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I have three major shopping vices: Book stores, office supply stores (so yey for Tony being the Office Depot driver now because I frequent Office Depot much more than I ever did Home Depot) and Dooney purses. I love to read. I have always loved to read. I love the feel of books in my hand and the smell of the paper and glue. No matter where I am I have a book with me…often tucked into my previously mentioned Dooney.  You will not find me with one of those digital book reader thingies until they stop making real paper books. Much like my tastes in music my tastes in books are fairly various and wide (for instance the second to last book I read was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies- told you I have odd tastes). Anyway several years ago I decided to combine two of my loves and started a collection of books about NASCAR. I started out with a couple of coffee table type books…and slowly expanded my collection.  My newest book in that collection just happens to be the last book that I finished- a book I wanted to tell you about.

The Weekend Starts on Wednesday: True Stories of Remarkable NASCAR Fans by Andrew Giangola is just what you would expect it be from the title and much more. I admit that when I read the testimonials on the jacket I was a little leary.  Specifically Janet Evanovich’s “I laughed, I cried, I wanted to jump in my car and drive really fast.” Um okay…that seemed a little cliche to me but whatever. It didn’t stop me from reading the book and it is now one of my favorite books on my NASCAR shelf.  The book really is an honest to goodness salute to the people who help make the sport go round (get it? I made a joke!) and round (and another one- I am on it tonight)- The FANS.

This book weaves part of the beautiful quilt that is NASCAR fandom.  The book is divided into several sections including sections for: Lifetime NASCAR fans (aptly titled Fans for Life), Dale Earnhardt Sr Fans (Remembering Dale),  Fans of the sport who are famous in their own right (Famous Faces including Tom Cruise and Mario Batali to name a few), Fans who are “well known” in the NASCAR community (Flirting with Fame), Female fans (Ladies Loving NASCAR) and other sections I just can’t remember off the top of my head.  The author strives very hard to make sure that NASCAR fans are NOT perceived as stereotypes. This book shows that fans of one of the greatest sports out there, come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and come together over the love of speed and personality and community.  This book sheds light on the community aspect of the sport and not the driver / personality aspect with the point being there is no stereotypical NASCAR fan.

I loved reading this book- and I must say I did laugh (the Tire guy? He cracked me up), and I did cry (Lucky Penny Girl- if it doesn’t make you cry you are a robot I tell you), and well I always seem to want to drive fast anyway so I guess the Janet Evanovich testimonial wasn’t so cliche after all.  I also have a new respect for news anchor Brian Williams and will be keeping my eye open for his 3 stickers on the rental fleet of America.  Author Giangola has quite the knack for adding in just enough flavor to set the scene without peppering the stew too much (which in my opinion can bring about the “stereotypical” NASCAR fan).  Of course it doesn’t hurt that my favorite two drivers wrote the foreword (TONY) and the afterword (KYLE). Both prove that despite their hard driving ways they too not only appreciate NASCAR fans, but are both articulate as well (despite what Tony says).

I recommend this book to not just the ardent NASCAR fan but to the on-the-fence line fan, the sometimes fan, and the curious onlooker.  You may just see yourself mirrored in the stories presented in this book or see the neighbor down the street, the news anchor on your nightly news, or the quiet tech support girl in the office upstairs.  This book makes me proud to be a NASCAR fan…(not that I needed much encouragement there).

Towards the end of the chase there was a lot of talk about the points system…and how someone who ended the regular season in first place suddenly finds himself dethroned at the beginning of the chase because of the reset/bonus points structure;  how people LOCK into their positions sometimes far too early in the chase.  I know Tony himself said that he didn’t care about the old system, they all know the points system going INTO the season- they have been doing it for five years now and he didn’t want to talk about the old system anymore.  But I do…wanna talk about the chase points (I know beating a dead horse but I just can’t help myself…).

Between the race chase race in Phoenix and this very point I have seen my best friend, who is also a NASCAR fan three times in person (we live 500 miles from each other) and we both keep bringing this up.  The chase would have been closer points wise (and more exciting says me) had we be using the old system. Jimmie would have still one his fourth championship in a row mind you, but the points spread would have been much much tighter (thanks to the NASCAR INSIDERS for providing us with this information).

My friend is a math ninja when it comes to doing math computations in her head (me not so much).  And after discussing in depth the mechanics behind the math of the points system and the reset/bonus system…we have come up with the following idea for a points system (I wish I could take credit for coming up with this but the math ninja came up with it- but it sounds really good to me):

Keep the same points structure- (same number of points available per race) but at the reset point (the beginning of the chase) Do NOT zero every one out.  Instead let them keep their points but add  10000 points to their points totals to make the chase field distinguishable from the rest of the field.  Remove bonus points for wins….or at the very least significantly lower it to one bonus point per win (I say nix bonus points all together- math ninja says lower to 1 point per win).  We think the chase would be far closer points wise- and less of a runaway.  That right there makes it more exciting.  This system doesn’t just reward winning but rewards consistency of finish as well.  Just an idea…

As a matter of fact- that is what I will do for the chase this year…I will keep track of Our Chase System- to see the difference between where the current system stats end up…and were Our Chase Points end up.  It will be interesting to see.  You all haven’t heard the end of this idea…

As many of you may know, I have been furloughed two days a month for the last six months.  Our furlough schedule has no real rhyme or reason that I can figure out. It’s not like its every other Friday (although some months it is).  For instance this month I had the 8th off and I have the 19th off.  In March my furlough days are the 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th (this month gets four days to make up for the fact that we didn’t get any furlough days in July). See- no pattern or anything.

Anyway I was telling a coworker last week that I have this constant worry that one of these furlough days I am going to forget and show up at work- and what’s worse is that I will be sitting in my office and not even realize I shouldn’t be working that day because most of the people on my floor are faculty and they have a completely different furlough schedule than I do.

Now you are probably wondering what on earth this has to do with Tony Stewart…well Office Depot had Tony come up with his top 10 organizational tips- all based on items that can be bought from Office Depot…. First one on his list?

  • “I have a frequent nightmare about showing up at the wrong race track during the NASCAR season…so, yes, I WILL take that new day planner, thank you very much.”

Kind of similar to mine- except I never worry about what race track I am going to – those are my vacations.  If you go to their facebook page now you can get yourself a 10 percent discount coupon for Office Depot on organizational supplies too. I already got mine- because as I have mentioned one of my weaknesses is office supplies (seriously I can not go into Office Depot and leave empty handed. Same thing goes for book stores). Defintely check out their facebook page because it’s humorous if nothing else…I mean seriously- check out this tip:

  • I might not know how to play the accordion…but Office Depot accordion folders with expanding pockets? Those I know and love. A lot.

Because this picture is the freaking best (pre)birthday present a (female) Smoke fan could ask for:

Photo Provided by: Edelman

Photo Provided by: Edelman

Well and maybe this if anyone is looking for suggestions for my birthday (on the 14th):

You know…just in case you were out of ideas or something.

Stewart-Haas racing announced yesterday a new sponsorship with Oreo and Ritz.  Stewart will be sponsored by Ritz crackers- and will wear the logo on the chest of his firesuit as well as the B-Post of his car. Teammate Newman will wear the oreo logo on his firesuit and on the B-Post of his car as well.  To kick off the new sponsorship- Stewart will drive the number 5 Ritz/Oreo car in the Nationwide race at Daytona this February.  It is the only Nationwide series race Stewart plans on running this season. Tony tends to finish well in the Nationwide race at Daytona.

This comes after a November announcement that both teams will be sponsored by TORNADOS as well. Will these guys ever have to buy food again?

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In other off-season NASCAR Notes:

  • Elliott Sadler announced that he will be running several races in the Camping World Truck series for owner Kevin Harvick in addition to his normal cup schedule.
  • Casey Mears married Tricia Grablander. The pair have a daughter- Samantha.
  • The festival of Speed and Sound is happening this weekend in Nashville- pairing drivers and country artists in a festival for fans.  Wish I could be there.
  • It has been rumored that NASCAR is considering going back to having a spoiler on the rear of the car and getting rid of the COT’s trademark wing in an effort to keep the cars from getting airborn.  I bet Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, and Mark Martin are all for it.  It is rumored that this could happen as soon as the first races at Martinsville or Bristol.
  • Travis Kvapil will be driving for Front Row Motorsports in the 2010 season.
  • Jimmie Johnson and his wife Chandra have announced that they are expecting a baby sometime in July. Congratulations Jimmie and Chandra.

Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart will serve as judges in the 2010 Mastercam IOF student design competition hosted by CNC Software Inc.  The pair along with CNC Shop Manager Brad Harris will judge student designed and machined entries of NASCAR Style gear shift lever and knob.  The entries will be judged on innovation and creativity, accuracy, quality of machining finish, and aesthetics. The winning student will be awarded a $1000 scholarship to the school of their choice. In addtion, the student and their mastercam instructor will receive an expenses-paid trip to tour the Stewart-Haas racing and machine shop.

For more information on entering visit the competition website.

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Speaking of Ryan Newman, Sporting News is giving you the chance to have him answer YOUR question.  Just email it to bmarx@sportingnews.com for a chance to have your question answered by Ryan Newman. For more information visit the Sporting News article where it was announced.

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And while I am at it – congratulations to the Ryan Newman Foundation for $218,000 in its 5th annual Charity Dinner and 4th annual fishing tournament.

So far Tony Stewart has run in two of the four races he is competing in during his “racecation” in Australia.  The first race was scheduled to run on Decemeber 26th was delayed a day by rain at Parramatta City Raceway. In that race Stewart made it into the main event on a promotor’s provisional and started dead last in the field where he drove his car through the field , finishing 7th in a car fielded by Garry Rush.  His teammate Donny Schatz won that race.

Last night Stewart placed a very respectable 4th in an exciting event where teammate Donny Schatz again ruled the night- placing second to young Australian driver Ian Madsen. Stewart is expected to race two more races while in Australia- on January 2nd and January 3rd.

Tony and Teddy B. Caring

Tony Stewart and Teddy B. Caring- proceeds from the sales of the Office Depot bear go toward the Office Depot Foundation backpack program amongst others...available in two sizes from your local Office Depot. A cute way to give back and give a gift at the same time!

I had to share the above photo with you – since who can resist Tony in a firesuit and Santa hat.  I think Office Depot should sell this picture in 8×10 format- because I would buy it! Heck I am tempted to go buy the cute little bear- just because :-)

Anyway- starting tomorrow the holidays are upon me full throttle so I will probably be away from the keys and this site through at the very least Christmas…I should be back blogging no later than Monday.  I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday and that you get to spend time with the ones you love.

Ok…so there are a couple of what I consider “funny” outtakes from the whole champions week festivities that I wanted to share with you (ok after further looking over of my postie note about the “outtakes” post I guess two are outtakes, one is a random snippet of someone else’s conversation and one is something I want answered):

  • After all drivers had passed us on the red carpet into the roast, Jimmie being the last driver to meander by us and by the time he was pretty much out of earshot of us, my friend turned to me and said “Whatchya doing Jimmie?” (in the vain of the Lowe’s commercial)….to which I replied “Winning a championship Chad.” Now this in itself is NOT funny- its just something we occasionally do (snipe back and forth in commercial or movie dialogue snippets) but what WAS funny was that there was some guy on the red carpet right in front of us at the time, who thought we were pretty damn funny. I don’t know who he was but he was on the carpet wearing a credential of some sort…he looked like he wanted to interject something into our conversation…he even stopped right in front of us and chortled but didn’t actually say anything.
  • My BIGGEST faux pas of the entire weekend…and if you know me you know I am faux pas prone…also happened along the red carpet of the roast…but earlier.  I actually debated NOT telling you but then…what is the fun of that if I can’t make fun of myself right? So Denny Hamlin has just passed us on the red carpet…and by just past us I mean apparently he is like still two or three inches from me but I had shifted my attention to Mark Martin. So I catch sight of Mark Martin who is probably about fifteen feet or so down the red carpet to my right…which is the way I am facing and I say to my friend “He is so cute!” Meaning that Mark Martin is so cute because he is so little and friendly. And I mean both of those…he is like the tiniest man…but so so nice. Well my friend looks at me with like a horrified look on her face but says NOTHING to me.  So a little while later after the above bullet, I learn that Denny Hamlin was still right next to me and looked over at me thinking I was talking about him…and smiled. Thank goodness I didn’t realize this at the time or I probably would have either: A. Told Denny I was actually talking about Mark Martin…but really you’re not bad yourself, or B. Run off and hid behind something. Jury is still out on which I would have actually done.
  • The next incident happened at The Stewies. It had been awhile because we had already moved in towards the center of the balcony at least once or twice as we now had people on both sides of us. Ryan Newman was announced as the guest…and made his way down the golden staircase onto the stage, escorted by at least one, probably two lovely showgirls.  He takes his seat at the table with Stewart and Yokum, at which point the guy standing next us up in the balcony proclaims “That Ryan Newman, he’s a big boy! Jesus!” (but the Jesus is drawn out like…GEEEEEEEEEEEEZUZ)- we weren’t even sure if he was talking to us or just made the statement outloud to himself or what.  My friend just looks at me and I just shrug.  The day before I stood pretty much right in front of Ryan Newman…and what you need to know about me is I am on the short side- 5′ 4″ in shoes…and I didn’t think Ryan was overly tall or overly wide (unlike Mark Martin who was incredibly tiny)- especially where I felt the need to proclaim it in such a dramatic fashion! I guess you really kind of had to be there for this one to be funny….
  • And this last one…is more of just me wondering outloud (or in writing) kind of thing. Ok so at The Stewies when Ryan and Greg Biffle left the stage Tony was bidding them adieu and said something to Biffle like Don’t Get Into Too Much Trouble….or something like that. And then patted Ryan on the back and said “I know I don’t need to worry about you- you don’t gamble and you don’t drink…” I didn’t think anything too odd about it…I just carried on. Well then while watching the actual awards (from the comfort of my friend’s living room) Tony said something during his speech about Ryan getting him into trouble when they are together….ok if Ryan doesn’t drink or gamble…he must be kind of straight-laced kind of guy…so what kind of trouble can Ryan get Tony into?

Well that’s it in regards to Champion’s week. I had a  GREAT time.  I hope it stays in Vegas for awhile because I will go out of my way to be in town each year!