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Our AutoClub adventure starts Thursday morning…I woke up very early, threw my luggage in the HHR and and headed southeast. It would take me about five and a half hours and six different highways to get to the hotel and check in. Misty, on the other hand, lives in Vegas and it only takes her about 3  hours to get there (and only one highway change for her). So she calls me when I am about halfway there to tell me that she has a flat tire! Yeah! Can you believe that? I was glad to find out that she got her flat before leaving town at least so she wasn’t stuck in the desert somewhere on the side of the road! Of course, she was worried she would miss our interview with Tony which was slated for 3:30 pm, but luckily within an hour she had herself a brand new tire (she tried to have it just patched but the problem was a crack in the sidewall) and was back on the road.

We met at our hotel (I was there probably 40 minutes or so before she was so I got us all checked in)…we had plenty of time to catch up (I hadn’t seen her in person since her birthday in late July), change and we were off to Rancho Cucamonga to the Office Depot Autograph appearance- which is where our interview would be taking place. We got there right on time. The show car was in the lot…the crowd waiting for autographs wrapped around the building…I was excited. Last time we interviewed Tony I was extremely NERVOUS (I remember cringing when I transcribed our first Tony interview back in March- because I could HEAR how nervous I was in my voice)…did I tell you guys that? Yeah I was SO freaking nervous that first time I don’t think I have EVER been so nervous. (If you are new here- Misty and I interviewed Tony before the race in Vegas back in February- you can read that interview here).

Misty and I finally got to meet Valli from The Fast and The Fabulous…and the three of us stood there at the Office Depot in the “media” area and chatted while Tony did a local television interview.

From right to left: Misty, Valli, Amy (me).

From left to right: Misty, Valli, Amy (me).

When Tony wrapped up with his television interview (which you can watch here…it came out great) Misty and I were up next.  So without further ado…here is our second interview with Tony Stewart:

AMY: We interviewed you in Vegas at the beginning of the season and here we are it’s near the end of the season, can you tell us how your perspectives change from the beginning of the season when you are just starting to now where the end is in sight?

TONY: Well there is a lot of optimism at the beginning of the year but at this point of the season the handwriting is kind of on the on the wall.  We know that we accomplished the goal of making the chase now we are in the second phase of that goal of trying to win the championship and it’s not off to a great start BUT it’s the tightest chase field we have ever had. We are tenth and we are 124 points out and we were able to gain 40 points last weekend in one day so there is potential. We are definitely not out of this thing at all. We got a lot of races left to go. If we have three more races like we had last weekend- we are right in this. We are definitely not out of this.

AMY: What is a typical race morning like for you?

TONY: Wake up, shower, no breakfast at that point. Go do our hospitality appearances and then go to the drivers meeting. Once the drivers meeting is over then I come back to the motor home and that’s kind of my time to relax and be to myself. That’s when I get my breakfast/lunch and just get ready for the race.

AMY: What was your favorite part of working this past summer with the Office Depot backpack give away program?

TONY: Probably seeing the kids.  There is something about kids where there is no hidden agendas at that age.  Every emotion that a child has is an honest emotion.  So seeing these kids smile when they come up and get their backpack and seeing the pride on their face that’s…you can’t pay for that. That’s not something you can pay to get… that emotion from a child…that’s by far the best part.

MISTY:  We know that you are in the middle of having a house built…what feature are you looking forward to most?

TONY: My fish tank.  I have a big freshwater fish tank like you have at  Bass Pro Shops.  I am really really excited about it.  It’s virtually done- everything around it is what we are kind of working on right now. It will be nice when we get the water back in it and we get fish in it and it gets on a day to day deal. It’s pretty neat. Like I said, I have seen it full of water, I have seen the waterfall work that goes into it. But it will be nice when the house is actually done and we can get the fish in it.

MISTY: What’s on your ipod right now?

TONY: Oh god…I just updated it last night.  It’s full of everything. It’s full of the same stuff I had at Vegas plus more stuff since then! I wish I could remember the guys name that I downloaded last night, he’s kind of a mix between Kenny Wayne Shephard and Stevie Ray Vaughn, kind of a bluesy guy. One of our dirt track guys turned us on to him but I can NOT remember his name…he had a real wild last name.  We honestly have a little bit of everything. I am not a big heavy metal fan…there is probably more classic rock than anything on my ipod.

So that is our official interview with Tony…which took place right there in the back of the Rancho Cucamonga Office Depot right by the furniture department:

Misty, Tony and Amy

Misty, Tony and Amy

The best part of the whole thing was when Tony complimented us by saying “I LOVE dealing with these girls!” He then went on to be interviewed by Valli…so I will be sure to let you know when that is up over there.

I will wrap up here but definitely say tuned in for more adventures from AutoClub speedway!

Stewart-Haas Racing fans (and no doubt owner/driver Tony Stewart himself) are breathing a collective sigh of relief today as the team announced they have found a replacement co-sponsor for the void left when Old Spice announced they would no longer be sponsoring Stewart’s #14 Chevy Impala come next season.  The press conference was at Stewart-Haas Racing this morning.  Mobil 1 is replacing Old Spice by being a primary co-sponsor with Office Depot.  The press conference also including an unveiling of the Mobil1 car paint scheme:

Hood of the #14 Mobil 1 paint scheme that Stewart will run for 11 races in the 2011 season (Picture courtesy of @StewartHaasRcng)

So…besides liking the paint scheme…did you notice anything else? Anything different about the car? Maybe that this is one of the first views we are getting of the new nose of the 2011 sprint cup cars.  Look Ma…no splitter braces!  (for a better view of the new nose you can check out this picture tweeted from the event by journalist Jim Utter of the 2011 Office Depot paint scheme or this picture posted by Jayski yesterday of the 2011 Burger King paint scheme).

I like the new look to the nose of the sprint cup car…maybe the lack of splitter braces will help it keep from becoming a debris collection area.

***

Updated to add this great video interview with Tony done by Marty Smith:

I am home! Actually I have been home several hours now. I came home to one very happy beagle…who did her happy dance for like two minutes…sniffed my luggage for a couple more and then wandered off unimpressed. But that is just Roxy for you.

Oh wait…you didn’t know I was gone did you? I think I failed to mention that I was on my way down to Autoclub Speedway for the race. It was a great time…made even greater by the fact that Tony Stewart…WON (and at track he hadn’t won at before). I have pictures to download, an interview to transcribe (yes we interviewed Tony again- he was very gracious to grant us another interview before his autograph session on Thursday afternoon) and tons of laundry to do. Oh and a beagle to feed.

I need you to be a little patient with me…I will do my race recap soon, as well as the points thing I have been doing and of course the Interview with Tony himself.

Until I get a chance to get all that stuff done, you can read my latest Racing In America blog post about my general analysis of the points in the Chase and how removing the seeding system would change things up.

Tony qualified for the race in Kansas 14th (which I think is funny since he drives the 14 car). He had a good strong run at Kansas and even got the 10 bonus points (5 for leading a lap and 5 for leading the most laps…YEY). Combine that with a strong finish of 4th. While Tony remains 10th in the points after the Kansas race due to several strong finishes by other chase contenders, Stewart’s strong showing at Kansas trimmed his points deficit on the leader from 165 points before the race to 127 after. While Greg Biffle was the race winner, Jimmie Johnson overtook Denny Hamlin for the points lead in the Cup standings.

Did you see Tony during the pre-race ceremonies holding Gavin Grubb (son of crew chief Darian Grubb)…that Gavin is ADORABLE!

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 03: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Office Depot Chevrolet, holds his crew chief's son Gavin Grubb during prerace for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Price Chopper 400 on October 3, 2010 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 03: Tony Stewart, driver of the Office Depot Chevrolet, holds his crew chief's son Gavin Grubb during prerace for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Price Chopper 400 on October 3, 2010 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NOTES ABOUT KANSAS:

  • I can only bet that winner of the OFFICIAL SMALL BUSINESS OF NASCAR (sponsored by the Office Depot) winner from last week at Dover, Mike Pagano of PaganoPhotography, wishes that Greg Biffle had won LAST weekend because that would have been a million dollar award to his small business.  To quote my two and a half year old nephew, AWW MAN!

Next Race: Autoclub Speedway in California! GoTONYGo!

When I bought my HHR- I let the vanity plates that were on my trade in go.  There were several reasons I did that but one of the major ones is that I found out (after having the plates for several years) that my mom thought they sounded dirty (BADGRUV) even though that technically they were just the name of this site- truncated into 7 characters).   When I got my sequential plates for the HHR I immediately hated them.  6BCZO95.  It was the BZCO part that I didn’t like, but it wasn’t with enough vigor to go through the hassle and expense of getting new vanity plates.  But in March I decided what the heck and started formulating a plan for new vanity plates.

It took me awhile and I batted around ideas with Misty…and I finally came up with (heart)14 SHR (in CALI you can have a special character on your plate if you pay a little more). I filled out the form online and paid the deposit and began the waiting game.  I am not a patient person when it comes to waiting for something I want.

Eight weeks later I got a lovely letter in the mail from the DMV stating that my plates had been denied.  No reason was given other than they reserve the right to reject plates that are considered lewd or otherwise offensive and if I have questions I can call.  I did and the person I spoke with first compared my requested plate up against the list of automatic turn downs and it passed those.  I would need to speak with someone at the field office but it was a Thursday afternoon and they were furloughed on Friday so I would have have to wait til Monday or Tuesday for my call back. So I waited.  Meanwhile I wracked my brain trying to figure out what on earth could be lewd or offensive about (heart)14SHR…I came up blank. Everyone I asked came up with nothing.

I finally got my call back on the following Monday afternoon. Turns out…California does not let the number 14 on license plates because of connotation it has with the “14 Words.”  I had to look it up online because I hadn’t even heard of it before- it’s some aryan thing. So yeah…my plates were denied because they were considered racist of all things (can you read the eyeroll in there? Because it’s there.)  BUT she said…BUT I could write a letter of contest if the number has a special meaning to me and they would consider it.  BUT that would just slow down the whole process.  I hung up, admittedly disheartened.  I could NOT figure out a way to make a plate that showed my love of SHR and the 14 without using the number 14.  (Try it…it’s not easy). I did NOT want to write a letter and get involved in some battle regarding the semantics of a personalized license plate with the freaking DMV.

But I really wanted to get rid of my sequential plates.  So I chatted with Misty some more and I am pretty sure she came up with what I ended up with:

Get it? T STEW(heart). Say it out loud fast: Stewheart.  I just hope that there are no crazy people out there who think I am a stew lover….it could and probably will happen.  My first vanity plates were BK2RLTY– Back To Reality.  But people kept asking me if I was in realty.

So…the race at Dover was NOT what a Tony Stewart fan wanted to see.  Between an ill handle on the car (at one point Stewart described it as plowing) and a detrimental speeding penalty on pit road at lap 115,  Tony and the Office Depot Old Spice Chevy did NOT have the best of races.   As a fan it was really hard to watch the team struggle so much.  What made it even worse? Only one Chase driver finished lower than Stewart- and that was Clint Bowyer. Tony finished 21st and maintains his position in the standings. He is currently 10th, 162 points behind leader Denny Hamlin. Race winner for Dover was Jimmie Johnson.

However, while Tony is down right now, he is not OUT by any means…now for some pictures from the race at Dover, most provided to me by Glenn Bure of AI press:

Tony on track at Dover. Photo Courtesy of Glenn Bure, AI Press

Tony backstage at PreRace Ceremonies. Photo Courtesy of Glenn Bure, AI Press

Tony during PreRace ceremonies at Dover. Photo Courtesy of Glenn Bure, AI Press

Tony and fellow driver (is that JJ Yeley?) share a lighthearted moment in Dover. Photo Courtesy of Glenn Bure, AI Press

Now this picture I included because WTH is going on in the background? Is that guy taking a nap? Photo courtesy of Glenn Bure, AI Press

This is one of those pictures where you just wish you were privy to the conversation...because what the heck is going on? (Photo blatantly borrowed from tonystewart.com media gallery)

As for the Office Depot Official Small Business of NASCAR contest. The winner was Mike Pagano who was riding on Greg Biffle’s car. Congratulations Mike on becoming the Official Small Business of NASCAR.

Well that’s it for this race.

The standings post might be a day late or so…waiting on the appeal for Clint Bowyer.  Also- while yes I heard about the Harvick vs Hamlin shenanigans I can’t really comment on them because I didn’t really see or hear much about it because I basically had my head in the sand on Saturday.

Next race: Kansas! GO TONY GO!

If you know me personally or have read me for eons, then you know that I love music and have pretty damn eclectic tastes in music that really runs a wide gamut.  I also absolutely adore a mix cd (ahhh mix tapes) thoughtfully compiled for me of music that the giver thought I would enjoy or that reminds them of me. That is really cool. Because of this I also like to peruse the celebrity playlists on iTunes.

Anyway, I recently received a 2010 Chase Playlist compiled to go along with the chase with songs picked by some of the drivers from this years chase (this was sent to be by a PR person- I didn’t compile it myself):

  1. Not Afraid- by Eminem (Denny Hamlin)
  2. Nothing Else Matters- by Metallica (Jimmie Johnson)
  3. Walk The Line- by Johnny Cash (Kevin Harvick)
  4. CC Rider- by Elvis (Clint Bowyer)
  5. Jukebox Hero- by Foreigner (Carl Edwards)
  6. Everything- by Buck Cherry (Greg Biffle)
  7. Another Way To Die- by Disturbed (Matt Kenseth)
  8. Love The Way You Lie- by Eminem (Denny Hamlin)
  9. It’s Now Or Never – by Elvis (Clint Bowyer)
  10. Say It Ain’t So- by Weezer (Kevin Harvick)
  11. Enter Sandman- by Metallica (Greg Biffle)
  12. Miracle- by Nonpoint (Matt Kenseth)

(yes I know that not ALL chase drivers were represented…but this is the list that was given to me).  Interesting choices don’t you think?

It got me thinking of songs I could add to this list…a 2010 Chase Playlist….here is what I would add:

  1. I Don’t Wanna Stop- By Ozzy Osbourne
  2. Shut Up and Drive- by Rihanna
  3. Right Now- by Korn

So tell me what you would add or what songs remind you of your favorite driver ( in the comments) because honestly? I am looking for some new (to me) music!

The race this weekend is at the MONSTER MILE in Dover and it is the second race of the Chase (GO TONY GO). However, it isn’t just championship points on the line at Dover this weekend; for two small businesses it is the race of a lifetime. Office Depot has put a twist in it’s “Official Small Business of NASCAR” contest this year. Earlier in the season Office Depot took in entries for the contest and two finalists have been announced! Each of these businesses have received a $10,000 makeover fro Office Depot and a VIP Race experience for 2 to the race this weekend). One business will grace Tony Stewart’s #14 Office Depot sponsored car and one business will grace Greg Biffle’s #16 3M sponsored car. Whichever driver is the highest placing driver, the small business they are representing gets the title of Official Small Business of NASCAR (including the use of the Official Small Business Of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot Logo). If either Stewart or Biffle win the race at Dover, that business will get an additional prize of $1 million dollars.

Office Depot Contest Winners

Rose Berger, owner of Professional Cleaning Service of Greer, SC and Mike Pagano, owner of Pagano Photo from New Jersey are the Finalists in Office Depot's Official Small Business of NASCAR contest. Photo provided by: Edelman

Driver Greg Biffle was paired with Mike Pagano, owner of PaganoPhoto-Photos by Mike Pagano. PaganoPhoto grew out of Mike’s passion for photography that he developed on the side while working full time as a Supervising Environmental Specialist for New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection. He has worked for the State of New Jersey for 23 years. He officially launched PaganoPhoto as a business venture in 2009 and plans to make it his full time endeavor when he retires. He is currently PaganoPhoto’s sole employee.

“Being a finalist in the ‘Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot’ sweepstakes is a great opportunity for me to expand my business,” said Pagano, who will be joined by his wife at the track. “This photography business is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I really want to get more into it once I retire. The $10,000 small business makeover from Office Depot will enable me to purchase much needed new computer equipment and office furniture for my business, and if Greg wins, the $1 million prize will allow me to retire from my current full-time job and establish my full-time photography business much sooner than otherwise possible!”

Driver Tony Stewart has been paired with Rose Berger, owner of Professional Cleaning Service.  She started PCS in 1995 as a family-run business in Greer, South Carolina.  All three of Berger’s daughters work for the full-service cleaning company in some capacity; eldest daughter Jessica opened the company’s first satellite office in Columbia, South Carolina.

“Being an ‘Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot’ finalist is a great thing for my business, and I hope it will help us move forward and recover from the bad economy,” said Berger, who has had to reduce her staff from 12 to seven over the past year. “It’s been tough – when people have to tighten their belts, cleaning services often get cut. The added attention and exposure from the sweepstakes will be a great reminder to people that we’re still here and ready to help them with their cleaning needs. I’m just so excited to see the Professional Cleaning Service logo on Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy during the race,” she said. “And if he wins the race and I win $1 million, it would be amazing! I’d probably be in shock. And then I’d pay off my business loans, hire more staff and go to a lot more NASCAR races!”

Office Depot Contest Winners

Rose Berger, owner of Professional Cleaning Service, is paired with driver Tony Stewart. Photo provided by: Edelman

Here is a video you might enjoy of the winners courtesy of Edelman: