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Our race weekend started on Thursday with a quick interview with Tony Stewart.  If you have been around here any length of time you know two things about me. First is that I am a Tony Stewart fan. Secondly is that during the race season I will mention every one of Tony’s Office Depot Appearances that I know about (and any other appearances as well) here on the blog.  The reason I do this is that I genuinely like going to Tony’s appearances and I like to suggest that if you are fan you go to one if you can possible swing it.  They are fun I promise.   I got the worst sunburn ever standing in line at  the parking lot of a Home Depot in Rancho Cucamonga.  Let’s just say the next day at the track multiple people told me I was sunburned and needed to put on more sunblock. It was weird telling them that I knew I was sunburned and had gotten it at the local home improvement store NOT at the track.  But I have to tell you if you are going to go to one of the appearances of ANY driver get there early….real early.  Most appearances are limited to a set amount people- so usually wristbands or tickets are handed out and they can go early.  I personally know someone that wanted to see Carl Edwards at a local store appearance in Vegas the same day as Tony’s appearance. She went only a couple hours before he was suppose to be there and there were NO wristbands left.  So get to the store as early as possible to get your wristband.  You usually don’t have to stay in line after you get your wristband…but many people do:

Fans wait outside the Office Depot in North Las Vegas, waiting for their turn to see Tony Stewart. (Photo Credit: Amy)

It looks crazy I know.  But there is a camaraderie that builds when you are standing in line.  How can it not? You are standing in line usually  for several hours.   You end up talking to your neighbors in the line.  Now it’s been my personal experience that this happens in the lines for other drivers too- but the Tony fans just seem extra friendly and  welcoming but that  might just be my bias there.

Tony Stewart's Office Depot show car outside of the North Las Vegas Office Depot. (Photo Credit: Amy)

I have mentioned this many many times- but I LOVE that one of Tony’s sponsors is  Office Depot because I have always been far more likely to wield a pen then say a drill or a hammer.  It’s a better fit for me personally.  I have spent quite a bit of time hanging out in the office furniture section of various Office Depot locations because we have been giving the awesome opportunity to interview Tony when we go to races where he is doing an appearance.  It’s always fun to stand there with the other people who are going to interview Tony and watch the customers wander through our area looking at us like WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON? This last time, there was a man pushing his basket right through our area with the Office Depot backdrop looking at us like DO YOU PEOPLE ALWAYS JUST HANG OUT IN THE FURNITURE SECTION OF THE LOCAL OFFICE DEPOT OR WHAT?

When Tony gets to the Office Depot he usually works with the television media first:

Tony Stewart talks to a local Las Vegas news crew. (photo credit: Misty)

See told you we are just standing in the furniture department.  Bet you didn’t envision THAT when you contemplate us interviewing Tony.

Then it’s on to print and internet media for Tony- which includes us.  At the Office Depot this time,  it started with Valli from The Fast and The Fabulous presenting Tony Stewart with his 2011 Hottest Driver award.  It was fun to witness her presenting the trophy (an adorable basket of different hot sauces) and explaining the bracket system to him and showing him how he won (by a landslide I might add):

Valli explains the random bracketing system of the 2011 Hottest Driver Tournament to winner Tony Stewart. (Photo Credit: Amy)

It was fun because if you remember I mentioned The Fast and The Fabulous  Hottest Driver Tournament several times during voting. I got to see it from beginning to end. You should definitely pop over to The Fast and The Fabulous to read about the presentation.

Then it was our turn to talk to Tony.

Amy: Tell us about driving the cab in Las Vegas.  How did it go?

Tony: It was interesting. It’s not very often that you can semi have free reign to drive a stock car around the city but we got to take Elvis Presley, David Copperfield and one of the Miss Sprint Cups for a ride yesterday and a couple of fans too.  It was definitely a cool experience.

Misty: Did the fans know what was going to happen?

Tony: No. That was the best part about it. We met at Lucky Cab and did some of the skits there then went straight to the casino.  Seeing the look on people’s faces as the car went by was pretty cool. Then as we were driving people around, we kinda made the same route instead of taking people to random spots we took people around the same lap. Every time  we went by there were more fans lined up to take pictures so it made it pretty fun.

Amy:  We also wanted to know about the F1 swap that is happening. Can you tell us about that?

Tony: That’s going to be fun.  It’s a great chance to live out a dream of getting in an F1 car. We are doing it at Watkin’s Glen where we have had a lot of success. I know two-thirds of the track that we are going to be running but we are going to be running the whole course so there’s a part of the track that is going to be totally different that I have never ran before. I met Lewis when we did a Mobil 1 shoot here recently- he’s a great guy. I am really looking forward to working with him out there.

Amy and Misty of Badgroove interviewing Tony Stewart at the Office Depot in North Las Vegas. Wish I knew what I was talking about there- I seem to be gesticulating pretty wildly. (Photo Credit: Edelman)

Amy (who has to totally give credit to this question from her Facebook friend Beth for the suggestion): Can you tell us your favorite thing about owning Eldora?

Tony: My favorite thing  probably is when we have a big event and we have a packed house and I go up on top to watch the races and I watch the fans having a good time. Especially when the sprint car races are there or the late models are there and you can tell they have their favorite driver that they love and their driver that they love to hate and it’s fun to watch.  It’s like the whole crowd will react. Some of them will be on one side of the fence and some will be on the other side of the fence. When things happen you can see both groups reacting . It’s fun to be on top of all that and be able to kind of look and oversee everything and see that everybody is having a good time. That absolutely makes my day when I got to the track- just seeing everybody having a good time.

Misty: We are from central California- right near Laguna Seca Raceway and wondered if you had ever had a chance to race there?

Tony: I have never even been there. But any time, especially when the Indy cars ran and the GT cars use to run, we use to watch the races there a lot. It would be a track that I would LOVE to have an opportunity to do something at.  It’s on the bucket list of tracks that I want to run at.

Misty: What would a win at Las Vegas mean to you?

Tony: It would be huge because this a place we haven’t won at yet. So we definitely want to win a race here. It doesn’t put more pressure on us to do it but we won at California last year at the cup race there- and we hadn’t won at California so that knocked that off the list. So now we are down to Vegas and Darlington. It would be nice to get that checked off the list and get that done. Those two tracks are the only two we haven’t won at on the whole circuit. I think we have potential to do something that no one else has done and that’s be able to say we have won at every track.

(I have to note that it was incredibly disappointing when transcribing this last part of the interview because Tony sounded so excited about the possibility of winning at LVMS.  It was hard to transcribe especially after watching him race at Las Vegas with such a strong car and NOT win)

We thanked Tony and left Tony to begin to take on the throngs of people standing outside waiting for their autograph. Misty and I stood by the show car area outside with Valli for awhile just chatting about the race weekend ahead of us when we spotted this little boy who had just gotten his car autographed by Tony. He was so excited that he ran out to the show car handlers to show them.  It was absolutely adorable:

This little boy was so excited to show off his autographed car to the show car handlers. He was adorable. (Photo credit: Amy)

Reminder Tony Stewart will be at the Office Depot in North Las Vegas signing autographs for fans TODAY:

12:30 at the Office Depot in North Las Vegas at 1435 West Craig Road

Wristband distribution has already started and you must be in line by 1:30 to get your autograph. One autograph per wristband.

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!