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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…

I read a ton of blogs- some of which aren’t even NASCAR related.  One of my favorite non-NASCAR blogs, Uppercase Woman, posted a “fantasy christmas list” as if there were no restrictions on money, time, anything…and I decided I would do one in my own NASCAR way of course:

Dear Santa-

Tonight as I am curled up on my couch sitting next to the Christmas tree and it’s twinkling lights, I am dreaming of a Stewart-Haas Christmas.  It’s been quite a year for me personally, professionally (you know at my “day job”), and here at BadGroove.  I can assure you that I have been as good as possible this year. I am hoping that you will take a look at my Christmas list this year and can fit some of my wishes it.

First and foremost, I would like Tony Stewart to win the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship.  Is it too much to ask for a third? Sure Jimmie Johnson made history and everything with his fifth consecutive championship this year, but I really want Tony to have his “book-end championships” since he was the last driver not named Jimmie Johnson to win a championship.   Whatever you can do Santa. I realize for this gift will have to wait until next year- I believe that this is a completely fair trade off.  If you think I am worthy of only one gift this year, this one is the most important to me.

Next Santa, I would like for both Stewart-Haas teams to make the Chase…and finish well. Very well (see the above paragraph). 

And while we are talking Stewart-Haas Racing, this is a gift I would like you to bestow upon them- a plethora of sponsors. 

And I would like a driver other than Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the Most Popular Driver award…of course you know I would like the winner to be Tony Stewart but I would be happy if anyone else but Dale would win. 

Santa, I would like for the 2011 NASCAR schedule to change- so that all the races out west would be more scattered throughout the schedule making it easier for us working girls in the west to make it to multiple races without eating a hole in the majority of our vacation leave. 

And since I am shooting for the moon Santa, I would like a nice shiny new Chevy Camaro to find it’s way into the driveway.  I am not too particular about color…but white with a flat black racing stripe would be nice. Or yellow…like BumbleBee from Transformers. Anthing but black will do.

Also, I would like to have some custom paint (or wrapping) on my Chevy HHR.  I am looking for some graphite colored ghost flames on the nose that lick up the side of my car….and I wouldn’t turn down a big Stewart-Haas racing logo on the side or gate area of my car.  It’s something I have been wanting to do to my HHR since I bought it but unfortunately just haven’t found the extra cash to do it. 

I would like for BadGroove to become even more popular than it already is. 

And of course Santa, I want world peace, a better economy, and job assurance for all.  I am sure that is high on everybody’s list this year.

Thank you Santa, I will leave you a plate of cookies like always!

Amy

Well greetings out there to all my readers!!!   It’s that time of year isn’t it? The time when going to the mall makes one crazy because there is no parking and the weather is crappy and there are people everywhere and stores are sold out of what you want and really all you want to do is “wad up some cash and throw it at people” (direct quote from Misty)  instead of trying to find gifts…but somehow think that my 3 year old and 9 month old nephews wouldn’t really go for the wadded up cash approach.  Maybe that’s just me (and Misty).   Anyway- if you have a Stewart-Haas Racing fan, a Tony Stewart fan, a Ryan Newman fan, or a NASCAR fan on your list here are some gift suggestions for this year:

1. For Stewart-Haas Racing fans (in particular Tony Stewart fans) I highly suggest the new Office Depot Racing 2011 calendar:

I present to you the cover of the 2011 Tony Stewart calendar. (photo credit: Edelman)

I mean who can resist 12 full months of Tony Stewart (and crew).  It’s available at most (but not all) Office Depot locations as well as ONLINE.

2.  Office Depot is again this holiday season selling their Teddy B. Caring bears (as seen here with Tony Stewart):

Tony Stewart and Teddy B. Caring have a meeting. (Photo Credit: Edelman)

Proceeds from the bear go to The Office Depot Foundation which has many programs throughout the year for children and families, including the ever popular National Backpack Program which supplies new backpacks and book bags filled with school supplies to children in need.  It’s a program that Tony Stewart himself has worked with for two years now helping the foundation hand out the backpacks and book bags to children and service organizations. Tony says, “It’s amazing to see the look on a child’s face when they receive a new backpack and are able to head back to school with an extra boost of confidence. Every child deserves that, and I would like to encourage everyone to consider giving a Teddy B. Caring bear as a gift this holiday season in support of the great work the Office Depot Foundation does all year long.” The bear is a 16 inch GUND bear available at Office Depot.  Or you can also pick up a smaller version that is an ornament/ gift card holder.

3.  You can make a donation to the Ryan Newman Foundation or Tony Stewart Foundation on behalf of your fan. Both drivers are heavily involved in giving back.   The Ryan Newman Foundation focuses it’s efforts on getting the message out there to Spay and Neuter pets- to help prevent overpopulation, urges pet seekers to get their pets from shelters or rescues.  They also heavily support conservation efforts to perserve the great outdoors for future generations AND support the Rich Vogler  Scholarship program for youth interested in careers in auto racing.  The Tony Stewart Foundation‘s mission services children with life-threatening illnesses, abused and endangered animals and injured drivers.  I have had the pleasure in our interviews with Tony of talking to him about his foundation and it’s amazing to watch his countenance change when he starts talking about children and animals especially.

4.  You can also find great Stewart-Haas Racing gear and gear for both drivers on sale over at the Stewart-Haas Racing online store.  Each driver also has a separate online store: Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman.  You can get everything a fan could dream of between the three sites.

5.  And I have to bring up my favorite NASCAR book that I have read so far this year…and that is The Weekend Starts On Wednesday.  The book is an ode to and of  NASCAR Fans.  It’s a great read that most any NASCAR fan will enjoy.  I have read it and it truly makes me proud to be a NASCAR fan.  The author is witty and the book is extremely well written.  I highly recommend it!

Tony Stewart, owner/driver of the #14 Stewart-Haas Racing Office Depot Chevrolet and teammate Ryan Newman spent time with Office Depot employees at headquarters in Boca Raton Florida, thanking them for their hard work and celebrating the sponsorship relationship the drivers have with Office Depot.

Stewart and Newman took part in a Q&A session, hosted by SpeedTV Broadcaster John Roberts:

Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman address Office Depot employees at headquarters in Florida. Photo Credit: Edelman

The pair even presented Office Depot with an autographed hood:

John Roberts Hosts Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman at Office Depot Headquarters. Photo Credit: Edelman

 The duo then autographed items for the employees taking part in the celebration:

Tony Stewart signs autograph for Office Depot employees at the sponsor's headquarters. Photo Credit: Edelman

And…ok sure…another gratutious picture- Tony answers questions from the media while teammate Ryan Newman looks on. The photographer in me LOVES this picture…because Stewart is in the front but Newman is there in the background….it’s a great picture:

Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman address the media at the Office Depot Staff event. Photo Credit: Edelman

 Office Depot employees were also visited by Miss Sprint Cup Monica Palumbo and an autograph session with author Andrew Giangola who was on hand signing copies of his book THE WEEKEND STARTS ON WEDNESDAY for employees (If you haven’t read Andrew’s book you should pick up a copy NOW! It really is a good read and makes me proud to be a NASCAR fan!)  I wish my department at work would have Tony and Ryan come to one of OUR all-hands meetings.  Hee.