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All I can say is WOW. That was a race! Tony Stewart qualified for the race 11th…and finished the race 11th.  It could have been better yes, but it could have been much much worse (just ask Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, and/or Kyle Busch- whom I will all talk about later in this post).

Via the team release Stewart said this about the team’s choice to come in for fresh tires during the late race caution that had the race going green with only two laps to go:

“Hindsight being 20-20, I probably should’ve stayed out, but we took a gamble and, really, what do we have to lose?” said Stewart, who now has 12 top-12 finishes in 18 career Sprint Cup appearances at the Texas track. “We really don’t have anything to lose. We’re eighth in points, so who cares? I’d rather take a chance on doing something to go forward than worry about losing spots and going backward.” — Team Release

However, I honestly think, the #14 Office Depot team had no option but to pit- having a majority of the field in front of him having fresher (more fresh?) tires from the pit stop before, where they elected to stay out.  As it was Tony restarted 16th and worked his way up to 11th in 2 laps! So obviously the fresh rubber was working- he just ran out of time.

And while Greg Biffle seemed to rule most of the race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, it would be Denny Hamlin edging out a hard charging Matt Kenseth for the win.

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And now for the “DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA” portion of this post. WOW. How can people say this sport isn’t exciting?? All this drama and Tony wasn’t even involved believe it or not:

First drama one:  Kyle Busch gets held for two laps additional laps (after being held one lap for a pit road speeding penalty) for giving a NASCAR official the finger.  Now personally I think that the 2 laps was a bit excessive for flipping off an official.  I mean, seriously? That totally put him out of contention for even coming close to winning the race.  You can’t tell me that it wasn’t because he was caught doing this accidentally by ESPN, who flipped over to Busch’s in-car camera right as Kyle expressed his displeasure with the call, live as it was happening.  Now I hear that NASCAR is considering even MORE penalties for Kyle’s heat-of-the-moment gesticulation! Really? Think about this, I flipped someone off this morning…and you know what granted while I do this sometimes in fun or jest  sometimes I am really pissed off and it’s the only thing I can do to express myself.  Kyle is right- it kind of is trampling on his freedom of speech or um…gesture.  Yes,  I have already debated this stand with my father who is of the feeling that it was incredibly unprofessional and immature for Kyle to do.  While I do see that point- he was already punished for it by being held two laps in race so do we really need to trample on it further? Because if we do the consequences may backfire as drivers refuse to express themselves at all.  And no one wants to see that. It is the drivers and their personalities that MAKE this sport!

Ok…now onto drama number two: The Jeff vs Jeff battle on the backstretch.  For those that missed that little gem you can check out this video recap of the incident (you will also see dramas one and three mentioned as well).  Unfortunately ESPN didn’t catch the whole on-track altercation as they were distracted by Martin Truex Jr, who was gracefully spinning through the grass causing his third caution of the day.  From what I saw, it looked like Jeff Burton intentionally spun Jeff Gordon under the yellow. Gordon’s car hit the outside wall hard, pretty much destroying the car.  It was a hard impact- you could see pieces of car and what looked like SAFER barrier flying after the impact.  Burton’s car came to rest further down the track at the inside retaining wall.  Gordon was pissed. You could tell by the video of him in his car that he was pissed.  He then walked down the banking and towards Burton’s car which was parked against the inside wall.  Next thing you know Gordon is shoving Burton and the two go fist-a-cuffs for a bit, with some NASCAR officials jumping in between the two of them.  That was some EXCITEMENT right there!  Now from what I have heard and seen of it I think that there was some sort of incident on track, possibly even before the yellow flew between Gordon and Burton and Burton took out Gordon in a fit of frustration. I hate to say this but I LIKE it when the drivers go toe-to-toe out of the car when they are pissed off.  As I have mentioned before I do not advocate using (stock cars or otherwise) cars to retaliate- but get into a good, old-fashion shoving match there against the infield wall and I am all about that! It shows that this sport is intense when you have two respected drivers getting in each other’s face after an on-track incident.  Good for Jeff Gordon for sticking up for what he believes was right, that Jeff Burton wrecked him and under caution no less.  Bravo.

And for the final drama of the race- After the above mentioned wreck, it was decided to have Jeff Gordon’s pit crew pit Jimmie Johnson’s 48 car while the 48 pit crew packed up the 24 group’s pit box. Ouch.  However, whomever made that call- made a wise one.  Jimmie’s crew seemed to be falling apart at the seams all day, after repeated poor pit stops- including one four tire stop in the 16+ second mark.  Yeah I am sure there are some majorly bruised egos on the 48 pit crew…but one bad pit stop I can see…but FOUR bad ones? Really? You are a four-time champion’s pit crew…your driver is contending for his record breaking fifth consecutive cup title. Yes I am sure you are all under immense pressure…but FOUR? Really??  Jeff’s over-the-wall crew stepped in under what I am assume was Chad’s call and they did not just step in…but they stepped UP and were able to pit Jimmie with decent times.  That is what I call GOOD teamwork.   Just this afternoon Hendrick Motorsports announced that the 24 pit crew will be going over-the-wall for Jimmie Johnson for the last two races of the season.  This is good for Jimmie who I understand is in title contention- but wow- why punish Jeff because his pit crew is ON IT!  I mean his pit crew has been in the running for the fastest pit crew for most of the year! It seems like they are punishing Jeff Gordon for having a good pit crew.  Hopefully the 48 crew can figure out where the disconnect was and get it ironed out for the next two races for Jeff.

One final note about Texas- two fans were hurt during the race when a brake pad flew through the eighth story window of the Speedway club in the first turn. From what I was able to find out, it doesn’t seem like the injuries were life-threatening, thank goodness. I wish them a speedy recovery- no one wants to see anyone get hurt at a race!

Next race: Phoenix

I have said it before and I will say it again…I do NOT like watching races at Talladega, at least not on TV.  Well there was that one time that Tony Stewart won (you remember I am sure..it was when Regan Smith passed him below the yellow line to try to pass Tony for the win – boy howdy did I jump off that couch screaming HE PASSED HIM BELOW THE LINE HE PASSED HIM BELOW THE LINE...I am sure the entire state of California and possibly parts of Nevada, Arizona and Oregon could hear me…poor Roxy ran off and hid) but other than that I do not like it.  I do not like spending 188 long tedious laps waiting for “the big one” and I definitely do not like it when Tony Stewart spends most of the day (I would say 90 percent) a lap or two or three down. That is for damn sure.  But that is what happened on Hallowdega or Tallaween..depending on who you are…I personally like Tallaween better than Hallowdega…but whatever- I am off point here.

The point is I don’t like Talladega and I don’t like when Tony is down lap(s).  Needless to say this race was NOT a good one for myself or other Tony fans!!!  Tony went down laps early in the race (two laps down to be exact). However, in typical ESPN fashion, it happened during a commercial break so all us Stewart fans got was a brief mention of it when they came back to the race and then nothing more was said about Tony.  It was like a giant sink hole swallowed him…or maybe a giant pumpkin since it was Halloween after all.  The racing at ‘Dega was your typical restrictor plate race where the two car breakaway draft would pull away for awhile…only to be rundown by a different two car breakaway draft.  There were something like 80 lead changes in the 188 laps.  Not a record apparently, but close. Did you know that after Tony went in for that fateful pitstop that he thought there was something wrong with the car? I didn’t either because I wasn’t listening to his scanner.

Anyway- Tony ran around the track two to three laps down for a majority of the race. Then he got a couple wave arounds and the next thing you know…Tony is in lucky dog position at the right time and poof…Tony Stewart is on the lead lap…now if only he can hook up with someone and do a two-car breakaway draft to the front he will be right in the freaking mix. Tony works his way up…16th the last time I saw him…but apparently he got as high as 11th. Oh so close. Then there is the white flag? Maybe he can salvage the race and get a top 10 at least??  But no…there is a wreck. AJ Allmendinger goes flying through the air…Tony ends up in it some how…and the whole side of his car is demolished. He limped around the last lap to finish 31st.  And the balloon that was a championship dream? Popped right there, raining down all over the infield.  Tony is now 7th in the points standings and 317 points behind the leader Jimmie Johnson. It’s pretty much near impossible for Tony to make up that deficit in the remaining three races of the season.  Of course this doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t try like all gang busters to do it. Race winner was actually Clint Bowyer.

Notes About Dega:

  • The most exciting part of the race was the whole who won? Was it Clint or Kevin? I loved that Clint decided it was him and started to do burn outs while Kevin sat there waiting to find out who indeed was the winner.
  • What on earth happened to Jeff Gordon after that breakaway push to the front with teammate Jimmie Johnson? He said he was blowing up, fell back, and never did blow up. He came in like 9th or something.  Wow.

Next Race: Texas

I do a majority of my souvenir shopping at the track on qualifying day (Friday) because on race day I am usually bogged down with my cameras and backpack full of race supplies on race day and I don’t want to add my souvenirs to my already crammed full backpack and honestly I worry I will lose track of them if I just carry them in bags.

What you also need to know is that since the last race I was at (spring Phoenix race) is that I also went through the rigmarole of changing banks. I use to bank with US BANK…but had become increasingly disgruntled with them. I was concerned after a friend with the same bank had some issues with a fraudulent charge on her account- their policies did not instill confidence in me if my identity should be stolen. Then they spent a good 3 to 4 months calling me twice a day every day to get me to buy some sort of insurance or whatever. I am not exaggerating either. I was usually polite but after awhile even I got downright nasty. I finally unloaded on the poor telemarketer and told her in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t interested last month, I wasn’t interested last week, I wasn’t interested yesterday and I am still not interested today…and if they called back I would be closing my account as soon as possible. Needless to say? The phone calls never really stopped until I finally threatened to call the police on them for harassment. Needless to say I signed up with Bank Of America for three reasons. First- they are everywhere. US Bank is not so easy to find in some places. Secondly, I am impressed with their identity theft policies. Third, they finally got a Tony Stewart debit card for their NASCAR Banking.

That being said when I was at the Auto Club Speedway on Friday, I shopped at the Tony Stewart Hauler like I always do. Misty shopped that the Jeff Gordon Hauler.  I bought a couple things at the Chevy Racing hauler (gifts) and in the gift shop for the track.   As we were leaving that day though we wandered by the Junior Nation Hauler because it was on our way out and a cute little Whiskey River cowgirl hat caught both of our eyes.   When I go to the tracks and shop I usually use cash because it’s an easy way of budgeting myself.  But I had to have this hat and purposely had not brought all my cash with me on Friday.  So I pulled out my trusty Tony Stewart Debit card to pay for my cute little hat and handed it over.  The salesman at the hauler chuckled at my card and jokingly said “I don’t know if I can accept this card!” (its a gray card with the #14 Chevy Impala on it).  He grabbed the hat I desired and asked if I wanted a bag and then ran my card. With a very straight face he said: “Yeah it’s not accepting your card.” The minute he said that I started to panic just a little bit because this is the first time I have traveled using my new debit card…what if there was something wrong with it?  Then a few seconds later he said “Yeah…it says invalid driver…” Ha! Funny guy! Not! Misty laughed and laughed.

I did not take this picture…but it was taken on that Friday…so I thought it was fitting:

FONTANA, CA - OCTOBER 08: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Office Depot Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pepsi Max 400 on October 8, 2010 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

FONTANA, CA - OCTOBER 08: Tony Stewart, driver of the Office Depot Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pepsi Max 400 on October 8, 2010 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

Attention Tony Stewart Fans in and around Grapevine, Texas. Two-time NASCAR series Champion and current Chase driver Tony Stewart will be signing autographs at the Office Depot in Grapevine, Texas on Thursday November 4th at 4:00pm local time.

To get an autograph you must have a wristband. 700 wristbands will be given away at the location starting at 8:00am local time on November 4th. There is one wristband per person, and one autograph per wristband. Fans with wristbands must be in line no later than 5:00 pm.

This is at the Office Depot located at: 1317 State Highway 114 West (Grapevine Town Center) Grapevine, TX 76051

There will also be a show car and race simulators on site. Enjoy- these are fun events.

Tony Stewart will be signing autographs for fans at the NASCAR Sports Grille at City Walk in Orlando Florida on October 28th from 6:00pm -8:00pm local time.

You must have a ticket to get an autograph.  The 525 tickets will be distributed at the NASCAR Sports Grille gift shop starting at 10:00 am the morning of the event.  One ticket per person, one autograph per ticket.

The address and phone number of the Nascar Sports Grille:

6000 Universal Boulevard

Orlando, Florida 32819

(407) 224-7223

So wow…I have really slipped up haven’t I? Technially I am behind three race recaps because I didn’t write anything yet about Fontana, Charlotte or Martinsville. I was at Fontana in person..and am still working on that…but let me get a quick Charlotte and Martinsville recap out of the way so I don’t feel so behind:

Tony Stewart climbs into his race car for NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina on October 15, 2010.  UPI/Nell Redmond . Photo via Newscom

(Yeah....that was the race with the Green/Red car...I didn't like it.)Tony Stewart climbs into his race car for NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina on October 15, 2010. UPI/Nell Redmond . Photo via Newscom

Chase Race 5 (Charlotte) The race at Charlotte was THE night race of the Chase. Tony Stewart qualified 29th for the race. On the second lap of the race, he was forced to check up to avoid a spin (Ryan Newman) and ended up getting hit by another car in the right rear corner of the car. Between damage and an ill-handling car (likely due to damage I would guess), and a couple of pit stops where Tony got blocked when trying to enter his pitstall, it would end up being a bad night. The 14 car wound up finishing 21st, dropping Stewart from 5th to 6th in the points (-177 points out of the lead). Race winner was Jamie McMurray.

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 23: Tony Stewart, driver of the  Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 23, 2010 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 23: Tony Stewart, driver of the Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 23, 2010 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Chase Race 6 (Martinsville) Eek….what a not so good ending to a race where Tony seemed to have a fairly solid car. Qualifying went extremely well as Tony qualified 6th (YEY!). In general I like shorter tracks because to me often the racing is closer and more intense. Tony quickly started falling back, suffering from the effects of an ill-handling car. After the crew worked on adjusting the car he seemed to be happier with the handling and seemed to advance in the standings. Then there was the speeding penalty. Stewart was caught speeding on pit road and had to go to the end of the lead lap. BAH! However- Tony seemed to be able to move through the field pretty well. I started to get excited. He really seemed to be doing well.  Then there were more pit stops and something happened where he lost a lot of ground on one of the stops (turns out, according to the team release that there was a lugnut issue on one of the tires).  It took awhile but Tony seemed to battle back into the top ten…and then a tire let go.  (sigh).  Stewart finished the race 24th, two laps down.   He dropped to 7th in the standings now 236 points out of the lead. The race winner was Denny Hamlin.

Next week: Talladega is on Halloween….um…that is just bad mojo!!!

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 22: Tony Stewart (L), driver of the  Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, talks with Kasey Kahne (R), driver of the  Red Bull Toyota, on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 22, 2010 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 22: Tony Stewart (L), driver of the Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, talks with Kasey Kahne (R), driver of the Red Bull Toyota, on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 22, 2010 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Check out my post over at Racing in America for my sentiments on the whole Kasey Kahne / RPM debacle.

Did you hear that sigh of relief? That was me- I feel way better having gotten that all out! Shwew.  I will not let myself get so behind again!

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.

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