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

Dear Santa-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you have been reading here for any length of time, you know I like love to take pictures. I really do.  I have even taken a couple of online photography classes trying to better my techniques.  It was in one of my classes that I decided that I do not like taking pictures of people…especially when they are posed or posing.  They usually end up with monkey grins or looking like they are wearing the world’s most uncomfortable underwear.  Plus, when you take a picture of a car or a horse or something, they don’t tend to bitch about having to stand still while you take just one more shot.  Portraiture is just not my bag I guess.  I would much rather take pictures of flowers or animals or whatnot.

However when I was at the NASCAR Champions Week celebration and festivities in Las Vegas I got some of the BEST pictures of PEOPLE that I have ever taken.  That is when it dawned on me-  I can take good pictures of people as long as they don’t know I am taking their picture or at the very least aren’t posing for me.  So my best three photos of Champions week are:

Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson

Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson talk during a break at the 2010 Stewie Awards in Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Tony Stewart smiles at the 2010 Stewie Awards in Las Vegas, NV

Probably the best picture of Tony Stewart I have managed to take...because most of them manage to blur because I get nervous and move the camera. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Jimmie Johnson smiles on the red carpet at the Chasers for Charity Fan Fest in Las Vegas, NV

Now I know that here it looks like Jimmie is posing for me but he's NOT! He is actually smiling at a little boy who is sitting on his father's shoulders behind me. The little boy kept calling out "Jimmie Johnson...Jimmie Johnson!" (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Now you might be wondering where on earth Clint Bowyer fits into all this, since clearly my “best” photos were NOT of Clint.  Well as a result of After The Lap and The Stewies, I found out that Clint  is a really funny guy.  Honestly I have never really given Bowyer much thought before but he really is a funny guy and spent most of the time laughing and cutting up at both After the Lap and The Stewies.  But damned if I can get a picture of the man where he doesn’t look grumpy.  I present to you all my pictures of Clint Bowyer as evidence:

My very first picture of Clint Bowyer...grimacing in the garage at LVMS three years ago. Ok so maybe he was working and this is Clint's "race" face...but really he just looks annoyed. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

So that isn’t that bad BUT he looks kind of ticked off right? Well trust me…they only get worse. Check out this picture of Clint signing autographs on the red carpet at Fan Fest:

Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer on the red carpet at Chasers for Charity Fan Fest. (photo credit: Amy K. Marbach)

See? This is NOT Clint Bowyer’s personality- I would know since I was there- he is not the grumpy gus that my camera catches…it’s my apparent inability to catch him in a flattering way.  I am sad to admit that  have an even worse picture of Clint from the Stewies:

Clint Bowyer at the 2010 Stewie Awards

Clint Bowyer at the 2010 Stewie Awards. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

So why I can’t get a decent picture of Clint Bowyer I don’t know. It use to be that I could never get a decent picture of Tony Stewart because he would make me nervous and I would move the camera so all my pictures of the man would be blurry. But that has changed. With Bowyer it’s different…I can’t caught a flattering image of him for the life of me.  I have no explanation for it really.

Also I just wanted to include a side note that while taking pictures to document NASCAR Champions Week 2010 I felt like a paparazzi, especially during the red carpet walk for Fan Fest and during the Stewies.  It was kinda weird.

(or how on earth I didn’t pee my pants I am not sure).

Directly after the Victory Lap and Burnouts on Thursday was the After The Lap Q&A at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.  Which meant Misty and I had to jam! We left our prized burnout spot for the car before the smoke from Jeff Burton’s car had dissipated and started towards the Hard Rock.  We had about half an hour and while we weren’t THAT far from the Hard Rock, traffic was backed up from the closing of Las Vegas Blvd for the Victory Lap and the lights at Las Vegas intersections? Are the longest lights I have ever experienced in my entire 30-something years of living. We get to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and basically RUN to into the Joint and grab two seats in the back near where the drivers would be entering. This event was FREE but space was limited and on a first come/first serve. So Las Vegas native Jamie Little was doing the emceeing/hosting of the event and the Chase drivers are announced- walk into the Joint from the back towards a little catwalk then onto the stage.  I would have gotten some great pictures of them entering except someone was a little fogger happy at the Joint so all I got were shadowy people in a fog.  I will spare you.

The drivers sat on directors chairs on-stage and were asked questions that were submitted on facebook, twitter, on video from the tracks, and even a couple from the audience.  Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon were seated next to each other much like at Family Feud the day before and they talked back and forth even when it wasn’t their turn to talk- it was funny. I would love to know what they were saying.  Anyway,  if you follow me on twitter you might have caught my tweet from the event:  I am laughing my ass off at the after the lap q&a. These guys are funny as hell!! And I truly was…laughing my butt off.   Best line of the night though? Came from Tony Stewart.  Let me set it up:

Someone (Clint Bowyer I think?) brought up that the drivers were all changing from their suits into their firesuits in the same room from the Luncheon early in the day to the Victory Lap in the early afternoon.  Apparently Kyle Busch was wearing bright green boxers.  The other drivers found that to be uproariously funny and mentioned it several times throughout the evening.  Anyway- after much talk of Kyle’s green boxers, Tony gets a hold of one of the microphones and states: I don’t know what you guys over there were doing (motioning towards the drivers on the other side of the stage from him) but you were spending WAY too much time looking at each other’s junk.  I nearly fell out of my chair (and I hadn’t had anything to drink so don’t think I was drunk).

In between answering the questions we learned that Jeff Gordon is afraid of needles and doesn’t have any tattoos. And Clint Bowyer? The man is hilarious!  Who knew?  Not me but indeed Clint Bowyer is HILARIOUS! And we all know that Tony is a great storyteller and he had a couple to tell….needless to say that watching these guys interact with each other outside of the track was great!!

Now we wanted to go to the Stewies but we weren’t sure where they were.  Originally we had heard they would be at The Hard Rock as well…but then someone else in the Q&A had mentioned they were going to be at the Rio.  There was no way would have time to get all the way to the RIO Q&A and happen onto the Stewies being set up right there outside in the Joint Lobby.  We take a prime spot for the taping. Last year by the time we got to the Stewies it was so full of people that we were stuck way up in the balcony and could barely see. We didn’t have that problem this time.  And let me just say…poor Kyle Busch’s green underwear were brought up AGAIN on the radio.  Here is Misty’s awesome video of the Jeff Gordon section of the Stewies:

(Video credit: Misty Bethany)

I also got some great shots during the Stewies:

Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson talk during the commerical break at The 2010 Stewie Awards.

Tony and Clint Bowyer during to 2010 Stewie Awards.

Tony and Jeff Gordon during the 2010 Stewie Awards.

Tony and Stewie recipient Delana Harvick at the 2010 Stewie Awards.

Tony in the middle of a story at the 2010 Stewie Awards.

(All photos credited to ME).

You can see who won in each Stewie catagory at the Stewies Site on Sirius XM’s website as well as listen / watch snippets of video from the event as well…

While I was pretty much on the go all day both Misty and I laughed our butts off at After The Lap and The Stewies.  It was a great day!

The Thursday of NASCAR Champions Week in Vegas was a crazy, chaotic day that had us running all over town…literally.  There was the luncheon at the Bellagio (which is a beautiful hotel by the way)…where Dale Earnhardt Jr won his umpteenth favorite driver award…and more importantly- Tony Stewart won the 2010 Home Depot Humanitarian of the Year award (and yes I nearly squealed like a school girl when I found out).

Then it was the Victory Lap and Burnouts down the Las Vegas Strip.  Having attended this last year- Misty and I had the perfect spot for viewing (and pictures and video) the burnouts.  Also? This year rocked because all top 12 drivers did burn outs- last year just Jimmie burned out- the rest just squirreled around the turn! Anyway, we staked out our spot early. Ok, really early, because we didn’t want to worry about it getting usurped.  The weather this year was warmer than last year which was great because by the time they burned out last year I was frozen solid into a Popsicle.  We were so cold that by the end of it last year we were both shaking uncontrollably. This year we were prepared with layers but didn’t need to worry.  So without further ado…some pictures:

Jimmie Johnson burnout on the Las Vegas Strip for the Champions Victory Lap celebration.

Denny lights them up on Las Vegas Blvd.

Smoke burns some rubber on Las Vegas Blvd.

Kyle burns out on the Las Vegas Strip.

Jeff Gordon takes his turn laying some rubber on the Las Vegas Strip.

Clint Bowyer's Las Vegas burnout.

(All photos of the burnouts are credited to ME!)

And Misty with her arms of steel took this great video of the awesome burnouts:

(Video credit: Misty Bethany who is now the chief videographer for badgroove.com)

It’s a family affair…NASCAR is… and this was never more apparent to me than at this year’s Champions Week  Fan Fest at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  The gates opened at 10 a.m.  for fans to mingle in the Neon Garage in anticipation of the driver’s appearances that afternoon.  Fans of all ages, just like the Christmas song says, “from ages 2-92”, were there and they were ready to see the Chasers. 

There were some activities and sights to entertain the fans before the afternoon’s main event, but most began lining up alongside the red carpet almost immediately, looking to get an autograph or a picture of their favorite Chase driver. 

Nothing like standing in the hot sun, elbow to elbow with complete strangers to create some camaraderie and friendship.  NASCAR fans are a pretty friendly and gregarious group of people and when you are shoulder to shoulder together for hours on end you tend to get pretty close, pretty fast sharing stories to pass the time and take your mind off of how bad your feet hurt, and how much longer before the boys arrive.

This kind of quick camaraderie and sense of belonging among the fans didn’t surprise me.  After all what NASCAR fan hasn’t witnessed the same thing in any parking lot and track on the circuit, but what did surprise me was how that sense of family, recognition and belonging carried on with the drivers.  As the top 12 NASCAR drivers inched their way down the red carpet, it dawned on me how much like a family we all are.  These elite athletes could easily have sauntered down the red carpet, smiling for a few pictures, maybe signing an autograph or two to appear engaged in the moment and then carried on with themselves, but they didn’t do that at all.  In fact, just as I said, they literally “inched” their way down the carpet stopping to sign autographs for most, if not all, the fans who asked, taking time to really engage with the fans.  Some even came back to fans that they had missed on the first pass.  In the big scheme of things, the extra 15 minutes it took these guys to walk down the red carpet probably doesn’t matter much to them, but it made all the difference to those fans who watch them week in and week out, year after year.  I have to admit, that the experiences I have had over the last two years during Fan Fest has given me admiration for drivers that I was previously ambivalent or even antipathetic toward before “meeting” them on the red carpet.

To bring home the family feel even further was the way they guys interacted with one another on stage during “Family Feud”.  Watching them tease, joke and laugh at each other, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own family gatherings and struck by how much these guys remind me of my loud, crazy cousins getting rowdy at grandma’s every holiday.  Who knew Clint Bowyer was such a cut up or that Tony Stewart could make Jeff Gordon laugh so hard he literally slapped his knee???  It was fun to watch and made me feel connected to these drivers and this sport even more than I already did.

Fan Fest is an awesome experience, a place you can bring your whole family to get a glimpse of the personalities they watch on track every week, and feel confident that nobody is going to be disappointed or disillusioned with their favorite driver.  In fact, the only real danger I see is walking away liking one of the drivers that you previously rooted against on Sunday.

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!