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If you haven’t read THE MUSIC OF BRISTOL PART 1 – go do that now because you are missing out on your chance at winning some Goodyear Racing swag.

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Well since it is an off weekend I decided to be a little lax about posting my weekly race report. I have been thinking about the race at Las Vegas.  Usually when I am settling in at home on the couch with my phone within arms reach to watch a race I silently think to myself, Please let us have a good day…a top ten would be GREAT! A top ten finish would be even better!  Of course I want a win for Tony. I definitely want a win. But I don’t want to be too greedy- I just don’t want anything too devestating…no damaged cars or people. 

When I am at home I have my phone (NASCAR SPRINT CUP MOBILE) and sometimes I have my computer on my lap too.  But in person, we were sitting up in our seats- not even a scanner. I think the scanners take away from the experience. I can’t explain why.  I can tell you what I DO love…I love being able to see the drivers being driven around the track waving to the fans.  I love to watch the teams gather in little circles for private prayer/peptalks before prerace.  I LOVE the fly over.  But there is nothing like standing and watching 43 cars take the green flag at a race.  The sound of the cars, of the fans- it’s like nothing I have ever experienced. 

So I am sitting there in the Petty Terrace and the race starts and Tony was STRONG and it wasn’t long and Tony was in the lead.  And not only would Tony lead but he would pull AWAY.  I don’t think I have ever watched a race where his car seemed so strong.  I sat there and I was nervous. By lap 90 I was parched but like hell was I gonna get up and miss something.  By lap 100 I had to pee but I wasn’t about to leave my seat so I just put it out of my mind and concentrated on watching Tony go round and round.  If I had been at home I would have been pacing the living room. 

I didn’t actually SEE what happened that caused the pass through penalty.  Our seats in the terrace were at pit road out and I couldn’t really see Tony’s pits stops all that well.  But I heard it over loud speaker.  Ahh the disappointment.  The Smoke fan in the row behind me was disappointed too. He grabbed his 14 hat and pulled it down over his face in disappointment.  Oh I feel ya man. I feel ya. 

However- one thing that you HAVE to love about Tony is that he does NOT give up. Now as I mentioned I did not have a scanner. So I can only imagine what he was saying. And honestly he might not have been even saying it over the air. But I know what I would have been saying if roles had been reversed.  It might even make Tony Stewart blush! You never know. Anyway…what you have to love about Tony is that he doesn’t give up.  He was moving through the field pretty well.  Between that and a two tire stop pit stop for track position he was back towards the front of the field by the end of the race. I think that if the race had been longer or if there had been a caution- no question in my mind Tony would have won.  None at all.  But these are things that were not.  And a second place should be celebrated. Especially when it means that Tony is now tied for the points lead with Kurt Busch.  That is something that should be exciting.

But I have to say after seeing Tony with such a strong car I can not just reiterate his post race comment to Matt Yocum but I can feel it: Second sucks.  Second indeed does suck. 

Get Me That Tire Changer's Head...on a platter.

Thanks to LOLRacePics for permission to use their LOL because it is just OH SO FITTING...be sure to check LOLracepics.com for more NASCAR LOLS.

My next post will showcase some of my pictures from the LAS VEGAS race weekend.

Our race weekend started on Thursday with a quick interview with Tony Stewart.  If you have been around here any length of time you know two things about me. First is that I am a Tony Stewart fan. Secondly is that during the race season I will mention every one of Tony’s Office Depot Appearances that I know about (and any other appearances as well) here on the blog.  The reason I do this is that I genuinely like going to Tony’s appearances and I like to suggest that if you are fan you go to one if you can possible swing it.  They are fun I promise.   I got the worst sunburn ever standing in line at  the parking lot of a Home Depot in Rancho Cucamonga.  Let’s just say the next day at the track multiple people told me I was sunburned and needed to put on more sunblock. It was weird telling them that I knew I was sunburned and had gotten it at the local home improvement store NOT at the track.  But I have to tell you if you are going to go to one of the appearances of ANY driver get there early….real early.  Most appearances are limited to a set amount people- so usually wristbands or tickets are handed out and they can go early.  I personally know someone that wanted to see Carl Edwards at a local store appearance in Vegas the same day as Tony’s appearance. She went only a couple hours before he was suppose to be there and there were NO wristbands left.  So get to the store as early as possible to get your wristband.  You usually don’t have to stay in line after you get your wristband…but many people do:

Fans wait outside the Office Depot in North Las Vegas, waiting for their turn to see Tony Stewart. (Photo Credit: Amy)

It looks crazy I know.  But there is a camaraderie that builds when you are standing in line.  How can it not? You are standing in line usually  for several hours.   You end up talking to your neighbors in the line.  Now it’s been my personal experience that this happens in the lines for other drivers too- but the Tony fans just seem extra friendly and  welcoming but that  might just be my bias there.

Tony Stewart's Office Depot show car outside of the North Las Vegas Office Depot. (Photo Credit: Amy)

I have mentioned this many many times- but I LOVE that one of Tony’s sponsors is  Office Depot because I have always been far more likely to wield a pen then say a drill or a hammer.  It’s a better fit for me personally.  I have spent quite a bit of time hanging out in the office furniture section of various Office Depot locations because we have been giving the awesome opportunity to interview Tony when we go to races where he is doing an appearance.  It’s always fun to stand there with the other people who are going to interview Tony and watch the customers wander through our area looking at us like WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON? This last time, there was a man pushing his basket right through our area with the Office Depot backdrop looking at us like DO YOU PEOPLE ALWAYS JUST HANG OUT IN THE FURNITURE SECTION OF THE LOCAL OFFICE DEPOT OR WHAT?

When Tony gets to the Office Depot he usually works with the television media first:

Tony Stewart talks to a local Las Vegas news crew. (photo credit: Misty)

See told you we are just standing in the furniture department.  Bet you didn’t envision THAT when you contemplate us interviewing Tony.

Then it’s on to print and internet media for Tony- which includes us.  At the Office Depot this time,  it started with Valli from The Fast and The Fabulous presenting Tony Stewart with his 2011 Hottest Driver award.  It was fun to witness her presenting the trophy (an adorable basket of different hot sauces) and explaining the bracket system to him and showing him how he won (by a landslide I might add):

Valli explains the random bracketing system of the 2011 Hottest Driver Tournament to winner Tony Stewart. (Photo Credit: Amy)

It was fun because if you remember I mentioned The Fast and The Fabulous  Hottest Driver Tournament several times during voting. I got to see it from beginning to end. You should definitely pop over to The Fast and The Fabulous to read about the presentation.

Then it was our turn to talk to Tony.

Amy: Tell us about driving the cab in Las Vegas.  How did it go?

Tony: It was interesting. It’s not very often that you can semi have free reign to drive a stock car around the city but we got to take Elvis Presley, David Copperfield and one of the Miss Sprint Cups for a ride yesterday and a couple of fans too.  It was definitely a cool experience.

Misty: Did the fans know what was going to happen?

Tony: No. That was the best part about it. We met at Lucky Cab and did some of the skits there then went straight to the casino.  Seeing the look on people’s faces as the car went by was pretty cool. Then as we were driving people around, we kinda made the same route instead of taking people to random spots we took people around the same lap. Every time  we went by there were more fans lined up to take pictures so it made it pretty fun.

Amy:  We also wanted to know about the F1 swap that is happening. Can you tell us about that?

Tony: That’s going to be fun.  It’s a great chance to live out a dream of getting in an F1 car. We are doing it at Watkin’s Glen where we have had a lot of success. I know two-thirds of the track that we are going to be running but we are going to be running the whole course so there’s a part of the track that is going to be totally different that I have never ran before. I met Lewis when we did a Mobil 1 shoot here recently- he’s a great guy. I am really looking forward to working with him out there.

Amy and Misty of Badgroove interviewing Tony Stewart at the Office Depot in North Las Vegas. Wish I knew what I was talking about there- I seem to be gesticulating pretty wildly. (Photo Credit: Edelman)

Amy (who has to totally give credit to this question from her Facebook friend Beth for the suggestion): Can you tell us your favorite thing about owning Eldora?

Tony: My favorite thing  probably is when we have a big event and we have a packed house and I go up on top to watch the races and I watch the fans having a good time. Especially when the sprint car races are there or the late models are there and you can tell they have their favorite driver that they love and their driver that they love to hate and it’s fun to watch.  It’s like the whole crowd will react. Some of them will be on one side of the fence and some will be on the other side of the fence. When things happen you can see both groups reacting . It’s fun to be on top of all that and be able to kind of look and oversee everything and see that everybody is having a good time. That absolutely makes my day when I got to the track- just seeing everybody having a good time.

Misty: We are from central California- right near Laguna Seca Raceway and wondered if you had ever had a chance to race there?

Tony: I have never even been there. But any time, especially when the Indy cars ran and the GT cars use to run, we use to watch the races there a lot. It would be a track that I would LOVE to have an opportunity to do something at.  It’s on the bucket list of tracks that I want to run at.

Misty: What would a win at Las Vegas mean to you?

Tony: It would be huge because this a place we haven’t won at yet. So we definitely want to win a race here. It doesn’t put more pressure on us to do it but we won at California last year at the cup race there- and we hadn’t won at California so that knocked that off the list. So now we are down to Vegas and Darlington. It would be nice to get that checked off the list and get that done. Those two tracks are the only two we haven’t won at on the whole circuit. I think we have potential to do something that no one else has done and that’s be able to say we have won at every track.

(I have to note that it was incredibly disappointing when transcribing this last part of the interview because Tony sounded so excited about the possibility of winning at LVMS.  It was hard to transcribe especially after watching him race at Las Vegas with such a strong car and NOT win)

We thanked Tony and left Tony to begin to take on the throngs of people standing outside waiting for their autograph. Misty and I stood by the show car area outside with Valli for awhile just chatting about the race weekend ahead of us when we spotted this little boy who had just gotten his car autographed by Tony. He was so excited that he ran out to the show car handlers to show them.  It was absolutely adorable:

This little boy was so excited to show off his autographed car to the show car handlers. He was adorable. (Photo credit: Amy)

I am not sure if it’s just because this season is still pretty fresh- only being 2 races in- but I am feeling extremely excited and optimistic this year- and not just about Tony Stewart’s season but about the season in general. The racing seems good and of course it helps my outlook seeing Tony Stewart so competitive so early in the season.

Tony not only lead a lap this race- he actually was the driver who lead the second most laps (second only to race leader Jeff Gordon). He was able to get through several accidents (one that wiped out about a third of the field) unscathed and finished 7th only due to a call for two tires at the second to last caution that gave him the lead. He would have probably held the lead had the race stayed green. Unfortunately there was a caution and it put all the drivers who picked up four tires at the previous caution to be able to out gun him on the restart. Usually that would make me mad- BUT it was great to see the team doing so well that I couldn’t even feel too badly about it. Plus that 7th place finish moved Tony Stewart up to 3rd in points!

It was great to see Jeff Gordon in victory lane!

Next week the boys are racing in Vegas!

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!

And just like that we are underway in the beginning of the 2011 NASCAR season.  So yesterday evening was the Budweiser Shootout. On Friday night Tony had drawn P2 for the shootout:

When the race started Tony was quite strong in the beginning and spent most of the first segment in the first half of the field. The first half of the field featured two car breakaway drafts and Darrell Waltrip repeatedly stating that the cars wouldn’t stay coupled up for too many laps. Tony was paired with Denny Hamlin for a lot of that first segment, with Tony out front and Denny seemingly having no problem pushing him. I think one of the reasons they were able to maintain the two car breakaways was because it was pretty chilly in Daytona yesterday evening. I think that they will probably experience more of the cars getting heated during the actual 500 because that is during the day where the 500 is at night. Personally I would rather watch the two-car breakaways manuever around daytona close like this:

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

I would much rather see that then the usual one groove, string of cars running around and around and around until the end of the race. Maybe that is just me.  Also? I am LOVING the Mobil 1 paint scheme! LOVING IT!  And it was great to see the #14 Mobil 1 Chevy leading some laps in the Shootout.  Towards the end of the first segment Tony fell back a little and after the segment continued as Tony’s radio communication with his spotter dropped out intermittantly.  During the second segment Tony also ended up spinning Michael Waltrip. Tony ended up finishing the Shootout 11th.  The race winner was Kurt Busch driving the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge to victory lane.  That is weird. Kurt Busch in the #22 with Shell as his sponsor. It’s going to be hard to get use to. As will Kasey Kahne in the Red Bull number 4 car. 

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

Sunday was qualifying for the front row at Daytona.  Teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon will fill out the front row for next Sunday’s 2011 Daytona 500:

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

Tony ended up 10th in the qualified list. However- with Daytona only the front row counts. Tony and the rest of the field will have to race for their position on Sunday in the Gatorade Duels on Thursday.

NOTES:

  • I hate the fact that the duels are on thursday in the middle of the day.  Sucks for us working girls. Thank goodness for DVRS.
  • Also? I have officially switched from Verizon to Sprint as my cell phone carrier (it was surprising that as a Verizon customer forever and a day that they didn’t fight harder to keep me as a customer..I was asked why I was leaving and when I told them I was changing providers they just said ok and continued on with my disconnection). So I will be looking forward to using the NASCAR Sprint ap and will let you know what I think of it.
  • Ok? Jeff Gordon’s Drive To End Hunger paint scheme? Love it (not as much as I love the Mobil 1 paint scheme of Tony’s but still)! I was kinda iffy about it when I heard about it but after seeing it in action during the Bud Shootout?? LOVE IT. My only complaint is that in certain shots it looked like Biffle’s car. But that might have just been because of the dark.
  • Remember how the talk was all about the Hendrick pit crew swaps and how the pit crews held auditions during the off season and were reset? WELL…Tony’s front tire carrier from the last two seasons? Kelly Kellis? Is now the front tire carrier for Jeff Gordon.  Tony’s new front tire carrier actually worked with Tony when he was on the 20 team…Ira Jo Hussey.
  • Totally off topic…what is the big deal with Sun Drop soda? It seems like it dropped out of the sky (pun totally intended) into these huge displays in the supermarket and I have never even heard of it. 

Okay…the 2011 NASCAR season is ALMOST here. We are definitely on the downhill side of the off-season. I honestly don’t know how football and baseball and all those other kinds of sports fans deal with longer off seasons that we NASCAR fans have.

We have some changes to deal with in points and the chase.  Then of course there is the new fuel and the new nose of the car.  (I will say this- I LOVE the look of the new nose!) All of these go along with the usual shifting of drivers to different teams,  sponsors and numbers  changing- which always takes me about four races or so before I get them all programmed into my head.  But what are we without change right?

Of course I am hoping this will be the best season yet for Stewart-Haas (and for Tony). Let’s go get that third championship for Tony! YEY!

That being said I have some Tony Stewart Autograph appearances to share with you if you are going to Daytona for Speedweeks, if you are going to the Las Vegas Race, or live within driving distance of Greenwood Indiana:

  • On Tuesday February 15th Tony will be signing autographs at the Office Depot in Daytona Beach (1560 South Nova Road, Daytona Beach, FL 32114) at 4:00 pm local time.  There will be 600 wristbands available to fans at the location starting at 8:00 am! One wristband per person, one autograph per wristband.  Fans with wristbands MUST be in line no later than 5:00 pm.
  • On Thursday March 3rd Tony is scheduled to do an autograph appearance at the Office Depot in North Las Vegas (1435 West Craig Road, North Las Vegas, NV) at 12:30 local time.   There will be 600 wristbands available to fans at the location starting at 8:00 am! One wristband per person, one autograph per wristband.  Fans with wristbands MUST be in line no later than 1:30 pm. (Misty and I are planning on being at this one! So say Hi if you see us!)
  • On Tuesday March 15th Tony will be doing an autograph appearance at the JD Byrider located at 1703 US 31 South in Greenwood Indiana at 5:00 pm. There will be 800 wristbands available for this one starting at 11:00pm at the location.  One wristband per person, one autograph per wristband.

Just to remind you that the Tony Stewart Foundation is still doing Checkered Flag Fridays – where the first Friday of every month the foundation lists several ebay auctions with autographed items. Some items are unique items- its a fun way to support both Tony and his foundation!  If anyone is looking for a belated birthday present for yours truly look no farther than this particular Checkered Flag Friday auction.  I kid I kid…kinda.

Also if you tweet…I hope you will join me this season in the return of the #goTONYgo hashtags to show support for Tony and the 14 team!!

Ahh if you never had braces you were a lucky ducky.  I work braces for a couple years and getting them finally removed was cause for celebration. No more painful “adjustments” which is orthadontal speak for tightening and no more food restrictions. My particular braces removal celebration included caramel popcorn.  But anyway, NASCAR fans, I digress.  We got our first taste of the new nose on the cup cars without the splitter braces when the cars hit Daytona International Speedway for testing last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I have to say I LOVE the look of the new nose on the cars.  In my opinion, the new nose adds to the aesthetics of the car and makes it look sportier.  Hopefully the lack of braces on the splitter will keep the cars from collection hot dog wrappers, grass clumps and other debris and make possible overheating less of an issue. 

SHR cars

Look Ma! No Braces! The new nose on the cars for this season is visible here in this picture tweeted by Stewart Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) today.

Many drivers were getting their first feel of the new surface on the speedway as well, as Daytona was repaved during the off season.  Many drivers reported it to be quite smooth and likened it to the newer surface at Talladega.  It should make for some interesting racing that is for certain.  I loved that testing was streamed live on the internet because I could tune in from my side of the states.  Seeing and hearing the cars on the track put a huge smile on this fan’s face.  Why? Because it means soon our season with be on again in full swing.

 Just from the little pieces of testing that I was able to watch it is going to be hard for me to get use to certain changes.  It’s really weird seeing Kasey Kahne in the Red Bull number 4 car.  I did see him race for Red Bull in person in Phoenix at end of last season, and it was weird then. Still weird.   Weirder yet?  Is Harvick in Budweiser red and Kurt in the number #22! It’s all going to take some getting used to that is for sure.  However this nothing new to us NASCAR fans; sponsors and teams change because our sport is dynamic like that. 

Other changes to look forward to or get use to this season:

  1. Ethanol used as fuel in the cars.  Preliminary reports had the cars getting fewer miles per gallon on the ethanol so we will see how much the switch to a “greener” fuel changes strategy on the track.
  2. Speaking of Ethanol- because of the change to ethanol fuel, the gas can needed to be modified. Because of the modifications to the gas can, it was determined that the catch can man was no longer needed.  It is a plus for pit road safety to have one less man over the wall (especially on smaller tracks with cramped pit roads).  While it may be plus for safety though it probably sucks if you were a catch can man.
  3. Drivers now have to declare a series in which they want to run for the championship.  This I don’t like. Why? Because that means my dreams of watching Kyle Busch sweep all three championships one day has died. Yes I am a Tony fan but I am SURE that Kyle could sweep all three series if he put his mind to it.
  4. There is the possible change in the points system that will be most likely announced soon. 
  5. There is the change in the chase format….playfully called the Jamie Mac Chase Clause (JMCC) between Misty and I.  I think its weird use the last two positions of the chase into more wild card spots given to the two non chase contenders with the most wins. I don’t know how that will change the chase…but I guess we will see.

Needless to say there are a lot of changes this season and not JUST to the drivers/teams.  Here we go NASCAR fans. Let’s buckle in for a new season. And to my Tony Stewart readers all I can say is #goTONYgo!

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Also NASCAR fans- be sure to head over to The Fast and The Fabulous and vote in Round 4 of the Hottest Driver contest. This round pits Stewart-Haas teammates against each other. Go vote…