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Pushing limits to be the best in any other field is called innovation and leads to better competition and tremendous advancements, but not in NASCAR. NASCAR says how much and how far and if the teams don’t heed there is hell to pay, or at least there is this time for the 48 team. Somehow throughout the years NASCAR has tightened its “rulebook” and standards to a point that no longer leaves room for anyone or any team to “push” the limits.

But, even worse that that, NASCAR does not seem to have consistent or predictable fines or penalties for infractions. The 48′s supposed rule violation before the Daytona 500 resulted in a dramatic penalty for the team that if not reversed through appeal by Hendrick Motorsports will make it virtually impossible for Jimmie Johnson to win a 6th championship in 2012.

Knaus’ last major violation was 5 years ago, so why issue such a steep penalty? Perhaps because of his comment last season to Jimmie at Talladega hinting at something? Well that car was inspected post race and passed. Perhaps past violations from Knaus? Did he not already serve his punishment for these? I say today’s extreme penalties were overkill by NASCAR. The car did not race – the problem with the c-post was found during pre-race inspection. Isn’t that what pre-race inspection is for?

So what should NASCAR have done? A probation for Knaus and Malec- sure, maybe even all season. Suspension for crew chief and car chief, too much for the first offense of season. Monetary fine- OK, heck double it even. Points penalty for driver and owner? Too much! Jimmie will go into Phoenix negative 23 points. As good as he can be, and like him or not, he can be good, that is a deep hole to dig out from especially without Knaus and Malec for six races.

Too often it seems NASCAR selects certain teams and incidents to use as “examples” and yet others skate by with hardly a slap.

I will say this for NASCAR’s decision, it has got some press and brought some attention to the sport (Chad Knaus was a trending topic on twitter today). So perhaps the only good that will come out of penalizing Five Time so steeply is some added attention to the sport from those that otherwise wouldn’t pay any attention at all.

Since the Shootout I had been dreading the 500. The truck race and the NW race did little to curb the knot in my tummy. The rain delay only served to further my anxiety levels and when the race finally commenced at 4 pm Pacific on Monday, I found myself at work. Now, I am blessed to work in a friendly family office that is not only cool with me watching the race but actually accommodates us by having flat screens in each office. I turn on the race and didn’t have to wait long for the inevitable to happen. Sure enough at lap 2 a big wreck erupted. Forgetting where I was, I leapt up and screeched- searching the field to see if my driver was caught up in the mayhem and then I had to go apologize and explain to my co-worker that should he hear any screams or cursing to ignore them as it was just me watching the 500.  While this was just the start of the crashes and calamities that made up the Daytona 500, it was the moment when my pent up dread burst out and after that initial wreck, I was actually able to settle in and watch the race without as much trepidation.

I am glad the tandem draft is over and the “pack is back” at the super speedways – I think, but I have a feeling I am not going to get much sleep the night before the Dega races or the next Daytona race this season.

Hands down the most amazing moment of the much anticipated and long delayed (thank you very much Mother Nature) Daytona 500 was the explosive collision between Juan Pablo Montoya and the jet dryer. While certainly not an amazingly good moment- it is a moment that will go down in NASCAR history and will forever make the replay reels. From the collision, to the fire, to the massive cleanup to get the last 40 laps in, this was a truly captivating moment of the 500, but the most amazing thing is that everyone involved was able to walk away.

Personally I was secretly hoping that the race would not conclude and Blaney would have been deemed the winner- that would almost match last year’s stunning win by Bayne, but amazingly the track surface survived and Kenseth took the checkers. Despite the delays, this is a 500 to remember.

I read LOTS of other people’s thoughts on what is going on not just with Tony Stewart and Stewart-Haas, but with other drivers and NASCAR in general. I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorites with you. I haven’t decided if I am going to do this on a regular basis yet and this list is a little long because I was collecting these for a while for your pleasure.  They will be presented as is without commentary- but know that does NOT mean that I necessarily agree with the article or have no comments about it!

Can Stewart-Haas Repeat? – Mike Hembree for NASCAR on SPEED

Stewart’s success has Gordon lighting new fire- Mark Aumann for NASCAR.COM

Top 20 Countdown: No. 5 Tony Stewart- Jay Busbee for Yahoo! Sports

NASCAR Chase Predictions 2012: Who Will Win The Sprint Cup Series Championship? – Jeff Gluck for sbnation.com

Tony Stewart on The Business Side of NASCAR, Danica, And Being The Champ-  Kurt Badenhausen for Forbes

Fans Rise Early To Meet Racing Champ Tony Stewart- Lacey McLaughlin for the Daytona Beach News Journal

Dale Earnhardt Jr Interview: No Crying In The Autograph Line- Jeff Gluck for sbnation.net

Commentary: Hendrick C-Post Debate Is Much Ado About Nothing- Dave Moody for Sirius-Speedway.com

Video:
(This is longish at nearly 16 minutes but totally worth it!- Amy)

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture from Speedweeks:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

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* So do you like this feature? Do you want me to continue it? Also? If you want it to be a regular feature at BadGroove does anyone have any witty and/or catchy ideas for a post title?

Just a reminder that Racing Dreams Premieres on PBS tomorrow! Check you local listings!

I was so excited to hear about this partnership I couldn’t wait to tell you. Back in 2010 I was lucky enough to get to preview the documentary Racing Dreams by filmmaker Marshall Curry.  It was awesome and I gave it a glowing review here. The documentary follows the lives of two boys (Josh Hobson and Brandon Warren) and a girl (Annabeth Barnes) through the five race World Karting Association (WKA) championship season.  It is really AWESOME to see and hear the story of the young fresh talent who dream of going into NASCAR someday.  I found the movie to be very compelling, engaging and interesting.

Since I watched it, Racing Dreams has won a bunch of film festival awards (Tribeca Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Indianapolis International Film Festival- the list could go on and on) AND had a premiere at the NASCAR HALL OF FAME even.

Well I am now pleased to say that Racing Dreams will be featured on POV on PBS.  POV is in it’s 25th season on PBS and features the work of today’s best independent film makers (Marshall Curry, Racing Dreams Director and Producer, was also featured on POV in 2005 for Oscar nominated Street Fight).  The national broadcast premiere for Racing Dreams is on Thursday February 23rd 2012  at 9:00 pm (check your local listings though- because I know my PBS is a timezone off sometimes). It will also stream online in its entirety from Feb 24th to March 24th on the POV website at: www.pbs.org/pov/racingdreams. If you can at all watch it, DVR it or check it out in the internet I HIGHLY recommend it…especially for my race fan readers!

Racing Dreams follows the lives of three young racers (Annabeth Barnes, Josh Hobson and Brandon Warren) through the pavement series WKA national championship.

The release for this announcement also mentioned that DreamWorks Studios is developing the documentary into a dramatic feature film. I can only hope that this actually happens because it will rock if it’s half as good as the documentary is.

No surprise here- Jeff Gordon’s crash late in the Shootout nearly gave me a nervous breakdown. I am quite sure I didn’t breathe from the time he started rolling til he was out and standing. Even then, I was left wondering if I would have the stomach to sit through 500 miles next weekend. To paraphrase Jeff Gordon’s tweet the morning after, “Thankful for 4 safe race cars.”

These kind of moments serve to remind us all exactly what kind of risk all the drivers take each time they strap in and let’s all pray for a safe and fun season.

And on a final gratuitous fan note: Here’s to all the craziness getting out of the way for the 24 and to a winning, safe champion season! ;)

Kyle Busch’s “spin-catch-spin catch” move was by far the most amazing moment of the race for me. Love him or hate him, that was some great driving and certainly got my attention. The fact that he later went on to win the Shootout was just icing on this moment in the race.

Dear Mother Nature-

Please quit raining on my parade NASCAR races.  It was bad enough that I have had a nasty headache all day. All I wanted was a little racing action. (Ok- I lie- really I wanted to see Tony keep digging, race his way to the front of the field and take the checkers to WIN).  Instead, I got to watch ESPN beat a dead horse for hours and hours and hours with their interviewing drivers, crew chiefs, going over Paul Menard’s spin ad nauseum, going over the safety innovations since the 2001 death of Dale Earnhardt, bringing up the 1979 fight between Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough during the first full race telecast and how it also changed the sport…you get the picture…we fans had to endure a lot of dead horses. At any moment I expected them to start interviewing the guys in charge of gluing the lugnuts to the tires- and asking THEM about Paul Menard and if they thought his spin was intentional (okay- maybe I exaggerate a wee bit- but not much).  And those are only the parts I caught while doing this and that- determined not to let the rain delay ruin my entire day (although it kinda did anyway- since I was really REALLY looking forward to watching the first chase race).

What I am trying to say, Mother Nature, is that trying to “watch” a race at work sucks. Let’s make this Monday the last time I have to do this okay?

Smoochies,

Amy

P.S. It doesn’t look like Tony enjoys the rain delay much more than I did:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, walks down pit road as rain falls prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 18, 2011 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

In all seriousness though- Good Luck TONY tomorrow. I will be watching you best I can as I toil away.