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Settling in to watch the race at Richmond, the 26th race of the 2011 season, I was a ball of nerves. It was one of those races that I would have fast forwarded through just to see the results without going the stress (and I mean STRESS) of the race.  Tony was one of the drivers on the chase bubble. So to remain in the chase Tony had to finish in the top 18 because if he fell out of the top 10 in points he would NOT be eligible for a wildcard position because he has no wins (YET).  He qualified 22nd. See what I mean- I am sure Tony Stewart is trying to kill me- or give me an ulcer anyway.

I was encouraged by his little beginning of the race radio pep talk that he ended with: WE CAN DO THIS! I settled in and thought…of course WE CAN DO THIS!

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, drives in the garage area during practice for the Sprint Cup Series Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

It seemed at the beginning of the race that every two or three laps there was a caution because of agressive driving causing someone to spin someone out. I believe I proclaimed a couple of times that at this race the race wouldn’t be over until midnight west coast time (I told you I might have been tempted to fast forward during this race to see what the outcome was).  All my readers know that I was crossing every appendage I physically could in hopes of Tony making the chase. Apparently turning myself into a pretzel worked (yeah sure that’s what did it…I am sure of it).

I started to relax during the end of the race, when I was pretty sure that, barring some catastrophic accident (although I still worried about it slightly) and was able to actually enjoy the racing- but for 90 percent of it I was on pins and needles. PINS AND NEEDLES people.  Were you?  Tony seemed to be able to work his way forward through the field sometimes but other times he seemed stucked where he was.  But in the end- he ended up finishing 7th- well above the 18th place finish he would have needed to clinch his place in the chase.

Tony’s “Honoring Our Heroes” symbolic memorial paint scheme was BEAUTIFUL on the track. It looked like he had an equally amazing helmet.  This is the best picture I could find of it- if you have a better one- please share:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond International Raceway. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

Tony’s car was one of four cars in the field in the Saturday night race who raced a special commemorative paint scheme honoring the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation- a foundation that supports the families of first responders, provides scholarships for their children, as well as supports veteran’s wounded in conflict.  A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the diecasts of Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, David Gilliland and Jamie MacMurray cars will go to the foundation.  Lionel NASCAR Collectibles presented the Stephen Siller Foundation with $125,000 as the first installment of the proceeds of the money raised from the sale of diecasts.

Notes About Richmond:

  1. I was so glad that Dale Junior also made it into chase.
  2. The race coverage by ABC – on what to most NASCAR fans considered a crucial race- wasn’t very good. It seemed to me like there were far too many commercial breaks and a lot of times, when returning from a caution we missed the initial drop of the green flag- to find the cars already taking the first turn of the race.
  3. The race at Richmond had a record tying number of cautions: 15
  4. There were just as many sparks off the tracks as on.  Tony got snippy with AP reporter Jenna Fryer at his media availablity between practices on Friday.  After the race Kurt Busch is reported to had to have been physically restrained in an argument with Joe Menzer (NASCAR.COM), then later exchanged further heated words in the media center with him and even later with Jenna Fryer, when it’s reported that he ripped a transcript from her hand then ripped it in half.  So you think that there were no emotions running high at that race (and after?).  (Ok so I found the video of Kurt tearing the transcript…it appears to me that Jenna just handed it to him- he didn’t “rip it from her hands”- he did tear it in half though.)
  5. Tony helped the Office Depot Foundation donate 2000 sackpacks filled with school supplies to local Virginia children:

Tony Stewart signs a sackpack for a child in Virginia. (Photo Credit: Leon Rubin)

And finally- I just have to point out a favorite quote from the official team post-race report:

“It’s going to be a long 10 weeks, but every Friday when we show up at the track we start with a clean slate and just do the best we can. So, we’ll keep digging.” – Tony Stewart (emphasis mine)

That’s right: #KeepDiggingTony!

Next Race: Chicagoland

Tony Stewart will be running a special, one-time “Honoring Our 9-11 Heroes” paint scheme this weekend at Richmond.  I have been talking about this paint scheme since I found out about it.  I even posted pictures of the diecast (and I ordered the diecast too).  I know I have mentioned this before but a portion of the proceeds for the sale of the LIONEL NASCAR collectable diecast goes to the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Tower foundation- you can order your diecast here or at the NASCAR.COM Superstore.  The car has a gorgeous, patriotic red, white and blue  paint scheme and the commemoration behind the paint scheme is what makes it extra special:

(Photo Credit: Stewart Haas Racing Twitter Account)

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I don’t know what I can say about Tony’s run at Bristol. (more…)

Instead of a my usual post-race article- I was inspired by the facebook status of one of my friends, to write Tony a letter. If you want to read the team race report you can find it here.

Dear Tony-

I could tell before a single word came out of your mouth in your post-race interview that you were disappointed with your results at Michigan.  You finished 9th and remained 10th in the standings- hanging onto the last chase position by your fingernails. Your words after the race equaled the frustration you carried on your person and in your countenance. At one point you even exclaimed that you were “wasting” a chase spot.

Your frustration is well founded.  It’s been a challenging season to say the least.  If it could go wrong it has. Everything from uncommon pit road errors (commitment cone violation and removing equipment from pit road) to getting caught up in other people’s crashes has led to a yo-yo of season that is currently in that stage where the yo-yo is spinning at the end of the string- waiting to be pulled back up.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, stands by his car in the garage during practice in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images North America)

I think that you know that it’s not a matter of if the yo-yo will come back, but when. It can, however, seem like an eternity while it dangles precariously at the end of the string before rebounding. And while your  yo-yo of a season sits there spinning, it is important that you know that this fan acknowledges and understands your frustration.  You see, we fans ride along vicariously with you. We feel your elation and pride during the good times in our heart and soul and we are just as crushed by the defeats and disappointments.

That being said, you are still 10th in points. Despite the frustrations you feel- there is a reason for that.  Something is working enough that you have earned that points position- it’s not wasted.  Don’t lose hope.   I have no doubt that you and the #14 will be in Victory Lane soon, but until that time, just know that I continue to stand behind you and the entire #14 crew. As one of my Facebook friends said in her post-race status update– Keep Digging Tony (and crew)!

Your Fan,

Amy

I find it kind of weird to write a about a rumor (that is exactly what it is- a rumor- as  Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted on August 17 that “it’s all speculation until you hear it from Tony Stewart” and I don’t know about you all- but Tony hasn’t called* to tell me anything so I will continue to treat it as such until I read a formal announcement). The silly season stuff can get kind of crazy and I don’t really delve too deeply into it because it’s all speculation anyway.  But you know if has to do with Stewart-Haas Racing I am probably going to at least ponder it, and possibly even write about it.

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Last week I talked about a sackpack donation event where Tony Stewart helped the Office Depot Foundation donate 5000 sackpacks filled with school supplies to Indiana children.  In my post I mentioned the excitement on the face of one little girl in the big group picture and how I could just TELL that she was excited to get her sack pack. Well I was forwarded this picture today of that same little girl proudly posing with her sack pack…is she not adorable and obviously happy? (more…)

You would have thought the results of the Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend would have taught me something.  To help with getting my post-race posting out in a timely manner I had written the bulk of my first paragraph for the Brickyard 400 before the caution flag for the wreck that changed everything.  The problem in doing that, I learned, is that the whole mood of the race can change in an instant- thus rendering the article I started irrelevant.  My pre-caution paragraph was wrought with disappointing statements like “It’s always disheartening to me when Tony has a bad run but it’s especially disparaging when it’s at his home track of Indianapolis Motor Speedway” or better yet my favorite “The momentum from Tony’s first WoO win earlier this week was not enough to carry him through the Brickyard 400 weekend.” See those statements were definitely not written by Miss Sunshine that is for certain.

(ed.- I love this picture...LOVE it) AN INFRARED CAMERA WAS USED TO CREATE THIS IMAGE) Tony Stewart drives the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet to the garage during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 30, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

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So first I want to thank you all for the overwhelming comments about the Musings On Being A Tony Stewart Fan series (especially the first one which judging by comments, tweets and facebook mentions it was obviously your favorite…it was my favorite of the series too).  I was delighted at the positive response from both other Tony Stewart fans and fans of other drivers!  I spent some time linking all three articles so that you can easily scroll between them.

Speaking of updating, I realized that it has been awhile (like February) since I updated the BEST OF BG section in the navigation bar- so I took a couple minutes and updated that too. If you have a favorite post and think it should be included in the BEST OF BG highlight box feel free to let me know and I will consider adding it.

So did you all have fun during the “off” weekend?  I did. While the Musings On Being A Tony Stewart Fan series were coming out on their scheduled dates (I love the schedule feature of WordPress)  I was off in Southern California celebrating Misty’s birthday in gridlock traffic (in all seriousness though- we always have fun wherever we may be).  Let’s just say it took us a little more than an hour to get to where our hotel was in Orange County to the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA and over three hours to get back.  I enjoyed the Reagan library in its entirety but the racing exhibit at the end made it all the better. (more…)