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I couldn’t have predicted the end of this race if I had wanted to.  Wow.  The conditions were cloudy nearly all day in Louden and from the moment I tuned in I worried if the race would be one of those where we would race for 20 laps and be under caution for 35 because of rain. Luckily- for the most part we were fairly lucky.

Tony had the pole since starting positions were set by the points because of a rained out qualifying.  However once the green flag dropped at Louden, Tony started dropping back like someone had thrown a boat anchor out the rear decklid or something.  Meanwhile Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch played swap the lead backand forth, back and forth. Then it dawned on my that Tony was a hot pass driver so I switched to hotpass on to discover that his radio feed sounded like crap. I hope it didn’t sound like that to him…because that would annoy the heck out of me…all that popping and cracking and half conversations that did not even appear to be his. Tony ran top five most of the day until a late race pitstop mishap on the right front tire caused him to lose a couple of positions in the pits. After a round of green flag pitstops and then a caution and a red flag thrown for rain, the race would not resume- just 28 laps shy of a complete race.  Tony ended up finishing a respectable fifth. Rookie Joey Logano- who took over the number 20 Home Depot machine when Tony Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing to move to SHR, won his first cup race by being in the right place at the right time when the race was called…and that would be the front!

Notes About Louden:

  • I thought Jeff Gordon congratulating Joey Logano was really gracious. Frankly- I don’t think I would be that gracious but that is just me- I can get a wee bit competitive.
  • Poor Ryan Newman…so close…but not. He ran out of gas with just a lap or two to go- when rain was starting to fall. He just can NOT catch a break this season.

Next weekend its a Saturday Night race at a little track you may have heard of: DAYTONA!

Wow…that was an interesting albeit short race on Sunday.  Well at least it seemed short to me. I don’t know why – since they ran the full race. Maybe it was the lack of cautions?

Tony was a Hot Pass driver this week.  I don’t know if HOT PASS was listening to me or snoozing on the job but I did get to hear Tony complain that his car was “Looser than shit!” on the radio. Despite seeming to wrestle an ill-handling car for most of the race- overall Tony seemed pretty good- he was in the Top 10 most of the day. After the last caution, crew cheif Darian Grubb called on Stewart to save gas- which he did- however about 100 feet from the start finish line Tony ran out of gas but was still able to coast across the finishline in a very respectable 7th place. Tony retained the points lead- leading second place (in both the race and the points) Gordon by 47 points.  Tony’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman also struggles with an ill-handling car all day- at one point actually replacing a spring during a pitstop. Ryan Newman is currently fifth in the points 225 points behind his teammate.

Notes About Michigan:

  • Ok- seriously I didn’t see that it was that big of a deal that Kyle smashed the guitar/trophy.  It is his trophy. It was done in a “rock n roll” kinda spirit. Can we please move on now?
  • Also I am kinda finding the whole Kyle vs Jr and Jr. Nation thing a guilty pleasure to witness. It is slightly humorous. I don’t know why I am finding it humorous to watch the two slug insults back and forth but I am.
  • Wow two races in a row where fuel mileage played a heavy hand.  I don’t see how people can not think it’s exciting. This time we had not only our race leader run out of gas well before the start finish line, but the second place car run out of gas too (Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle). It’s all part of the strategy component of it all.

This is a post that have been mulling over in my head for quite some time. The idea was sparked last year actually by a NASCAR INSIDERS post about driver websites and I was going to write about this then- but then Tony announced he would be leaving JGR at the end last season so I decided that I would wait until SHR got their feet under them so to speak- because I am sure one of the last things on their mind is their presence on the web when you have to worry about building a whole team.

Tony Stewart has more “official” sites than you can shake a stick at between the official Tony Stewart site, the major sponsor sites and the SHR site, oh and let’s not forget the TSR site.  I am just going to take on those five sites. First off, I have to start by telling you I have very little design experience when it comes to websites.  This lovely site here? Set up and hosted for me by Pete with layout designed by Karah.  I am going at these pages from a fan point of view. A “usablity” point of view.

Let’s start with the main site: tonystewart.com.  This site serves as the portal to all things Tony Stewart.  I don’t know if you were familiar with this site last season when it was orange and black color scheme- but it looked actually alot like tonystewartracing.com(the official site of his open wheel race teams) does -it was a more simplistic page but it got the job done. This new TonyStewart.Com site is functional and “pretty”.  I hated the orange and black because everything was so muted.  I have to say that the red/black theme this season is much more eye catching and I don’t know if its the colors or the photos they are using but everything on this website seems much more crisp and clean than the old orange/black version.  I absolutely love the animated red smoke that floats through the main banner on the homepage area where the pictures rotate.  I also really like how the pictures on the banner on the child pages are mostly black and white with only a car or Tony being color.  They did this with the old color scheme but it didn’t work as well for me as it does here. I find the navigation on this site pretty straight forward.  It even displays the points and the last race results right there on the front page now which I like. Everything is up and working on this site now- except for some bizarre reason I can’t get the videos to play under multimedia. But I can really live without that for right now because they are just the old spice commercials and a link to the Tony Stewart: Off Track video series.  Content wise it has pretty much what you would expect: driver bio, pictures, store, fan club (now called The Smoke Pit this area as of this posting is still under construction for the most part), Sponsor information etc. Overall I really liked the redesign of this site- its much more aestetically pleasing and has a sleeker, cleaner feel.  I think there needs to be an area on the front page though that lists TV appearances and such…I totally missed Tony on Trackside a couple weeks ago- but if it had been listed on the page somewhere I wouldn’t have.

Next let’s move on to StewartHaasRacing.com. This is the website for everything Stewart-Haas related. I waited for a long time for this page to come to fruition and it was worth the wait. This page has a very garage-ish feel but I love it. I blame it completely on my LOVE of the Stewart-Haas Racing logo-it has a classic car feel to it. I LOVE that logo. This page features bios on both Tony and his teammate Ryan as well as info on the crews for both the 14 and the 39 cars.  Both teams publish team press releases at this site as well as random news.  The coolest part about this site is the VIP Garage, which functions much like a social networking site. Users have their own page (see mine). By logging in fans have access to message boards and exclusive content such as wallpapers, galleries and videos. There is also a points system based on logins and points and random giveaways dependent on the level of points you have. My only complaint about this site? Is the damn music it starts up with. Its kind of loud. I know you can shut it off but it never stays that way.

Unlike the NascarInsiders article about driver pages I am going to delve into the sponsor websites. One of Tony’s two primary sponsor sites is OfficeDepotRacing.com. It is has nice pretty much the same bio information you can find at tonystewart.com.  My major complaint is that this page is very dialup unfriendly- its really graphic intensive and video intensive.  I know I am still living in the dark ages…but I also know that I am not the only one here in the cave.  However I LOVE the “Ask Tony” portion of this site. The old home depot site also had this and it was always fun. However- officedepotracing.com has some of the answers in video format and some in “written”. That is probably one of my favorite features.

Old Spice is Tony’s other primary sponsor and the OldSpiceRacing.com site is probably the newest of all the sites listed. It is also the most hilarious. While I have made no bones about the fact that I think that Tony’s Old Spice Commerical is really kinda dumb (still not sure what being Russian has to do with anything). I love Tony’s bio on this site because its completely slapstick. Here is a brief excerpt: Tony Stewart is a racer’s racer. If a greyhound, a fighter pilot and a chainsaw sculptor were somehow genetically welded together, reengineered with gasoline and cloned to form a half-carburetor, half-human racing man/machine, Tony would be that man/machine. Tony Stewart was born to race. In other words, if when Tony Stewart was born the doctor told him racing hadn’t been invented yet, he would crawl to the library, teach himself how to read and begin studying how to cryogenically freeze himself long enough for racing to be invented. In 2005, during a race, Tony Stewart got tired and, while taking a nap in the backseat, passed eight cars to clinch the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. This site is HILARIOUS. It could rehash old info located on all the other sites but it comes up with a unique way to advertise Tony and Old Spice. (Speaking of which they have a hilarious new contest called Swaggerize Your Wallet- for information go here).

These are just the main “official” sites for Tony and Stewart-Haas Racing.  There is also a facebook presence for Stewart-Haas Racing as well as for teammate Ryan Newman – which I think is awesome. Tony (or his PR handlers more likely) also has a Infield Parking page as does Ryan Newman.

I am surprised I didn’t get the cops called on me this Sunday during the last 20 laps or so of the Autism Speaks 400 race at Dover.  I was watching alone for a change and when Tony was chasing Biffle down, passing Biffle, and then working that track to make his car seem as wide as possible when Jimmie was doing the same to him, I was screaming. And standing about two feet infront of the television- as if my mere proximity to the tube and yelling my cheers that loudly would somehow propell that 14 car on my voice alone.  Because I was alone I wasn’t shy about being LOUD and PROUD in my rooting for Tony and Team. And because I was alone I admit that I may have had a few choice words for Jimmie Johnson when he passed Tony (even though I actually kinda like Jimmie) that didn’t get filtered out by my internal sesor when I watch with other people.

Team Office Depot/Old Spice didn’t have the most stellar first practice or qualifying run on Friday so honestly I wasn’t sure it was going to be the best weekend for us.  Then I made the mistake of reading the transcript from Tony’s Friday media session- which is something I almost never do- and he just seemed rather grumpy and overly concerned about his car.  Yet another reason to think that Dover would not be a great weekend for Team Office Depot/Old Spice. I was reassured a bit on Saturday morning when I caught glimpses of the last two practices- to see that Tony’s car seemed to be picking it up.

Qualifying 31st, Tony spent most of the race mired in heavy traffic but working his way up the field slowly but surely.  Not having the best of pit stalls I think kind of messed him up in the pits and he often lost one or two spots during a stop.  Tony eventually worked his way into the top ten- running consistently at about 8th or so.  Then there was a lucky debris caution. Darian called Tony in at the last minute for two tires. And because Team Office Depot/Old Spice only took two tires, they found themselves slowly hunting down race leader (at the time) Greg Biffle- and eventually catching him. They raced hard for awhile and Stewart eventually become the race leader.  Unfortunately Jimmie Johnson was also moving up the field- and Jimmie was on four fresh tires.  Tony held Jimmie off as long as he could- but Jimmie eventually got around Tony with two laps to go and never looked back.  Tony came in second at Dover. Partly because of his second place finish and also because of Jeff Gordon’s inability to get either of his laps back, Stewart and Team Office Depot/Old Spice left Dover first in the points, with Jeff Gordon a mere 46 points behind him. Stewart-Haas teamate Ryan Newman also had yet another top ten finish (way to go RYAN!!) and moved up two spots in the points and is now up to fifth.

Notes on Dover:

  • This race had too many debris cautions for my taste. People- if your race car has parts falling off of it- pull into the pits! That is my PSA for Dover.
  • I am kind of glad its the end of the Fox coverage because DW kind of pissed me off with an offhanded comment he made regarding drivers not having original thoughts during the preshow (in reference to Kyle Busch’s comment about Dale Jr.)
  • Well judging by the results this weekend- the crew chief switch on the #88 seems to at least done SOME good. Jr finished 12th. Not bad.  Still- Junior seemed down in his afterrace interview. As a side note, my friend says Dale Jr. reminds her of Jeff Boomhauer when he talks.
  • As mentioned by Kyle Busch during the preshow- don’t forget to go to RealChocolate.com to try for your chance at a free Mars product this friday. (Thanks Kyle!)
  • *Technically most NASCAR fans would call Dover race 13 on the schedule because for some unknown reason they don’t count the All-Star race (yeah I know you don’t get points…but you get a million bucks and a cool ring? What more do you want?).

Next weekend the race is at Pocono (aka the Evil Little Triangle). Also don’t forget race fans that NASCAR coverage switches to TNT this weekend.

Have you seen the movie Almost Famous? There is a scene in that movie where Frances McDormand who plays lead character William’s mother and a college professor stands in front of one of the classes she is teaching and states: “Rockstars have kidnapped my son.” Well I stand before you today and state: The Coca-Cola 600 kidnapped my long weekend. I have also heard it called the 24 Hours At Lowes Motorspeedway (Thanks Trixie…that’s a good one).

So- The Coca-Cola 600 was scheduled to start on Sunday but never really got the chance because of rain delay after rain delay.  I continued to watch Rain Delay coverage…until suddenly my Fox affiliate went out and decided to play Fosters & Smith infomercials disguised as television shows.  No warning or anything…one minute I was watching the DW and Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond and the next minute I was learning about how to care for my turtle, frog, or bearded lizard using Fosters & Smith products of course.  It annoyed me.  I waited and waited and finally decided to check online and apparently it had been postponed until Monday.

Since I live on the west coast the race started at 9:00 am for me…on the last day of my long weekend so there would be no sleeping in for me.  Yey finally the race started. Tony did not have the best of qualifying efforts (he started 28th) so he was mired way down in the pack. The track was green because of the rain- but Tony seemed happy and comfortable with his car and able to move up the field- breaking into the Top Ten inbetween more rain delays.

Unfortunately that last rain delay at lap 227 (mile 340.5) would kind of screw Tony’s Office Depot team.  Having just cycled though some green flag pitstops- he was 19th and trying to work his way back through the field when that last red flag for rain came out.  about three and a half hours later David Reutimann would be declared the winner of the SHORTEST ever Coca-Cola 600- winning on pitting strategy- the same strategy that gave Tony Stewart’s teammate a second place finish.  Tony Stewart remains second in points and is now 44 points out of the lead.  Teammate Ryan Newman moved up to 7th in points after his second place finish.

Notes about the 600:

  • Seriously David Reutimann- Why did you insist on standing around your car for nearly three and a half hours in the rain without an umbrella? It was a little silly.  Did you really think it would make a difference?
  • Ok- I admit I chuckled at the “Billy Bad-Butt” incident.  When Tony called the crew guy Billy Bad-Butt” I laughed.  And we may have even taken turns calling each other Billy Bad-Butt for the rest of the day.  Mostly I thought it was funny because I was pretty sure Tony would have rather said bad ass but didn’t want to get docked 10K for it.  However- Fox displaying it while focused on the crew guy was a little tacky (ok I still laughed…I admit it). And NASCAR.COM leading off this morning’s headline with MEET BILLY BAD BUTT was even worse.
  • I was hoping they would be able to go green as much as the next guy- really I was (especially since Tony was stuck in 19th at the time of that last red flag) but three and a half hours? Is too freaking long to wait!
  • It’s one of my biggest fears? Being at a race that is postponed to the next day. Usually I would end up not being able to go because I tend to use the day after the race as my day to get myself back home and then I am off to work the next day….have you ever experienced the postponement of a race? What happened?

Next Sunday is our first visit of the season to the Monster Mile at Dover.

Yesterday was the All-Star Challenge at Lowes Motor Speedway.  This race is a no- points race.  Basically- this race is for money and as Tony Stewart said nearly all week…”bragging rights.”  It started Thursday night with the Pit Crew challenge.  Then yesterday afternoon was the burn out competition (won by Kevin Harvick after Kyle Busch and DW both disqualified themselves).  The rider with Kyle didn’t seem too pleased that Kyle tapped the safer barrier.

Then came the All-Star race. This race is set up a little different than your average NASCAR race in that it starts with the Shootout where the winner and runner up (and a fan vote) get into the big race.  To not have to race your way into the All-Star race you have to: Have either been a race winner this season or last, won the All-Star race in the past 10 years or be a past cup champion.  The shootout was run in two 20 lap segments.  The winner was Sam Hornish Jr and the runner up was Jamie McMurray. And the fan vote surprised me…it was Joey Logano.  I don’t know why it surprised me but it certainly did.  Qualifying for the All-Star Race is also different in that it includes a full four-tire pit stop. Tony ended up qualifying poorly because he accidently left on the jack after only two tires….much to the dismay of his tire changer.

Now the actual All-Star race has 4 segments. A 50 lap segment with a mandatory caution at lap 24 where all teams had to change 4 tires. Two 20 lap segments with a caution thrown at the end of each one.  The caution at the end of the second 20 lap segment is a mandatory 10 minute caution. Then a 10 lap “dash for the cash” shootout.  Now each segment had a different winner and during the first three segments Tony Stewart was working his way up the field slowly and steadily.  While watching the race I made a mental note to talk about the awesome pass Tony made to get around Joey Logano to break into the top 10- nearly going in the grass (which is totally legal) to get pass him. I figured that his pass would be Tony’s big move of the race. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The racing during the 10 lap dash is intense and hard.  At one point Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, and Jeff Gordon are three wide. Someone loses it (I am not sure if it was Kyle or Ryan) and the two of them touch and bounce off each other. The unfortunate victim here was Jeff Gordon. He ends up into the wall.  Ryan Newman soon ends up cutting a tire and falling back.  There is a random debris caution (again these laps do not count) during which they show Tony sitting inside his car from an incar camera and you can see his eyes thorugh his visor even though it’s tinted for the glare from the lights. They are the big focused eyes -what my dad loves to call “fighter pilot” eyes.  Tony has his eyes on the prize.  The green flies and there  more crazy racing and lots and lots of screaming cheering (apparently you could hear me all the way in Maine) on my part (Roxy at this point decided to take leave of us and seeks solice outside in her dogloo). With less than three laps to go Tony finally gets around race leader Matt Kenseth and never looks back.

CONGRATULATIONS TO TONY STEWART and all of STEWART-HAAS RACING.  WAHOO!!!

I just wanted to again mention the Pit Crew Challenge.  I love watching the pit crews do what they do best and thursday night was of course no exception. I really think it is great for them to get a chance to shine because often they are the unsung heroes of a race team (unless they screw up- and then everyone knows about it). I noticed that some of the people I follow on twitter were tweeting the results so I stopped using twitter so I could enjoy watching the actual challenge.

I really think that both Stewart-Haas racing teams did awesome!  These are teams that are still geling…and they have only been getting better on track (proof of this are the awesome pitstops Tony had at Darlington).  It was great to see Tony out there supporting both his crew and the US. Army crew of Ryan Newman.  The 39 car was piloted during the push by Ryan’s wife Krissie Newman but unfortunately the team was elimated in the quarterfinals.  It was not mentioned who was piloting the 14 car during the push but the team did an awesome job. Making it into the semi finals- and actually had a pretty awesome stop- coming to the line a whole car length in front of Reed Sorenson’s 43 crew.  Unfortunately a penalty on the 14 meant that the 43 crew would be the ones facing off against Jeff Burton.  Jeff Burton’s crew (who’s number 31 car was piloted by wife Kim Burton) would be the ultimate Pit Crew Challenge winners.

I will say this…when I mentioned earlier in the week that I love the Pit Crew Challenge I wasn’t kidding.  However I might need to be sedated if I ever make it to the actual challenge. As it was I was smack talking the tv and jumped off the couch when Tony’s crew initially beat the 43 crew.

I hope to see Tony and Ryan have strong runnings in the All-Star race on Saturday.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I said over the course of the race on Saturday night “This race is never ever ever going to end!” The Lady In Black (Darlington) brought us a record number of cautions (17) for the 501 mile race. Like most race fans- I tend to use cautions to use the facilities and stretch my legs.  Well let me tell you there wasn’t one time during Darlington that I thought to myself “Damn I have to pee but I don’t want to miss anything!” (TMI I know but, unlike most of the drivers- and I honestly don’t know how they do it- I have to pee during the course of a standard race).

I will be the first to admit that I didn’t think that Tony had that stellar of a qualifying run and between that run (he ended up starting 18th) and the fact that Tony had never won at Darlington before- I wasn’t expecting a stellar run on Saturday. (My friend would tell you I am too easily frustrated). I didn’t think all hope was lost for Stewart-Haas Racing since teammate Ryan Newman qualified 3rd.

Once the race got underway- however- I noticed Tony inching closer and closer to the top ten- meanwhile Newman stayed pretty much consistently in the top ten even leading for awhile.  However I have to say that the Office Depot/Old Spice pit crew was ON FIRE Saturday night.  There were a couple of times- especially during that last pit stop- that I jumped off the couch and yelled YES!! excited that they managed to get Tony out of the pits first despite having taken four tires and a full load of fuel.  Even though the last absolutely stellar pit stop put him in 8th (the other seven cars opted to stay out) Tony began to move up through the field at an amazing rate and had the race been any longer I am sure that Tony would have caught both second place Jimmie Johnson and winner Mark Martin.  Another race that was so close…Stewart Haas could nearly taste the victory (I certainly could!)  Tony’s third place finish bumps him up to second in points only 29 points away from leader Jeff Gordon.  Ryan Newman’s fourth place finish bumped him up to 8th in points.  Another great night for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Other Darlington Notes:

  • While I always kinda root for David Ragan because he is on my fantasy team and Juan Pablo Montoya)- was I the only one who didn’t think they should have let that frankensteined car back on the track that last time? I mean the front leftside tire wasn’t even touching the tract completely for goodness sakes!
  • More about commercials I am finding humorous- I am really liking the Bobby Labonte/Ask.com commercials.  I am especially a fan of the one where the woman is raving over about how HOT Bobby Labonte is while looking at him through binoculars when her husband tells her to keep it above the Mason-Dixon line. Too bad ask.com sucks as a search engine.
  • During the national broadcast of the race they played a snippet of radio interaction between Joey Logano and Greg Zipadelli. I don’t even remember what it was about- I think it was about a two versus four tire change on the last stop they had. Joey had a question about it and asked Greg.  However unlike the broadcasters I really don’t think it was a power struggle between the two- more like Joey wanted to know what happened….he is a rookie.
  • Don’t forget the Pit Crew Challenge is this week on Thursday. I LOVE the pit crew challenge and when I make it to Charlotte one of these days for the all-star race- I am so fitting in the Pit Crew Challenge!

The next race is this Saturday on SPEED: The All-Star Race….no points…this one is all about the money!