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Hey Smoke Fans- if you are lucky enough to be in Charlotte NC next week (and I envy all of you that are there- let me tell you) – Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman are doing a rare joint Autograph appearance at the Office Depot located at 8658 JW Clay Boulevard.  You will need a wristband for the event. The wristbands will be distributed starting at 8:00 am local time on May 23rd at the Office Depot on JW Clay Blvd (one autograph per wristband one wristband per person).  The event will happen at 3:45pm local time (autograph seekers with wristbands will need to be in line no later than 4:15pm local time).

While you are there you may want to stick around because BOTH Tony and Ryan will be participating in another Office Depot Racing Ask Tony (AND RYAN) LIVE event at 5:00pm at the same location! I am looking forward to this one because I *should* be able to watch the stream of this one on the net….so wave at the camera if they show you because I will be watching you all!

Inside A Helmet, Everthing Can Seem Different- David Caraviello for NASCAR.COM

Will Ryan Newman Return To SHR In 2013- Jeff Gluck for SBNATION.com

Whittling Crew Chiefs Down To Top Ten- Terry Blount for ESPN

Newman’s Gone Fishing- Ryan Newman for NASCAR.COM

TV Reporter Juggles Motherhood, NASCAR’s Grinding Road- Nate Ryan for USAToday.com

NASCAR At Darlington: Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman Teams Scuffle After Southern 500- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

If I Were A NASCAR Owner, I’d Hire Kurt Busch- Jordan Bianchi for SBNATION.com

Faith On The FrontStretch: A Speedy Apology Calms A Conflict- Beth Reinke for SkirtsandScuffs.com

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

Tony and Danica in the garage at Darlington (Again photo blatently stolen from the Official Tony Stewart Facebook Page. Click on Photo to see the original).)

For some reason every time I type Darlington the Trace Adkins song Arlington runs through my head- to the point where I will break into song…and if you have ever heard that song- it’s not a chipper break-into-song type of song so I can’t explain it. I have NO IDEA why except that they kind of rhyme.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 11, 2012 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

So back to the race report? I honestly don’t have much to say about Darlington. I know…what is WRONG with me- having nothing to say.  Tony finished well- a very respectable 3rd (missed it by that much!). Of course I was hoping Tony would get his first win at Darlington but it wasn’t in the stars I guess.  Tony is still 7th in the points despite his 3rd place finish.

Notes About Darlington:

  1. Kurt Busch was fined $50,000 for his actions during and after the race as well as put on probabtion through July 27th.  One of Kurt’s crew members, Craig Strickler, has also been placed on probation through December 31st.  Ryan Newman’s crew chief, Tony Gibson, has been placed on probation  through June 27th and the gas man, Andrew Rueger has been placed on probation through June 27th and fined $5,000 for his part in the postrace altercation.  I didn’t see the pitstop where Kurt purportedly burned out through Newman’s pit box- but if he did that while members were over the way- that was not a very bright thing to do. Again if he did do that I can see why Andrew Rueger was so pissed off.  I am, however, unclear, what Craig Strickler’s part in the altercation was- all the release would say was “interfering with a member of the broadcast media.”

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

Tony at Darlington (I think he's watching Danica practice). (Photo Credit: Stolen from the Official Tony Stewart Facebook Page- click picture for original location)

We have the All-Star Race on Saturday and the Coca-Cola 600 on the 27th- both at Charlotte.

 

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)

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).

Martinsville- what can I say except Tony Stewart lucked into a 7th place finish by attrition thanks to that big wreck at the end there that took out several of the front runners.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. (Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America)

(more…)

Shock Ruling: Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus Win Final Appeal- Dustin Long for USA Today

Team 48 Wins Appeal of Daytona Penalties- The AP for FoxSports

Ryan Newman: I’ve Changed How I Race The Competition- By Jeff Gluck for SBNATION.com

The infamous pre-race interview with Tony Stewart from Bristol where he was…um distracted by some shenanigans (I wanted to embed it but that option is not available so i thought I would share it anyway).  http://www.nascar.com/video/post-race/highlights/120318/cup-bri-high-stewart-prerace/index.html

Bristol Driver Intro Songs List- by Jeff Gluck for SBNATION.com

Tony Stewart Dominates off the line for his first career Vegas win- Jay Busbee for Yahoo!Sports

For the love of pete will someone please teach Denny Hamlin how to Dougie:

Your Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:

Blatantly stolen from the official Tony Stewart Facebook page: during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee on March 18, 2012. Copyright, CIA Stock Photography, Inc.

Also blatantly stolen from the Tony Stewart official facebook page: Tony Stewart speaks to members of the media during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee on March 16, 2012. Copyright, CIA Stock Photography, Inc.

Ahh, it was so great to not just have cup cars out on the track but to have those cup cars to be racing.  No matter what the format of the Shootout or how drivers qualify for the Shootout, I look forward it because to me it signals the beginning of the season, points be damned.

I admit during the off season, while reveling in the fact that my driver won his third championship, I’ve been pondering the momentum SHR may or may not carry into the 2012 season.  Last season was not the best of seasons for Tony Stewart and his #14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 team.  I don’t think even Tony would argue with me there. Granted there were some near wins during the regular season, like Las Vegas (which broke my heart because I knew how much he wanted to win there after our interview and to see him come oh-so-close only to not win) and the more positive 2nd place in New Hampshire (where he finished second to teammate Ryan Newman).  But despite a few bright spots (that were not winning so how bright could they really be) was frustrating for our driver (and his fans right).  I honestly don’t think I have ever worried as much as I have about Tony making THE CHASE (NASCAR’s version of playoffs/Championship) as I did this last 2011 season.  Luckily he did by the skin of his teeth (whether or not he thought he deserved it).

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, jokes around during qualifying for the Daytona 500 at Daytona. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America).

Then it was like someone flipped a switch. Tony’s CHASE run was nothing short of amazing, with the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 team winning a record 5 out of 10 CHASE races.  And don’t even get me started about that race at Homestead, that amazing race that Tony NEEDED to win. He not only managed to win but passed 118 cars to do it. A race where the team and driver had to overcome damage early in the race, a bad pit stop, a rain delay and you know 42 competitors. A race where it was quite obvious that the driver was….well driving his ass off.  Oh yeah and they happened to take home a CHAMPIONSHIP because if it.  That rocked.

Even though the season ended on a high note, that doesn’t mean that the momentum will follow through and don’t think that doesn’t worry me.  SHR underwent some fairly major changes at the end of the season and during the off season.  There were sponsor additions (Outback and Quicken Loans) for Ryan Newman’s car. A new crew chief, Steve Addington,  was hired for Tony Stewart, after letting go Darian Grubb. The long empty Director of Competition position was filled by Greg Zipadelli (big surprise there right?) after being vacant most of last season.  And the BIGGEST change of all, the addition of a third, albeit part-time team with the #10 of Danica Patrick.  Yes, technically the car is fielded by TBR but we all know that was done to guarantee Danica a start in the 500 without having to sacrifice Tony or Ryan’s owner points.  So that adds a new crew (maybe- Stewart-Haas has a third pit crew they offered out to other teams) and a new quasi-teammate to the mix.  That is a whole lot of change for an organization. Change that may (or hopefully may NOT) hinder momentum because there are new people getting use to an existing organization and an organization getting use to new people.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona. (Picture Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

That being said, I am VERY pleased with what i saw at the Shootout momentum wise.  Considering that Tony’s car had signifigant damage during practice and the team was able to repair the car and get it to point where he was obviously very competive, it is exciting to witness. Yeah, Tony didn’t win but he came darn close.  Even Kyle Busch mentioned during his postrace that he hooked up with Tony because he knew that the 14 was fast.  So as a fan of SHR and in particular Tony Stewart, I am definitely liking what I am seeing from my team so far this very young season.

Now, as far as the 500 on Sunday? It’s going to be a crazy race.  NASCAR worked hard during the off season to break up the tandem drafting and judging by the Shootout, it worked.  The return of “pack” racing is something I find crazy stressful to watch at the superspeedways.  Packs mean there is less room to correct for an “oopsie” with out hitting someone else.  Recovery space is limited.  When you do make a mistake (and someone always does- it’s human nature) there is a very good chance that multiple cars will be involved, thus a better chance of a more “spectacular” crashes. And when I say “spectacular” I really mean “scary as hell, oh god please let driver x by okay” kind of crashes.  So there is that to worry about.

On the plus side, Tony WAS strong in the shootout. Hopefully he will be equally strong in his Duel race.  And for those who like numbers- this is Tony Stewart’s 14th Daytona 500.  I think it’s time for him to finally win one!  I know Tony must want that jewel in his crown- who wouldn’t.

So…#GoTonyTo and as always #ImWithSmoke!

Also- be sure to check out our new “Misty’s Mazin’ Moment” column- this week she tackles The Shootout. And her Misty’s Messed her unMentionables moment of the Shootout!