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Bristol. It’s a track I usually LOVE.  There is something about the tight quarter  “rubbing is racing” style of driving that we usually get out of Bristol that I absolutely love.  I think some of it might have been due to the TV coverage- but Bristol just didn’t seem to have that zing for me this race.

At the beginning of the race Tony’s car seemed to be alright despite the face that the handling on the car didn’t seem optimal.  Then it seemed to go for semi okay to worse…and Tony seemed to struggle to hold onto the car and would fall back. The car wasn’t balanced right.

Part of me has to wonder if that didn’t have to do with the tire change.  With the need to change compounds mid-weekend Bristol was bound to be a race of who got it right and who didn’t quite catch the set up correctly. It just didn’t seem that team 14 got the changes quite right. Of course I am sure that rear-ending teammate Ryan Newman didn’t help matters.  Tony was apologetic over the radio- I think he just lost track of Ryan in the smoke from Bobby Labonte’s spin.

Race winner was Kyle Busch who got another sweep at Bristol.

The best part about the day? Tony didn’t fall too far in the points. He is currently tied for third with teammate Ryan Newman.

Notes About Bristol:

  • I think ultimately Goodyear and NASCAR did a good thing changing the tire compound…however what I don’t understand is why the teams were only given one set of the new compound to practice on on Saturday?
  • I have been very encouraged by what I have seen from two drivers this year- Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Both seem to have benefited from the Hendrick crew chief swap.  Alan seems to be able to work with Jeff and get him what he needs technically out of the car. And Steve seems to be able to give Dale Jr what he needs. I hope that they both do well this season.
  • That National Anthem by Billy Ray Cyrus? Started out good but I don’t know about the end there…seemed a little sour. Of course I should talk- 3/4th of those in attendance at Bristol would have left if I had sung it.

Next weekend: California Dreamin at Autoclub Speedway.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Daytona 500. As a long time NASCAR fan I appreciate the rich history of the track at Daytona, afterall NASCAR was born on the sandy beaches there. I love that modern Daytona 500 races retain some of the history by being the only races in the series to retain the tradition of qualifying races (the duels/twins). Hell I love Daytona for no other reason than it signals the beginning of my NASCAR season; when the “big boys” take to the pavement nearly every weekend from now until Thanksgiving- racing their hearts out, pushing themselves and their equipment to the maximum. I LOVE Daytona for the excitement and optimism of a new season…that this will be Tony Stewart’s year!

However, there are things I don’t like about Daytona. And they all hinge on the fact that I don’t like it when drivers have to rely on other drivers to get around the track and win a race. The kind of driving we see on the super speedways of Daytona and Talladega especially. That being said- I much more preferred the two-car break away drafting (I think some people have been calling it pod racing but that makes me think of Starwars) we saw this year. Cars would pair up and work around the track in little two car teams. I thought it made the racing far more exciting that they long train-style drafting of years past- where two really long trains of drafting cars would jockey back and forth around the track all day. That racing I did NOT like at all. At least the two-car breakaways made it more interesting.

Sure there were a lot of wrecks and spins and cautions but that is to be expected as this style of driving is new to the drivers. They need to learn what work sand what doesn’t work- and they only way to do this is to see how far they can push it. Afterall, isn’t that what racing is about; pushing until you can’t push any longer? You need to know how far you can go- and you can only find that threshold of too far by going over it a few times. Even experienced drivers like Tony Stewart where having occasional trouble with it. Tony said on his radio during the race “Will someone please tell me what I’m doing wrong that spins guys out?!

Speaking of Tony Stewart, it was very very encouraging to me to see both Tony and teammate Ryan Newman both up towards the front of the pack at different points during the race.  That’s definitely a marker towards a good season ahead.  Tony drafted with several different drivers during the course of the 500 mile race but my favorite was when he was listening to him and Junior draft together.   I enjoyed listening to them communicate directly back and forth with each other instead of playing a complicated game of telephone that includes two spotters like he had to do with other drivers he drafted with like Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.  Tony also seemed to be able to talk directly to Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer so I think it was a Chevy driver thing. I just wish Tony hadn’t gotten shuffled back so far during the green/white/checker attempts as everyone jockied for dancing partners all day.  Tony ended up finishing 13th and is currently 12th in series points with 31 points- which is 11 points behind points leader Carl Edwards.

Of course, the real story of the race is the win by 20 year old Trevor Bayne.  They had been poking fun at Trevor during practice- about how he was always the first person out on pit road in the mornings. How he was an eager beaver sort of driver. How he sought out his idol- Jeff Gordon after driver intros then again after the parade lap. How he worked with his idol during the Gatorade Duels.  He was obviously a quick study. That move at the end of the race- how he jumped down in front of Carl Edwards as they were coming to the checkered flag? That move was something you would see from a veteran driver. It was awesome to witness.  Congratulations to Trevor- he’s one to keep your eye on. He will be going places I am sure of it. If you didn’t see Misty’s post on Trevor’s win- it’s a great read: Fresh Bread, not Sliced Bread, is Good for NASCAR.

NOTES ABOUT DAYTONA:

  • Congratulations go out again to Tony Stewart for winning his 4th Daytona Nationwide victory in a row (not to mention he’s won 6 of the last 7 nationwide races).  I LOVED the oreo paint scheme. I think it was great! You can find the diecast to pre-order available here.
  • Okay…I SQUEALED when I saw the Transformers NASCAR cars on the warm up laps.  Those things look AMAZINGLY COOL! I hope they have them at LVMS when I go- I want to see those things up close.
  • Don’t forget to vote daily for your favorite driver at the Wheaties Fuel Most Popular Driver website (formally the Hambuger Helper Most Popular Driver).

Next Race: Phoenix!

Well greetings out there to all my readers!!!   It’s that time of year isn’t it? The time when going to the mall makes one crazy because there is no parking and the weather is crappy and there are people everywhere and stores are sold out of what you want and really all you want to do is “wad up some cash and throw it at people” (direct quote from Misty)  instead of trying to find gifts…but somehow think that my 3 year old and 9 month old nephews wouldn’t really go for the wadded up cash approach.  Maybe that’s just me (and Misty).   Anyway- if you have a Stewart-Haas Racing fan, a Tony Stewart fan, a Ryan Newman fan, or a NASCAR fan on your list here are some gift suggestions for this year:

1. For Stewart-Haas Racing fans (in particular Tony Stewart fans) I highly suggest the new Office Depot Racing 2011 calendar:

I present to you the cover of the 2011 Tony Stewart calendar. (photo credit: Edelman)

I mean who can resist 12 full months of Tony Stewart (and crew).  It’s available at most (but not all) Office Depot locations as well as ONLINE.

2.  Office Depot is again this holiday season selling their Teddy B. Caring bears (as seen here with Tony Stewart):

Tony Stewart and Teddy B. Caring have a meeting. (Photo Credit: Edelman)

Proceeds from the bear go to The Office Depot Foundation which has many programs throughout the year for children and families, including the ever popular National Backpack Program which supplies new backpacks and book bags filled with school supplies to children in need.  It’s a program that Tony Stewart himself has worked with for two years now helping the foundation hand out the backpacks and book bags to children and service organizations. Tony says, “It’s amazing to see the look on a child’s face when they receive a new backpack and are able to head back to school with an extra boost of confidence. Every child deserves that, and I would like to encourage everyone to consider giving a Teddy B. Caring bear as a gift this holiday season in support of the great work the Office Depot Foundation does all year long.” The bear is a 16 inch GUND bear available at Office Depot.  Or you can also pick up a smaller version that is an ornament/ gift card holder.

3.  You can make a donation to the Ryan Newman Foundation or Tony Stewart Foundation on behalf of your fan. Both drivers are heavily involved in giving back.   The Ryan Newman Foundation focuses it’s efforts on getting the message out there to Spay and Neuter pets- to help prevent overpopulation, urges pet seekers to get their pets from shelters or rescues.  They also heavily support conservation efforts to perserve the great outdoors for future generations AND support the Rich Vogler  Scholarship program for youth interested in careers in auto racing.  The Tony Stewart Foundation‘s mission services children with life-threatening illnesses, abused and endangered animals and injured drivers.  I have had the pleasure in our interviews with Tony of talking to him about his foundation and it’s amazing to watch his countenance change when he starts talking about children and animals especially.

4.  You can also find great Stewart-Haas Racing gear and gear for both drivers on sale over at the Stewart-Haas Racing online store.  Each driver also has a separate online store: Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman.  You can get everything a fan could dream of between the three sites.

5.  And I have to bring up my favorite NASCAR book that I have read so far this year…and that is The Weekend Starts On Wednesday.  The book is an ode to and of  NASCAR Fans.  It’s a great read that most any NASCAR fan will enjoy.  I have read it and it truly makes me proud to be a NASCAR fan.  The author is witty and the book is extremely well written.  I highly recommend it!

Tony Stewart, owner/driver of the #14 Stewart-Haas Racing Office Depot Chevrolet and teammate Ryan Newman spent time with Office Depot employees at headquarters in Boca Raton Florida, thanking them for their hard work and celebrating the sponsorship relationship the drivers have with Office Depot.

Stewart and Newman took part in a Q&A session, hosted by SpeedTV Broadcaster John Roberts:

Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman address Office Depot employees at headquarters in Florida. Photo Credit: Edelman

The pair even presented Office Depot with an autographed hood:

John Roberts Hosts Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman at Office Depot Headquarters. Photo Credit: Edelman

 The duo then autographed items for the employees taking part in the celebration:

Tony Stewart signs autograph for Office Depot employees at the sponsor's headquarters. Photo Credit: Edelman

And…ok sure…another gratutious picture- Tony answers questions from the media while teammate Ryan Newman looks on. The photographer in me LOVES this picture…because Stewart is in the front but Newman is there in the background….it’s a great picture:

Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman address the media at the Office Depot Staff event. Photo Credit: Edelman

 Office Depot employees were also visited by Miss Sprint Cup Monica Palumbo and an autograph session with author Andrew Giangola who was on hand signing copies of his book THE WEEKEND STARTS ON WEDNESDAY for employees (If you haven’t read Andrew’s book you should pick up a copy NOW! It really is a good read and makes me proud to be a NASCAR fan!)  I wish my department at work would have Tony and Ryan come to one of OUR all-hands meetings.  Hee.

It’s no secret that Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart are  not only avid outdoors men but love casting a line when given the opportunity.  Being the  fairly competitive people I can only believe they are since they race cars for a living, can you imagine what you get when you throw the both of them in a lake for a charity fishing competition.  That is exactly what both drivers were doing yesterday- they were fishing for charity at Lake Okeechobee in Florida for the Office Depot Foundation Charity Fishing Tournament.

Tony Stewart and His Fish!- 2010 Office Depot Foundation Charity Fishing Tournament. Photo Credit: Gort Productions

Doesn’t it look like Tony was having a GREAT time? Sounds like he did:

“I had a great time fishing and all for a great cause,” Stewart said. “I’ve had a chance to work with the Office Depot Foundation on its National Backpack Program for the past two years, and it’s one of the most rewarding things I do. The National Backpack Program makes a real difference in the lives of kids who might not otherwise be able to go back to school with the tools they need to succeed. It’s pretty amazing to see their faces light up when they get a new backpack.”

The money raised from the tournament will be used to support the Office Depot Foundation’s mission to support the quality of life for children, strengthen communities, encourage economic growth and empower schools and non-profit organizations.

Over at the Office Depot Racing website in the Ask Tony section- someone recently asked Tony who was a better fisherman- Stewart or Newman…to which Tony answered

“Unfortunately, I have to say Ryan. I think I’m good, but whenever I fish with Ryan, he always seems to do better. He’s pulling in fish after fish and I’ve got nothing.”
That wasn’t the case during the charity fishing tournament:  Stewart’s fishing team reeled in a total catch of 14.4 pounds, while Newman’s team wasn’t far behind with 9.4 pounds.

So…the race at Dover was NOT what a Tony Stewart fan wanted to see.  Between an ill handle on the car (at one point Stewart described it as plowing) and a detrimental speeding penalty on pit road at lap 115,  Tony and the Office Depot Old Spice Chevy did NOT have the best of races.   As a fan it was really hard to watch the team struggle so much.  What made it even worse? Only one Chase driver finished lower than Stewart- and that was Clint Bowyer. Tony finished 21st and maintains his position in the standings. He is currently 10th, 162 points behind leader Denny Hamlin. Race winner for Dover was Jimmie Johnson.

However, while Tony is down right now, he is not OUT by any means…now for some pictures from the race at Dover, most provided to me by Glenn Bure of AI press:

Tony on track at Dover. Photo Courtesy of Glenn Bure, AI Press

Tony backstage at PreRace Ceremonies. Photo Courtesy of Glenn Bure, AI Press

Tony during PreRace ceremonies at Dover. Photo Courtesy of Glenn Bure, AI Press

Tony and fellow driver (is that JJ Yeley?) share a lighthearted moment in Dover. Photo Courtesy of Glenn Bure, AI Press

Now this picture I included because WTH is going on in the background? Is that guy taking a nap? Photo courtesy of Glenn Bure, AI Press

This is one of those pictures where you just wish you were privy to the conversation...because what the heck is going on? (Photo blatantly borrowed from tonystewart.com media gallery)

As for the Office Depot Official Small Business of NASCAR contest. The winner was Mike Pagano who was riding on Greg Biffle’s car. Congratulations Mike on becoming the Official Small Business of NASCAR.

Well that’s it for this race.

The standings post might be a day late or so…waiting on the appeal for Clint Bowyer.  Also- while yes I heard about the Harvick vs Hamlin shenanigans I can’t really comment on them because I didn’t really see or hear much about it because I basically had my head in the sand on Saturday.

Next race: Kansas! GO TONY GO!

Well I don’t have much to day about the race from Saturday evening. Tony qualified 15th for the race at Richmond.  His car seemed to start off really strong as he managed to work his way up to third at one point.  Then he just started falling back further and further. Unfortunately I was not listening to his radio communications and I am unsure as to why he had this drop…I assume it was poor handling that they were chasing.

Tony finished 16th, one lap down to race winner Denny Hamlin. However- it doesn’t really matter because Richmond was the last race of the “regular” season for NASCAR. Now it get’s stressful for us fans.  Now it’s the playoffs.

Tony is seeded 6th in the Chase fifty points behind chase leader Denny Hamlin.

Notes About Richmond:

  • I was surprised that since the Richmond race fell on Patriot’s day this year that there wasn’t more patriot paint schemes ran.  I think I saw maybe two (Jeff Gordon and Kevin Conway).  I don’t count Ryan Newman’s Army paint scheme- as it was the usual Army paint scheme he runs…but if you want to count it-that is 3.
  • I was saddened to hear that Tony Stewart’s grandfather passed away the morning of the race. I was dismayed when one of the journalists (Lee Spencer) asked Tony to “reflect” on it at the post race presser all the chase drivers went through. DISMAYED. Why don’t you rub some more salt into that wound there?  Tony handled the question with the utmost professionalism…but still I am dismayed it was even brought up.  (Still shaking my head at that one).

The Chase begins Sunday September 19th at Louden, NH. GO TONY GO!

I will be the first to admit that I was frustrated with the end result of the race at Michigan on Sunday.  On the one hand it was GREAT to see the #14 car out there running in the front and leading a nice slug of laps (I think Tony lead a total of 36 laps or something like that).  It was encouraging and GREAT.  What was disheartening was the the debris caution…and watching everyone pit but Tony and Kevin Harvick. Tony must have thought so too because he came on the radio and said “We’re in big trouble here” to which Darian Grubb tried to be the cheerleader and tell Tony it would be ok. Unfortunately though he started falling back and finished 6th. Another GREAT top ten finish- BUT it was sad to see him running so strong but then fall off like that. However, what made it a little sweeter? Was that Tony did advance FOUR spots in the race for the chase and is now fourth in the points standings. That does make ME feel a little better.

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 14: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Office Depot / Old Spice Chevrolet, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CARFAX 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 14, 2010 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 14: Tony Stewart, driver of the Office Depot / Old Spice Chevrolet, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CARFAX 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 14, 2010 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 13: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet, climbs out of his car after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CARFAX 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 13, 2010 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 13: Tony Stewart, driver of the Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet, climbs out of his car after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CARFAX 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 13, 2010 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 15: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet, rounds turn four ahead of Kevin Harvick, driver of the  Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CARFAX 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2010 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 15: Tony Stewart, driver of the Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet, rounds turn four ahead of Kevin Harvick, driver of the Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CARFAX 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2010 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Notes about Michigan:

  • The Ryan Newman/Joey Logano dust up…my take? It was one of those racing deals. I don’t think Joey intentionally got into Ryan- he looked really loose to me.  They are out there to RACE and I don’t think that either one wanted to give in to the other- and you know what? That is RACING.  I think that Ryan has some frustrations that he took out on Joey after the race.  He is only human. Do I think that either of them should get fined? No. I think that they should call it good and let it go.  Now if we get to Bristol or something and there is some retaliation ON TRACK? Then we can talk about NASCAR getting involved.
  • By far the best tweet of the race? Was right after Ryan spun from that aforementioned contact with Joey Logano when she said ” Thanks Joey Lagano….maybe I should go put my firesuit on!” (@KrissieNewman).
  • Race winner was Kevin Harvick and he also locked his position in the chase. Congratulations Kevin.
  • Bonus Caption Photo will be coming. I found a great one but I am waiting for permission to use it.