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Well the last we spoke of my Road Course Adventure (see: Infineon: A Road Course Adventure Day 1), BFFM and I had spent Friday afternoon at the track…after getting slightly lost and ending up in Petaluma (my dad says I could get lost in a paper bag). Saturday’s adventure could be dubbed: The Day of Dolphins and Driving. And unfortunately didn’t have a darn thing to do with race cars…as you will soon find out.

On Saturday we decided to skip practice at INFINEON and go nearby SIX FLAGS: DISCOVERY KINGDOM (it use to be Marine World when I was a kid).  Well I didn’t know we would end up having so much fun and we didn’t really even ride anything (neither of us like roller coasters).  Of course it shouldn’t really surprise me that we had so much fun- because we both kind of like going to zoos and the like.   Well we ended up staying a little later than we thought we would but that was ok. Here are some pictures from our fun time at Discovery Kingdom:

A dophin trainer and audience helper instruct the dolphins from the underwater window at Discovery Kingdom. Photocredit: ME

A dophin trainer and audience helper instruct the dolphins from the underwater window at Discovery Kingdom. Photocredit: ME

A camel observes us watching it! Photo Credit: ME

A camel observes us watching it! Photo Credit: ME

I spent a lot of time in the Butterfly habitat..only to find out...that it was really humid in there- and I had to squelch the instinct to swat at them! Photo Credit: ME

I spent a lot of time in the Butterfly habitat..only to find that it was really humid in there- and I had to squelch the instinct to swat at them! Photo Credit: ME

I dont know why but I LOVE Flamingos...

I don't know why but I LOVE Flamingos...Photo Credit: ME

I love this giraffe picture I took. Photo Credit: ME

I love this giraffe picture I took. Photo Credit: ME

After we were done at Discovery Kingdom- we grabbed a quick bite to eat nearby and took off to the track.  I honestly do not remember what time it was but I do know that we were flagged into the gate and drove up only to have trackworkers tell us to turn around and go in gate one…that gate 7 was now exit only.  We were cranky by this point and decided to go out looking for this vinyard in Calistoga that is owned by my mom’s best friend’s son-in-law because my mom wanted me to pick up a bottle of Cabernet for my dad.  So we drove and drove and drove…through all kinds of wine country…I don’t think I have ever seen so many grapes being grown ever! Anyway traffic was terrible during parts of the drive because of a fairly nasty looking accident at one point and it being Saturday I assume.  We finally get to the Winery only to find it closed. I have no idea if they were closed on weekends or we just missed them closing (we got there about 4:15ish I thing.  So I wasn’t looking forward to it but we turned around and drove back to the track only so we could then drive back to the hotel. I am sure there was a more direct route but we did it this way for two reasons:

1. The genius (me) who printed out directions didn’t think to print directions from the winery directly to the hotel. That was dumb.

2. On the way to the winery we spied a HUGE blue chair and decided it would make good picture fodder…so we definitely wanted to stop at the big blue chair on the way back.  How could we not:

BFFM in the Big Blue Chair

BFFM in the Big Blue Chair. Photo Credit: ME

We also stopped at a cute little market to get something to drink because we were both parched as heck…and while we just picked up some diet cokes and two chocolate covered marshmallows on a stick for the drive- they really have a lot of stuff in that cute little store (although it was murder trying to turn left out of the market to get back on the highway).

So yeah we never actually made it out of the car on Saturday at Infineon…but we still had a lot of fun.

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I must say that after we got back from our entire race-cation I found out that Tony Stewart was at Six Flags but on FRIDAY! Damnation! I totally would have went had I known! URG!

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Stay tune for the final installment- hopefully up sometime Wednesday or Thursday (its a long one!)

Here’s a story of a girl named Amy, who went to Infineon for the first time on June 19-21st to see the NASCAR race.  In tow- her BFF.

On Friday on a semi lark,  we left my home, drove to Santa Rosa to see Tony’s show car:

Tonys Show Car at Office Depot in Santa Rosa, CA

Tony's Show Car at Office Depot in Santa Rosa, CA. Did you know that the office depot car is sparkly? It is when you are up close to it. Photo Credit: ME

From there we were off to the hotel. We were staying in in Concord, CA. All I can say is that HOTWIRE has not led us astray yet. This was a nice hotel- centrally located for our purposes. After a moment to refresh we were on our way to Infineon to check out the track- get our bearings and hopefully catch qualifying since we definitely did not catch practice.

You all know I have a fear of heights.  Its actually a fairly intense fear- so much that I the Ferris Wheel at Disney’s California Adventure made me cry (as an adult). Well this fear also extends to extremely tall bridges…and I knew we would have to be crossing one so I was a little freaked out to have to drive across a bridge. I must have been envisioning like the Bay Bridge or The Golden Gate- because this one didn’t freak me out at all.  So YEY there- since we would have to cross it several times.  The other thing I would have to deal with that I have never dealt with before would be a toll! $4.00!! That is crazy- or so I think anyway! That would be 20 bucks a week if I had to cross that bridge everyday for work or something! Of course I would also have one of those fancy fastrac things and not have to wait to hand my money to a person.

Anyway- we follow our directions to the speedway- and in trying to find the parking area- end up by passing the track and the parking area only to end up in nearby Petaluma. Whoops.  I never said I had a great sense of direction. So we get turned back towards the speedway and I see that I totally missed the parking area turn off- and get turned into the speedway and parked (next to a pasture filled with sheep and goats I might add).  So we walked up to the shuttle stop and just as I was cresting the top of the hill I hear what sounds like my car being pelted with pebbles. I turn to see a jerk in a car peeling out of the gravel lot and peppering my car (which was parked in an end spot) with dirt. Both my friend and I turn and instinctively yell “REAL NICE JERK” and apparently we did it loud enough they heard cuz the passenger turned towards us.  I mean seriously use your freaking head people.  Anyway, we just happened to hit it right so that the shuttle was there at the stop and made our way down to the grandstand area of the track. We were going to watch qualifying in our Turn 7 seats…but problem there was that we were kinda late by the time we made it to the grandstands and it would require either quite the hike or a shuttle ride!! So we took a place right next to the start/finish line about halfway up- which was actually the optimum place to watch qualifying:

Martin Truex Qualifies at Infineon Raceway

Martin Truex Jr. Qualifies at Infineon Raceway. I really liked Martin's blue car for Infineon. Photo Credit: ME

Denny Hamlin takes the green flag at the beginning of his qualifying run. Photo Credit: ME!

Denny Hamlin takes the green flag at the beginning of his qualifying run. Photo Credit: ME!

Jeff Gordon qualifies. I have to say that Jeffs car is extremely pretty in person.  It stands out well.

Jeff Gordon qualifies. I have to say that Jeff's car is extremely pretty in person. It stands out well. Photo Credit: ME

Junior makes his qualifying attempt at Infineon

Junior makes his qualifying attempt at Infineon. Photo Credit: ME

I am going to have to admit that it was a little more disorientating than I thought it would be to be sitting in stands on the “wrong” side of the track. By that I mean that the grandstands at the startfinish line they are on the side of the track that would be considered “infield” at an oval. That was just a little odd to me.

After qualifying we wandered through the tunnel to the merchandise area (you can see it on the otherside of the track over there in the qualifying pictures). I don’t know if it was me or not but there seemed to be signifigantly fewer merchandise haulers at infineon than elsewhere. I don’t know if the others were located somewhere else but I didn’t see that many. When were done with merchandise we wandered back over to the shuttle and left for the day.

Next Up: Infineon: A Road Course Adventure Day 2: Saturday

I couldn’t have predicted the end of this race if I had wanted to.  Wow.  The conditions were cloudy nearly all day in Louden and from the moment I tuned in I worried if the race would be one of those where we would race for 20 laps and be under caution for 35 because of rain. Luckily- for the most part we were fairly lucky.

Tony had the pole since starting positions were set by the points because of a rained out qualifying.  However once the green flag dropped at Louden, Tony started dropping back like someone had thrown a boat anchor out the rear decklid or something.  Meanwhile Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch played swap the lead backand forth, back and forth. Then it dawned on my that Tony was a hot pass driver so I switched to hotpass on to discover that his radio feed sounded like crap. I hope it didn’t sound like that to him…because that would annoy the heck out of me…all that popping and cracking and half conversations that did not even appear to be his. Tony ran top five most of the day until a late race pitstop mishap on the right front tire caused him to lose a couple of positions in the pits. After a round of green flag pitstops and then a caution and a red flag thrown for rain, the race would not resume- just 28 laps shy of a complete race.  Tony ended up finishing a respectable fifth. Rookie Joey Logano- who took over the number 20 Home Depot machine when Tony Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing to move to SHR, won his first cup race by being in the right place at the right time when the race was called…and that would be the front!

Notes About Louden:

  • I thought Jeff Gordon congratulating Joey Logano was really gracious. Frankly- I don’t think I would be that gracious but that is just me- I can get a wee bit competitive.
  • Poor Ryan Newman…so close…but not. He ran out of gas with just a lap or two to go- when rain was starting to fall. He just can NOT catch a break this season.

Next weekend its a Saturday Night race at a little track you may have heard of: DAYTONA!

Obviously I love racing, and I have since I was a child. We have established this fact pretty firmly here. But what you may not know because they do NOT necessarily go hand-in-hand is that I love CARS in general.  From the time I was about 10 to well into my teens my walls were filled with car posters. People new to our house who didn’t know any better could have probably easily walked into my bedroom thinking it my brothers- based on the posters. Everything from Lamborghini’s and Ferrari’s to tricked out Nomads, Vettes and Camaros. This was way before shows like Unique Whips, Pimp My Ride and others became popular.

We had a neighbor at the time that my parents were really friendly with. They were an older couple (well older than my parents) and the man who’s name I have completely spaced on had a “hot rod” chevy pickup that he doted on during the weekends. He would be out in the driveway washing it or working on it. Anyway- long story short- they became really friendly with my parents and because of that friendship I benefitted in the way of tons and tons of HOT ROD magazines (and the like).  It helped develop my love of cars…but especially American made muscle cars.  I would drool over pictures of the cars- cutting out the ones I liked and making mosaics for my bulletin board.

I know I have mentioned my love of classics like the Split-Window Vette and the Chevy Nomad many times here (and on facebook)…and if I were in a position where I could own a couple of classics both of those top my list of cars to own*. My love for the Nomad is probably one of the main reasons I own the my CHEVY HHR. They are similar in body style (well as much as a gorgeous classic and a modern car could be anyway). I fell in love with the HHR because of the classic lines and body style that screamed classic car and modern day all at the same time (and the 1000 mile test drive in the rental HHR didn’t hurt matters much).

Well yesterday it was time for my service- so I took my HHR into my chevy dealership  where I bought her (yes I have her serviced at the dealer- because well I have a bunch of free services through them and they have really impressed me so far during my ownership of the car).  After I dropped it off- I met my mom who was there to take me to work (they have a shuttle but I work a couple towns away from where I live).  As we were driving past the front of the dealership what did I see? A 2010 Chevy Camaro (in a orange-ish red color) sitting right there smack in front of the show room. (Not in the showroom but outside).  Let me tell you right now? That little car is a sweet looking little ride.  I might have even drooled just a little bit.  During my lunch my mom brought me back to the dealership to pick up the HHR and I might have lingered just a couple minutes longer than I should have by the Camaro.  I couldn’t help it honestly.  I may have even mutttered “This is one sweet ride!” a little too close to the salesman who was charged with guarding it like hawk. But this is my first time seeing one of them up close and personal. And let me tell you…THAT IS ONE SWEET LITTLE RIDE!!! It was all I could no not to beg to take her out for a test drive. And yes I am serious. I may have had to fight the intense urge I had to lick the car!**

A huge part of me wishes I had waited to trade my little Rav in until now- cuz I would be all over that Camaro let me tell you that. But- I do love my HHR and frankly I need to love it cuz I am still paying for her.  And the Rav- well she was starting to be a problem- with the deciding occassionally not to start for no good reason that any of the Toyota mechanics could find anyway.  I was very disenfranchised with both dealerships I took her too to have her fixed…which no one seemed to be able to do and I needed more reliable transportation.

I was telling my mom about the Camaro and how I might have drooled just a little bit…she said I always thought you were more of an SUV/truck kind of girl…and I said they have their place- but I am defintely a CAMARO kind of girl!!

Now…if you happen to want a chance to win a brand new Camaro…and not just any camaro- but TONY STEWART’s CAMARO that is apparently sitting over at Stewart-Haas Racing’s shop- you can purchase a raffle ticket for $100.00- with proceeds benefitting the Tony Stewart Foundation (plus other early bird prizes as well). Let me tell you- if I had an extra hundred burning a hole in my pocket I might consider it.

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* Other cars on that list would include: 55 Bel Air, a 71 Hemi Cuda, 69 Charger (In Dukes of Hazzard orange of course) and I could go on and on and on…

** Ok…you have to remember that commercial…the volkswagon one where people where rushing out to their volkswagon dealership and licking the cars to “claim” the car theirs? My family and I have this thing that if there is something we want…we say we wanted to go lick it to claim it…I am not some weird car licking creep- I promise.

Wow…that was an interesting albeit short race on Sunday.  Well at least it seemed short to me. I don’t know why – since they ran the full race. Maybe it was the lack of cautions?

Tony was a Hot Pass driver this week.  I don’t know if HOT PASS was listening to me or snoozing on the job but I did get to hear Tony complain that his car was “Looser than shit!” on the radio. Despite seeming to wrestle an ill-handling car for most of the race- overall Tony seemed pretty good- he was in the Top 10 most of the day. After the last caution, crew cheif Darian Grubb called on Stewart to save gas- which he did- however about 100 feet from the start finish line Tony ran out of gas but was still able to coast across the finishline in a very respectable 7th place. Tony retained the points lead- leading second place (in both the race and the points) Gordon by 47 points.  Tony’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman also struggles with an ill-handling car all day- at one point actually replacing a spring during a pitstop. Ryan Newman is currently fifth in the points 225 points behind his teammate.

Notes About Michigan:

  • Ok- seriously I didn’t see that it was that big of a deal that Kyle smashed the guitar/trophy.  It is his trophy. It was done in a “rock n roll” kinda spirit. Can we please move on now?
  • Also I am kinda finding the whole Kyle vs Jr and Jr. Nation thing a guilty pleasure to witness. It is slightly humorous. I don’t know why I am finding it humorous to watch the two slug insults back and forth but I am.
  • Wow two races in a row where fuel mileage played a heavy hand.  I don’t see how people can not think it’s exciting. This time we had not only our race leader run out of gas well before the start finish line, but the second place car run out of gas too (Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle). It’s all part of the strategy component of it all.

So on Tuesday when I posted about the NASCAR Citizen Journalist Media Corp formation Valli (whom I love) made the comment that she hoped I got nominated or included because she would love to read about ME standing at Tony’s hauler asking him questions. This made me giggle to myself.  This is something I can NOT imagine myself actually doing. Maybe standing on the edges of the media hords and if I am feeling REALLY ballsy maybe snapping a picture or six.  Not that I wouldn’t LOVE to do it…I just am not the bravest of people although I have gotten better.

Case in point: The first race of any type that I attended in the flesh was an Indy Car race at Laguna Seca when I was in high school (this was before they split into the two leagues known as IRL and Champ- and was then known as CART). He bought weekend passes complete with paddock passes and brought his big Minolta camera (before dslr’s were affordable by the public) and he would basically just wander right into the team stalls if they weren’t roped off to take pictures. My little, shy teenage self was mortified at him doing this and would usually wander away when he would pull these shenanigans. He even somehow bs’ed his way into the Team Havoline Hospitality Tent that was set up near the grandstands where we were sitting. Granted I was more shy then (I am sure I have told you the story about how he basically had to push me up to AJ Foyt to get his autograph because in my brain I was ALL THAT IS AJ FREAKING FOYT!!! and then I froze).

Fast forward to a couple years ago- my dad got comped tickets to see the Sportscars series running at Laguna Seca that included access to the paddock. He has one of his Canon DSLRs and I had a camera with me too…and I started wandering up to the different stalls and taking pictures but I always made sure I stayed dutifully out of the actual stall and out of the way of any crew members. We both walked up to one of the garage stalls and I took a picture and carried onto to the next stall. Suddenly I feel like I have lost my party so I look around…and he has actually WALKED INTO the garage stall I was just peeking into and is all squatted down to take his picture.  I just chuckled and stood outside waiting for him because I have this complex – I am not big on breaking rules…and the garages are like their domain – I am just there trying to take a picture or seven- so I definitely wouldn’t just wander in like my dad does.  If I really really felt the need to wander into the garage stall- I would ask the nearest crew person. My Mom,  who went with us even asked “Is he suppose to be in there?” I shook my head no and said “No…he just has balls of steel when it comes to that kind of thing.” Of course she was horrified that I would say that in public but it’s true.

So I guess I would just have to learn to be braver than I am…but it would definitely be an experience.

This is a post that have been mulling over in my head for quite some time. The idea was sparked last year actually by a NASCAR INSIDERS post about driver websites and I was going to write about this then- but then Tony announced he would be leaving JGR at the end last season so I decided that I would wait until SHR got their feet under them so to speak- because I am sure one of the last things on their mind is their presence on the web when you have to worry about building a whole team.

Tony Stewart has more “official” sites than you can shake a stick at between the official Tony Stewart site, the major sponsor sites and the SHR site, oh and let’s not forget the TSR site.  I am just going to take on those five sites. First off, I have to start by telling you I have very little design experience when it comes to websites.  This lovely site here? Set up and hosted for me by Pete with layout designed by Karah.  I am going at these pages from a fan point of view. A “usablity” point of view.

Let’s start with the main site: tonystewart.com.  This site serves as the portal to all things Tony Stewart.  I don’t know if you were familiar with this site last season when it was orange and black color scheme- but it looked actually alot like tonystewartracing.com(the official site of his open wheel race teams) does -it was a more simplistic page but it got the job done. This new TonyStewart.Com site is functional and “pretty”.  I hated the orange and black because everything was so muted.  I have to say that the red/black theme this season is much more eye catching and I don’t know if its the colors or the photos they are using but everything on this website seems much more crisp and clean than the old orange/black version.  I absolutely love the animated red smoke that floats through the main banner on the homepage area where the pictures rotate.  I also really like how the pictures on the banner on the child pages are mostly black and white with only a car or Tony being color.  They did this with the old color scheme but it didn’t work as well for me as it does here. I find the navigation on this site pretty straight forward.  It even displays the points and the last race results right there on the front page now which I like. Everything is up and working on this site now- except for some bizarre reason I can’t get the videos to play under multimedia. But I can really live without that for right now because they are just the old spice commercials and a link to the Tony Stewart: Off Track video series.  Content wise it has pretty much what you would expect: driver bio, pictures, store, fan club (now called The Smoke Pit this area as of this posting is still under construction for the most part), Sponsor information etc. Overall I really liked the redesign of this site- its much more aestetically pleasing and has a sleeker, cleaner feel.  I think there needs to be an area on the front page though that lists TV appearances and such…I totally missed Tony on Trackside a couple weeks ago- but if it had been listed on the page somewhere I wouldn’t have.

Next let’s move on to StewartHaasRacing.com. This is the website for everything Stewart-Haas related. I waited for a long time for this page to come to fruition and it was worth the wait. This page has a very garage-ish feel but I love it. I blame it completely on my LOVE of the Stewart-Haas Racing logo-it has a classic car feel to it. I LOVE that logo. This page features bios on both Tony and his teammate Ryan as well as info on the crews for both the 14 and the 39 cars.  Both teams publish team press releases at this site as well as random news.  The coolest part about this site is the VIP Garage, which functions much like a social networking site. Users have their own page (see mine). By logging in fans have access to message boards and exclusive content such as wallpapers, galleries and videos. There is also a points system based on logins and points and random giveaways dependent on the level of points you have. My only complaint about this site? Is the damn music it starts up with. Its kind of loud. I know you can shut it off but it never stays that way.

Unlike the NascarInsiders article about driver pages I am going to delve into the sponsor websites. One of Tony’s two primary sponsor sites is OfficeDepotRacing.com. It is has nice pretty much the same bio information you can find at tonystewart.com.  My major complaint is that this page is very dialup unfriendly- its really graphic intensive and video intensive.  I know I am still living in the dark ages…but I also know that I am not the only one here in the cave.  However I LOVE the “Ask Tony” portion of this site. The old home depot site also had this and it was always fun. However- officedepotracing.com has some of the answers in video format and some in “written”. That is probably one of my favorite features.

Old Spice is Tony’s other primary sponsor and the OldSpiceRacing.com site is probably the newest of all the sites listed. It is also the most hilarious. While I have made no bones about the fact that I think that Tony’s Old Spice Commerical is really kinda dumb (still not sure what being Russian has to do with anything). I love Tony’s bio on this site because its completely slapstick. Here is a brief excerpt: Tony Stewart is a racer’s racer. If a greyhound, a fighter pilot and a chainsaw sculptor were somehow genetically welded together, reengineered with gasoline and cloned to form a half-carburetor, half-human racing man/machine, Tony would be that man/machine. Tony Stewart was born to race. In other words, if when Tony Stewart was born the doctor told him racing hadn’t been invented yet, he would crawl to the library, teach himself how to read and begin studying how to cryogenically freeze himself long enough for racing to be invented. In 2005, during a race, Tony Stewart got tired and, while taking a nap in the backseat, passed eight cars to clinch the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. This site is HILARIOUS. It could rehash old info located on all the other sites but it comes up with a unique way to advertise Tony and Old Spice. (Speaking of which they have a hilarious new contest called Swaggerize Your Wallet- for information go here).

These are just the main “official” sites for Tony and Stewart-Haas Racing.  There is also a facebook presence for Stewart-Haas Racing as well as for teammate Ryan Newman – which I think is awesome. Tony (or his PR handlers more likely) also has a Infield Parking page as does Ryan Newman.

There has been a lot of talk in the NASCAR community including by NASCAR (as in the sanctioning body) itself about how to make the sport better. How to increase race attendence (um lower ticket prices) and television viewer ratings and the like.   A lot of suggestions are being talked about and batted around by various media and fans and guess what? NASCAR is starting to listen.  First they recently created the NASCAR FAN COUNCIL a tool NASCAR will use to survey their fans about opinions on all sorts of topics and ideas regarding NASCAR and how to make it better.  I think this weekend we saw the first baby step towards that with the new double-file restart (shootout style- so drivers will NOT have to worry about battling lapped cars for position).

Even more recently, NASCAR has announced that it will start giving more access to citizen journalists (and by that I am going to interpret it as bloggers). I think this will be an awesome opportunity and all I can say is “How do I sign up?”  Seriously.  Sign me up.  I don’t know what would qualify one to be a “citizen journalist” but it sounds like a great idea to me.

There is some grumbling from traditional NASCAR media that this is NOT a good idea- that allowing us mere “bloggers” to have a little bit of the inside stuff will make their readership suffer and honestly I really don’t see how that could be the case. I think there is a different standard and a different expectation of information coming from a site say like mine that has a bent for a specific driver when compared to traditional media coverage. To me it’s like apples versus oranges. Obviously my posts focus on Tony Stewart. I mention other drivers and other happenings within NASCAR because I love the sport and it is all intermixed. However I am not going to write articles like the ones you are going to find at NASCAR.COM, FOXSPORTS.COM, YAHOOSPORTS.COM, ESPN.COM etc.  My articles would still have a bend towards Stewart. They would also be more personal experiences less reporting of news. They would be more the human story type of thing.

When I think of a NASCAR Citizen Journalist I think of people like Valli at TheFastandTheFabulous.com. I absolutely love it when Valli makes it out to a race because I know that she will write about it the following week.  But its more about her experiences and less about rules and standings and points and that kind of thing. Its more about what it was like to stand with the traditional media at Kasey Kahne’s hauler.  Or what it’s like as a fan to stand in the garage area and watch drives buzz in an out. What it’s like to to interview someone like Kyle Petty or David Gilliland.  Or about experiences at a track she hasn’t been to before. I think you get my drift.

I think that both traditional and “citizen” journalists have important things to say about the sport and I really think that NASCAR is doing an awesome thing thinking about this seriously.  I don’t know yet what kind of exeperience NASCAR is looking for in a citizen journalist or what kind of access they would give that blogger…but its an interesting idea…and I am still raising my hand to volunteer.