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I had a good feeling about Richmond all week last week.  Part of it was due to press I am sure- with Tony stating over and over again how Richmond was not one of his favorites it was THE FAVORITE.  I was hoping that my good feeling meant that Tony would win- or that at the very least Stewart-Haas Racing would get that elusive first win with Ryan Newman. It will probably sound bad but I really want Tony to get that first win for Stewart-Haas Racing- nothing at all against Ryan and I can’t explain why, but I just really REALLY want Tony to be the first win. I also wonder if there isn’t a little bit of competitiveness between the two? Do you think they smack talk each other?

Anyway- it was probably me- since I wasn’t feeling that great on Saturday but I was having a heck of time following where Tony was. Well I mean I obviously could figure out where he was during the Green-Yellow laps- but after that I could It seemed to me like he spent most of the race in the teens and I remember at one point finding that he was being scored 27th and saying to my mom “Twenty-freakin-seventh?? What the hell happened to Stewart?” to which she just shrugged and kinda rolled her eyes.  I do get a little wrapped up in my NASCAR races.  Anyway towards the end of the race my dad came in wearing his 14 hat proudly and asked where Stewart was.   I said I wasn’t sure…because some pitting had just taken place and then it seemed like to me- someone turned Tony on er woke Tony up and told him it was the end of the race because it seemed to me suddenly like he was flying towards the front of the field.  What I didn’t realize was that Tony was one of the cars that took fresh tires that last pit stop. (Why didn’t I know that FoxSports? Why?).  It wasn’t long until Ryan (who had been running top ten most if not all of the day) had a mirror full of Tony.  I said to my dad “I wonder if it makes Ryan a little nervous to have his BOSS driving right behind him like that?” My dad said probably not…but think about it- if my boss decided for whatever reason to sit in my office and watch me do one of the myriad of things I do I would worry that he was critiquing me and my style…even though I think I am damn good at what I do I would worry that he would find flaw in what I was doing.

Tony moves into second and I was really hoping that he would catch up to Kyle- but there was NO catching Kyle- he was on fire and nearly a quarter to half a lap ahead of of Tony.  Kyle took the checkered flag on his birthday- only the second driver to ever do that (the first being Cale Yarborough).  Tony’s late race charge and second place finish gained him a spot in the points- he now sits in third- a mere 39 points out of the lead.  Stewart-Haas teammate Ryan Newman also had a top five finish- finishing in fourth and bringing the US. ARMY Impala into the 10 position in the points standings.

Notes on Richmond:

  • Small business owners: Office Depot Racing wants to give you a $14,000 small business makeover, your logo on Tony Stewart’s #14 Stewart Haas Racing Impala and a VIP Weekend at a NASCAR race. Go here to enter your business now (contest is open now thorugh May 31st)!  I wish I had a small business just fo the the VIP weekend…let alone the money and the name on the car!!
  • Have you seen the World’s Worst Commute Quaker State promotion? About how if you think you have the world’s worse commute you send in a video as to why and I the prize is getting driven to work by Jimmie Johsnon (I think you get some VIP race tickets too).  I would love to have any of the drivers drive me to work? But I have probably the EASIEST commute…ixnay that- my mom has the easiest one- she could walk since she only works about a block away from her house…I drive 15-20 minutes…over a river, through ag fields (not actually through the fields—there is an actual road), and then I am there.  Seriously the worst thing he would have to deal with on my commute would probably be a tractor towing discing rings or something on the side of the road.  So I can’t win that…do you think I could convince them that my commute is to Vegas?  While I do drive to Vegas often (I think my coworkers think I am some sort of big time gambler) I have never been driven there by anyone but me and it’s a pretty long (500 miles door to door) boring and lonely drive let me tell you…
  • Also it just came to me…I assume he would be driving you in your car? Because how else would you get back home? Unless he is gonna stay there for 8 hours while I work (He is welcome to – I even have an extra chair in my office and our break room is AWESOME -you can see the ocean from it plus it is a college campus so if he got bored he could just wander around the campus chatting up people) and then drive me home?
  • Now that we are talking about commercials- you know who can almost always make me laugh? Michael Waltrip.  And when you pair him up with Ron Capps- it’s even better. I love the Napa commercials! The pictionary one is laughs- “You ARE a good drawer”. However the Toyota Autograph Seeker commercial is hilarious too…the one with the little flying robots looking for autographs for the fans…and one approaches Michael Waltrip? If you listen carefully one of the crew guys yells “Watch Out It Has A Pen!” right before Michael sprays it with the extinguisher. That makes me laugh too.
  • I could probably be coaxed very easily to talk about this in another post…but for now all I will say is Amy from Salinas, CA says thanks to Tony Stewart and especially officedepotracing.com.
  • Check out this enthusiastic post about Darlington from TC at The NASCAR INSIDERS. It got me excited about Darlington, and it’s only Monday!

Next Saturday Night? The Southern 500 at Darlington, SC.

Well this was a race that I attended in person. The first leg of my journey was driving 500 to Las Vegas. Hung out with BFFM and on Friday BFFM drove 300+ miles to Phoenix where we checked into the hotel.  We tried to use the hotel’s computer to check qualifying while we were in the lobby but it was running slow so BFFM used her blackberry to get us some answers.  The next morning we drive to the track- it was easy to get to.

Yeah the track is out in the middle of the desert- but it was actually a really nice track. The only kabuffle we had the entire day was figuring out where to trade in our pit pass tickets for actual pit passes and after getting misdirected a couple times we finally got that taken care of.  The midway was probably the smallest midway of the tracks we have been to but then again- the track was a lot smaller in general than the other tracks (Las Vegas and Fontana).

TSR-Jones show car at Team Chevy booth at PIR Midway

TSR-Jones show car at Team Chevy booth at PIR Midway

Joey Loganos merchandise trailer was the LEAST populated one.  The most populated ones were of course Jr, Gordon and Stewart.

Joey Logano's merchandise trailer was the LEAST populated one. The most populated ones were of course Jr, Gordon and Stewart.

We made our way to the pedestrian tunnel and under the track and into the infield and were amazed that basically we were allowed to just meander around the pits pretty much.  That was pretty fun although I admit that occassionally I felt like I was in the way- even though I tried to be extremely cognizant of all the work going on around me- and to be sure not to impede that.

The Garages at PIR were a buzz with activity

The Garages at PIR were buzzing with activity.

Tony Stewarts Office Depot pit crew gets things ready for the evening race.

Tony Stewart's Office Depot pit crew gets things ready for the evening race.

Jimmie Johnsons Lowes pit crew gets things race before the evening race.

Jimmie Johnson's Lowes pit crew gets things ready before the evening race.

Mike Houston, tire carrier for the #24 Dupont pit crew of Jeff Gordon, seeks some shade on pit road.

Mike Houston, tire carrier for the #24 Dupont pit crew of Jeff Gordon, seeks some shade on pit road prior to the start of the race.

Pit Road at Phoenix International raceway

Pit Road at Phoenix International raceway.

Let me speak for a second about the picture above. This I took from pit road looking towards turn four.  See that hill right there? For $35.00 you can drag your chair up the hill- called Rattlesnake Hill and not just for sport and sit there with no midway access. I do not understand why you would want to do that when you can pay $25.00 to sit in the lower level grandstand seats. Crazies. I mean you might get to see a little more of the track but still…I like the ability to be able to go to the bathroom or get a hot dog easily if needed!

Now for the actual race. We were sitting in the AJ Foyt Grandstands in the close seats (row 8 I think) and they might be “cheap” seats but I thought they were pretty damn good- we could see most of the track.  During the warmup laps I was fascinated by the fact that I could actually see in the right side and into the cockpit. I don’t know WHY this fascinated me but it certainly did. I could literally see Tony Stewart sitting in his car hands on the wheel when they drove by (and other drivers as well)…and it was kind of cool to see them right in there car.

When the green flag dropped so did my jaw. Literally.  I think I spent a good 10-15 laps slack jawed.  I do not have the right words to describe the experience but it was louder and faster and just more exciting than any of the previous races I have gone to.  I have mentioned recently that going to an actual race can almost be an assault on your senses…I had no idea!  I don’t know if it was because I was sitting closer to the actual track that I have at other tracks but it was just completely amazing.  It was constant action on that track. I don’t know how the race played on TV because while I did DVR it- I have yet to watch the national broadcast. My brain did not have time to rest at all.  Of course I was paying attention to Tony on the track.  I was trying to keep track of where Ryan Newman was in relation to Tony (the scoring pylon only went up to 15th place) – which became increasingly difficult as the leaders started lapping cars.  I was watching the packs running close together for trouble.  And while I love the smell of a race, being this close actually started to give me a little bit of a headache towards the end from the fumes (of course not leaving my seat for the whole race probably didn’t help the headache).

Tony and Team Office Depot/Old Spice did well throughout the race. There was one kinda crappy pit stop – from which the team rebounded from quickly and well. Tony was in the top five most of the day and even lead the race for a while.  In the end Stewart just did not have enough to catch Mark Martin at the end, coming in second- the highest place finish yet for the newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Office Depot/Old Spice.  I really can’t wait for Stewart-Haas to get their first win.  It’s coming soon. I can feel it. The team is clicking really well- and as soon as that last component snaps into place this team will be in Victory Lane.

This coming weekend: NASCAR is in Talladega.  And Amy will be watching between her fingers!

After a weekend where two of the three practices and the qualifying session were rained out the weather looked beautiful for Sunday’s race at Martinsville.  Martinsville is the shortest track on the circiut but Sunday’s Goody’s 500 was definitely not short on action. I personally, thought Sunday’s race was one of the best this season.

Of course part of that could be because both Stewart-Haas Racing drivers, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman had top ten finishes. Tony finishing the day with an awesome third place finish- the best for Stewart-Haas Racing so far this season.  Ryan Newman finished the day in 8th place- a personal best for his since beginning his tenure at Stewart-Haas racing at the beginning of this season.  Both Tony and Ryan’s teams seemed to be working quite well on Pit Road despite the inherient cramp conditions in the Martinsville pits as well as having some non-choice pitstalls.

Since qualifying was rained out – the field lined up by points.  Initially Jeff Gordon, who started on the pole since he leads the points race right now, took the lead and seemed to stay in the lead a good portion of the race.  His only challenger seemed to be Denny Hamlin- who also looked fairly strong. His car seemed to get stronger while Gordon’s handling seem to fade late in the race- causing him to have a fourth place finish. In the end- it was a shootout between Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson- with the two swapping the lead back and forth several times during the last 22 laps or so. At one point during the swapping back and forth of the lead, Hamlin and Johnson were both practically sideways side by side in the turn.  In the end- Jimmie Johnson was able to get his first cup win of the season.

More Notes on Martinsville:

  • Best Work In of A Sponsor Product: Comes from Saturday’s Practice telecast on SPEEDTv where journalist said to Tony Stewart “This really stinks doesn’t it?” talking about the weather- and Tony retorted “It DOES NOT stink because we have OLD SPICE as a sponsor so it does NOT stink!”
  • Tony was apparently cussing at himself during the end of the race: “I was just cussing at myself because I wasn’t close enough to do anything about it.”
    Tony Stewart, on the winning pass (third)
  • I love how now that Rick Hendrick has been quoted as supporting Tony Eury Jr as Crew Chief for Dale Jr- that the Fox Commentators (I think it was DW) are now stating that part of the reason that Dale is having poor finishes is Tony Stewart’s fault because he recruited Darian Grubb away from HMS.  Um…no.
  • I was glad to hear that even Jeff Gordon gets frustrated during a race- as he threatened to “knock his head off” if Denny (or it might have been Tony- I thought Tony when I first heard it but my friend says no he was talking about Denny) he bumped him again.
  • I had no idea Joey Logano was so tall- (direct from my notes after seeing him standing next to Greg Zipadelli during the national anthem.)
  • Poor Kyle just couldn’t catch a break this race- seemed he was spinning more times than a hula hoop! Neither could Matt Kenseth- always a driver or six short of being the lucky dog.
  • Was it my imagination or did Jeff Gordon slight Tony Stewart’s third place finish in his post race interview?  Jeff felt he had at least a third place car…but he finished fourth (and maintained his points lead).

Next Week: Texas Motor Speedway.

Sometimes when I am bored or I see something I like or don’t like I mentally compose a letter to whatever it is.  Here are some NASCAR related ones (hey it’s on off week- give me a break):

Dear Office Depot Racing Website- I love your website. I love the different backgrounds on the different tabs and moving my mouse from side to side to change the perspective slightly (ok so maybe I am just easily amused).  I actually hit your site at least every other day or so.  However…I need new content!!!  I did notice you have pages for all the crew members now and that occupied me for a tad.  But I am  looking for new wallpapers and maybe some answers to the ASK TONY questions that have been submitted this far?  Or maybe another contest or something??  Just a thought- Amy

Dear Stewart-Haas Racing Website- I visit you quite often too. I have several things to say to you.  First off- kudos to the team managing your VIP Garage section. I had some troubles with my VIP Garage account and they went out of their way to get me all set up- and did it extremely quickly.  Also regarding the VIP garage- it’s taking me forever to be able to open up my gallery…and I want to post some pictures!  Maybe you should lower the number of points needed for the first gallery and up the points needed for the last. Or figure out a way for us to get more points faster.  One of the two will work.  Also- your store is taking forever to open. Please open it soon.  And when you do I would LOVE it if you would have a sticker of just the Stewart-Haas racing logo. I think that is a sweet logo and my car is begging for one.  Every day when I go out to start her up she asks me “DID YOU GET ME ONE OF THOSE COOL STEWART-HAAS LOGO stickers yet? I am feeling pretty plain.” Thanks- AMY (PS-no my car does NOT really talk to me- please don’t call the looney bin- I was just being dramatic).

Dear Team Office Depot: I really think that you guys are gelling awesomely.  Your win will come soon!  Keep digging in and not giving up (Atlanta was awesome- finishing 8th after being 2 laps down at one point! Talk about digging your heels in!).  Good Job–keep it up!!- AMY

Dear Kyle Busch- Your M&M’s car really makes me crave peanut M&Ms. I think it’s because its yellow and has M&M’s on it. Just thought you should know. Thanks. AMY  (PS. Your Pedigree car has never made me crave dog food though. Just in case you were wondering).

Dear NASCAR.COM- I really really really DO NOT like your new layout.  Amy

Dear Old Spice- Ok- I have seen the Tony Stewart Swagger commercials several times now. And I have to ask…what is the deal with being Russian?  Why does the nationality of the gorgeous trophy girl have anything to do with anything? Unsure- Amy

Saturday started with final Daytona 500 practice for Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman of Stewart-Haas racing- and ended badly for the pair. Ryan Newman blew a tire- sending him up the banking and into the wall where he collected his teammate/owner Tony Stewart.  That was not the way one wanted to start their day.  However only hours later Tony Stewart stood in victory lane at the Nationwide race where he drove the Number 80 Hendrick car to victory.  Not a bad turn around in one day. However, Sunday would be the day where all eyes were on Stewart-Haas racing’s number 14 and 39 Chevrolet Impalas.

Watching this Daytona 500 was much like driving while blind deaf.  I did not have the advantage of having HOTPASS this year since DirecTV decided to drop the only sports package I cared about.  I really missed being able to tune into Tony’s in-car radio because it’s how I judge how he feels about the car and his progress during the race.  That way I am not relying on the race announcer’s view of what is going on- I can pretty much tell for myself.

Anyway- during this first race weekend for the newly Stewart-Haas racing, emotions had to run the complete gamet during the week.  The team went through three race cars before the race on Sunday- a feat I am pretty darn sure they were not pleased with.  Ryan Newman’s primary car was wrecked during the Gatorade Duel number 2 on Thursday when he was wrecked by David Reutimann- forcing Newman into his backup car.  Then during the final practice on Saturday, a tire blew and Newman collected teammate/owner Stewart.  Because of the late practice tangle, Stewart had to go to his backup car and Ryan Newman was forced to use Tony’s backup Shootout car, thus sending both cars to start at the back of the field for Sunday’s Great American race.

By lap 25 Stewart had driven his car from 37th to 14th.  After taking on gas and tires during the competition yellow, Stewart was in obvious high spirits as the broadcast switched over to his radio to catch him singing “Ole Ole Ole Ole” and then telling his crew chief Darian Grubb that he didn’t have anything else to do. Announcers later state that Tony believes he has the best handling car out there.  And during short runs on fresh tires Tony seems to be able to draft well and pass cars- charging towards the front. However it seemed to me that the longer the green flag run, Stewart’s car just didn’t seem to have the ability to cut through the field with the ease it did early in the runs.  Also a big kudos to the Team Office Depot pit crew who seemed to get Tony in and out of the pits quickly…Tony rarely, if ever, dropped position after a pitstop…he always seemed to gain a position or two.  I hate to say it but it seemed last year Tony would lose three -five positions during pitstops alone.

Meanwhile teammate Ryan Newman never seemed to really get a feel for the car under him. He was at a serious disadvantage- in a car that was not set up for him or for this race.  The US AMY team did a great job getting the car rewrapped and decal’ed up so that at least it looked like Ryan’s car and not Tony’s. However they did have a slight problem in the pits when Ryan came in for what he thought was a problem with the tire, the crew somehow dropped the car off the jack after the tire had been removed and then had to pick it back up to put the tire up – costing Newman valuable spots in the pits and on the track- a mistake that he was never able to overcome on the track.

At the end of the evening, however, Matt Kenseth ended up winning the rained-shortened Daytona 500 after having led just one green flag lap.  Tony Stewart finished 8th while teammate Ryan Newman finished 36th.

As for Stewart-Haas racing- I think they accomplished one of the bigger tasks on their to-do list for the start of the 2009 (their inaugural) season.  They came to Daytona extremely competitive.  I think good things are going to come out of this team in the very near future.

Other Notes on Daytona:

  • I heard from the national broadcast that Ryan Newman’s crew chief Tony Gibson even used Sharpie markers to cover over some of the last bits of red on the backup car. This I think deserves the race award for most innovative use of a sponsor product.
  • Best quote from the entire speedweeks session at Daytona? Comes from none other than Mr. Tony Stewart who was quoted as responding to the question if going to a backup car after the happy hour crash was a disadvantage to his ability to win the 500 with “I don’t know, Rocket Scientist-I’m sitting here with a backup car. What do you think?”
  • I am probably going to feel the wrath of Jr. Nation for saying this but I really think that frustration was a definite mitigating factor that lead to Junior’s on track skirmish with Brian Vicker’s that ended up taking out a lot of the key players in the race.  I think Junior might not have been thinking clearly because he was pissed about the penalty that he incurred at the previous pit stop.  Junior was held one lap for having the right front tire on the pitbox line which apparently is considered out of bounds.
  • I am also still questioning Joe Gibbs Racings decision to rush Logano into a full-time cup ride. I seriously don’t think he was ready. He seemed to be smacking that car against the wall everytime he went out there and that last incident with Scott Speed  Logano nosed the car into the wall pretty damn hard.  I said this last year and I will say it again…Logano might be too green to be out there with the cup guys on a weekly basis. I still say that Logano should have run a full season or two in the Nationwide series first to break in slowly to the Sprint cup series.

Next weekend NASCAR takes us to the Autoclub Speedway in Fontana California.

  • Ok- as a race fan I am going to make a confession to you. My friend and I discussed this during our respective lunch breaks on Thursday and we are both equally confused.  I do not understand HOW the field is set at Daytona.  I mean I understand that the first row is set on qualifying day. And some but not all Go-or-Go homers are locked in the field on time.  Then there are the Gatorade Duels.  Where the field is split in two 60 lap heat races. But from there I do not understand how the field is then set.  At least I am not the only one… Tony Stewart doesn’t understand either!
  • Speaking of Tony,  let’s talk about Stewart-Haas Racing for a minute.  I am just wondering if the people who thought they wouldn’t be competitive out of the box are eating crow right now? I could be biased since Tony is my driver but Stewart-Haas Racing seem pretty damn strong to me. Stewart did well in the Shootout.  Both Tony AND Ryan did well in on Pole day. Tony did awesome in the Duels. Ryan seemed pretty solid in his duel as well until take out by Ruet.
  • Email exchange with my friend regarding Ryan Newman’s crash during the second Duel:
    • Me: Do you think “Tony the Owner” will have a talk with Ryan Newman about getting pissed at Reutimann or will “Tony the Owner” understand because of his experience as “Tony the Driver”.  AND will “Tony the Owner” be pissed at Reutimann for wrecking “his” race car? All things to think about.
    • Her: Tony the Owner”  will prob manslap* Newman and buy him a beer- lol!
  • I may be a Tony fan but I was glad to see Jeff Gordon have a good finish.  And for the record? I like his new paint scheme this year.
  • Speaking of paint schemes. I have decided officially I like the Office Depot paint scheme better than the Old Spice paint scheme.
  • Raygan Swan’s Splash N Go article this week on NASCAR.COM earlier this week was a silly guide to fans.  I think she was trying to be tongue in cheek- however she tells fansLast, get your supplies. Umbrellas for the Fontana, Calif.” However I do not recommend this….if you are heading towards Fontana FYI- Umbrellas are not allowed at the track in Fontana (or in Vegas) unless they have changed the track rules from last season!

Dear DirecTV- AHHHH now you have really made me mad. After having hotpass for two years now- you decide to drop it? THAT REALLY SUCKS!  I greatly miss being able to hear what is going on in Tony’s car during the race. DAMN YOU!  I bet you still have the other sport packages! Why did NASCAR have to be cut? —Disgruntled, AMY  PS. Don’t try to tell me to get that NASCAR.COM thing where I can hear the audio…doesn’t work for me because I have dial up…AND my computer is not in the same room as my TV.

Dear QVC- You have angered me too!  How? Well first there is a big deal made about the FOR RACE FANS ONLY show that is starting off this season with Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart as guests. So I dvr it- and hear wonderful things about it.  I was really looking forward to getting some glimpses of the Stewart Haas Racing shop. I go to watch said DVR and end up with two hours of an electronics showcase. MAJOR FAIL, QVC! MAJOR!  Your in disgruntlement- AMY PS. Don’t try to make up for it by showing me all the cool diecasts of Tony’s that I can’t afford.

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*-manslap is defined by my friend and I by that strong shoulder (or sometimes back) pat/slap that men give each other. Usually in a WAY TO GO kind of way. Not to be confused with the “good game” butt slap.