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If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you might want to skip ahead because you probably have already seen these mentioned.  Awhile back I mentioned that I have been doing some writing for the Racing In America Blog- which is a blog done in conjunction with an upcoming exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum.  I was honored to be asked to be one of the NASCAR voices they have…(various motorsports disciplines are represented at the RIA blog- which is one of the things I LOVE about it). Anyway- I just had another post published when I realized I hadn’t been mentioning them here.

I would love for you- my regular audience- to take a minute or three out of your day and check out my work over at RIA (in order of most recent to least recent):

Any comments here or there would be greatly appreciated.

Unfortunately I am not up in Sonoma watching the Sprint Cup cars.  Last year on Father’s Day I was on the edge of a very hard stone seat in the Coca-Cola Bottle Neck rooting with all my heart for Tony to overtake Kasey Kahne at Infineon. It didn’t happen but a second place finish wasn’t bad.  It was the closest Tony had come to winning a race that I was in attendance of so I was pretty excited (unfortunately this is still the case).  One of the things that really SUCKED about Infineon was leaving after the race.  Traffic was a freaking nightmare compared to the other three tracks I had been to (those being Las Vegas, Fontana and Phoenix). Part of it could have been my unfamiliarity with the area- perhaps if I had gone up through Petaluma and down another way I would have been better off…but I sat there stopped on whatever highway that is up there in front of the track for HOURS. And folks…for those keeping track? Infineon is about 4 hours north of me on a good traffic day.  I didn’t get home until after midnight and that was driving like a bat out of…well you know where…when I finally DID clear race traffic.  This year I am not up there and I am sad…and really itching to see the Cup boys run. The sound and feel of 43 800-hp cars taking a green flag is awesome.  Or heck the sound of 1 car revving in the garage is awesome. But I am digressing…and making myself homesick for a race.

That being said I am down here on the Monterey Peninsula where I live, which is in the height of U.S. Open fever right now.  Every night on the news for the past two weeks or so has been golf this, U.S. Open that, Pebble this, Tiger Woods that.  Now I know very little about golf- especially professional golf.  I am going to admit that to you right up front.  I get the idea that you are suppose to hit the little white ball as few times as possible to get it into the hole and that my friends is where my knowledge of golf ends. Sand wedge, wood, iron, putter? Huh? Whot?  Even though we have a yearly celebrity pro/am hosted on the peninsula- I still don’t really pay attention. Golf has never been on my radar because it always seemed to me that watching paint dry would be more fun than watching golf because then at least- I would have the fumes to entertain my brain cells. But lately- golf has been in my face…and I can’t help but share some totally sweeping generalizations about golf vs. NASCAR:

  • Traffic? Just as crazy.  I know because I have been getting stuck in golf traffic all week on my way to and from work. Much like a race weekend- golf traffic gets worse as the week progresses. They are parking the spectators just blocks from where I work because around the perimeter of campus there are lots of open space/parking lots that were here back when this place use to be an Army Base.
  • Those guys hawking tickets outside the track? They do that for golf too!!!  I figure they pretty much do it for every sporting event though.
  • There are also all these WELCOME GOLF FANS signs at all the businesses around here.
  • Golf fans? They are so limited as to what they can take to the course! No signs, cell phones, NO CAMERAS (that seems insanely dumb to me), no bags bigger than 8x8x8, no containers, no food, no drink. Nothing. Just a jacket (needed here- it’s really foggy today), comfy shoes, and loads of money because you have to buy all your food/beverages there.  If you find yourself by a golfer? You can’t ask him for an autograph.
  • Golf fans do not tailgate. No tents, no coolers or tables, no cornhole or barbecues  in the parking lot. No congregating with others who are not part of your direct party. Makes the parking lot pretty damn boring if you ask me.
  • Golf fans do not show their loyalty outwardly- that I could see.  They do not have flags flying from their cars that say TIGER or TOM! They don’t have bumper stickers supporting their favorite golfer. And from what I tell they don’t wear shirts for their favorite golfer either.   The most fan advertisement for golfing I have seen– a TITLIST license plate frame.  Again pretty damn boring to me. Half the fun of going to a race is people watching.
  • Not to mention the fact that I can’t imagine being at a sporting event where if you get a cough or a sneeze you might get yelled out or asked to leave. Seriously – those quiet paddles are intangible to me- if I wanted to be quiet I would go to a library (or apparently a golf tournament).  Of course I love a sport that is so noisy if I want to communicate with my friend I either have to YELL a centimeter from her ear at the top of my lungs or text her- even though she is sitting two inches from me.  I like to be able to HEAR and FEEL and TASTE my sports!
  • Tiger Woods is to golf media/fandom, what Dale Junior is to NASCAR media/fandom kinda sorta….only less witty.

Ok that’s it…that is my thoughts on GOLF.  Now where are my cup car boys? Oh yeah…four hours north of me.  Dammit.  Go TONY Go!!!!

I wasn’t going to discuss the roe between Carl and Brad more than I did on my previous post.  I was, literally, all set to publish my next entry (about NASCAR -related commercials if you are curious) when I found out that Carl Edwards was given a three race probation for his antics with Brad Keselowski at Atlanta on Sunday.  So I have to interrupt my own regularly scheduled post to rant a bit.

Now, I realize that NASCAR is trying to loosen the reigns on the drivers so that the drivers can feel free to be a bit more aggressive with their driving.  I get that and frankly I agree with it and am all for it.  But wow…this wasn’t a little bit of aggressive driving gone too far. This was a blatant attempt to take out another driver- revenge style. This was not a bump and run,  this was an all-out crash and burn.  Add that to the fact that national broadcast commentators told us several times during the race that Atlanta is THE FASTEST track (because of restrictor plates being used on the super speedways) right now in the series- it’s really scary! It’s one thing to bump a guy’s bumper to make a point or rub some fenders making a pass. It is a completely other thing to take a 3400 pound race car at speeds of 190+ mph and purposely aim for another guy also in a 3400 pound car, also going 190+ mph, for two laps.  That is not being an aggressive driver- that is being a vigilante.  While neither Brad nor Carl are favorite drivers of mine I don’t want to see ANYONE get hurt. Do I want to see some exciting racing? YES. Do I want to see ANY driver or fan (or crew member, track official etc) maimed or killed? ABSOLUTELY NO!

A huge part of me wants to bring up the whole Kurt Busch/Tony Stewart Bud Shootout practice from 2008. That really didn’t put anyone in danger. That was expressing some frustration.  The bumping was fairly low speed; neither Kurt nor Tony were pointing their cars at each other going 190+ in front of a grandstand filled with spectators. Yet if memory serves correct Tony got put on probation for an entire year (and there may have been points and monetary fines as well I don’t remember honestly- it was a long time ago and my brain is nearly filled to capacity).

I mean I know that I am kind of comparing apples to oranges in a way since the Kurt/Tony incident happened two years ago before NASCAR adapted their looser stance on penalties. But let’s be honest here…what the heck is probation going to do? Nothing. Just make Carl mind his p’s and q’s for a couple races? That’s like slapping a kid’s hand for getting in the cookie jar- then giving them a cookie– in my opinion (obviously you can probably tell by my analogy that I am not a parent).

Mostly I guess I just was using this post to try to work through why NASCAR would do a 180 and be so lenient. As always comments are totally welcome….

I have three major shopping vices: Book stores, office supply stores (so yey for Tony being the Office Depot driver now because I frequent Office Depot much more than I ever did Home Depot) and Dooney purses. I love to read. I have always loved to read. I love the feel of books in my hand and the smell of the paper and glue. No matter where I am I have a book with me…often tucked into my previously mentioned Dooney.  You will not find me with one of those digital book reader thingies until they stop making real paper books. Much like my tastes in music my tastes in books are fairly various and wide (for instance the second to last book I read was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies- told you I have odd tastes). Anyway several years ago I decided to combine two of my loves and started a collection of books about NASCAR. I started out with a couple of coffee table type books…and slowly expanded my collection.  My newest book in that collection just happens to be the last book that I finished- a book I wanted to tell you about.

The Weekend Starts on Wednesday: True Stories of Remarkable NASCAR Fans by Andrew Giangola is just what you would expect it be from the title and much more. I admit that when I read the testimonials on the jacket I was a little leary.  Specifically Janet Evanovich’s “I laughed, I cried, I wanted to jump in my car and drive really fast.” Um okay…that seemed a little cliche to me but whatever. It didn’t stop me from reading the book and it is now one of my favorite books on my NASCAR shelf.  The book really is an honest to goodness salute to the people who help make the sport go round (get it? I made a joke!) and round (and another one- I am on it tonight)- The FANS.

This book weaves part of the beautiful quilt that is NASCAR fandom.  The book is divided into several sections including sections for: Lifetime NASCAR fans (aptly titled Fans for Life), Dale Earnhardt Sr Fans (Remembering Dale),  Fans of the sport who are famous in their own right (Famous Faces including Tom Cruise and Mario Batali to name a few), Fans who are “well known” in the NASCAR community (Flirting with Fame), Female fans (Ladies Loving NASCAR) and other sections I just can’t remember off the top of my head.  The author strives very hard to make sure that NASCAR fans are NOT perceived as stereotypes. This book shows that fans of one of the greatest sports out there, come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and come together over the love of speed and personality and community.  This book sheds light on the community aspect of the sport and not the driver / personality aspect with the point being there is no stereotypical NASCAR fan.

I loved reading this book- and I must say I did laugh (the Tire guy? He cracked me up), and I did cry (Lucky Penny Girl- if it doesn’t make you cry you are a robot I tell you), and well I always seem to want to drive fast anyway so I guess the Janet Evanovich testimonial wasn’t so cliche after all.  I also have a new respect for news anchor Brian Williams and will be keeping my eye open for his 3 stickers on the rental fleet of America.  Author Giangola has quite the knack for adding in just enough flavor to set the scene without peppering the stew too much (which in my opinion can bring about the “stereotypical” NASCAR fan).  Of course it doesn’t hurt that my favorite two drivers wrote the foreword (TONY) and the afterword (KYLE). Both prove that despite their hard driving ways they too not only appreciate NASCAR fans, but are both articulate as well (despite what Tony says).

I recommend this book to not just the ardent NASCAR fan but to the on-the-fence line fan, the sometimes fan, and the curious onlooker.  You may just see yourself mirrored in the stories presented in this book or see the neighbor down the street, the news anchor on your nightly news, or the quiet tech support girl in the office upstairs.  This book makes me proud to be a NASCAR fan…(not that I needed much encouragement there).

Towards the end of the chase there was a lot of talk about the points system…and how someone who ended the regular season in first place suddenly finds himself dethroned at the beginning of the chase because of the reset/bonus points structure;  how people LOCK into their positions sometimes far too early in the chase.  I know Tony himself said that he didn’t care about the old system, they all know the points system going INTO the season- they have been doing it for five years now and he didn’t want to talk about the old system anymore.  But I do…wanna talk about the chase points (I know beating a dead horse but I just can’t help myself…).

Between the race chase race in Phoenix and this very point I have seen my best friend, who is also a NASCAR fan three times in person (we live 500 miles from each other) and we both keep bringing this up.  The chase would have been closer points wise (and more exciting says me) had we be using the old system. Jimmie would have still one his fourth championship in a row mind you, but the points spread would have been much much tighter (thanks to the NASCAR INSIDERS for providing us with this information).

My friend is a math ninja when it comes to doing math computations in her head (me not so much).  And after discussing in depth the mechanics behind the math of the points system and the reset/bonus system…we have come up with the following idea for a points system (I wish I could take credit for coming up with this but the math ninja came up with it- but it sounds really good to me):

Keep the same points structure- (same number of points available per race) but at the reset point (the beginning of the chase) Do NOT zero every one out.  Instead let them keep their points but add  10000 points to their points totals to make the chase field distinguishable from the rest of the field.  Remove bonus points for wins….or at the very least significantly lower it to one bonus point per win (I say nix bonus points all together- math ninja says lower to 1 point per win).  We think the chase would be far closer points wise- and less of a runaway.  That right there makes it more exciting.  This system doesn’t just reward winning but rewards consistency of finish as well.  Just an idea…

As a matter of fact- that is what I will do for the chase this year…I will keep track of Our Chase System- to see the difference between where the current system stats end up…and were Our Chase Points end up.  It will be interesting to see.  You all haven’t heard the end of this idea…

Stewart-Haas racing announced yesterday a new sponsorship with Oreo and Ritz.  Stewart will be sponsored by Ritz crackers- and will wear the logo on the chest of his firesuit as well as the B-Post of his car. Teammate Newman will wear the oreo logo on his firesuit and on the B-Post of his car as well.  To kick off the new sponsorship- Stewart will drive the number 5 Ritz/Oreo car in the Nationwide race at Daytona this February.  It is the only Nationwide series race Stewart plans on running this season. Tony tends to finish well in the Nationwide race at Daytona.

This comes after a November announcement that both teams will be sponsored by TORNADOS as well. Will these guys ever have to buy food again?

*****

In other off-season NASCAR Notes:

  • Elliott Sadler announced that he will be running several races in the Camping World Truck series for owner Kevin Harvick in addition to his normal cup schedule.
  • Casey Mears married Tricia Grablander. The pair have a daughter- Samantha.
  • The festival of Speed and Sound is happening this weekend in Nashville- pairing drivers and country artists in a festival for fans.  Wish I could be there.
  • It has been rumored that NASCAR is considering going back to having a spoiler on the rear of the car and getting rid of the COT’s trademark wing in an effort to keep the cars from getting airborn.  I bet Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, and Mark Martin are all for it.  It is rumored that this could happen as soon as the first races at Martinsville or Bristol.
  • Travis Kvapil will be driving for Front Row Motorsports in the 2010 season.
  • Jimmie Johnson and his wife Chandra have announced that they are expecting a baby sometime in July. Congratulations Jimmie and Chandra.

It’s a look I am familiar with…when I start to talk NASCAR with someone their eyes kind of glaze over- you see…being from Northern California- NASCAR isn’t exactly on everyone’s radar.  It’s not that racing isn’t popular here…I have mentioned before that I live within 10 miles of a race track. It’s just that NASCAR persay isn’t something that ALOT of people have experience with locally. When they hear racing they think of motorcycles laying over to take the turns of Laguna Seca. They think of Daytona prototypes and historic car races. They have no idea.

This is not to say that there are no NASCAR fans local. On the contrary there are (and yes I am talking about people besides me and my immediate family). But let’s just say they are far and few between.

Case in point: I was in a local supermarket several months ago. The bank that I use currently has a branch there and I went with my mom who needed to get some groceries while I needed to use the ATM.  When I was done with my banking business I went to catch up with my mom in the store- knowing roughly where she would be.  However, I was caught off-guard by a woman wearing a full on Office Depot racing jacket. This is just not something you see. I thought initially she might be a Carl Edwards fan but no this was a new jacket- a TONY STEWART jacket.  She had just turned the corner into the meat department and appeared to be with a teenage boy- perhaps her son or grandson.  I actually followed into the meat department even though I knew my mom wouldn’t be in that area of the store because I was shocked to see someone wearing Tony Stewart merchandise walking around my local supermarket.

However, even within my own family, it seems people don’t understand. My uncle has made comments on several ocassions that he doesn’t see what I get out of watching a bunch of cars drive in circles. How do I explain? My mom, will often roll her eyes when I launch into my latest NASCAR fuelled tirade and I think she enjoys the off season because I am not constantly yabbering about NASCAR. As a matter of fact I got that eye roll yesterday.

It’s one of the reasons I love going to races so much- they turned NASCAR into a much less solitary sport to me. Combine that with the awesome NASCAR online presence and the most important fact of all – that I turned my BFF into a NASCAR fan (only took me like 20 years to do it) have all made it much more of a community to me. Something that I am proud to own and talk about and not just watch on Sunday and quietly wait until the next race.  My NASCAR has become a community to me.

Ok…so there are a couple of what I consider “funny” outtakes from the whole champions week festivities that I wanted to share with you (ok after further looking over of my postie note about the “outtakes” post I guess two are outtakes, one is a random snippet of someone else’s conversation and one is something I want answered):

  • After all drivers had passed us on the red carpet into the roast, Jimmie being the last driver to meander by us and by the time he was pretty much out of earshot of us, my friend turned to me and said “Whatchya doing Jimmie?” (in the vain of the Lowe’s commercial)….to which I replied “Winning a championship Chad.” Now this in itself is NOT funny- its just something we occasionally do (snipe back and forth in commercial or movie dialogue snippets) but what WAS funny was that there was some guy on the red carpet right in front of us at the time, who thought we were pretty damn funny. I don’t know who he was but he was on the carpet wearing a credential of some sort…he looked like he wanted to interject something into our conversation…he even stopped right in front of us and chortled but didn’t actually say anything.
  • My BIGGEST faux pas of the entire weekend…and if you know me you know I am faux pas prone…also happened along the red carpet of the roast…but earlier.  I actually debated NOT telling you but then…what is the fun of that if I can’t make fun of myself right? So Denny Hamlin has just passed us on the red carpet…and by just past us I mean apparently he is like still two or three inches from me but I had shifted my attention to Mark Martin. So I catch sight of Mark Martin who is probably about fifteen feet or so down the red carpet to my right…which is the way I am facing and I say to my friend “He is so cute!” Meaning that Mark Martin is so cute because he is so little and friendly. And I mean both of those…he is like the tiniest man…but so so nice. Well my friend looks at me with like a horrified look on her face but says NOTHING to me.  So a little while later after the above bullet, I learn that Denny Hamlin was still right next to me and looked over at me thinking I was talking about him…and smiled. Thank goodness I didn’t realize this at the time or I probably would have either: A. Told Denny I was actually talking about Mark Martin…but really you’re not bad yourself, or B. Run off and hid behind something. Jury is still out on which I would have actually done.
  • The next incident happened at The Stewies. It had been awhile because we had already moved in towards the center of the balcony at least once or twice as we now had people on both sides of us. Ryan Newman was announced as the guest…and made his way down the golden staircase onto the stage, escorted by at least one, probably two lovely showgirls.  He takes his seat at the table with Stewart and Yokum, at which point the guy standing next us up in the balcony proclaims “That Ryan Newman, he’s a big boy! Jesus!” (but the Jesus is drawn out like…GEEEEEEEEEEEEZUZ)- we weren’t even sure if he was talking to us or just made the statement outloud to himself or what.  My friend just looks at me and I just shrug.  The day before I stood pretty much right in front of Ryan Newman…and what you need to know about me is I am on the short side- 5′ 4″ in shoes…and I didn’t think Ryan was overly tall or overly wide (unlike Mark Martin who was incredibly tiny)- especially where I felt the need to proclaim it in such a dramatic fashion! I guess you really kind of had to be there for this one to be funny….
  • And this last one…is more of just me wondering outloud (or in writing) kind of thing. Ok so at The Stewies when Ryan and Greg Biffle left the stage Tony was bidding them adieu and said something to Biffle like Don’t Get Into Too Much Trouble….or something like that. And then patted Ryan on the back and said “I know I don’t need to worry about you- you don’t gamble and you don’t drink…” I didn’t think anything too odd about it…I just carried on. Well then while watching the actual awards (from the comfort of my friend’s living room) Tony said something during his speech about Ryan getting him into trouble when they are together….ok if Ryan doesn’t drink or gamble…he must be kind of straight-laced kind of guy…so what kind of trouble can Ryan get Tony into?

Well that’s it in regards to Champion’s week. I had a  GREAT time.  I hope it stays in Vegas for awhile because I will go out of my way to be in town each year!