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Sunday was a clear but blustery day at Texas Motor Speedway.  Team Office Depot/Old Spice started seventh on the starting grid and Stewart was soon quickly moving his Chevy Impala up the field as the race starts- and is in 3rd position by lap 30 of the race.  Because of the long initial green flag run – the field begins to cycle through a round of green flag pit stops starting around lap 50 and ending around lap 54.  Stewart stays out long enough to lead a lap before coming in for his service coming out third. Stewart quickly begins working his way up the field again and soon he passes Matt Kenseth to take the lead when Kenseth gets a little loose. The first caution of the day, due to debris- no doubt because of the wind, has Tony coming in to pit from first place- a slight miscue by the pit crew caused him to lose valuable time in the pits- dropping him two places down to third on his way out. Stewart remained consistent throughout the day- maintaining no further back than the top ten.  The Office Depot/Old Spice pit crew rebounded quite well from their early race miscue and was then able to get Stewart out efficiently and quickly at the end of the race- when track position was most valuable.

Said Stewart, in his post race team release, of the crew:

“Our guys had a couple rough spots on pit road in the beginning, so I just calmed them down, told them to take a deep breath and just slow down a little bit.  They had great stops the rest of the day. I am proud of those guys they rebounded really well.”team release

Tony was able to keep his car in the top five- finishing in fourth after a late charge and pass by Greg Biffle.  Stewart advanced to fifth in the points standings.  Teammate Ryan Newman spent most of his day a lap down in positions 24th-26th- but was able to gain late in the race as well- getting not only his lap back but finishing 15th.  Jeff Gordon, was able to hold off an impressive blistering charge through the pack late in the race made by teammate Jimmie Johnson to win his first ever race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Other Notes about Texas:

  • Rookie Joey Logano had an impressive qualifying effort at Texas- unfortunately his performance in the race wasn’t quite up to par- and at one point smacked the right side of the car pretty hard against the outside wall.
  • Jr. missed his pit stall again at Texas.  Maybe they should have someone stand in front of his pitboard and jump up and down?  Does his crew chief not count him down when he is entering?  When Tony was with Greg Zipadelli I know Greg would always start with “Ok you are 10 away…5 away, turn in…wheels straight put on the brake” I don’t know if Darian does the same thing for Tony- I assume so.
  • During the pre-show Chris Myers mentioned kind of off-handedly that a driver makes no fewer than 50 decisions a lap during a race.  Can you imagine trying to make 50 decisions going 180 mph- per lap?
  • One of the big news items this week is that NASCAR will be taking the first place car, the second place car’s engine and a random finisher’s car back to the R&D center to do post race inspection- instead of doing it right there at the track.  Does this mean they will be looking harder at the cars and engines?  Or do they think that the inspectors will be fresher after NOT having been at the track all day? Either way it’s an interesting and sudden decision.
  • The other big news is that NASCAR is either heavily considering or has already decided to move the end of year banquet from New York to Las Vegas.  Personally? I think it’s a great idea because I am so there. SO THERE.
  • Aric Armirola can be added to the newest list of drivers possibly out of a ride sooner rather than later.  It was mentioned on the pre-show that if a sponsor is not found by the Phoenix race for Armirola the Earnhardt Ganassi shop will pear down its three car operation down to a two car operation retaining drivers Martin Truex Jr and Juan Pablo Montoya. Armirola joins the likes of Kvapil and Gilliland who are in similar situations.
Next week is an off weekend for NASCAR- the weekend after Easter has NASCAR back in the desert at PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY.

After a weekend where two of the three practices and the qualifying session were rained out the weather looked beautiful for Sunday’s race at Martinsville.  Martinsville is the shortest track on the circiut but Sunday’s Goody’s 500 was definitely not short on action. I personally, thought Sunday’s race was one of the best this season.

Of course part of that could be because both Stewart-Haas Racing drivers, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman had top ten finishes. Tony finishing the day with an awesome third place finish- the best for Stewart-Haas Racing so far this season.  Ryan Newman finished the day in 8th place- a personal best for his since beginning his tenure at Stewart-Haas racing at the beginning of this season.  Both Tony and Ryan’s teams seemed to be working quite well on Pit Road despite the inherient cramp conditions in the Martinsville pits as well as having some non-choice pitstalls.

Since qualifying was rained out – the field lined up by points.  Initially Jeff Gordon, who started on the pole since he leads the points race right now, took the lead and seemed to stay in the lead a good portion of the race.  His only challenger seemed to be Denny Hamlin- who also looked fairly strong. His car seemed to get stronger while Gordon’s handling seem to fade late in the race- causing him to have a fourth place finish. In the end- it was a shootout between Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson- with the two swapping the lead back and forth several times during the last 22 laps or so. At one point during the swapping back and forth of the lead, Hamlin and Johnson were both practically sideways side by side in the turn.  In the end- Jimmie Johnson was able to get his first cup win of the season.

More Notes on Martinsville:

  • Best Work In of A Sponsor Product: Comes from Saturday’s Practice telecast on SPEEDTv where journalist said to Tony Stewart “This really stinks doesn’t it?” talking about the weather- and Tony retorted “It DOES NOT stink because we have OLD SPICE as a sponsor so it does NOT stink!”
  • Tony was apparently cussing at himself during the end of the race: “I was just cussing at myself because I wasn’t close enough to do anything about it.”
    Tony Stewart, on the winning pass (third)
  • I love how now that Rick Hendrick has been quoted as supporting Tony Eury Jr as Crew Chief for Dale Jr- that the Fox Commentators (I think it was DW) are now stating that part of the reason that Dale is having poor finishes is Tony Stewart’s fault because he recruited Darian Grubb away from HMS.  Um…no.
  • I was glad to hear that even Jeff Gordon gets frustrated during a race- as he threatened to “knock his head off” if Denny (or it might have been Tony- I thought Tony when I first heard it but my friend says no he was talking about Denny) he bumped him again.
  • I had no idea Joey Logano was so tall- (direct from my notes after seeing him standing next to Greg Zipadelli during the national anthem.)
  • Poor Kyle just couldn’t catch a break this race- seemed he was spinning more times than a hula hoop! Neither could Matt Kenseth- always a driver or six short of being the lucky dog.
  • Was it my imagination or did Jeff Gordon slight Tony Stewart’s third place finish in his post race interview?  Jeff felt he had at least a third place car…but he finished fourth (and maintained his points lead).

Next Week: Texas Motor Speedway.

So today I have for you- a virtual Tony Stewart grab bag of news. I was going to call this entry a Tony Stewart Cornucopia but that invokes an image of fall.  I tend to post all news on stewarthaasfan.com and don’t think to post it here or talk about it here- so here are some Tony Stewart notes for you.  Anyways…here we go: (more…)

Tomorrow (Thursday March 26th) morning, ESPN CLASSIC will be airing SportsCentury: Tony Stewart (it shows up for me on the west coast at 6:00am- so that would be 9:00pm for those of you on the east coast- and for those of you in between- well I am sure you can figure it out).  This is a 2005 biography of Tony and is excellent. I saw a previous airing (ok- I admit it- I dvr’d it in Jan and forgot to watch it until about two weeks ago) and really enjoyed it.

Well I have said it before and I will say it again. I love short track racing.  My dad was watching with me and was bored – frankly I think there is too much going on for him to keep track of at any one time.

Unfortunately it was not a great day for the Office Depot/Old Spice Impala judging by their 17th place finish.  It really bites to be stuck having to watch the National Broadcast of a race and be a fan of a driver who is not in the top ten or so- because not enough coverage is available.   I know the broadcasters can not cover an entire 43 car field- so I do understand that…it just bites because there isn’t enough information on what isn’t going right with my team and it is that that I do not like.   I do thank DirecTV for the free hotpass this season but I guess because it is free they eliminated my favorite part of hotpass- the channel known as the SD Channel last season which would let you watch the national broadcast while listening to one of several driver audios (and if Tony wasn’t a Hot Pass driver his audio was ALWAYS in the SD line up). I really REALLY miss that (and the fact that Tony has yet to be a hot pass driver).

Ok- so since the change to the track at Bristol- I think the cars can move around better on the track for the most part- so I loved the increase in side-by-side racing. That rocked.  I was also glad to see that Ryan’s US Army team seemed to be doing better and stayed in the top 10 most of the day finishing in 7th and removing them from the “danger zone” when it comes to being in the top 35 in owner points.

Since Tony definitely wasn’t really in any sort of contention to win I was glad to see Kyle win there- especially after such disappointment at the Nationwide race on Saturday.  If you missed the Nationwide race, Kyle ran quite strongly in it only to have a tire problem late in the race foil the win and Kevin Harvick eventually went on to win the Nationwide race).

More Notes on Bristol:

  • I was sad to hear during the pre-race broadcast that Kvapil’s ride will most likely fold unless they are able to find major sponsorship by Martinsville.  If you read this blog at all last season- you know that I really have YeahI really think Kvapil has talent and ability and hope that anyone out there looking for a driver would consider him.  I think he has talent.
  • I was also impressed with Joey Logano.  While he wasn’t able to keep the car clean- he was able to work himself out of some pretty hairy situations well- he seems to be learning pretty fast. Too bad his engine blew at the end.
  • Just how many incidents was Jamie McMurray in?  He is usually pretty good at keeping out of trouble it just kind of humored me that it seemed that every other caution there he was spinning out.
  • I really liked the National Anthem this race. It seemed like so far this season the national anthems have been less than…desirable (Vegas was the worst…and I was in the stands there).
Next Weeks Race: Martinsville- My favorite paperclip!

TJ MAXX – I have no idea what the “TJ” in TJ Maxx stands for.  Do know of someone who goes by his/her initials, instead of his/her full name?  What is their full name?  Why do they prefer initials?  Tell us a little bit about this person. I have a cousin who goes by D.J. instead of his given name. For the longest time I thought that was just his name (he is older than me-DJ are his first and middle initial).  I think he goes by DJ because he has the same name as his father so it was just a good way to tell them apart when calling for them or whatever.  I really don’t know much about DJ because he is older than me and during most of my childhood lived in Alabama so I never really got to see much of him.

TARGET – Tell us a story about target practice, hunting, or some sort of “shooting” activity. I love shooting at targets. I have never gone hunting though because in my house that is more of a “guys only” activity which frankly is fine with me.  I remember the time my dad and brother took me to the shooting range the first time and let me target practice with my grandpa’s .22. I found out that I am a pretty good shot- at least with the .22.  It’s actually pretty fun and relaxing. Next time I go I want to shoot something different though.

DOLLAR TREE – What’s the best bargain going nowadays?  Is there anything you buy that is really only $1.00 (or less)? Hmmm-well I sometimes shop in the dollar section of TARGET when I am looking for little gifts for an occasion and sometimes I find some cool stuff there.  Other than that- I have not found anything that I buy that is a dollar or less…at least not something I buy on a regular basis. I do like a good deal though- and I do like to use coupons!!

BIG LOTS – What would your perfect house lot look like?  Would it be big?  Smaller, with less lawn care?  Water feature?  Stone wall?  Fenced in yard?  Wooded? The lot would big big and have a nice wooded area perhaps by a big lake with a private dock. There would need to be a fenced in area for the dog but mostly secluded enough where you don’t need a fence around the yard. There would be a nice deck with a firepit outside and a good generous seating area…

WENDY’S – When you have an “all-day” excursion planned, do you prefer to sit down and eat a meal at a restaurant, or do you prefer a drive-through type experience in order to save more time for other activities? It really depends on who I am with and what kind of excursion it is.  For instance if I am going somewhere with BFM- because I don’t see her very often and we don’t get to go an as many excursions as we like- I would prefer a sit down meal because it would be part of the experience.  If I am somewhere with my sister-in-law, a sit down meal is more appropriate- especially if my nephew is with us.  If I am with my parents- its more about how much stuff we can cram into the day and then I don’t mind doing the drive through.

And now…Friday Fillin #116:

1. Why do we have to stop now?

2. Reading and Writing are now habits.

3. I have a headache.

4. I had never heard the phrase “ask not, want not” and it makes no sense to me.

5. I blog the way I always do.

6. How was I to know that this laptop would be so cool.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to resting, tomorrow my plans include sleeping in and chores and Sunday, I want to watch Tony Stewart and Team Office Depot/OldSpice win at Bristol!

One of my earliest memories revolves around cars and cameras. Both of them are still loves of mine today.  My dad has always loved photography and from the time I was very young would put a camera in my hand.  The first picture I ever took was at age three or four- it’s of my parents bending over waving because I wasn’t pointing it up at them- standing in front of our pontiac sunbird. Going to the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway really got the photographer juices flowing through me again.  Part of it has to do with it being spring-type weather and the light was great at the track most of the time.  On friday when I was walking around the Neon Garage I saw lots of “official” race photographers.  They were easy to spot- they wore roadwork type vests that said PHOTO on them.  And don’t think I didn’t have camera envy too.  I remember wandering around the garage area and my head whipping around- to check out a camera or seven.  Yeah a little embarassing I admit but it’s totally true.

During Friday I used my trusty Canon I5 IS that I LOVE- it’s not a dslr- but its more than just your average point and shoot).  I am completely self taught (as is my dad I must tell you and he takes great pictures) and mostly do that by trial and error and let me tell you it was definitely a trial and error type of day.  I got some great pictures and some horrendous pictures (blurry, out of focus, etc).

Let me give you some examples:

While visiting Tony’s garage stall I saw him get out of the car during practice, talk to crew chief Darian Grubb and then go check out something under the front splitter. These were my pictures (keep in mind that these are from the upstairs viewing galley through the glass windows):

Tony Peeks Under the Splitter- obvious autofocus problem- focused on the beam and the glare and not on Tony causing blur)

Tony Peeks Under the Splitter- obvious auto-focus problem- focused on the beam and the glare and not on Tony -causing blur)

Close-up of Tony peeking under the splitter (image degredation due to being taken through window coupled with digital zoom crispness loss)

Close-up of Tony peeking under the splitter (image degradation due to being taken through window coupled with digital zoom -crispness loss).

Now here is the same shot (kinda) being taken by a professional photographer (of course realize also that this picture is not taken through glass and is at the ground level obviously in Tony’s garage stall):

See the difference? Way better. Of course this photographer is more than likely standing right in his garage stall so access is different).

See the difference? Way better. Of course this photographer is more than likely standing right in his garage stall so access is different). THIS IS NOT MY PHOTO- it's from tonystewart.com

Now I know in my heart that the reason my pictures are crummy in comparison are:

1. I am not a professional nor do I have the kind of equipment those guys (and girls) carry around (how they do it I don’t know- it about killed my neck carrying around the Digital Rebel I used on Sunday).  My dad and I were looking at a professional lens the other day? 8 grand! Like I told my dad when he told me I could get it for him for his birthday: Yeah let me pull that kinda money outta my butt cuz I sure don’t have it in the bank.

2. I am not a professional and do not have the kind of access these guys (and girls) have to get the shot.

3. I am a self-taught, shoot-from-the-hip kinda person. I don’t take time to set up a shot. And while I have an awareness of concepts like the rules of three- I don’t often take the time to consider it and set up the shot accordingly. Usually I am more of a “Oh that’s a great picture opportunity” and start snapping.

I did get some good pictures that day.  This is my favorite:

Tony gets out of the car during a practice break. Why did this one come out so much better? I honestly have no clue. Angle maybe reduced glare through window?  This is one of my favorite shots from Fridays Practice (that I took).

Tony gets out of the car during a practice break. Why did this one come out so much better? I have no clue. Angle maybe reduced glare through window? There was slight blur of motion towards the bottom because he was swinging his leg out of the car.

Of course as I said that is one of my favorites that I took that day (and definitely my favorite Tony Stewart shot that day). However this is my favorite of other people’s shots from that day. It was another one I found on the Tony Stewart website:

Tony looks either perplexed or determined I cant decide which. (photo is NOT MINE. From: tonystewart.com)

Tony looks either perplexed or determined I can't decide which. (photo is NOT MINE. From: tonystewart.com)

What is it that I love about this shot? Well first of all the vivid red. The car in the forground yet slightly out of focus- but not out of focus so much as to not be able to recognize its parts. The hood up. The expression on Tony’s face. This is a picture I wish I had taken.

If you were keeping track- last year when we decided to go to the Vegas race, BFM woke up Thursday morning really sick- as in throwing up sick.  We were going to go see Tony Stewart’s driver appearance at the local Home Depot and at her insistence I went anyway with her brother instead.  That was the only driver appearance we got to that race. This year- however was quite the different beast.  To begin with no one was too sick to go.  Also there were tons of driver appearances – unfortunately it seemed that 85 percent of them were all at the same time (what is it with the Thursday from 4-6 time slot that the drivers love to use for their appearances?).  I told BFM that since I got to see Tony at both races we went to last year that this year she could pick our driver appearances.  So she picked:

Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Casey Mears.  The major problem there? Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch were doing their appearances at the same time at separate ends of the Vegas Strip (Kahne was in the Stratosphere and Kyle Busch was at M&M World which was just down from the MGM Grand).

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