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So Chicagoland. I was looking forward to watching this race. First off, Tony was driving the #14 Back-To-School paint scheme on his Impala.  That is probably one of my favorite alternate paint schemes…because as a kid I would remember how much I looked forward to shopping for school supplies.  Secondly,it was a Saturday Night race…and I like those.  Thirdly, I was encouraged because Tony had a good qualifying run and qualified 3rd! That is an awesome qualifying effort from Tony and the Office Depot crew!

JOLIET, IL - JULY 09: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Office Depot Chevrolet, smiles after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LIFELOCK.COM 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway on July 9, 2010 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

JOLIET, IL - JULY 09: Tony Stewart, driver of the Office Depot Chevrolet, smiles after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LIFELOCK.COM 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway on July 9, 2010 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

At the beginning of the race Tony was strong. Very strong. Making is way up to second after falling back a couple of positions at the start of the race. The car just looked good on the track:

JOLIET, IL - JULY 10, 2010: Tony Stewart (14) and Jeff Gordon (24)during race action for the LifeLock.com 400 race at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL.

JOLIET, IL - JULY 10, 2010: Tony Stewart (14) and Jeff Gordon (24)during race action for the LifeLock.com 400 race at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL.

His major complaint about the car was that it was a bit tight.  Around lap 38 there was a caution flag- so all the teams came in for pitstops.  I was watching Tony’s DirecTV Hotpass channel so I could see Tony sitting on pitroad…and continuing to sit and sit on pit road.  I could see the other cars that were well behind Tony leaving pit road.  It was frustrating.  I heard Darian say “Sorry about that, Bud” to which Tony replied that he could see what was happening and not to worry about it- they would get them back. What you ask? That would be the 15 spots they fell during the pitstop.  Apparently what happened is the wheels on the jack got stuck in a seem and caused the delay in the pitstop. Arg! Tony restarted in 17th.  Tony seemed calm but I wasn’t!

When the race went green again it was like Tony was on FIRE. He was passing people left and right…quite literally. Even his spotter said “That’s pretty sweet!”

I had to chuckle at Tony’s reply which was “I’ve got a little business to take care of…” which you know- is Office Depot’s theme…”Taking care of business.”

Taking care of business- I should say so because Tony was soon in the top ten.  He would stay between 7th and 10th for the rest of the race and would finish 9th.  He remains 9th in the sprint cup points. Points leader is still Kevin Harvick.

Race winner was David Reutimann.  It was cute to see David win a race. I always want Tony to win. Always…but I wouldn’t begrudge Reut a win.

Notes about Chicagoland:

  • As I mentioned I was watching the Tony Stewart channel on DirecTV hotpass. I have to say…HOTPASS YOU STILL STINK!!!  There was one point where Tony was very obviously holding on an animated conversation with Darian or his spotter during one of the late race yellows. I know this because I could see his incar camera. He was waving his hands around- it was OBVIOUS he was having a conversation…but they were obviously editing it so we didn’t get ANY of that conversation.  Your HOTPASS stinks. I ended up at that point going and getting my laptop and listening to the SCANNER on the NASCAR.COM Trackpass…which was weird because it was a bit behind the TV surprisingly.  But at least I got more of the conversation that way…unfortunately I missed most of the good stuff.
  • Robby Gordon ran SMACK into Bill Elliott’s disabled car. I mean he hit him HARD! I was glad that Bill was ok.  That was crazy. Did Robby’s spotter miss the spin?
  • Whilst listening to the bantering back and forth between Darian and Tony I heard Tony describe his car as “nervous.” Um what the heck did that mean? Nervous? Did it have butterflies?

Next week the Sprint Cup cars have a week off. The week after is huge. It’s the BRICKYARD!

The following is a day-by-day account of the great annual Vegas RACECATION. It includes race pictures, lots of words including a detailed account of what was going on in my head before and during our Tony Stewart Interview!!! as well as some choice Tony and Ryan quotes from their appearance at the Q&A at the Lagasse Stadium at The Palazzo, and did I  not mention race pictures? I am putting a jump in here because this entry is really LONG but I couldn’t bear to break it up.

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I have always referred to Pocono as “that evil little triangle track” Now I don’t know why I feel the need to say “little” because there is nothing little about Pocono- it’s a 2.5 mile track with one of THE widest pit roads on the circuit. But still I guess I feel the need to add the diminutive to the moniker because it’s not a favorite track of mine.  I have no real explanation as to WHY but it just is not a favorite.

Anyway this was a rollercoaster of a weekend for team OfficeDepot/OldSpice.  First both first practice and qualifying get rained out- thus giving Tony Stewart his first Pole of the season.  That is a definite up right? Well then- on Saturday during second practice Tony spun his car- ended up taking a ride through the grass and when he hit a grass burm he pretty much ripped the whole front of the car up- separating the splitter completely off the car and damaging the radiator.  So…off to a backup car…and thus starting at the back of the field on Sunday.  That was definitely a big downer.

So the race, the first of the TNT Summer series, started and I nearly forgot that Tony was a HotPass driver.  So I switched over to HotPass just in time to hear Darian Grubb tell the Tony and the #14 guys that he wanted them to bring home a “little triangle trophy” which humored me immensely. Once the green flag dropped, Tony immediately began working his way up the field of cars like a man on a mission.  He was very upbeat on the radio and seemed pretty pleased with the way the car was handling as well as with the tweaks that they made on the car during the pitstops to refine that handling.  Between Tony just slicing and dicing his way through the field and some awesome pitstops- Tony soon heard “Welcome to the top fifteen” from his spotter soon followed by “Top 10″ where Tony would stay for the remainder of the race.

His last pit stop was completely awesome. That pitcrew got him out just in time for him to roll across the line just in front of Carl Edwards…however Jeff Gordon had opted to stay out to lead a lap. Then is started to sprinkle on the track.  This meant Tony was in second because Gordon stayed out. I know all the Gordon fans were probably doing rain dances- (I know my friend was) but the sprinkle was short lived and Jeff Gordon soon ended up having to pit. Once Tony was in the lead he never really looked back.

From here it would be a fuel milage race. Darian Grubb told Tony to save fuel.  This is never a good thing. Could you imagine the hunger you have wanting that first points win. You are within reach. You are in the lead.  You have 800 horses under your foot and you have to conserve fuel? It has to go against everything that makes sense to a racer. Instead of “GO FAST. TURN LEFT.” you now have to “Go Fast enough to stay in the lead but not so fast that you run yourself out of gas- but not so slow that the guy behind you catches you and passes you. oh and TURN LEFT.” Tony was pretty quiet on the radio during those last 40 laps.  He came on once and said “I Hate This.” I took it to mean he hated having to hold back and the whole not knowing if he had enough gas. The sportscasters didn’t think Tony would be able to do it.  That last 40 laps to me seemed to take about three hours to complete.  At one point Jimmie Johnson started coming up towards the field and was battling second place Carl Edwards pretty hard.  I suddenly had visions of Dover last weekend and Jimmie passing Tony to take the lead.  Luckily this did not happen as Jimmie ended up running out of gas. Like Tony, I was fairly quiet (Odd I know- considering I thought that I would get the cops would get called on me last weekend I was cheering so loud).  But finally Tony Stewart took the white flag and then the checkered.  His first Points Race win as an Owner/Driver. Stewart maintains his lead in the points standings. Teammate Ryan Newman also had a stellar top-five finish.

Pocono Notes:

  • I was surprised at the small number of cautions at Pocono. They were few and far between. It made for some great green flag pit stop action.
  • How frustrating was it to be Denny Hamlin?  He struggled all day…right from teh gitgo.  I felt kind of bad for him.
  • My friend pointed this little gem out to me: Tony Stewart…the number #14 wins the 14th points race of the season. Hee I think 14 should be Tony’s new favorite number…if it isn’t already.
  • I was glad to see that Jeff Gordon was able to work his way up to a fourth place finish after pitting late. It was a great finish.
  • Was I the only one who was worried Tony didn’t have enough gas for that little burn out he did?
  • I was pretty pleased with the TNT broadcast.  Granted I was watching HotPass so ask me for sure next weekend…but they seem to have improved from last season. And I love Larry Mac as an announcer. I think he is my favorite.
  • I was glad that Tony’s father Nelson was there at Long Pond to watch the first win in person.  It was great to see him congratulate Tony before he got out of the car.  The crew even made sure to douse him during the celebration in Victory Lane.
  • I was glad to see that Patrick Carpentier was back behind the wheel. I hope they are able to come up with a more permanent ride for him.
  • Congratulations to Robby Gordon who won the Baja race, and then flew directly to Long Pond to race in Sunday’s Pocono 500…his car was practiced for him by Travis Kvapil.
  • Did you happen to notice the hats that Tony’s pit crew were wearing? I want one. They say Office Depot on one side and Old Spice on the other. They had a similar hat at the merchandise Hauler at Phoenix…but it was beige.  I want the red one.
  • Also incase you missed it: Valli is giving away one of Jeff Gordon’s Lugnuts from the race at Talladega as part of an awesome Jeff Gordon/Pepsi throwback prize package.  Be sure to enter now.
  • You might also still have time to submit your questions to From The Marbles for a chance to have RACE WINNER Tony Stewart answer an interview question of yours.  Like I said on Saturday this is a cool contest…I would love to be able to run one like this.

CONGRATULATIONS AGAIN TO TONY STEWART, TEAM OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE, and STEWART-HAAS RACING.

Next Weekend will find us at Michigan Internationl Raceway.