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Monday morning I realized just how much I wear not only my NASCAR fandom on my sleeve, but my 24 pride, too, when I came into my office and started checking my voicemail messages from the weekend and had not one but three voicemail messages from clients of our firm and a business associate calling for the sole purpose to congratulate ME on the win at Pocono. Now, I am sure you can all relate that on Sunday when we are watching our driver navigate his way through the muck and the mire of a race we do indeed feel like a part of the team: making arm chair pit calls and yelling words of encouragement at our driver, or pointing out cars and obstacles like we are the team spotter but to return to the “real world” Monday and have people calling to congratulate you on your driver’s win- well that is when you know that you truly are living and breathing this sport. So much so that every person you come in contact with knows of your addiction and thinks of you when they are watching the sports segment on the evening news and see who won the race. That is cool! I will take those calls and messages any time!

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)

When I was offered the chance to read and review the new book 100 Things NASCAR Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Mike Hembree- I jumped at the offer.  I am a NASCAR fan after, so part of the book’s target audience.  I am also a huge fan of reading and knowledge. Plus, judging by the name of the book I thought it could even be the jumping off point in creating a NASCAR bucket list of sorts which is something I’ve been thinking a bit about recently.  As a matter of fact, I was so excited with the book arrived in the mail that I ripped right into the package before even leaving the post office.

(Photo Credit: Triumph Books)

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Here is my almost weekly list of recommended articles out there on the internet:

What I Learned From The NASCAR Sprint Cupt Series Rulebook- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

Interview: Tony Stewart on Hunting, Fishing and Racing-The editors of Outdoor Life

Have Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus Lost Their Edge?- Dustin Long for AthlonSports.com

Earnhardt Jr, Keselowski lambaste Reutimann’s Costly Move- Nate Ryan for USAToday.com

Tony Stewart Joins A Legend- Matt Willis for ESPN Blogs

Dale Earnhardt Jr Saves The Day for Tardy Reporter- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

Tony Stewart Just Getting Warmed Up- Ed Hinton For ESPN.com

David Stremme Interview: “You’ve Got To Understand Where You Fit In”- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

Stewart, Newman Setting Strong Pace- Mike Hembree for SpeedTV.com

Amanda Beard Slams Former Boyfriend Carl Edwards- Bob Pockrass for Sporting News

Your Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:

(Blatantly Stolen from the Official Tony Stewart Facebook Page)

This one needs a witty caption don't you think? (Blatantly stolen from the Official Tony Stewart Facebook Page).

After an abysmal start to the season that includes a mechanical DNF at Daytona, a team mate spurred DNF (don’t even get me started) at Bristol and a couple of mediocre finishes in Phoenix and Vegas, it was AMAZING to see Jeff Gordon’s terrific run at AutoClub Speedway this weekend. After qualifying 21st for Sunday’s race, he quickly moved up the leader board finding himself firmly in the top 5 by the time the race reached its half-way mark. The Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet was strong and Jeff was able to take positions seemingly at will. It truly was AMAZING…amazing right up until it got messy!

With rain imminent and only green flag laps, cars were reaching their fuel window and had to pit. Jeff stayed out on track the longest leading a few laps before coming down pit road for his scheduled stop. This is where it got MESSY (to say the least). After receiving the GO signal from his crew, Jeff pulled away dragging the gas man and the still engaged gas can out of the stall with him, resulting in a pass through penalty that left him a lap down in P19. Even so, his car was fast and strong; he quickly passed some lap down cars and moved up to 16th. His lap times were equal to and at some times quicker than the dominant leader, Stewart. In fact, it looked as if Jeff had a decent shot of racing his way back to the lead lap until Mother Nature intervened and opened her skies over Turn 3, bringing out the Yellow.

Now had the 24 stayed on track and taken the wave around the bleeding could have at least stopped there, but oh no! A poor decision to pit under caution (did the team not have access to the same report we in the stands had? Once the rain started it wasn’t going to let up until Monday, so there was absolutely no chance the race would go back GREEN).

Another pit stop resulted in another penalty when the tire changer lost control of the front tire and went bouncing across pit road. I sat in the stands watching in horror! I could not believe this kind of epic fail from a team of this caliber.

Sure enough within a few laps the race went Red and was shortly called due to the torrential down pour, which everyone knew was coming! Jeff finished P26, and slid two more positions in the points to 25th! I hate to be Debbie Downer, but unless this team gets it together and quick they are not likely to recover from this atrocious start to the season and may just miss the Chase and that is more than enough reason for me to mess my unmentionables!

Hey all! I am heading for LAS VEGAS today- because of that posting will be light to non-existent over the next week.  Be sure to follow me on twitter (and Misty too) as we will be tweeting during the race weekend in Vegas.  You can also follow me on Facebook (and Misty too).

In the meantime, here are some fun #NASCAR related things to check out:

Stewart  Not Alone Trying To Figure Out EFI Mystery – Joe Menzer, NASCAR.COM

NASCAR: Darian Grubb Took The High Road To Victory Lane With Denny Hamlin - Jenna Fryer, AP/Autoweek

NASCAR.COM’s Race Predictor and Chase Predictor – A fun page I stumbled upon Tuesday – provides picks for the race and the chase- says it’s “updated throughout the week.” Check it out.

If you can’t laugh at your driver- then you are far too serious. Kevin Boots made this for our friends over at LOLRacePics:

Not only is this funny (it might not be if you don't get the 2001 reference).

I love the new Coca-Cola NASCAR commercial (featuring all your favorite coca-cola family drivers like Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray):

 

And finally- your gratuitous Tony Stewart picture of the day comes from the official Tony Stewart Facebook page…I think this one is just begging for a caption don’t you?:

What is Tony thinking about?

And this one just because:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, jokes with Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage during Media Day at Texas Motor Speedway on March 6, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

#GoTonyGo #ImWithSmoke

The Subway Fresh Fit 500 was a welcome change from the season kickoff at Daytona earlier in the week- it wasn’t rained out and red flags didn’t keep us chained to our couches for hours on end, but at the same time after the drama of Daytona this race seemed ever so ho-hum. I would have to say that I really don’t even consider the season to really be in swing until race 2 – Daytona is such a wild card and the results of that race really don’t say much about the direction the season will go.

I didn’t find any truly amazing or messy moments in this race, but there were a few things that caught my attention that I will pay attention to as the season unfolds:

* Darian Grubb bringing Denny Hamlin to Victory Lane. This pairing could be one to watch out for.
* EFI troubles for Stewart- Let’s hope this issue doesn’t become a reoccuring problem
* Jimmie/ Chad trying to rebound from a dismal Daytona and potential pts deficit (pending appeal to NASCAR).

Daytona was so crazy, Phoenix didn’t really stand much of a chance of living up to that craziness, and this fan, for one, thinks it was just the tame race she needed to regroup and pull my belts tight for the rest of the ride this season.

On February 17th (seems like ages ago doesn’t it?) the 48 car entered in the Daytona 500 field failed it’s initial race entry inspection because of illegal C-posts.  The C-Posts were confiscated by NASCAR and the team was allowed to repair the 48 car and go back through inspection and then into practice.  First thought is where the heck is the C-Post…well I found and stole this graphic from an old article on NASCAR.com:

Click graphic to be taken to the story on NASCAR.com that it was borrowed from.

Anyway- today NASCAR announced the “punishment” for the illegal parts. They were found to be in violation of three sections of the NASCAR rulebook*:

Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-2.1E (if in the judgment of NASCAR officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance will not be permitted – unapproved car body modifications)

Chad Knaus, crew chief of the 48, was fined $100,000 and suspended for 6 weeks. Car chief of the 48, Ron Malec, was also suspended for 6 weeks.  Jimmie Johnson was fined 25 driver points. Jeff Gordon was fined 25 owner points.

Wow…is it me or is that a little heavy handed? I posted a sentiment like that on my facebook and I guess it might just be me. But never the less I stand by my initial reaction that it’s a harsh penalty…too harsh.  I have several reasons why I think the fines are a bit much:

  1. It’s my understanding that this particular car had been used several times last season. If that is the case- why did it not fail any of those numerous inspections? (Initial inspection, post qualifying inspection, post race inspection). I mean sure I suppose the car could have been completely changed during the off season- but really?
  2. NASCAR needs to be more consistant with it’s fines.  What do I mean by this? Consider this- Clint Bowyer’s car failed post-qualifying inspection.  Yet NASCAR did not offer any fines whatsoever there- not even a mention of possible fines the whole week between qualifying and race day. Yet as soon as the 48 failed inspection on Friday- it was news and talk of heavy fines floated around the team ALL week long.  While the parts that failed inspection are apples and oranges- the end result is this- the cars were both non-standard and thus failed inspection. Yet one team was heavily penalized and the other was let go without even a slap on the wrist.  This is unfair and unequal treatment between teams. NASCAR needs to decide whether or not they are going to be heavy handed rulebook thumpers or the nice “give a team the benefit of the doubt” kind of sanctioning body. It can’t be both.
  3. Since it was the initial inspection and the team never practiced or qualified with the offending parts on the car, I don’t think it should be fined at all. Technically the team gained nothing from the offending parts because they did not USE said parts- the car never touched track.  They removed them and I assume that the car that Jimmie raced in the 500 this past Monday had no technical issues (with the exception of the big technical issue of being crashed in lap two). This, going back to the Clint Bowyer senario mentioned in 2, is really unfair because if there was something unstandard on Bowyer’s car he practiced and qualified the offending part- having gained some possible benefit from it.

Now I am sure some people will argue with “But Chad has done this before- remember when he was suspended and Darian Grubb took the helm as crew chief?” Yes, I have not forgotten this.  My thought in this- Chad and the 48 team have already paid for those mistakes…Chad was removed and fined for those issues. That issue is closed. This is a separate issue. To that arguement doesn’t make any sense. It’s like a tardy student getting expelled instead of suspended this year because they had an unexcused absence and and an additional unexcused absence five years ago, that they already served a detention for five years ago.

So there you have my three reasons I think NASCAR was heavy handed with the fines.  Misty, while agreeing with me in general that the NASCAR punishment is too harsh, also has some good albeit different points about the situation and I highly suggest that you read her post about it as well: The 48 Smackdown: Overkill.

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* I want a rulebook. Just because.