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Ahh if you never had braces you were a lucky ducky.  I work braces for a couple years and getting them finally removed was cause for celebration. No more painful “adjustments” which is orthadontal speak for tightening and no more food restrictions. My particular braces removal celebration included caramel popcorn.  But anyway, NASCAR fans, I digress.  We got our first taste of the new nose on the cup cars without the splitter braces when the cars hit Daytona International Speedway for testing last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I have to say I LOVE the look of the new nose on the cars.  In my opinion, the new nose adds to the aesthetics of the car and makes it look sportier.  Hopefully the lack of braces on the splitter will keep the cars from collection hot dog wrappers, grass clumps and other debris and make possible overheating less of an issue. 

SHR cars

Look Ma! No Braces! The new nose on the cars for this season is visible here in this picture tweeted by Stewart Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) today.

Many drivers were getting their first feel of the new surface on the speedway as well, as Daytona was repaved during the off season.  Many drivers reported it to be quite smooth and likened it to the newer surface at Talladega.  It should make for some interesting racing that is for certain.  I loved that testing was streamed live on the internet because I could tune in from my side of the states.  Seeing and hearing the cars on the track put a huge smile on this fan’s face.  Why? Because it means soon our season with be on again in full swing.

 Just from the little pieces of testing that I was able to watch it is going to be hard for me to get use to certain changes.  It’s really weird seeing Kasey Kahne in the Red Bull number 4 car.  I did see him race for Red Bull in person in Phoenix at end of last season, and it was weird then. Still weird.   Weirder yet?  Is Harvick in Budweiser red and Kurt in the number #22! It’s all going to take some getting used to that is for sure.  However this nothing new to us NASCAR fans; sponsors and teams change because our sport is dynamic like that. 

Other changes to look forward to or get use to this season:

  1. Ethanol used as fuel in the cars.  Preliminary reports had the cars getting fewer miles per gallon on the ethanol so we will see how much the switch to a “greener” fuel changes strategy on the track.
  2. Speaking of Ethanol- because of the change to ethanol fuel, the gas can needed to be modified. Because of the modifications to the gas can, it was determined that the catch can man was no longer needed.  It is a plus for pit road safety to have one less man over the wall (especially on smaller tracks with cramped pit roads).  While it may be plus for safety though it probably sucks if you were a catch can man.
  3. Drivers now have to declare a series in which they want to run for the championship.  This I don’t like. Why? Because that means my dreams of watching Kyle Busch sweep all three championships one day has died. Yes I am a Tony fan but I am SURE that Kyle could sweep all three series if he put his mind to it.
  4. There is the possible change in the points system that will be most likely announced soon. 
  5. There is the change in the chase format….playfully called the Jamie Mac Chase Clause (JMCC) between Misty and I.  I think its weird use the last two positions of the chase into more wild card spots given to the two non chase contenders with the most wins. I don’t know how that will change the chase…but I guess we will see.

Needless to say there are a lot of changes this season and not JUST to the drivers/teams.  Here we go NASCAR fans. Let’s buckle in for a new season. And to my Tony Stewart readers all I can say is #goTONYgo!

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Also NASCAR fans- be sure to head over to The Fast and The Fabulous and vote in Round 4 of the Hottest Driver contest. This round pits Stewart-Haas teammates against each other. Go vote…

You will love this.  If you have a particularly favorite month from the calendar this is right up your alley!  Each month you can go to the Office Depot Racing website and print out a coupon to take to your local Office Depot location’s Print & Copy center and you can get an 18 x 24 poster of that month’s photo from the Office Depot Calendar for only $9.99.   It’s easy…for example…this is what this month’s poster looks like:

Pick this up at your local Office Depot...(Photo Credit: Edelman)

I might stop by tomorrow and pick one up as a birthday present to me.  Personally I am really looking forward to April- it’s one of my favorites in the whole calendar!

As some of you may know, I have this other writing gig over at Racing In America where once every two week or so I have to come up with a new entry.  During the off season it’s been hard to come up with relevant stuff.  Here at BadGroove I don’t feel as badly if I post stuff that really isn’t motor sport relevant especially during the off season because well…it’s my blog and I’ll stray if I want to.  I don’t know why I let myself get stressed out about the RIA stuff…it’s not like they pay me and pretty much I can write about whatever I want in the motorsports world (although in my mind they like it when I write NASCAR and I might as well write about a world I know more about then say…NHRA- which I do write about sometimes). But lately, I feel like I let the looming deadlines over at RIA get to me and then I rush out a post that isn’t my best.

Anyway- for my last post over at RIA- I totally copped out and came up with my own top ten  list of races I am looking forward to watching in the 2011 racing season (as a reaction to this article over at scenedaily.com).  I thought it would be easy but it actually took my two days (which is a long time for me) to come up with a list I was happy with and then promptly typed* it up and sent it over to my editor/publisher over at RIA for posting.  Then I breathed a sigh of relief that it was done and went about my business. Until I decided to actually read the entry over at RIA.  Um…I forgot a very import race that I look forward to every season. And it was on my original list. I somehow had two number three’s and ended up dropping this race from the version  I sent over to RIA.  So I will share it here as originally written for the article and then expound upon it after:

Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas- I always LOVE watching the Vegas race because it hold a special place in my oval-loving heart.  It’s the first NASCAR race I had ever gone to AND the first oval track I had ever attended.  I actually attend this race every year since the first time in person.  I love the facilities and really think that the track is underrepresented .  I love the Vegas race and think this track above many others deserves a second race and a night race would be awesome there.   This is another track that Tony has never won at so I always watch it with great hope.

While technically it was suppose to be number three in my original article that is only because I ranked those races by the schedule not by their importance to me.  This one would be number one if only for the sentimental reasons that this was my first NASCAR race attended in the flesh.  I have written about it several times here and over at RIA. I still remember the awe when we started pulling up to the speedway- seeing the grandstands get bigger and bigger and the excitement in my heart as we got closer and closer that first time and do not feel that I have ever adequately described it yet.  This track may be one of those cookie cutter 1.5 ovals that everyone talks about but it’s MY cookie cutter 1.5 mile oval that holds fond memories that make me nearly giddy just thinking about them. The Vegas race holds a lot of firsts for me and I LOVE it for that.  I am sure every NASCAR fan who has ever been to a race has a track that they love and hold dear to them. This one is mine (although Phoenix holds a very very close second place in my heart).

I will be attending this year although I have not even purchased tickets yet (which is so out of character for me since I tend to be an excessive planner- usually purchasing my race tickets several months in advance) and right now-at the peak of what one of my facebook friends called “off season depression” looking forward to going to the Vegas race is a huge bright spot in the near future to look forward to.

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*Yes…I do sometimes write my entries long hand.  I actually find that my entries come out better written long hand and then typed up.

Did I ever SLACK in writing here over the holiday or what? Sorry- but my “real” job gives me the week after Christmas off. Don’t be jealous- it’s really just the holidays we don’t get off during the year that everyone else does.  So I got home and comfy and LAZY and totally did not feel like writing more than I had to. I did write this over at Racing In America- but it was like pulling teeth…I really didn’t want to do it. See how I get all lazy when given the chance. Anyway I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas filled will family and love and a prosperous New Year.  Hopefully you didn’t spend your New Year’s Eve the way I spent mine- trying to calm a very freaked out Roxy while our neighbors set of fireworks and bottle rockets….at least that is what I hoped it was…either that or they declared war- because it was LOUD and Roxy hates loud.

So Tony is racing sprint cars in Australia and is doing pretty good so far- placing second in one race, and third in another.  He races more down under on Jan. 14th and 15th! I hope he wins on the 14th. It’s his number and my birthday so it would be a doubly good time to win.  While Tony is on his Australian racecation I have found some fun NASCAR related things to tell you about.

2011 Hottest Driver Tournament

First off is the 2011 Hottest Driver Tournament over at The Fast and The Fabulous.  It’s a random seeding of 38 drivers where YOUR voting will determine the “Hottest” driver.  Of course you will want to go over there and vote (FOR TONY) for your favorite driver…it’s something fun and Valli is really excited to bring it to you! Do it now!

Also- you might want to check out Jeff Burton in his cameo on television this Saturday night.  He will be playing himself in a cameo in the fourth installment of Fox’s Family Movie Night offering “Change of Plans.”  It has a star-studded cast including American Idol’s Brooke White, Phylicia Rashad, and Joe Flannigan.  It sounds like one of those good solid heart warming stories…with a small cameo by Idol Judge Randy Jackson and NASCAR’s Jeff Burton, playing…Jeff Burton!  Check it out on your local Fox affiliate January 8th at 8 pm.

I have to say I really can understand WHY Tony would go to Australia for a month in the winter…it seems like here anyway it has been raining for weeks on end.  Technically it hasn’t been, but it has been raining more than it hasn’t been.  I haven’t floated away yet though and today there is actually more blue in the sky then clouds so YEY there. See right now it might be winter here but it is summer down under in Australia so he will hopefully have some great weather for his races down there (as well as get some fun relaxing time in).  I have been keeping my eyes open for media about Tony coming from Australia…and here is a video he did with the Australian media to share with you: (more…)

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.