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This post compliments the post written by Misty about Fan Fest.

NASCAR’s Champion’s Week festivities in Las Vegas started off on Wednesday with the Chasers for Charity Fan Fest at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  Fans mingled around some of the cars (the 24, the 17, the 16, the 99 and the 48 were all present), sampled some tasty bundt cake (from Nothing  Bundt Cakes- whom I have had the pleasure of having before as Misty’s birthday cake in July), mingled and waited for the drivers to arrive.  This year’s fan fest was different than last year. Last year there was a roast- where fairly pricey tickets were sold to the Roast which was held in the Media Center or fans could sit in the neon garage and listen for free.  This year the chase drivers were divided into two teams to play NASCAR Family Fued on the stage in the NEON garage. Anyone could watch. It was much much more fun for the fans who got to interact with the drivers by yelling out answers to help them. It was far more interactive for fans- who enjoyed the game show.   Drivers walked together down the red carpet and up to the stage for family feud so of course I snapped some pictures:

Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, and Tony Stewart make their way down the Red Carpet to the Family Feud Stage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Photo Credit: Me)

Tony Stewart signs autographs for fans at Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Chasers for Charity Fan Fest. (Photo Credit: Me)

Jeff Gordon signs autographs on the red carpet at Chasers For Charity Fan Fest at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Me)

Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer on the red carpet at Chasers for Charity Fan Fest. (Photo Credit: Me)

Take note of Clint Bowyer in this picture. I will be mentioning him in a different post later…but you need to hold this image of Clint in your head for my story later.

Jimmie Johnson and fan on the red carpet at Chasers for Charity fan fest. (Photo Credit: Me)

Jimmie Johnson and fan on the red carpet at Chasers for Charity fan fest. (Photo Credit: Me)

You may have read in Misty’s post about the Family Feud…that Tony Stewart said something that tickled Jeff Gordon so much he was laughing hysterically (and this wouldn’t be the last time Tony cracked Jeff up over the week but more on that later). This actually happened several times during family feud and I would have LOVED to know what the heck was so damn funny Tony:

Jeff Gordon cracks up at something Tony Stewart said during Family Feud...oh to be a fly on that wall. (Photo Credit: Me)

Not the best picture…the lighting was crappy by this point in the afternoon- but you get the picture.  The best part of the Family Feud game was watching the drivers interact with each other off track.  Family indeed!

Presenting the 2011 Tony Stewart calendar. (photo credit: Edelman)

So…Office Depot Racing put together this completely AWESOME calendar for 2011 of…you guessed it- Tony Stewart. Its available in store at select Office Depot locations as well as ONLINE. I ordered mine online because it came out and then I was off to Vegas and didn’t want to have to search for one. From what I have seen of the calendar I don’t think that they will last long so if you are a Tony Stewart fan or are looking for the perfect gift for the Tony Stewart (or NASCAR) fan in your life I highly recommend you get your hands on one of these calendars as soon as possible. AND? They are extremely reasonable price wise- only 13.99!!! How AWESOME is that? It’s awesome– trust me!!! Want proof? Sure:

Tony leans on the wall

I present the month of MARCH from the Office Depot Racing 2011 Tony Stewart Calendar. (Photo Credit: Edelman)

Tony and the 14 on the lid of the car

Presenting APRIL in the 2011 Tony Stewart Calendar (photo credit: Edelman)

 See? And that is just two of the 12 months.  So visit your local Office Depot or order online today!

Ok- so I slacked slightly in posting the points after the Phoenix race (as in I didn’t post em at all) and now poof the season is over.

So first I am going to give you my analysis of the three different points systems then I will give you the numbers if you are interested (after the jump).

I kept track of the NASCAR traditional points system, a Hybrid system that was basically the same NASCAR points structure with NO SEEDING (all 12 chase drivers start at 0), and what I call the BadGroove Cup- a completely stand alone system that had the drivers starting at 0 and had a completely separate points structure.

In all three systems, Jimmie Johnson is your winner.  So that didn’t really make a difference- I guess if you are good you are good.  The Hybrid system made a difference in the top three in that Harvick would have overtook Hamlin for second.  Last place in all three systems was Jeff Burton- so again no difference was made.  Really the only difference was in the in-between drivers that were not in the top three but not last.  For instance in the end Stewart finishes as high as 7th in the standings and as low as 11th  (Hybrid-no seeding).  Greg Biffle finished as high as 5th (BadGroove cup) and as low as 7th (Hybrid-no seeding).  Jeff Gordon finished as high as 8th (Hybrid-no seeding) and as low as 10th (BadGroove Cup).  So the big winner would have remained Jimmie Johnson on all three systems and the big loser would have remained Jeff Burton in all three systems.  Overall the Hybrid system and the BadGroove Cup system rewarded overall consistency in the last 10 races.

I now present to you the results for the last two races (Phoenix and Homestead) in just the raw numbers: (more…)

Well that was all she wrote…our beloved NASCAR season is over and we now have a Champion – Mr. Five-Time Jimmie Johnson.  And I really don’t understand people who say the chase system doesn’t make for an exciting finish- because that was a nail biter. I am going to be completely honest…I was so wrapped up in the chase that I don’t honestly have much to say about Tony’s run at Homestead except for this: You can’t keep a good man driver down (a lap). Tony somehow ended up a lap down not once, but TWICE through out the race and each time he was able to get that lap back. That last time he was a lap down (I think it had to do with the caution coming out after he and several others went through a round of pit stops- but I am not 100% sure about that) and it could have been bad since it was at the end of the race- but no Tony was about to pull off an eighth place finish (after being a lap down…TWICE) and moved up two positions in the points standings finishing the year in 7th place.  Race winner was Carl Edwards!

So who were you rooting for of the three contenders at Homestead? Were you rooting for Denny? Kevin? Jimmie?  I will tell you who I was rooting for if you tell me who you were rooting for!

Notes about Homestead:

  • I hate to say this…but that incident between Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle on lap 24- the one that caused Denny to spin – and some damage to the car? That really looked like Denny drifted up into Greg to me anyway.
  • And what about Kyle Busch? That was a fiery crash! I was all STOP THAT SUCKER AND JUMP OUT KYLE!!!  Of course I don’t want to see Kyle burn! I actually enjoy him as a driver (not as much as Tony of course).
  • I always feel bad when the championship is clinched by a driver who is NOT the winner in the race. It made me feel that Carl Edward’s celebration was truncated.  He did win the race.  I was a little worried for his safety when he got out of his car to do his trademark backflip and Jimmie had started burning out right next to him. Yikes!
  • Jimmie’s in-car reaction to having won the championship though? He was so excited! I have to say that Chad Knaus’s Post-It note (Our TEAM won!) to the camera- was appropriate. I liked how he emphasized TEAM especially since the pit crew swap.  (Consequently enough I noticed that nearly right away – with in the week of the swap- the Lowes racing website listed the “new” crew- while the Jeff Gordon website also listed his original crew. Interesting.) Ha! Take that Mike Ford!
  • Speaking of the pit crew swap- I had to say I was concerned that since the swap the wrong crew would get credited with the Tissot Fastest Pit Crew – but luckily they explained that on the national broadcast….that while Jeff Gordon’s crew won the award- it was the original crew….the one that ultimate went to help Jimmie after Texas.
  • Apparently we missed some sort of on track altercation between Logano and Montoya after the wreck? They mentioned it on the national broadcast quite briefly but inquiring minds want to know! What happened?

Next Race:  Daytona 2011.

Seriously though- like last year, I am planning on attending Champion’s week celebrations after Thanksgiving so posting might be light that week. I will tweet and facebook so follow me or friend me or whatever…but of course I will post afterwards!

(SMOKE fans…be sure to check back here Wednesday…Just saying).

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.

It’s no secret that Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart are  not only avid outdoors men but love casting a line when given the opportunity.  Being the  fairly competitive people I can only believe they are since they race cars for a living, can you imagine what you get when you throw the both of them in a lake for a charity fishing competition.  That is exactly what both drivers were doing yesterday- they were fishing for charity at Lake Okeechobee in Florida for the Office Depot Foundation Charity Fishing Tournament.

Tony Stewart and His Fish!- 2010 Office Depot Foundation Charity Fishing Tournament. Photo Credit: Gort Productions

Doesn’t it look like Tony was having a GREAT time? Sounds like he did:

“I had a great time fishing and all for a great cause,” Stewart said. “I’ve had a chance to work with the Office Depot Foundation on its National Backpack Program for the past two years, and it’s one of the most rewarding things I do. The National Backpack Program makes a real difference in the lives of kids who might not otherwise be able to go back to school with the tools they need to succeed. It’s pretty amazing to see their faces light up when they get a new backpack.”

The money raised from the tournament will be used to support the Office Depot Foundation’s mission to support the quality of life for children, strengthen communities, encourage economic growth and empower schools and non-profit organizations.

Over at the Office Depot Racing website in the Ask Tony section- someone recently asked Tony who was a better fisherman- Stewart or Newman…to which Tony answered

“Unfortunately, I have to say Ryan. I think I’m good, but whenever I fish with Ryan, he always seems to do better. He’s pulling in fish after fish and I’ve got nothing.”
That wasn’t the case during the charity fishing tournament:  Stewart’s fishing team reeled in a total catch of 14.4 pounds, while Newman’s team wasn’t far behind with 9.4 pounds.

I read a lot of websites with NASCAR news. Seriously- a LOT.  Luckily I have a pretty lenient workplace when it comes to internet usage.  Which means I can spend my breaks, lunch and other down time surfing NASCAR news .  That is an excellent benefit or I would constantly be glued to my laptop culling information from various news sites and blogs and the like when I get home from work and that is just not something I think would be fun- because I am pretty much already glued to a computer screen at work anyway for my job (you know my “real” job- as I have mentioned before and will mention again- I DO NOT GET PAID to write about NASCAR or anything else you see here).  Anyway- there have been a LOT of great articles lately and I wanted to point out some of my favorites I have come across in the last couple of days because I feel you should definitely be reading them:

First up is an article about Tony Stewart (because it really is all about our driver Tony right??):

So AOL fanhouse motorsports writer Holly Cain was given an interesting opportunity…to follow Tony Stewart around for 48 hours midweek for kind of a “day-in-the-life” type piece (yes I know that days are typically 24 hours).  Let me tell you that first off I WOULD LOVE this opportunity — I forget who I said this to recently regarding Tony, but I often wonder when the man sleeps with all he has on his plate so to speak.   Anyway, the article she wrote was one of the best articles about Tony Stewart I have read in a really really long time (not withstanding the BadGroove Tony Stewart interviews of course) and I highly recommend her two part article:

Tony Stewart Gives Fanhouse an All-Access Pass- Part One

and Tony Stewart Gives Fanhouse an All-Access Pass- Part Two

Next article I would like to point you to is an article about the 24/48 pit swap by Jeff Gluck over at SBNation.  It is an interesting and quite informative piece- with some great quotes from both crew chiefs regarding the mid-race switch as well as the decision to keep the pit crews switched for the remainder of the season:

Chad Knaus, Steve LeTarte Open Up About Hendrick Pit Crew Swap.

Another interesting article on the same topic comes from TC over at one of my all time favorite NASCAR blogs (The Nascar Insiders): Digesting The 24/48 Pit Crew Swap (this article has some interesting comments).

And finally I want to point you over to frontstretch.com to an article by Phil Allaway about ESPN’s race coverage: Talking NASCAR TV: Focus Hurts ESPN Once Again At Texas

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Also, some shameless self promotion: my next piece for the Racing In America Blog is up- check out my article Waiting Until Next Year (and while you are there peruse other blog entries by other writers- there is some GREAT stuff over there).

All I can say is WOW. That was a race! Tony Stewart qualified for the race 11th…and finished the race 11th.  It could have been better yes, but it could have been much much worse (just ask Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, and/or Kyle Busch- whom I will all talk about later in this post).

Via the team release Stewart said this about the team’s choice to come in for fresh tires during the late race caution that had the race going green with only two laps to go:

“Hindsight being 20-20, I probably should’ve stayed out, but we took a gamble and, really, what do we have to lose?” said Stewart, who now has 12 top-12 finishes in 18 career Sprint Cup appearances at the Texas track. “We really don’t have anything to lose. We’re eighth in points, so who cares? I’d rather take a chance on doing something to go forward than worry about losing spots and going backward.” — Team Release

However, I honestly think, the #14 Office Depot team had no option but to pit- having a majority of the field in front of him having fresher (more fresh?) tires from the pit stop before, where they elected to stay out.  As it was Tony restarted 16th and worked his way up to 11th in 2 laps! So obviously the fresh rubber was working- he just ran out of time.

And while Greg Biffle seemed to rule most of the race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, it would be Denny Hamlin edging out a hard charging Matt Kenseth for the win.

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And now for the “DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA” portion of this post. WOW. How can people say this sport isn’t exciting?? All this drama and Tony wasn’t even involved believe it or not:

First drama one:  Kyle Busch gets held for two laps additional laps (after being held one lap for a pit road speeding penalty) for giving a NASCAR official the finger.  Now personally I think that the 2 laps was a bit excessive for flipping off an official.  I mean, seriously? That totally put him out of contention for even coming close to winning the race.  You can’t tell me that it wasn’t because he was caught doing this accidentally by ESPN, who flipped over to Busch’s in-car camera right as Kyle expressed his displeasure with the call, live as it was happening.  Now I hear that NASCAR is considering even MORE penalties for Kyle’s heat-of-the-moment gesticulation! Really? Think about this, I flipped someone off this morning…and you know what granted while I do this sometimes in fun or jest  sometimes I am really pissed off and it’s the only thing I can do to express myself.  Kyle is right- it kind of is trampling on his freedom of speech or um…gesture.  Yes,  I have already debated this stand with my father who is of the feeling that it was incredibly unprofessional and immature for Kyle to do.  While I do see that point- he was already punished for it by being held two laps in race so do we really need to trample on it further? Because if we do the consequences may backfire as drivers refuse to express themselves at all.  And no one wants to see that. It is the drivers and their personalities that MAKE this sport!

Ok…now onto drama number two: The Jeff vs Jeff battle on the backstretch.  For those that missed that little gem you can check out this video recap of the incident (you will also see dramas one and three mentioned as well).  Unfortunately ESPN didn’t catch the whole on-track altercation as they were distracted by Martin Truex Jr, who was gracefully spinning through the grass causing his third caution of the day.  From what I saw, it looked like Jeff Burton intentionally spun Jeff Gordon under the yellow. Gordon’s car hit the outside wall hard, pretty much destroying the car.  It was a hard impact- you could see pieces of car and what looked like SAFER barrier flying after the impact.  Burton’s car came to rest further down the track at the inside retaining wall.  Gordon was pissed. You could tell by the video of him in his car that he was pissed.  He then walked down the banking and towards Burton’s car which was parked against the inside wall.  Next thing you know Gordon is shoving Burton and the two go fist-a-cuffs for a bit, with some NASCAR officials jumping in between the two of them.  That was some EXCITEMENT right there!  Now from what I have heard and seen of it I think that there was some sort of incident on track, possibly even before the yellow flew between Gordon and Burton and Burton took out Gordon in a fit of frustration. I hate to say this but I LIKE it when the drivers go toe-to-toe out of the car when they are pissed off.  As I have mentioned before I do not advocate using (stock cars or otherwise) cars to retaliate- but get into a good, old-fashion shoving match there against the infield wall and I am all about that! It shows that this sport is intense when you have two respected drivers getting in each other’s face after an on-track incident.  Good for Jeff Gordon for sticking up for what he believes was right, that Jeff Burton wrecked him and under caution no less.  Bravo.

And for the final drama of the race- After the above mentioned wreck, it was decided to have Jeff Gordon’s pit crew pit Jimmie Johnson’s 48 car while the 48 pit crew packed up the 24 group’s pit box. Ouch.  However, whomever made that call- made a wise one.  Jimmie’s crew seemed to be falling apart at the seams all day, after repeated poor pit stops- including one four tire stop in the 16+ second mark.  Yeah I am sure there are some majorly bruised egos on the 48 pit crew…but one bad pit stop I can see…but FOUR bad ones? Really? You are a four-time champion’s pit crew…your driver is contending for his record breaking fifth consecutive cup title. Yes I am sure you are all under immense pressure…but FOUR? Really??  Jeff’s over-the-wall crew stepped in under what I am assume was Chad’s call and they did not just step in…but they stepped UP and were able to pit Jimmie with decent times.  That is what I call GOOD teamwork.   Just this afternoon Hendrick Motorsports announced that the 24 pit crew will be going over-the-wall for Jimmie Johnson for the last two races of the season.  This is good for Jimmie who I understand is in title contention- but wow- why punish Jeff because his pit crew is ON IT!  I mean his pit crew has been in the running for the fastest pit crew for most of the year! It seems like they are punishing Jeff Gordon for having a good pit crew.  Hopefully the 48 crew can figure out where the disconnect was and get it ironed out for the next two races for Jeff.

One final note about Texas- two fans were hurt during the race when a brake pad flew through the eighth story window of the Speedway club in the first turn. From what I was able to find out, it doesn’t seem like the injuries were life-threatening, thank goodness. I wish them a speedy recovery- no one wants to see anyone get hurt at a race!

Next race: Phoenix