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I am not sure if it’s just because this season is still pretty fresh- only being 2 races in- but I am feeling extremely excited and optimistic this year- and not just about Tony Stewart’s season but about the season in general. The racing seems good and of course it helps my outlook seeing Tony Stewart so competitive so early in the season.

Tony not only lead a lap this race- he actually was the driver who lead the second most laps (second only to race leader Jeff Gordon). He was able to get through several accidents (one that wiped out about a third of the field) unscathed and finished 7th only due to a call for two tires at the second to last caution that gave him the lead. He would have probably held the lead had the race stayed green. Unfortunately there was a caution and it put all the drivers who picked up four tires at the previous caution to be able to out gun him on the restart. Usually that would make me mad- BUT it was great to see the team doing so well that I couldn’t even feel too badly about it. Plus that 7th place finish moved Tony Stewart up to 3rd in points!

It was great to see Jeff Gordon in victory lane!

Next week the boys are racing in Vegas!

I just wanted to share this little video from Lionel Nascar Collectibles of Tony taking some time to answer some questions from Fans that they collected. This was shot at the Office Depot autograph appearance the Tuesday before the Daytona race. A big thanks go out to Lionel for letting us share their video with you:

My two favorite parts of the video? The very begining – the first question- his emphatic NO answer before Michelle has even finished asking the question. And the smile / reaction he had when he heard the twitter name (TStewartLuvr14) of the person who asked the last question. It’s a great video and I am sure you will enjoy it.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Daytona 500. As a long time NASCAR fan I appreciate the rich history of the track at Daytona, afterall NASCAR was born on the sandy beaches there. I love that modern Daytona 500 races retain some of the history by being the only races in the series to retain the tradition of qualifying races (the duels/twins). Hell I love Daytona for no other reason than it signals the beginning of my NASCAR season; when the “big boys” take to the pavement nearly every weekend from now until Thanksgiving- racing their hearts out, pushing themselves and their equipment to the maximum. I LOVE Daytona for the excitement and optimism of a new season…that this will be Tony Stewart’s year!

However, there are things I don’t like about Daytona. And they all hinge on the fact that I don’t like it when drivers have to rely on other drivers to get around the track and win a race. The kind of driving we see on the super speedways of Daytona and Talladega especially. That being said- I much more preferred the two-car break away drafting (I think some people have been calling it pod racing but that makes me think of Starwars) we saw this year. Cars would pair up and work around the track in little two car teams. I thought it made the racing far more exciting that they long train-style drafting of years past- where two really long trains of drafting cars would jockey back and forth around the track all day. That racing I did NOT like at all. At least the two-car breakaways made it more interesting.

Sure there were a lot of wrecks and spins and cautions but that is to be expected as this style of driving is new to the drivers. They need to learn what work sand what doesn’t work- and they only way to do this is to see how far they can push it. Afterall, isn’t that what racing is about; pushing until you can’t push any longer? You need to know how far you can go- and you can only find that threshold of too far by going over it a few times. Even experienced drivers like Tony Stewart where having occasional trouble with it. Tony said on his radio during the race “Will someone please tell me what I’m doing wrong that spins guys out?!

Speaking of Tony Stewart, it was very very encouraging to me to see both Tony and teammate Ryan Newman both up towards the front of the pack at different points during the race.  That’s definitely a marker towards a good season ahead.  Tony drafted with several different drivers during the course of the 500 mile race but my favorite was when he was listening to him and Junior draft together.   I enjoyed listening to them communicate directly back and forth with each other instead of playing a complicated game of telephone that includes two spotters like he had to do with other drivers he drafted with like Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.  Tony also seemed to be able to talk directly to Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer so I think it was a Chevy driver thing. I just wish Tony hadn’t gotten shuffled back so far during the green/white/checker attempts as everyone jockied for dancing partners all day.  Tony ended up finishing 13th and is currently 12th in series points with 31 points- which is 11 points behind points leader Carl Edwards.

Of course, the real story of the race is the win by 20 year old Trevor Bayne.  They had been poking fun at Trevor during practice- about how he was always the first person out on pit road in the mornings. How he was an eager beaver sort of driver. How he sought out his idol- Jeff Gordon after driver intros then again after the parade lap. How he worked with his idol during the Gatorade Duels.  He was obviously a quick study. That move at the end of the race- how he jumped down in front of Carl Edwards as they were coming to the checkered flag? That move was something you would see from a veteran driver. It was awesome to witness.  Congratulations to Trevor- he’s one to keep your eye on. He will be going places I am sure of it. If you didn’t see Misty’s post on Trevor’s win- it’s a great read: Fresh Bread, not Sliced Bread, is Good for NASCAR.

NOTES ABOUT DAYTONA:

  • Congratulations go out again to Tony Stewart for winning his 4th Daytona Nationwide victory in a row (not to mention he’s won 6 of the last 7 nationwide races).  I LOVED the oreo paint scheme. I think it was great! You can find the diecast to pre-order available here.
  • Okay…I SQUEALED when I saw the Transformers NASCAR cars on the warm up laps.  Those things look AMAZINGLY COOL! I hope they have them at LVMS when I go- I want to see those things up close.
  • Don’t forget to vote daily for your favorite driver at the Wheaties Fuel Most Popular Driver website (formally the Hambuger Helper Most Popular Driver).

Next Race: Phoenix!

Tony Stewart will have a little extra incentive to take care of business and win his Duel on Thursday. Not only will he want to win purely for the sake of winning and getting the best starting position possible for Sunday’s Daytona 500…but he can win a little extra money for the Tony Stewart Foundation if he does- all thanks to Lexmark! Lexmark not only announced the release of it’s new Lexmark Genesis s815 printer yesterday available at an Office Depot near you (or online from OfficeDepot.com), but it also announced a donation of $10,000 to the Tony Stewart Foundation and offered to double it if he wins his Duel race. That is $20,000 smackers for the Tony Stewart Foundation to put towards it’s mission of serving chronically ill children, endangered animals, and injured drivers.

“The Duels at Daytona are always exciting because the higher you finish, the better your starting spot is for the Daytona 500. But for this year’s Duel, I have a little added incentive knowing that the Tony Stewart Foundation could receive some extra funding if I win,” said Stewart, who has awarded almost $4 million to assist charitable initiatives through his foundation since 2003. “I am so proud to partner with companies like Office Depot and Lexmark that believe in Taking Care of Business by giving back to their communities and to those in need. As for the wager, the new Lexmark Genesis S815 printer is really fast, and in our business, speed counts.”

So if Tony wins his Duel it’s not only a great starting position in the 500 but a big with for him…and for his foundation! All I can say is: Go Tony Go!!!

And just like that we are underway in the beginning of the 2011 NASCAR season.  So yesterday evening was the Budweiser Shootout. On Friday night Tony had drawn P2 for the shootout:

When the race started Tony was quite strong in the beginning and spent most of the first segment in the first half of the field. The first half of the field featured two car breakaway drafts and Darrell Waltrip repeatedly stating that the cars wouldn’t stay coupled up for too many laps. Tony was paired with Denny Hamlin for a lot of that first segment, with Tony out front and Denny seemingly having no problem pushing him. I think one of the reasons they were able to maintain the two car breakaways was because it was pretty chilly in Daytona yesterday evening. I think that they will probably experience more of the cars getting heated during the actual 500 because that is during the day where the 500 is at night. Personally I would rather watch the two-car breakaways manuever around daytona close like this:

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

I would much rather see that then the usual one groove, string of cars running around and around and around until the end of the race. Maybe that is just me.  Also? I am LOVING the Mobil 1 paint scheme! LOVING IT!  And it was great to see the #14 Mobil 1 Chevy leading some laps in the Shootout.  Towards the end of the first segment Tony fell back a little and after the segment continued as Tony’s radio communication with his spotter dropped out intermittantly.  During the second segment Tony also ended up spinning Michael Waltrip. Tony ended up finishing the Shootout 11th.  The race winner was Kurt Busch driving the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge to victory lane.  That is weird. Kurt Busch in the #22 with Shell as his sponsor. It’s going to be hard to get use to. As will Kasey Kahne in the Red Bull number 4 car. 

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

Sunday was qualifying for the front row at Daytona.  Teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon will fill out the front row for next Sunday’s 2011 Daytona 500:

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

Tony ended up 10th in the qualified list. However- with Daytona only the front row counts. Tony and the rest of the field will have to race for their position on Sunday in the Gatorade Duels on Thursday.

NOTES:

  • I hate the fact that the duels are on thursday in the middle of the day.  Sucks for us working girls. Thank goodness for DVRS.
  • Also? I have officially switched from Verizon to Sprint as my cell phone carrier (it was surprising that as a Verizon customer forever and a day that they didn’t fight harder to keep me as a customer..I was asked why I was leaving and when I told them I was changing providers they just said ok and continued on with my disconnection). So I will be looking forward to using the NASCAR Sprint ap and will let you know what I think of it.
  • Ok? Jeff Gordon’s Drive To End Hunger paint scheme? Love it (not as much as I love the Mobil 1 paint scheme of Tony’s but still)! I was kinda iffy about it when I heard about it but after seeing it in action during the Bud Shootout?? LOVE IT. My only complaint is that in certain shots it looked like Biffle’s car. But that might have just been because of the dark.
  • Remember how the talk was all about the Hendrick pit crew swaps and how the pit crews held auditions during the off season and were reset? WELL…Tony’s front tire carrier from the last two seasons? Kelly Kellis? Is now the front tire carrier for Jeff Gordon.  Tony’s new front tire carrier actually worked with Tony when he was on the 20 team…Ira Jo Hussey.
  • Totally off topic…what is the big deal with Sun Drop soda? It seems like it dropped out of the sky (pun totally intended) into these huge displays in the supermarket and I have never even heard of it. 

Yey! Tony Stewart drew second position for tomorrows Budweiser Shoot Out at Daytona International speedway! Way to go Tony!!!

Also for those in Daytona do not forget that on Tuesday January 15th, Tony will be signing autographs at a local Office Depot. These are great events I highly suggest that you attend if you have the time:

On Tuesday February 15th Tony will be signing autographs at the Office Depot in Daytona Beach (1560 South Nova Road, Daytona Beach, FL 32114) at 4:00 pm local time.  There will be 600 wristbands available to fans at the location starting at 8:00 am! One wristband per person, one autograph per wristband.  Fans with wristbands MUST be in line no later than 5:00 pm.

And the Office Depot 14 for 14 contest for February ends Monday on the 14th so enter today!

Ok so I totally stole the title of this entry from Office Depot’s catchphrase but it works for this post AND I love Office Depot because they sell office supplies and I am seriously addicted to sharpies (the pens not the markers) and post-it notes…oh and they happen to sponsor my favorite driver TONY STEWART.

So you might notice that things look a little different around here!  I want to thank Charity as always for being patient with me when it comes to redesigning things around here.  She always seems to be able to take my email ramblings and make them into a design that totally goes beyond my expectations. EVERY TIME.  So…YEY! New design. As always- let me know if something around here seems wonky and we will fix it.

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Don’t forget to visit Office Depot Racing to enter the 14 For 14 contest. The monthly contest gives 14 lucky winners a chance at winning that month’s prize…on the 14th of the month.  This month it’s Tony’s new 2011 Hero Card- autographed! So click here to enter that. Remember you only have until the 14th to enter!

AND while there be sure to pick up your coupon for the Poster of the month to take to your local office depot and have printed out. The coupons for the poster are available until the end of the month.

Both the 14 for 14 contest and the Poster of the Month are MONTHLY features at the office depot website so check in often.

And while you are there you can also download new Tony Stewart wallpaper (I just did!) and check out my favorite section: ASK TONY.  There is even a place where you can upload your own pictures to their fan gallery!

Okay…the 2011 NASCAR season is ALMOST here. We are definitely on the downhill side of the off-season. I honestly don’t know how football and baseball and all those other kinds of sports fans deal with longer off seasons that we NASCAR fans have.

We have some changes to deal with in points and the chase.  Then of course there is the new fuel and the new nose of the car.  (I will say this- I LOVE the look of the new nose!) All of these go along with the usual shifting of drivers to different teams,  sponsors and numbers  changing- which always takes me about four races or so before I get them all programmed into my head.  But what are we without change right?

Of course I am hoping this will be the best season yet for Stewart-Haas (and for Tony). Let’s go get that third championship for Tony! YEY!

That being said I have some Tony Stewart Autograph appearances to share with you if you are going to Daytona for Speedweeks, if you are going to the Las Vegas Race, or live within driving distance of Greenwood Indiana:

  • On Tuesday February 15th Tony will be signing autographs at the Office Depot in Daytona Beach (1560 South Nova Road, Daytona Beach, FL 32114) at 4:00 pm local time.  There will be 600 wristbands available to fans at the location starting at 8:00 am! One wristband per person, one autograph per wristband.  Fans with wristbands MUST be in line no later than 5:00 pm.
  • On Thursday March 3rd Tony is scheduled to do an autograph appearance at the Office Depot in North Las Vegas (1435 West Craig Road, North Las Vegas, NV) at 12:30 local time.   There will be 600 wristbands available to fans at the location starting at 8:00 am! One wristband per person, one autograph per wristband.  Fans with wristbands MUST be in line no later than 1:30 pm. (Misty and I are planning on being at this one! So say Hi if you see us!)
  • On Tuesday March 15th Tony will be doing an autograph appearance at the JD Byrider located at 1703 US 31 South in Greenwood Indiana at 5:00 pm. There will be 800 wristbands available for this one starting at 11:00pm at the location.  One wristband per person, one autograph per wristband.

Just to remind you that the Tony Stewart Foundation is still doing Checkered Flag Fridays – where the first Friday of every month the foundation lists several ebay auctions with autographed items. Some items are unique items- its a fun way to support both Tony and his foundation!  If anyone is looking for a belated birthday present for yours truly look no farther than this particular Checkered Flag Friday auction.  I kid I kid…kinda.

Also if you tweet…I hope you will join me this season in the return of the #goTONYgo hashtags to show support for Tony and the 14 team!!