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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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Okay- seriously it was all I could do not to use WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER as the title of this post.  Now that it’s out of my system (kind of) I can move on with the post.

Monday morning, while I was getting ready for work,  I nearly forgot to put on my pink checker flag socks. I wear them every race day.  I was up earlier than normal after a fairly crappy night of (lack of) sleep and more worried about getting my car to its service appointment by 7:30 and wasn’t thinking about it being race day. Thus, I nearly forgot to wear my socks.  Fear not- I remembered at the last minute that I was about to put on the wrong socks and grabbed the right pair.  Then as I was slipping them on I thought to myself- I should snap a picture of my checker flag socks and post them on my blog…but then common sense took over and I decided no one would want to see my socks. So consider yourself lucky that you aren’t looking at a pink sock emblazoned with checkered flags encasing my foot right now.  You are welcome.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 19, 2011 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images North America)

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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