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(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!

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.