that Qualifying day is the best day to have the garage passes (in Vegas the Garage passes are expensive…friday alone is $99.00 but both of us thing they are WELL worth it).  We got to the track probably around 9:00 ish and spent a good portion of an hour and a half or so just messing around the midway checking out the merch haulers and stuff.  The busiest haulers seemed to be Junior (no suprise), Tony (probably his fans stocking up on new merch) and Digger (yeah Digger has his own little merch booth).  Then it was off to the neon garage:

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Ahhh do you hear the sound of the engines?  I do and they sound good.  Saturday was the day I was waiting for: The Bud Shootout.  Originally I thought I was going to have to boycott the shootout because the new rules initially left Tony Stewart out of the shootout because he switched from Toyota to Chevy for this season.  But luckily the wildcard system allowed Tony into the Shootout, with new teammate Ryan Newman sitting on his pitbox.  Tony Stewart started the shootout in 6th position and he was all over the track- everywhere from last to even leading for a few laps towards the end of the first segment.  I will say that one of the most incredible jobs driving during that first segment and possibly during the whole race has to go to Jeff Gordon for winding his way through that first wreck. The wreck that took out rookie drivers Joey Logano and Scott Speed.

Stewart’s biggest complaint was that his car was too tight and seemed to struggle during most of the second segment of the race.  During the very last caution he took a gamble on a pit stop and ended up lining up 8th for the green-white checker finish.  I admit I questioned the pitstop but apparently the car wasn’t too his liking (DAMN I MISS MY HOTPASS).   Due to the wreck that ended the race, Tony lucked out and ended up third because the accident tangled up drivers in third through 7th position.

It was my first glimpse of Team Office Depot and they seemed to be right on.  Pit stops looked nice and clean and Tony seemed fairly calm despite having a car that was all over the place. It was a good finish in typical NASCAR style-part effort part luck.  Seeing Team Office Depot in action makes me even more excited for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

And speaking of the Daytona 500 I want to also talk a little bit about Pole day on Sunday.  First off I was esctatic to see Ryan Newman come out of the Stewart Haas stables so strong and nearly make the first row of the 500. I think that says a lot for the Army team.  However- for some reason I thought Tony’s car was the one who was in the top 35 in owner points not Ryans- so that surprised me a little bit that Tony was out there trying to qualify on time (although it makes sense if I think about it considering he would have the past champion’s provisional to fall back on if needed). However this makes for a VERY nervous Amy during qualifying. I didn’t watch all of it but luckily I was able to catch the bits and pieces I needed- including Tony’s run.  During Tony’s run I was actually pleasantly surprised. While he didn’t grab the pole or even get a top five – he did manage a top ten and was able to lock into the field on time and not have to worry about falling back on the past champion provisional.  I know that I read somewhere that Darian Grubb wants to help Tony focus on qualifying better and I think he is off to a great start.

Random NASCAR notes for the week:

  • There are so many changes of drivers and sponsors this season that it is taking me a long time to wrap my head around them all. It seems to me that the one I am having the hardest time remembering is Casey Mears being in the Jack Daniels 07 car.  And I can’t even find Clint Bowyer in that Cheerios car.
  • Speaking of can’t find a car…Tony’s new car too closely resembles Kasey Kahnes car to me. During the shootout I would really have to squint to tell who was who. I have a feeling that the Vegas race is gonna be an experience with me often losing Tony and mistaking him for Kasey Kahne and vice versa. At least until I get my Team 14 eyes trained.
  • Scott Speed.  I hate to say it but I don’t really like him.  He acted like a goof during the National Anthem, he acted like a goof giving his post-accident interview.  He just is a bit too goofy for me.
  • Way to go Travis Kvapil who had an awesome qualifying run and was also able to lock himself into the 500 on speed. Good Job. If you have been reading for any length of time you know that while I love Tony- I am also a strong supporter of Kvapil because I think he has great talent.
  • How embarrassing it must have been being Joey Logano during the Bud Shootout Draw.  Because the starting positions are disguised in Budweiser bottles and because he is only 18 he had to be accompanied by his crew chief Greg Zipadelli who actually had to draw for him.  He was the only driver who did not pick their own bottle.   I will say that I do applaud it though since Logano is technically underage.

Coming Soon: The Tony Stewart Advertisement Machine and Why I Don’t Collect DieCasts