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Or: Local Stewart Love

Note: This is part 2 of a 3 part series. You can read Part 1 here and Part 3 here.

NASCAR does not have that huge of a following in my particular area of California. We are too far north of Auto Club Speedway and too far south of Infineon for “casual fans” to partake in live events.  Don’t get me wrong- motor sports has its place here but usually it’s motorcycles at Laguna (Hey Laguna Seca- Bring back the Indy Cars!) or grassroots racing at Ocean Speedway. Because of this I am always pleasantly surprised when I see someone displaying their love of NASCAR locally.  There is a lady on the other side of the street and down a block or so who proudly displays a Jeff Gordon poster on her window. Friends who visit someone down the street drives a little truck with a huge Sprint Cup Series logo on their back window. They actually fascinate me because I don’t see anything declaring love of a specific driver.  The people who use to live in the apartment after my brother and sister-in-law moved out would display a huge NASCAR flag every race day.

So there are some fans here. Just not a whole lot.  I always smile and point them out to whomever happens to be riding along with me- perhaps in an attempt to justify my love of a sport that is a HUGE part of who I am since I am pretty sure most of my family thinks I am kookoo for Cocoa Puffs. Usually these other fans are, no surprise here, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans.  Even in our little part of the country, Junior nation is well represented. Is it any wonder he wins anything with a fan vote. Jeff Gordon is also quite prevalent.  Occasionally I will see the hold out Senior fan or the odd Matt Kenseth fan. Once I even saw a proud Denny Hamlin plate frame adorning a newish Toyota.

Where are my fellow Stewart fans? I know they exist. How? Because I always catch sight of them at the same place- a particular grocery store in town. It is downright bizarre to me that I only see other Stewart fans at the grocery- what is even more bizarre is that it is only at one particular grocery store in town.

Tony in the middle of a story at the 2010 Stewie Awards. (photo Credit: Amy Marbach)

The first time I noticed a fellow Stewart fan there I nearly gave myself whiplash.  She pulled into the parking lot in a Tony Stewart edition Monte Carlo. I  had never seen one before but I knew what it was the moment I set eyes on it. I remember staring at it kinda dumbfounded and watching the lady walk across the parking lot into the store as I was leaving.  I have only seen that car that one particular time and this is one of three different grocery stores I bounce between so I am not sure if I just keep missing her, she got rid of her car, or she was perhaps just passing through.

In 2009, after the season had been going about a month, I saw a person strolling around this very same grocery store in an Office Depot race jacket. You know those nice heavy ones? I followed this poor unsuspecting woman and her grocery entourage (which appeared to be her three grandchildren) into the meat department. She was in a deep discussion with the butcher at the seafood counter when I approached her. I had to know if this was a misguided Carl Edwards fan or a Stewart fan.  Nope- closer inspection of her jacket revealed to me that it was indeed a brand spanking new Tony Stewart one. Part of me wanted to approach her but she was still taking the butcher and I wasn’t at the store alone. And who am I kidding? I am really actually shy and not likely to approach a perfect stranger in the meat department to discuss her fandom of Tony Stewart.

Most recently, the Sunday after the race at Kentucky my mom and I had been making a large batch of apple hand pies when we ran out of some of the ingredients. I grabbed my keys and took off to the store.  I parked, did my shopping and was pulling out of of my parking stall when something caught my eye. Was that? Yep- a brand new Tony Stewart License plate frame on a fairly new looking Tahoe that was parked next to me.  I wondered if they parked there on purpose- noticing my plate frame, 14 sticker and Vanity plates. Or was it just because it was a spot that was open? Or maybe they had already been there and I just didn’t notice it on my way into the store.  I actually stopped right there, basically double parking behind them and momentarily contemplated leaving a little note on it to say hi from one Stewart fan from another. I refrained because I know I HATE it when people leave flyers and crap on my car so I wasn’t about to do that.  But it leaves me wondering…who are all these local Stewart fans?  Well at least I know where they like to hang out- the grocery store.

Or: I Should Come With A Warning Label

Note:This is the first post in a three part series of related posts. You can read Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I, Amy, am a Tony Stewart fan.  I know, I know, it’s a huge shock right?  Go ahead and go splash some cool water on your face and gather yourself together- I’ll be here when you get back.

Feeling better?  Good. Most NASCAR fans have one thing in common- they pull for a specific driver.  Don’t get me wrong- it’s very possible to like and respect multiple drivers, but when push comes to shove their driver is their driver.  I have tried to figure out why fans are fans of whomever their driver is. I gave up on that a long time ago because I decided the reasons are as varied as the fans themselves.

I think I started wondering that because I was trying to pinpoint why exactly I am a Tony Stewart fan.  I can’t even tell you exactly when I became a Tony fan.  I can tell you it was quite early in his NASCAR career.  Yes I know I have mentioned I went through a stage where I loved Indy car racing…and I did. My first race was an Indy car race- but that was back in the CART days before Tony drove in the series. My affination for Indycar waned right about the time Cart was broken up into CHAMP and IRL. There were even some years where I didn’t really follow with racing at all.  It was sometime early in Tony’s NASCAR career that I went back to my first auto racing love: NASCAR.  Part of the draw I suspect was his IRL background.  Another part was Tony’s propensity to say the first thing that popped into his his head- whether that be regarding another driver, NASCAR or the media. Also there is his willingness to stand up for what he believes in (like his recent drawing of the line in the sand regarding blocking).  All of those things, plus some unseen, unrealized affination are why I am a Tony Stewart fan. Well that and the boy can DRIVE!

All that being said, I feel like I should come with some sort of warning sticker.  CAUTION STEWART FAN! or maybe STEWART FAN PROCEED WITH CAUTION!  Why? Because once the NASCAR season starts? It’s on. Any given week I can tell you where Tony is in the standings, what race is coming up, etc.  Who I root against changes weekly (Oh come on you know you root against people too- it’s only natural) and is directly dependent on who is ahead of Tony in the points or who may have “wronged” us the weekend before. I am an equal opportunity anti-fan when it comes to rooting against someone- it’s nothing personal.

If you happen to be watching a race with me- be prepared.  My mood will reflect what position Tony is currently running in. The higher Tony is in the race- the better my mood I am likely to be in.

(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)

If you have delicate feelings- be prepared. It is not cool with me for you to smack talk Tony.  Don’t flop down next to me mid race and say things like “Where is Tony at? Last Place?” or if on the very rare occasion I flip a race on a little after it started (like the Daytona Nationwide race earlier this month) say “Don’t bother- Tony’s already wrecked out.” These things are NOT funny in the least- even if you think they are.  As I said the other day- nothing can make me go from zero to bitch-with-claws-and-fangs faster than naysaying my driver during a race.  That is not to say that I can’t and won’t say some negative things during a bad run. I have and I will- but it’s okay if I say them, not if you do.

If you have sensitive ears- be prepared. I may curse and it might not be pretty.  It might be done in exuberance and in public- like that one time my mom and I were at Chilis several years ago when Tony was running the nationwide race at Daytona.  I don’t remember the year but I am pretty sure it was down to him and Junior and it was close and we were sitting near the bar but not in it.  When Tony won? I jumped up, pumped my fist and said “HELL YEAH that’s what I am talking about!” Needless to say I am pretty sure I embarrassed my mom that day.  Heck I think I even embarrassed poor Misty with my tirade about Evil Brian Vickers (and yes I still call him that) at Infineon and that included some not so ladylike vernacular.

If you happen to be with me when we see a race in person- be prepared. If Tony suffers a heartbreaking loss- like he did in Las Vegas earlier this season…I will likely be heartbroken for him. It really didn’t help matters that we spoke with him earlier in the week about what a win would mean for him and then for him to have such a powerful car, and a devastating penalty- well let’s just say I left directly after the checkers were flew- so I guess you could say I was a sore loser. But if we are at a race and Tony wins be prepared for me to become so excited I can’t figure out how to work my own damn camera. Be prepared for me to rue the pictures of the win because all I got were blurry pictures of parts of the car during the burnout (not to mention tons of pics of people’s heads and hands) because I was so excited I forgot to unzoom the camera and you know…focus.

So consider yourself warned. I am a proud Tony Stewart fan. I might embarrass you sometimes, but I am not apologetic. I wear my loyal fandom on my sleeve. It is part of what makes me me.

Wow, what a weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing.   I admit I was quite pleased when Ryan and Tony qualified 1-2 (although that little teeny competitive person inside me was chagrined that it wasn’t the other way around).  Tony isn’t always the best qualifier- so when he qualifies top 10 I get pretty happy. When he qualifies top 5 I get damn happy. When he qualifies top 2? I do a jig. Ok not really- but I was ecstatic and hopeful for his run on Sunday.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, poses with his team and Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet, and his team on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)

It appears I had every reason to be hopeful.  EVERY REASON.  I settled in for the race with my cell phone and my note pad close.  I started off on the TNT national broadcast- only for the pre-race. Once the command was given to start engines I switched it over to Stewart’s DirecTV HotPass channel where for the second week in a row I just stayed on the HotPass Channel.  I have decided that I like the HotPass because I get the radio communications between Tony, Darian and Bob without draining my battery on my phone and having to relaunch the Sprint ap every time I go to read a text or a tweet- which during the race is quite often.

Anyway- it was quite obvious by the way Tony Stewart moved through the field that he had a car to be reckoned with.  Especially if you consider that during the pre-race show all the drivers interviewed mentioned how hard it would be to pass at Louden.  I don’t remember anyone saying anything different.  Tony seemed to be able to work his way up through the field a couple times and made it look easy.  EASY!  Whoo.

Ryan Newman (R), driver of the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet, is congratulated by team owner and second place finisher, Tony Stewart (L), driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America)

I will readily admit that the competitive side of me came out when Tony was running hard trying to catch Ryan.  I was standing there in front of the TV-hoping Ryan would run out of gas. I know, I should hang my head in shame a little for hoping Ryan would run out of gas, after all that is Tony’s  teammate.  All I can say is that, Tony is my driver and he could be racing my mom out there and I would still be rooting for Tony. It’s just how this fan/driver relationship works.

Tony’s second place finish has moved him into a tie for 10th place with Denny Hamlin.  I can only hope that this 1-2 weekend at New Hampshire signals the start of better luck for Tony Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing.

Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet, is congratulated by teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, after Newman won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

Notes on Loudon:

  1. You see that picture up there of Tony congratulating Ryan in the car. The one right above this notes section? You might have to look carefully because it’s small but Tony’s hand is out congratulating Ryan.  I LOVE that picture.  Why? Well, as I mentioned I was watching the race on Tony’s HotPass channel and seeing him celebrate Ryan’s win and his second place from his incar camera was GREAT!  He was UBER excited!!!  Then hearing that one of the first things Tony said when he got out of his car was that he was “so damn proud” that he “couldn’t see straight” made me laugh.
  2. I love listening in on the radio communication. How else would I have known that Tony was mad because the hose that cools his feet wasn’t hooked up and I found that out because he stated over his radio that he in charge of hooking up said hose could drive the car the next time the hose didn’t get hooked up.  So Tony wasn’t hot-headed he was hot-footed.  Ha! I crack myself up.  Not to mention the kind words he had to say about Andy Lally.  LOVE it because that is what is going on right then and there in the car in my driver’s head.
  3. Oh and I am hearing that there is a rumor out there that Carl Edwards may be signing with JGR for next season…I am not sure if JGR is going to a 4 car team or if that means someone is out of one of the JGR cars.  I guess we will find out soon enough.
  4. I still have to say that I would be happier if Ryan and Tony’s finishes were reversed, but still pretty damn happy.
  5. But we really need a win now. Just saying.
  6. Oh and before I forget- Tony mentioned during his post-race press conference that Darian was dealing with pneumonia while on the pit box…I sure hope he’s feeling better soon!

Gratuitous Tony picture:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 15, 2011 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images North America)

Don’t forget next weekend is an off weekend for the Cup cars…they will be back the following weekend at Indy. Go Tony Go!

(Instead of giving you my usual spin on what happened during Tony’s race at Michigan (you can read the official race report here for information on Tony’s run) I think I am going to break things up a little bit and wax on about how this season is really starting to concern me as far as Stewart-Haas Racing and Tony Stewart in particular is concerned.)

I am starting to enter panic-mode when it comes to Tony Stewart making the  chase.  This slump or whatever you want to call this string of bad (winless) luck that Tony Stewart and SHR seems to be having is giving me total and complete fits.  Tony is now 11th in points with no wins. I am in fits because of this new chase format where only the top 10 in points are guaranteed chase spots, with the last to spots going to the wildcards with the most wins.  And us having NO WINS? That right there makes Amy a panic-stricken Tony Stewart fan.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not going to abandon ship or hop a bandwagon mind you.  I am a Tony Stewart fan through good and BAD.  And while I tend to be an optimistic sort of fan (oh it’s early…oh at least he finished in the top five, ten, fifteen…oh at least he finished better than he qualified…there are still x races before the chase- he’ll pull himself up by his bootstraps and get some wins) I am having an increasingly difficult time talking myself off the “OH NO TONY’S NOT GOING TO MAKE THE CHASE” ledge that I find myself sitting on more and more often recently. It is definitely not a fun place to sit, let me tell you.

You can try telling me Stewart always heats up with a winning streak in the summer- I have tried telling myself that too. Honestly? That fact doesn’t sooth my panic addled brain right now. Misty is always telling me “You can’t keep a Tony Stewart down!” And while the Tony Stewart fan in me is proud she thinks that…my brain still quietly says “Well remember that one year he didn’t make the chase?” Yeah…thanks for that reminder brain- like I needed that.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 17, 2011 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (June 16, 2011 - Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images North America)

I have to blame it on something and really the only thing I can blame it on is the new points system.  Bad days in this new points system are more devastating to the overall points pictures and harder to rebound from in this points system than the old system.  And while I was all for changing the points system in the chase last season, I still thought that the regular season points should remain the same.

Now I am definitely no mathematician that is for certain.  I don’t understand how people can say that this new points system emphasizes wins.  I don’t see that really thought because if it emphasized wins wouldn’t Kevin Harvick be the current series leader? Wouldn’t someone like Jeff Gordon who has two wins be above Tony in the points then? I don’t like this new system of points- if only because it doesn’t reward consistency enough but punishes for lack of it far too harshly.  As I mentioned I am not good with numbers and math- so I can’t really come up with an alternate solution to the points.  My only thought was to make it more like golf- and make the object the lowest score possible.  But I am not sure if that would make that much of a difference overall when compared to this new system. I don’t have an answer and that too frustrates the daylights out of me.

So yeah- lately Tony’s points situation has been stressing me out- well that and the  horrifying thought that Tony might not make the chase this year.  And yes I know that Tony says they focus on wins and the points take care of themselves. But ACK the win column is a bit empty right now.  And as Misty states- what would Champions Week in Vegas be without crowding around Tony to watch The Stewies?

(Editor’s Note- A huge thank you goes out to Kevin- who wrote this post about his experience at the F1 seat swap sponsored by Mobil 1 at Watkin’s Glen yesterday.  He was kind enough to write this post as well as provide us with his personal pictures and videos of the event. Thanks Kevin- AMY).

I have been waiting for today for half the year. The chance to see my favorite driver run another type of race car, an F1 car. Yes, today was the day that Tony Stewart got to drive Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 F1 Championship winning car at Watkins Glen International. (more…)

At a previous race during this season someone asked Tony Stewart to describe his car and his chances for that particular race. I have no memory of what race it was or who even asked him the question. I honestly don’t even remember if it was something I saw on print or on TV. Anyway, he described his car and his chances for that particular race with the phrase “cautiously optimistic.” Most everyone knows that Tony Stewart is the king of snappy, derisive one line comebacks (and this is one of the reasons he’s my driver) so why this particular, non-Stewartesque quote stuck with me all this time I haven’t a clue. It was obviously something my brain felt the need to file in it’s bulging back pocket. (more…)

I became familiar with EFX Perfomance probably about a year ago when I noticed Tony Stewart had been wearing a necklace and I could tell it had letters on it but from the pictures I had seen- I couldn’t tell WHAT it said.  I asked a fellow blogger (who was interviewing about to interview him) to see if she could find out what it said/what it was- and she kindly did.  So I am NOT surprised that I saw the press release last week come across my desk stating that EFX  Perfomance had developed a partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports to bring driver specific bracelets available for purchase.  (more…)

I wanted to share some pictures of Tony during his visit at the US Marine base in Quantico, VA yesterday:

Speed shopping! The Office Depot Racing merchandise hauler was at U.S. Marine Corps Base Quantico on Thursday when NASCAR star Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Chevy, made a special visit during Quantico’s third-annual ServMart Customer Appreciation Day. Office Depot, a primary sponsor of Stewart, operates a ServMart on the base. Stewart met with Wounded Warriors and signed hundreds of autographs for service members during his visit (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography)

A service member at U.S. Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia gets an up-close look at Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Office Depot show car (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography).

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Chevy, signs autographs while visiting Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. Stewart stopped by the Office Depot ServMart on base, met with Wounded Warriors and signed hundreds of autographs during his visit (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography)

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Chevy, talks with service members at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography).

I also found a awesome story from a local paper about the visit- you should definitely check out NASCAR Champion Driven To Honor Pair Of Warriors.