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On Thursday Journo at The NASCAR Insiders asked quite simply “Do You Remember Why You Love NASCAR?”  I actually pondered this a bit in my guest entry over at NASCAR THIS WEEK back in April. It is hard for me to put into words why I love the sport that I love…but I do.  As I mentioned in the NTW piece, I have had a love of cars and a love of motorsports in general since I was knee high to a grasshopper and was just naturally drawn to cars since childhood.

Then there is the first hand experiences of being at a track that assault you from the moment you get out of your car; the noise that 43 cars make that can take the breath out of you, the mixture of oil, rubber, sweat, and a myriad of food mixing and giving each track it’s own signature smell, the rush of adrenaline I get during the flyover (and I am not even a driver). It’s a very physical thing to actually be on hand for a race. It’s a feeling that I can not adequately describe despite my many attempt, and it’s definitely something that someone who doesn’t love the sport just can not get.  My uncle still doesn’t get why I would travel 500 miles to “watch cars drive in a circle.”  Even my own best friend didn’t get it until recently…and she knew me back when I was a geeky little junior high school kid (she didn’t get why I had race cars on my walls instead of Charlie Sheen and Tom Cruise). She eventually learned to tolerate it in me until just last year when I finally (only took like what 15-20 years) turned her into a NASCAR fan and now she LOVES it like I do.

Journo’s original point was that the whole Mayfield drug debacle is drawing negative attention to OUR sport- and as fans and lovers of the sport we need to step back, take a breath and remember what is GOOD about NASCAR this season and right now (goes on to give several examples such as Mark Martin winning races at 50 and first time winners Keselowski and Reutimann). His comments got me really thinking about what do I personally love about NASCAR right now at this point in the season (in no particular order):

  • Silly Season. I will proudly stand up and say I LOVE the rumors flying around about silly season. Will Harvick be with RCR next season? Will Brad Keselowski get that full time ride an if he does who will it be for? Will Joe Gibbs Racing be bringing on a fourth car? Will Stewart-Haas be fielding a third car? Will Danica make the jump to NASCAR? Who doesn’t love the surmising and the speculating that comes with this time of the year. Last season? I was all wrapped up in the Stewart-Haas thing (read I was shocked out of my socks) so much that I didn’t have much of a chance to enjoy all that goes with silly season…this year I can sit back and enjoy throwing my twelve cents in for whatever its worth.
  • That Stewart-Haas racing currently has two cars in the top 12 in points. I have been a Tony fan a long long time…I was shocked when he made the jump to owner/driver. I didn’t doubt him, I was concerned but I jumped right on board when I saw how excited he was. But how GREAT is it that he is up there leading the points with teammate Ryan Newman behind him in 7th place in points so far? Yes I know a lot can happen between now and the chase but it’s great right now.
  • Speaking of the chase- I love how drivers are teetering on the edge of making it…or not. It’s better than Bubble Day for the Indy 500! Will Biffle or Reutimann or Bowyer be able to fight their way into the chase? Will Kyle Busch, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth be able to stay in the chase? It’s drama at it’s best people!
  • That NASCAR, tracks and drivers are starting to embrace social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to reach out to us fans. I think that they are important tools- I am on twitter through out the day- more than email. It works for me. I admit to a slight addiction to facebook as well. I love that I can get updates (both personal and official) from these sites without having to hunt around for them. I hope more drivers come on board (hint hint Tony). NASCAR is even working with a group of selected bloggers in creating a Citizen Media Corp- which also rocks because bloggers are fans not journalists or sportscasters and have unique opinions and thoughts that they want heard- and it’s a great feeling to be included and listened to. Plus the more NASCAR bloggers unite in any method the stronger the voices are and thus the more we are heard.
  • The Mayfield drug debacle. Yes it’s turning kind of circus-like and pretty soon we almost expect to see someone like Jerry Springer jump in, however- I am going to disagree with Journo and say that this situation is bringing an important subject to light.  It’s something that hasn’t really been talked about much. And no matter what the ultimate outcome specifically regarding Mayfield’s case in particular- I think that NASCAR will emerge with one thing: a stronger and more broadly understood drug policy.
  • Kyle Busch. You may love him or you may hate him, but everyone has some feeling about him. He’s stepped into the “NASCAR BADBOY” role that some feel has been missing.  He’s young. He’s hot. He drives a mean car. He says the first thing that comes to mind (ok he reminds me of Tony so you know I like him). At Infineon I was actually in the crowd on the track during driver Intros…and when he was announced he was booed so viciously that it made me actually stop taking pictures and turn around to see if I needed to run for cover. Do I think he deserves it? No. Do I think he handles himself well? Most of the time. Do I think he has talent? Hell yeah. I also thinks he brings a little something to the table excitement wise- whether its a war of words between him and Junior or a little bitterness over some on-track action with Tony, you have to admit it adds excitement.

Of course this is not an inclusive list of ALL things I love about NASCAR on any given day. It’s just a brief list I came up with in response to a question. There are more long standing things about the sport that I love too. There are GOOD things to love about this sport all the time.

You know I love you, Office Depot.  I have loved you far before you were Tony Stewart’s sponsor. Why? Because you have office supplies and I have a serious office supply addiction.  When you became one of Tony’s primary sponsors I nearly did a back flip…except I am not really that flexible. I love office supplies (and as a kid I loved school supplies) of all kinds.  Pens are my favorite supply…but I also have a serious love of all things post-it notey, notebook-like, and well I could go on but I don’t want to bore you. I do, however, have a small bone to pick with you!

So anyway I recently found myself in the need of three office supplies (1 red pen, 1 binder and a pack of graph paper).  I knew it was school supply season and I figured I would be able to find what I needed fairly quickly.  I don’t even get past the door and you are already distracting me with a big huge cardboard cutout of Tony Stewart.  I want this cardboard cut out. I asked my mom if I created a huge diversion in the back of the store if she would grab him and haul ass out to the truck and throw him in the backseat…but she declined. Damnation.

So I finally get into your fine store and head to my beloved pen isle only to find it seriously lacking in two things: Single pens. And Red Pens. I was really hoping for a single red Sharpie pen (not the fine tipped marker but the actual Sharpie pen…because I LOVE THOSE!!!). However I was unable to find a single red pen to buy. I just needed one. Not 12. Now luckily I was able to fine a 12 pack of red papermates on sale even for only 1.99 but really I only needed ONE pen. Not 12. Now I have 11 extras!  Granted I will probably eventually use them…but 11 extras is really excessive- especially for red-it’s my least favorite color of pen. Now yes I could have bought the three pack of a slightly better model of pen in my desired ink color however- but they were also nearly three times more expensive than the 12 pack of the cheaper pen.

Also- just so you know? Your graph paper selection? Stinks. I was looking for the kind that is 10 squares an inch and the best you had was 5 squares an inch. I will make due because I wasn’t about to go searching the damn town over for what I was looking for…

Other than that I really love your store (and the employees are usually so helpful. The guy who asked me if he could help me right when I walked in was able to tell me what aisle graph paper was on instantaneously without even thinking about it).

AMY

PS. I still really want the cardboard Tony in the entry way!

Valli from The Fast And The Fabulous gave us a challenge to list what we pack to a race. Instead of just throwing mine into her comments section I decided to make a full-blown entry about it.

The first thing you need to know about me is that I am a notorious overpacker.  I can be gone for two days and feel the need to take with me half of my wardrobe.  I know I am an overpacker and I can’t help myself.  So what I take to a race is just one of those plastic backpacks that everyone takes. All tracks I have been to so far don’t seem to have an issue with them (of course mine is a Tony Stewart one). I usually end up bringing way too much stuff to a track too but here is a list of everything I manage to stuff into my little plastic backpack:

  • Sweatshirt
  • poncho (what if it rains?)
  • Sunscreen (somewhere between spf 50 and 100 and its reapplied several times)
  • Chapstick or lipbalm with spf in it.
  • Hat
  • CellPhone (why I dunno…it’s not like I could hear it ring if I wanted to).
  • Keys (especially important if I am the driver)
  • At least one digital camera..sometimes two.
  • At least one spare chip and one spare battery for the camera. Sometimes an extra camera lense.
  • Digital camera brush and cloth for dusty conditions.
  • wallet (and everything that goes with one of those including id and money)
  • Advil
  • bandaids
  • Hand Sanitizer (both gel and wipe form)
  • extra set of contacts
  • contact lens drops
  • my glasses
  • face wipes
  • A sharpie
  • A pen
  • a note pad (you never know when you need to write something down)
  • gum
  • Those little crystal light packets to add in water
  • A big bottle of water

That’s all jammed in one of those little plastic driver backpacks.  How I do it I don’t know. Maybe next race I go to I will take a picture of it all stuffed in the poor little thing.

Another exciting finish thanks to the new double file restart rule.

Tony qualified and started 32nd in Saturday night’s race.  But once that green flag dropped Tony was on a mission to move forward and that is exactly what he did nearly immediately.  It didn’t take him long to work his way up to the top 15 and then to the top 10- where he stayed around 7th place most of the evening. He seemed to be struggling a bit with the handling of the car into the turns judging by his hotpass audio.  Crew chief Darian Grubb continuously took stabs at adjusting the car to make it work more for Stewart with adjustments to air pressure and trackbar. The race at Chicagoland was actually fairly incident free…the first two cautions of the race thrown for track debris.  Team Office Depot/Old Spice seemed to be working their way towards a solid top 10 possiby even a top 5 finish.

Then there was the bad pit stop and things just seemed to go downhill for a bit.  First there was the pitstop- under caution where Tony took off from the pits two lugnuts short of a full load.  Crew Chief Darian Grubb calls him back in almost immediately- reminding him to be calm about it. Tony may have been mad but if he was I didn’t hear it.   Then during the next caution, after pitting, Tony either cuts down a tire on debris or thinks he cuts down a tire and comes back in to the pits again.  During that last 60 laps he must have pitted 4 or 5 times, luckily all of them were during cautions and he fell no lower than 17th. Each time Stewart and Grubb discussed changes to the car that Tony needed to be able to push through the field.

Tony was determined though and didn’t let a frustrating night get the best of him and continued to push forward through the pack with the help of his spotter.  Before the last restart Tony and Darian had one of my favorite exchanges of the night with Darian telling Tony that it “aint been pretty.” and Tony telling Darian that was true but “he wasn’t done yet.” And how true that was because Tony ended up pushing forward into 4th, retaining his points lead over second place Jeff Gordon.  The race winner was Mark Martin. Teammate Ryan Newman finished 6th to help Stewart-Haas racing land another double top ten for the team.

NOTES on CHICAGOLAND:

  • How cool that Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon were able to finish 1-2 and how great for the fan to get that money! Wish it was me!
  • Boy Jeff Burton doesn’t like the double file restarts…but I do. Of course they have been working to Tony’s advantage so far.
  • I decided that I didn’t much care for the back-to-school paint scheme Tony was running- with the exception of the part of the car that looked like a composition book. I think it would have been cooler to make the whole car look like the book and then maybe have it look like a kid scribbled on it… instead of the crayons on the front and the pens on the side.  Plus I just don’t like the white base to the car.  But that is just me.
  • Speaking of alternate paint schemes…should it be called a paint scheme or a wrap scheme…since technically they wrapped the car?
  • Being alone and watching a race doesn’t stop me from talking to the tv. Or yelling things like “WATCH OUT!” like Tony can here me (regarding when Paul Menard nearly spun into his right side. Tony’s reaction was a nice calm “Wow that was about as close as I wanna get tonight.” Me I was all “WATCH OUT!!!”
  • I really could just slap whoever sits there at DirecTV central with their finger on the censor button where it comes to Tony’s radio feed. I know I have harped on this before…but I really wanted to know what he and Darian said at the end of the race but all I got to hear was something like “Damn….win them and lose them as a team.” I know that there was stuff inbetween.
  • I know that you know I love the commercials.  Did  you catch the new ending to the Toyota Autograph Seeker commercial…when the little flying robot comes back with Kyle Busch and he just kind of moans? It made me laugh.
  • Speaking of the commericals…I also noticed a new version of the old spice commercial that had the girl who in previous versions was “from russia” presenting tony with a big ole turkey leg- which he bites into and then proceeds to say “Thanks Old Spice” complete with mouthful. All I could do is shake my head. At least it wasn’t as disturbing as last week’s Burger King commercial that had Tony and the King (who you all know gives me the creeps) swapping spots in the car so Tony can enjoy himself a Double Whopper (I still can’t find that commercial on youtube or anything or I would post it for your pleasure)…that was just creepy. I wish Tony had just run over the King or something.

Next weekend is an off weekend. The next NASCAR race is on July 26th at Indianapolis Motorspeedway.

All I can say is wow. I was able to catch most of Kyle’s press conference, along with snippets of Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and all of Tony Stewart’s today thanks to live streaming video (gotta love the internet!!) And wow.

I heard Tony’s statement yesterday (I think it was yesterday) about him talking to Kyle about the incident and that they were on the “same page” regarding the last lap incident at Daytona (don’t know what I am talking about? Click here for video of the last 5 laps). I don’t necessarily know what that page is- but there must be a pretty darn big page break in the middle of it.

Frankly, I was kind of surprised yesterday when Tony made it sound like it was pretty much water under the bridge, these things happen let’s get on with Chicago kind of thing (that wasn’t exactly what Tony said mind you but that is the impression I got)  because Saturday night…Kyle LOOKED pissed. And frankly- he probably WAS pissed- especially being in the heat of the moment on a hot evening.

Well today during the media session with Kyle- not only did he look pissed but he sounded pissed.  Kyle was asked what could be done about incidents like the one that happened on Saturday at Daytona and he said that “If the second place car purposely dumps the first place car- NASCAR should black flag them and they should definitely not be called the race winner.” Then he was asked by the same reporter (I believe it was Dustin Long) to clarify- did he believe that he was dumped on Saturday to which Kyle definitely responded with an emphatic affirmative.

Fast forward through the media sessions a bit- other drivers have come and gone including Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne- both of whom were asked about their views on the incident and both of whom said they did not believe the incident was on purpose.   Tony comes out for his session and starts off by stating straight away that he’s not going to say anything any different than what he said previously- he has spoke with Kyle and they are on the same page.  Someone immediately brings up that he probably didn’t hear what Kyle said earlier and he tells them he read the transcript he knows what he said- his statement still stands. The media in the room were mostly respectful in that they didn’t go where clearly Tony didn’t want to go…except for one guy who wanted to ask about Kyle’s stance that in a situation like that a black flag should be given to which Tony answered “I am not going to bite on your lure.”  I can’t really blame him. He clearly stated at the beginning of the session that he didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

Now I don’t know what the “same page” is Tony was talking about because  seems that Tony is in a different chapter of the book than Kyle is.  Does it surprise me? No. Kyle is a young, very aggressive driver. I have been to a race and heard half the track boo the guy. He had a hot season last year. This year he is struggling a little bit (in comparison to last year).  It was obvious by hearing Kyle talk today (I am speaking of his comments about Stewart-Haas Racing’s affiliation with Hendrick Motorsports) that he is still a little bitter about being let go from Hendrick Motorsports (and I bet after Kyle’s season last year Rick Hendrick might have been wondering if he made the right move there).

Kyle doesn’t have a yellow stripe on his bumper but he is only 24 years old.  I personally think that the younger you are the more likely you are to lash out. The more likely you are to try to fight EVERY battle. I think of where I was when I was 24 years old compared to where I am now personally- I was different. I was more aggressive (where know I tend to refine passive-agressiveness into an art).  Best I can figure it, at that age I had just hired on at my job in a permanent basis and just thinking about my attitude towards difficulties on my commute has changed  (got to carry the whole cars theme here)…I now don’t get as angry. Someone cuts me off- most days now I will just mutter under my breath and carry on with myself (notice I said MOST days…not ALL). Back then…I would have made sure the driver knew I felt I was “wronged” somehow.  People change (I like to think mostly for the better) as they get older.

If you were to compare Kyle to a book, Kyle is still in the preface (and Joey Logano- in case you are wondering- he has barely made it to the Title Page). Tony is probably about a a quarter to a third of the way into the story (I have to say this – cuz Tony’s only a couple years older than me). It’s not too far into the story that Tony doesn’t understand where Kyle is…but he understands a little bit more of the plot.

I actually REALLY like Kyle…and honestly had he won Daytona- I would have been a little disappointed that Tony didn’t win (I am, after all a Tony fan first and foremost) but I would have been glad for Kyle.  (I did get to see Kyle win in Vegas this year- and let me tell you that rocked! Seeing him win at his hometown track was awesome).  I am still of the stance that this was “one of those racing deals.” I don’t think Kyle expected Tony to be pulled up to his right rear quarter panel as far as he did when he moved right for the block any more than  Tony expected Kyle to move up on him.  These cars are moving extremely fast and you have to remember the drivers have limited vision in the car (various factors do play into this including lack of side view mirrors and safety restraints- which Kyle and Kasey and Joey should all be very thankful for seeing as they all took hard hits and walked away to play another day).

So last weekend Tony was driving a new paint scheme (the BK paints scheme was mostly white with blue and orange) and won at Daytona at night. This weekend Tony is running a special “Back To School” Office Depot paint scheme (mostly white with lots of other colors) for a race Saturday night at Chicagoland.  Hmmm maybe he will win again.

I found a picture of the car- so be prepared to look for it (not that you can miss it- it will probably be the most colorful car out there):

My favorite part is the part at the top that looks like a composition book. And of course the writing implements because I LOVE pens and the sort!! Anyway…the car will be hard to miss don’t you think?

This might be old news to some of you and I meant to mention it a couple days ago but I wanted to tell you that Tony Stewart will be featured on CNBC’s “Inside Track: Refueling the Business of NASCAR.”  The hour long program, hosted by CNBC Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell will go one-on-one with the chairman and CEO Brian Friance to discuss how he plans to weather the storm. The program will also take viewers inside the garage of driver-turned-owner Tony Stewart.

“Inside Track” will premiere on CNBC on Thursday July 9th at 9:00pm EST (check local listings…for DirecTV users this CNBC is channel 355).

I have had my DVR set for nearly a week…forgive me for giving you all such short notice!

Just some random thoughts I have been thinking about but too lazy to pull into individual posts…some NASCAR-related, some not…so put on your wading boots:

  • It was probably the night of July 2nd or July 3rd, but I had the strangest dream. I dreamed I was in NY with my friend and the Statue Of Liberty was alive and walking around crushing things like Godzilla.  Of course I have never been to NY so in my dream NY looked like San Francisco….it was disturbing.
  • Fireworks: For the first time in many many moons, my town decided to allow “safe and sane” fireworks which is kind of cool right? Well it’s also my 15 month old nephew’s first experience with fireworks. So I purposely didn’t go outside with the family to watch / worry about someone losing a finger. Why? Cuz they freak me out and I didn’t want him to be a big scaredy cat like his aunt.  Reports were that he was very mesmerized by them and not scared at all.  I saw the pictures – they were pretty!
  • I did however take part in the post fireworks family smores tradition. It is tradition that on the forth my dad builds a little fire in the camping weber and we toast (or is it roast? I dunno I usually just stick mine in and wait for em to catch on fire then blow them out and they are perfectly charred just the way I like em) marshmallows and make smores. Unfortunately my nephew was asleep by then…so no sticky marshmallow mess for him.
  • I have decided that I don’t like the races on tv with “limited” commercial interruptions cuz even though they put the commercial on I can still see the track and mostly I am like WHAT IS GOING ON? Plus I worry if I wander from the room I will miss something. I don’t know WHY I feel this way because I am use to this on HOT PASS but when the national broadcast is like that I feel stressed.
  • TC at TheNascarInsiders is making a fairly bold prediction stating that Tony will win the 2009 Sprint Cup Championship…what do you think? I love the sound of it. I really do BUT it’s a little early. Although he is HOT right now. I don’t wanna jinks him!

Well I guess I didn’t have as much to expound upon as I thought I did.