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So, you may be asking yourself, how is it possible that Tony Stewart has already won at Texas Motor Speedway before the race that runs tomorrow evening? Let me answer that for you. Yesterday Tony Stewart picked up two awards at the Texas Motorsports Hall Of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony held at Texas Motor Speedway! Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted this picture last night of his “hardware” that he won:

Tony Stewart won 2011 Fan Choice Award and the 2011 Racer of the Year award last night at Texas Motor Speedway. (photo credit: Stewart-Haas Racing Twitter Account)

YEY Tony!!!

Here are some pictures from the event:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Advanced Fuel Economy/Office Depot Chevrolet, speaks on stage during the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Dinner at Texas Motor Speedway on April 12, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Brandon Wade/Getty Images North America)

(L-R) Becky of The Great American Sweethearts, Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Advanced Fuel Economy/Office Depot Chevrolet, Ramon Jones, Foreigner's Mick Jones and Katie of The Great American Sweetheart pose on stage during the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Dinner at Texas Motor Speedway on April 12, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Brandon Wade/Getty Images North America)

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Advanced Fuel Economy/Office Depot Chevrolet, poses on stage with the Fan Choice Award during the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Dinner at Texas Motor Speedway on April 12, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Brandon Wade/Getty Images North America)

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Advanced Fuel Economy/Office Depot Chevrolet, smiles on stage during the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Dinner at Texas Motor Speedway on April 12, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Brandon Wade/Getty Images North America)

Congratulations Tony!!!

(Yes I know this is late- but I wanted to make sure I gave this entry the attention it deserved. I hope you find it worth the wait-Amy)

The sights of the Kobalt 400 in Las Vegas 2012. Click collage to be taken to Flickr photo set from the race. (Photo Credit: All photos in collage taken by me- Amy K. Marbach)

The NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway holds a special place in my heart- it was the first NASCAR race I ever attended (and the first oval track race I ever attended). Las Vegas Motor Speedway was also the first Speedway I ever held a media credential at- so it is a track of firsts for me. (more…)

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…)

Oh EFI how you disappoint this Stewart fan.  Tony was within striking distance of the lead- and hanging out mostly right around 6th for most of the day.  Only to get quite the surprise when he switched his car off to save gas as requested by his new crew chief Steve Addington.

(R-L) Crew chief Steve Addington talks with Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 Chevrolet, in the garage prior to practice for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images North America)

However the car would not switch back on. It was sad to see him sink further and further behind the field as he tried to refire the car multiple times.  Unfortunately he had to be pushed back to the pits to have assistance to get the car fired back up.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 Chevrolet, is pushed down pit road during the NASCAR SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

URG.  He went from possibly in the hunt to 2 laps down in a flash. Unfortunately he finished 22nd, 2 laps down. He is now in 15th in the standings (but technically he is really in a four way tie for 12th with Brad Keselowski, Jeff Burton, and Paul Menard).

Notes on Phoenix:

- It didn’t take TIDE long to create a commercial based on their involvement in the cleanup efforts after the Daytona Jet Dryer Explosion did it:

My major thing is that it would flash across the screen and for a split second I would think MOLY! What just happened at PIR…but then I would realize…it’s that Tide commercial again.  You have to admit that was rather quick that they were able to take the footage from the wreck at Daytona (remember that happened on Monday night!) and make it into a commercial!

-Am I the only one who misses the dog-leg portion of Phoenix Raceway? I also hate that the drivers seem to cut across the apron now…it honestly looks like they are cheating and if they wanted the drivers to drive on that part – they need to re paint the yellow line.

- I totally admit that I was REALLY hoping that Tony Stewart/Steve Addington would get a win before the Denny Hamlin/Darian Grubb pairing did.  It’s because I am fiercely competitive when it comes to my driver…sigh.

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 Chevrolet, reacts from inside the garage prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 2, 2012. (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

Next Race: Las Vegas Motor Speedway! I’ll Be THERE :-)

This was an appearance for Tony in 2012!!
Attention Vegas bound Tony Stewart Fans! The 2011 Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart will be signing autographs in advance of the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway!  The autograph appearace will be March 8th at 1:00 pm at the Office Depot located at 1435 W Craig Road – Unit B  North Las Vegas, Nevada 89032.

As always to get an autograph you need to have a wrist band. Wristbands will be given away starting at 8:00 am local time the same day of the appearance.  There are 450 wristbands. One wristband per person. One autograph per wristband.

Get there early, wear comfortable shoes, and most of all: HAVE A BLAST! These are fun events! There will also be a show car at the festivities.  I will see you there!

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!

While in-between festivities at Champions Week in Las Vegas (and yes I still have to post about them- I haven’t forgotten) Misty and I were discussing Tony Stewart’s run at Homestead.  I forget what the exact statistic is but he passed something like 118 cars during that race.  Now- mind you there are only 43 cars in a sprint cup race field IF everyone is on the track- which is highly unlikely because of start-n-park teams, mechanical failures, crashes, etc.  You couldn’t help but notice- at Homestead that Tony Stewart was a man determined. He was going to do everything in his power to get that car across that finish line FIRST.  Misty always tells me when I get a little discouraged at Tony’s run “Remember- You can NOT keep Tony Stewart down.” For those of you who don’t know Misty like I do- that is a lot for her to say- because while she loves Tony as a person- he is NOT her driver during a race (and let me tell you- during a race Misty can get fairly ferocious in her driver loyalty).  Misty’s right though- Tony Stewart was a man determined and NOWHERE was that more evident than at Homestead.  Just when I thought his day was done he would be flying up through the field yet again- determined to get that win and that Championship.  His driving was determination personified. That is why I think Tony’s victory at Homestead (and his amazing championship run- winning 5 of the 10 chase races) deserves to be Sport’s Illustrated’s Sports Moment of the Year for 2011.

YOU, the fans, can help Tony get this honor.  All you have to do is LIKE Sports Illustrated on Facebook- then go to the Sports Illustrated facebook page and vote for your top five sports moments of 2011 (making Tony Stewart’s moment first of course).  Vote now- vote often. You only have until December 16th to place your votes!

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, poses with the Championship trophy after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 and the 2011 Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. (November 20, 2011 - Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

Tony busted his butt to win that third championship- and put on one hell of a show doing it! Let’s show him we loved watching him do it!

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.