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Thirteen weeks ago (give or take) I was sitting in my office at work contemplating requesting my vacation leave for Champions week.  Since Champions week had been moved to Las Vegas- I have attended EVERY SINGLE ONE but of course, Tony Stewart had been in every single chase since then too.  At the time of my contemplation, Tony was precariously perched in a points position where it looked like he might not even make the Chase. A tiny little part of me didn’t want to go if Tony didn’t at least make the chase so I considered briefly putting off my request until I knew if he would make the chase.   That tiny little part of me that didn’t want to go is a sore loser you see.  It’s probably related to the part of me that is in a fairly foul mood the better part of a day after Tony has had a crappy run.   Of course I put in my vacation request for Champions week that day because the bigger part of me would pretty much take any reason to go visit her best friend in Vegas- and really I should buck up. That is what I told myself: I needed to buck up and go even if Tony didn’t make the chase. So that is where my head was…I still had hope that he would make the chase- but never in a bazillion years at that point in time did I think he would even have a run at the championship.

It’s hard to believe that in the span of time of just the chase (10 weeks), Tony won 5 races (out of 10) AND the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship.  He won the Cup Sunday and here it is Tuesday and I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around it- despite watching it with my own eyes (on TV- but OH HOW COOL WOULD IT HAVE BEEN TO BE THERE?).

So when I woke up on Sunday I didn’t watch RaceDay like I usually do (I usually keep RaceDay on Speed as the background of my morning activities- don’t think I didn’t DVR it though).  I figured it would be talk about Carl vs Tony and I didn’t need the extra nerves.  I checked my twitter that morning only ONCE for the same reason.  If I was this nervous how could Tony and crew NOT be?  The race on Sunday was a roller coaster of a race just like the season for Tony was a roller coaster season. Before the race even started I texted Misty and said: Part of me doesn’t even want to watch.  What I really wanted to tweet before the start of the race I didn’t.  I wanted to tweet: Tony please win the championship- if for no other reason so I can go neener neener neener to all the naysayers. One of which told me in no uncertain terms that Tony had given Carl a good run for his money but there was no way he would win the championship or the race.  NO WAY.  The person who told me this? Claims to be a Tony fan (a fair weather fan so says me).

My dad likes to say he had to restart my heart about 3 times during the race and that I said a couple of “profound” things during the race (well I have told you before that I can’t be held too accountable for the words that flew outta my mouth during a race).  When I saw the hole in the grill- I sent a very disheartened text to Misty that said something to the effect of  “Well there went the championship” and she replied simply with “Keep Digging Friend”.  That has been our battle cry here at BadGroove for most of the season: #KeepDiggingTony (as evidenced by my post race Michigan report and multiple tweets since then).  During the course of the 367 laps at Homestead Miami- Tony passed 118 cars!  Considering that the field is only 43 cars and that the go-or-go-homers tend to drop out early in the race? That’s a lot of cars passed.

Some photos:

Driver Intros:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, is introduced prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

One of the heart attack moments:

Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, and Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, pass Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, to go four wide in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

Rain Delay:

(C) Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, talks with crew members during the reg flag rain delay during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

Two of my favorite Victory Lane pictures:

Tony Stewart (L), driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, hugs his mother Pam Boas (R) after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 and the 2011 Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. Stewart wins his third NASCAR Championship. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

Tony Stewart (L), driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, hugs his sister Natalie (R) after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 and the 2011 Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. Stewart wins his third NASCAR Championship. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)

So I have to admit I am REALLY looking forward to heading to Vegas in about a week for Champions week.  Cuz NEENER NEENER NEENER:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 and the 2011 Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. Stewart wins his third NASCAR Championship. (November 19, 2011 - Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)

Speaking of Champions week- there are still tickets available to NASCAR After The Lap (my original issue with Ticketmaster and my tickets was resolved and I got my original tickets back-YEY!) – I highly suggest you order some up and come join us for some FUN.

** After the race I ended up having to make good on my own smack talk- having told my family on Saturday that if Tony won the Championship I would treat them to dinner at the OUTBACK (sorry BK wasn’t fancy enough for a championship).  Every time Tony crossed the start-finish line for the last 15 laps or so my dad would yell OUTBACK! in his AFlac Duck voice.

So 4 wins in the last eight races is pretty awesome right? I think so.  You know what else is awesome? That this is the fifth season that Tony has had four wins!  GO TONY!  I will admit though, Jeff Burton did have me a little worried though yesterday. The last 12 laps or so I was standing right in front  of the TV hoping Jeff Burton would run out of gas.   Luckily he did- with just 5 laps to go resigning the lead to Stewart who went on to win the race at Texas Motor Speedway….putting him a mere 3 points behind points leader Carl Edwards with two races left (Phoenix and Homestead).  I think I need a really big bottle of Tums and for next week most likely a muzzle.

The best part about the win at Texas was that Tony totally backed up his smack talk from his win at Martinsville Speedway the week before.  I am the first to admit that when Tony got out of the car and during his post race press conference said “my adrenaline has worn off and I still mean he better not sleep too long these last three weeks” I cringed a little.  I mean that is some major smack talking but Tony and Stewart-Haas Racing was prepared to back it up and  I  LOVED that!!  After Smoke’s win at Martinsville the race at Texas Motor Speedway was billed as a sparring match between Stewart and Edwards so I also loved that TMS Track president brought out the boxing gloves to have Tony’s picture taken with in victory lane:

Tony Stewart (right, with Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage) wins the boxing match...er the AAA Texas 500 race at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, TX. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography)

That's right Tony...show 'em Stewart-Haas Racing has muscle! (photo credit: Action Sports Photography)

And WHOO FREAKING HOO:

Tony wins Texas! (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography)

 

Notes On Texas:

  1. Cute story – at about the 10 laps to go mark I was standing there watching (and hoping Burton would run out of gas) when my 3 and 1/2 year old nephew walked in.  He wasn’t sure what was going on and he stood by his grandpa.  My dad tried to explain it to him- that there was a race and we were rooting for Tony. So he stood next to me and kept saying Go Tony! everytime I would say Go Tony! If you asked him who Tony was he would say  “Tony our friend!”  Now since Tony won- he thinks that Tony is Lightning McQueen because he won and his car is red.
  2. On the Wednesday before Texas- Tony went to Lake Okeechobee again to fishin the third-annual Office Depot Foundation Charity Fishing Tournament:

Tony with his catch (Photo Credit: Corporate Image Photography)

Tony shows off his mad fishing skills for the Office Depot Foundation. (Photo credit: Corporate Image Photography)

Also Office Depot Racing is doing an I’M WITH SMOKE promo where you can download the “I’m With Smoke” icon to use as your twitter/facebook avatar as well as a wallpaper. Plus you can enter to win a trip to the Homestead Miami race (you must enter by November 11th, 2011). Next week’s race is at Phoenix. GO TONY GO! KEEP DIGGING TONY! See ya there!

“We’re not giving up (expletive)” could be heard on Tony Stewart’s radio near the midway point in the race as he battled hard to keep the race leader at the time, Denny Hamlin, behind him and himself on the lead lap.  Stewart’s car had been brough to Martinsville with teammate Ryan Newman’s race set up in the hopes of hitting on something that would work better for Stewart. Unfortunately with only one practice because of weather the set up was mostly an unknown. It’s frustrating because Martinsville is my favorite track. I love it’s close quarters, the bumping and rubbing, the short tempers. It makes for good racing but I can only imagine that 500 laps of fighting an ill-handling car can take a toll on a driver physically and mentally. I know at the point during the race that Stewart was fighting so hard to keep from going a lap down I was disheartened that he was in that position (but proud as hell he was putting up a right good fight).

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. (Photo credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images North America)

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Warning: Thar be curse words ahead…ones that start with F so if you are sensitive to that (even though they are totally necessary) here is a link to a picture of Roxy (my adorable beagle) in my Flickr account that you can look at instead of reading this post that has a few F-words in it (I really did try to write this without the curse words…but it doesn’t have the same impact nor did it feel as cathartic):

There is a reason I don’t post my race reviews directly after races.  It’s not that I don’t have the time, I usually do, unless there is some sort of weather delay or something that has made the race eat up a majority or my day. The reason I don’t post directly (same thing with why I don’t live blog races) would be because if I had posted right after the Kansas 2 race it would have read something like this: (more…)

We Fix Computers will be on the hood of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy driven by Tony Stewart at Kansas. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography)

The phrase WE FIX COMPUTERS will grace the hood of Tony Stewart’s  chevy this weekend at Kansas Speedway.  Do not be concerned Smoke fans- he has not taken a second job in the technology field (although if he wants to give a go -he can swap jobs with me for a couple hours)! He is advertising sponsor Office Depot’s Tech Depot.  The Tech Depot is at your office depot to help you get your computer in top shape so it can work for you.

One of the best deals? They offer a FREE computer tune up- which helps boost startup and shutdown speeds, removes unwanted files and checks for
computer for viruses. And your computer is guarenteed to be ready by the next day.  Did I mention it’s FREE?

TV Panel of the "We Fix Computers" Office Depot's Tech Depot Chevy. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography)

Let’s hope that this WE FIX COMPUTERS paint scheme is as fast as it looks!

#KeepDiggingTony in Kansas- lets get our third win of the season and the chase:

We Fix Computers. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography)

Was it just me or was that race at Dover about 150 laps too long?  Maybe it was just me because when my driver doesn’t do so well I get grumpy about it and the Dover race wasn’t the best for the Tony and the 14 team.  I remember hearing Tony say that Dover was one of the chase tracks that they were concerned with- so I wasn’t surprised to see the team struggle with handling issues.  I do NOT like it when my driver finishes a lap down…and it makes me uber cranky when he finishes more than a lap down.  The car was ill handling the entire weekend as obvious by Tony’s practice speeds, qualifying effort and race. I wasn’t listening to the radio so I don’t know the exacts of HOW the handling was but but I honestly don’t think it matters much. They were bad. They know they were bad. According to the team report for Dover, Darian says that they have been routinely bad at concrete tracks:

The biggest thing is just that we don’t have the concrete tracks figured out yet. It’s obvious. At Bristol and Dover, we’ve just struggled for three years now with Tony there. We just need to figure out what we need to do. It’s not because of a lack of effort. We’re going to keep trying to find a few things and keep fighting.” Darian Grubb, Crew Chief of the #14 Chevy Impala.

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It was great to actually not only get to watch a race real time on Sunday but it was AWESOME to watch Tony Stewart win real time.  If you are new here?  Last week the race was rain delayed to Monday- so I had to “watch” from work using NASCAR.Com’s Race Buddy- which was good except that I get all wrapped up in watching the race and may have let a little whoo hoo out (and clapped vigorously) at work. Luckily for me I am on west coast time so it was lunch time and most of the people on this floor were off having lunch.  So this week, when I saw pictures like this, I was a tad worried that it would be a repeat of last week- that I would miss the race because it would again run on Monday:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, drives his car through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images North America)

While rain puddles make for a lovely reflection picture, they do not make for a good race.

And while I am sharing pictures, I had to share this one because whenever I see these pictures of Tony doing his media at the back of his hauler I think about two things- my experience standing in that crowd in Sonoma and the Police song Lyrics “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.”

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, speaks with the media during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Loudon. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images North America)

Seriously- that is crazy! Photographer Glenn Bure was at New Hampshire and kindly offered me up some of his shots for the blog…of course I couldn’t say no:

Tony ties his shoes getting ready to race at New Hampshire! (Photo Credit: Glenn Bure for BadGroove.com)

I was standing directly in front (probably about a foot or so away) from a rather large TV pretty much willing Tony to pass Clint Bowyer…and I may have cheered a little when Clint ran out of gas.  Ok- I cheered a lot (sorry Clint- but it’s true). How could I not? MY DRIVER WAS ABOUT TO WIN HIS SECOND RACE.  Of course I was also sitting there going, “Egads please have enough gas ” the whole last two laps or so after Bowyer ran out.  It was probably a sight to see. Luckily no one was filming it (hopefully).

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images North America)

Just because I was at home doesn’t mean I wasn’t uber excited when he won….how could I NOT be.  Two wins in a row and now leading the points? That is something to be uber excited about! Speaking of exciting- these guys are excited (click on the picture for a bigger version to see how excited).

The Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy crew of Tony Stewart celebrates in Victory Lane (Photo Credit: Glenn Bure for Badgroove)

Tony doing post-race interview with SportsCenter (I think). (Photo credit: Glenn Bure for BadGroove)

And then of course I have to share my favorite part of the Stewart-Haas hat dance pictures…where Tony Stewart and Darian Grub give new meaning to the term “hat dance” when they pose with their El Monterey sombreros on:

Tony Stewart and Darian Grubb give new meaning to the term "hat dance" Ariba! (Photo Credit: Glenn Bure for BadGroove)

and of course this one of just Tony and his sombrero (click to embiggen):

There is just something about the look in his eyes in this picture that makes me chuckle. (Photo Credit: Glenn Bure for BadGroove)

All said and done though, I am so glad that Tony and the gang won chase race number two.  Way to #KeepDiggingTony! Yeehaw.  So as I mentioned Tony Stewart is now first in the standings with a 7 point lead on second place Kevin Harvick.  Stewart-Haas teammate and fellow chase contender fell four positions in the chase standings and is now eleventh.

Notes on New Hampshire:

  1. I admit I think this every time I see the New Hampshire winner posing with their lobster…do they have to cook that thing thing themselves? I mean did Tony (or crew) stick that behemoth in a big cooler (it would have to be BIG- did you see the claws on that sucker?) and load it up on the plane to be eaten later? Did they whisk the lobster off and grill it up right then and there?  Do they all go have some celebratory dinner at a local restaurant that is charged with cooking said lobster? You would need a pretty damn big pot to cook that thing in…I always wonder about who actually gets the lobster…and does it actually get eaten? Does the whole team get lobster omelets the next morning for breakfast? What? Anyone know?
  2. I can’t wait for my fantasy racing league to post results from last week week (they do it on Tuesdays). Why? Well because four of my six drivers finished in the top 5.  That’s got to be a good thing right?
  3. Poor Junior can’t catch  dang break. He was heading towards a good finish before he had his tire issue.  He needs a hug. Someone give that man a hug. I know at least one reader who would volunteer for that job.
  4. There was a great article on NASCAR.COM about Darian Grubb by Joe Menzer- it’s a must read!
  5. Also Jeff Gluck wrote an interesting piece called “What’s It Like For Reporters To Cover Tony Stewart” on sbnation. Also interesting.
  6. And because this is my blog I present to you a gratuitous Tony picture from New Hampshire:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, waits by his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 23, 2011 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images North America)

I  wonder what’s making Tony go “Hmmmm….” in this picture. Or maybe I don’t want to know.

Next Week: Dover.

I know I have talked a whole lot about the “Honoring Our Heroes” paint scheme that Tony Stewart ran in Richmond.  I talked about it the minute I found out about the paint scheme. I posted pictures of the paint scheme on the diecast. I posted about it right before the Richmond race. I posted about it after the Richmond race.  So why am I posting about it yet again, when the race is done and over and we have moved on?

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