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The race this weekend is at the MONSTER MILE in Dover and it is the second race of the Chase (GO TONY GO). However, it isn’t just championship points on the line at Dover this weekend; for two small businesses it is the race of a lifetime. Office Depot has put a twist in it’s “Official Small Business of NASCAR” contest this year. Earlier in the season Office Depot took in entries for the contest and two finalists have been announced! Each of these businesses have received a $10,000 makeover fro Office Depot and a VIP Race experience for 2 to the race this weekend). One business will grace Tony Stewart’s #14 Office Depot sponsored car and one business will grace Greg Biffle’s #16 3M sponsored car. Whichever driver is the highest placing driver, the small business they are representing gets the title of Official Small Business of NASCAR (including the use of the Official Small Business Of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot Logo). If either Stewart or Biffle win the race at Dover, that business will get an additional prize of $1 million dollars.

Office Depot Contest Winners

Rose Berger, owner of Professional Cleaning Service of Greer, SC and Mike Pagano, owner of Pagano Photo from New Jersey are the Finalists in Office Depot's Official Small Business of NASCAR contest. Photo provided by: Edelman

Driver Greg Biffle was paired with Mike Pagano, owner of PaganoPhoto-Photos by Mike Pagano. PaganoPhoto grew out of Mike’s passion for photography that he developed on the side while working full time as a Supervising Environmental Specialist for New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection. He has worked for the State of New Jersey for 23 years. He officially launched PaganoPhoto as a business venture in 2009 and plans to make it his full time endeavor when he retires. He is currently PaganoPhoto’s sole employee.

“Being a finalist in the ‘Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot’ sweepstakes is a great opportunity for me to expand my business,” said Pagano, who will be joined by his wife at the track. “This photography business is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I really want to get more into it once I retire. The $10,000 small business makeover from Office Depot will enable me to purchase much needed new computer equipment and office furniture for my business, and if Greg wins, the $1 million prize will allow me to retire from my current full-time job and establish my full-time photography business much sooner than otherwise possible!”

Driver Tony Stewart has been paired with Rose Berger, owner of Professional Cleaning Service.  She started PCS in 1995 as a family-run business in Greer, South Carolina.  All three of Berger’s daughters work for the full-service cleaning company in some capacity; eldest daughter Jessica opened the company’s first satellite office in Columbia, South Carolina.

“Being an ‘Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot’ finalist is a great thing for my business, and I hope it will help us move forward and recover from the bad economy,” said Berger, who has had to reduce her staff from 12 to seven over the past year. “It’s been tough – when people have to tighten their belts, cleaning services often get cut. The added attention and exposure from the sweepstakes will be a great reminder to people that we’re still here and ready to help them with their cleaning needs. I’m just so excited to see the Professional Cleaning Service logo on Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy during the race,” she said. “And if he wins the race and I win $1 million, it would be amazing! I’d probably be in shock. And then I’d pay off my business loans, hire more staff and go to a lot more NASCAR races!”

Office Depot Contest Winners

Rose Berger, owner of Professional Cleaning Service, is paired with driver Tony Stewart. Photo provided by: Edelman

Here is a video you might enjoy of the winners courtesy of Edelman:

If you are like me? You missed it completely as in I had NO IDEA this was going to be on today. Thankfully though one of my facebook friends posted a link to it:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

It’s definitely worth watching!

I will say this about the race at Louden. It was pretty action packed to watch. The racing seemed good early! Bravo.

Tony did well towards the beginning of the race. He qualified  3rd (awesome!) and lead for awhile until a four time pit stop put him a back in the field when Darian called for four tires for the  #14 Office Depot car when many teams took two for track position.

Tony didn’t give up though and the car fought its way through the field over the course of the race slowly worked his way back towards the front of the race. He took the lead again at lap 248  of the 300 mile race and started to run away with the lead.

Crew Chief  Darian Grubb chose not to pit the #14 Chevy and he dominated the last section of the race until running out of  gas at lap 299.  Second place Clint Bowyer took the lead and won the first race of the chase.

LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 19: Clint Bowyer, driver of the  Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, celebrates winning the race with his crew next to the  Office Depot / Old Spice Chevrolet which ran out of gas on the final lap during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 19: Clint Bowyer, driver of the Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, celebrates winning the race with his crew next to the Office Depot / Old Spice Chevrolet which ran out of gas on the final lap during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

That right there was the most disheartening thing a Tony Stewart fan could see. Stewart barely coasting over the finish line to maintain his position on the lead lap as Bowyer begins his celebratory burnout.

Stewart finished 24th and is currently 11th (I cringe just typing that) in the points standings.

Notes about Louden

  • The Epic Fail award this race  goes to ESPN/ESPN2 for having the pre-race show in ESPN2 and the race on ESPN.  That was a bad move.  The pre-race should not require a channel change- that is just dumb. If that is the case I will just watch Race Day on Speed.
  • Good to see Dale Jr do so well during the race.
  • Sure it’s easy to say that Stewart should have pitted on that last pit stop.  I would have pitted him and let him work his way back through the field (like I would be a crew chief- are you crazy? That job has to be extremely stressful- plus I barely know how to check my oil).  I admit I was sitting there hoping the two of them had some sort of magic up their sleeves but alas what am I to do.  I said to my mom who was watching the race with me: This will either be a HUGE win or a lose so devastating it will KILL him in the points. Unfortunately the latter was what happened.
  • Caption Tony picture for your enjoyment (or I guess in this case it’s a caption Tony and/or Darian). I know you are funny people so come on and caption away in the comments:

Tony Stewart and Crew Chief Darian Grubb during Practice at Louden. Picture courtesy of Glenn Bure/ AIPress

  • Speaking of funny people. That Race Day crew over on speed? Hilarious. Why? Well for a lot of reasons- but especially the following video that they used during Race Day.  Just a few notes before we get to the embedded video. 1. I love this song. I am not embarrassed to admit it. 2. I remember when the original video came out on MTv (that I might be embarrassed to admit. 3. I can’t decide what is the funniest part- it’s ALL GOOD. Take a look for yourself:

Next Race: Dover! Go Tony Go!

Ok…as you probably know- the Chase starts this weekend at New Hampshire.  The Chase, for those who are not into NASCAR, is the last ten races of the season and is much like playoffs. From this point forward the top 12  in the series points are the only drivers eligible to win the championship cup. The series points leader at the end of the last ten races will be crowned the NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion and of course I am hoping it is Tony- how totally cool and awesome would that be?

NASCAR “seeds” the top 12 drivers with 10 bonus points per win in the regular (first 26 races) season.  With this seeding Tony is currently 6th in points. Denny Hamlin is first in points.  Over at the Racing In America blog I have talked about how I think the points system needs to changed. I don’t think the chase needs to be changed- just the points system. I don’t think that there needs to be a seeding. I think that at the beginning of the chase – the entire top 12 should start on equal ground.

That being said, I have decided to try to keep track of my points system in compared to the current NASCAR points system.  So after each of the races- I will do my usual post race report and at the bottom I will give you the standings of the top 12 drivers in the current NASCAR points system, the Badgroove/NASCAR Hybrid Cup  points system which will retain the current points awarded at the end of the race by NASCAR but will eliminate the seeding bonuses  that the drivers started out with only, and the Badgroove Cup points system, in which the chase drivers will be scored based on their finish…highest placing chase driver will get 12 points, second highest driver will get 11 points, etc. If one of the chase drivers wins the race he will get 5 extra points. I actually got this idea from a comment over at the RIA blog on my post about the need for change in the points system.

I hope I didn’t just totally confuse everyone. I consider this a fun experiment. I hope you will agree!

A great Rutledge at Large piece featuring Elliott Sadler and Habitat for Humanity as well as Tony Stewart and the National Backpack Program.

Well I don’t have much to day about the race from Saturday evening. Tony qualified 15th for the race at Richmond.  His car seemed to start off really strong as he managed to work his way up to third at one point.  Then he just started falling back further and further. Unfortunately I was not listening to his radio communications and I am unsure as to why he had this drop…I assume it was poor handling that they were chasing.

Tony finished 16th, one lap down to race winner Denny Hamlin. However- it doesn’t really matter because Richmond was the last race of the “regular” season for NASCAR. Now it get’s stressful for us fans.  Now it’s the playoffs.

Tony is seeded 6th in the Chase fifty points behind chase leader Denny Hamlin.

Notes About Richmond:

  • I was surprised that since the Richmond race fell on Patriot’s day this year that there wasn’t more patriot paint schemes ran.  I think I saw maybe two (Jeff Gordon and Kevin Conway).  I don’t count Ryan Newman’s Army paint scheme- as it was the usual Army paint scheme he runs…but if you want to count it-that is 3.
  • I was saddened to hear that Tony Stewart’s grandfather passed away the morning of the race. I was dismayed when one of the journalists (Lee Spencer) asked Tony to “reflect” on it at the post race presser all the chase drivers went through. DISMAYED. Why don’t you rub some more salt into that wound there?  Tony handled the question with the utmost professionalism…but still I am dismayed it was even brought up.  (Still shaking my head at that one).

The Chase begins Sunday September 19th at Louden, NH. GO TONY GO!

Want to congratulate Tony on his Atlanta victory? Or wish him luck at Richmond? Tony is scheduled to do an appearance at the Office Depot store in Glen Allen Virginia on Thursday September 9th 2010.  Stewart will greet fans and sign autographs starting at 4:45pm local time at the Office Depot located at  9700 West Broad Street (at W. Broad & Stillman Pkwy) in Glen Allen. Wristbands are required, with distribution limited to the first 350 customers (one per person). Wristbands will be available at Office Depot when  it opens at 9:00am on the day of the event. Fans with a wristband must be in line no later than 5:15pm local time to receive an autograph. As always, there is one autograph per wristband.

So how excited was I that Tony won? Very! WHOO HOO!

Tony and Darian seemed to both be in a good mood before they took even one green flag lap- judging by their radio banter. Darian said something about buying Tony a little pool if he brought back a trophy.  Of course I am envisioning Tony sitting in a kiddie pool but that is probably because I have small nephews who love their kiddie pool on a hot day.

As I was watching, when Tony took the lead the first time I thought to myself…YEY five points! Then he kept leading and leading. There would be some swapping back and forth here and there with Denny or Carl but then I was thinking Hey- we might get 5 more points for leading the MOST laps here.  It really wasn’t until the last 10 laps or so that I starting thinking…DAMN we have been DOMINATE ALL NIGHT  and that is when I start worrying about something going WRONG!

It seemed that the 14 pit crew was ON IT all night (ok they had ONE bad stop- but it wasn’t even THAT bad).  Tony’s only complaint pit-wise was that he was having trouble seeing his stall- but they figured that out- and between Darian counting him down into his pitstall and his dad Nelson waving a flashlight at him he was able to find it much easier on subsequent stops.

It warmed my heart to see the #14 car sooo dominate Sunday night.  I loved it and hope that there is only more of that on the horizon!!


Anyway Congrats to Tony Stewart and Office Depot and all the other sponsors for their win at Atlanta

Tony is now 4th in the series standings and locked into the chase (shwew).

So since Tony won- there are a couple ways you too can win:

Win a Sunoco Checkered Flag autographed by race winner Tony Stewart here from SpeedTV.

You can bid on the Old Spice towel Tony used in  Victory Lane  here (proceeds to benefit The Tony Stewart Foundation).

You can win one of 14 Office Depot Racing autographed hats here at Office Depot Racing’s 14 for 14 Contest.

I celebrated Tony’s win yesterday with a trip to Office Depot- it’s one of my favorite stores anyway. BUT they didn’t have what I was looking for in stock yet but they told me it’s coming September 12th so I will be back I promise.