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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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Walking in on Sunday Morning

Walking in on Sunday Morning

I honestly don’t remember what time we got to the track on Sunday- but I want to say probably around 9:00 again.  We perused the midway- partaking in free COKE ZERO samples as well as getting free Bobby Labonte flash drives preinstalled with the ask.com nascar tool bar wiget thingy mabob.  Mostly though we scoped out a place by the SPEED stage and waited.  We were there solely to see Jeff Gordon’s interview by the PRN guys- but be cause we also got to see Richard Childress and Kyle Busch during their interviews and we got to watch Hermie Sadler film one of the cut-away car segments-which was fun too.  I got a few mediocre pictures of Richard Childress and one of Jeff Gordon:

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Surprise! I decided to get these out starting today so you wouldn’t be left wondering.  Anyway last year the Vegas race (the UAW 400) was our first NASCAR race live and in person and this year BFM decided to take the reins in planning everything.  I just wrote her a check when she told me how much our tickets would be. She picked the seats and the activities and everything…and let me tell you I had a total blast. She picked us some awesome seats in the Petty Terrace (right across from Pit Exit).  I am going to have to break up my experience into three posts: Qualifying Day, Race Day and Driver Appearances otherwise you all would probably kill me for the length/picture ratio.

QUALIFYING DAY (Friday)

After our great time last year in the Neon Garage BFM and I decided that Qualifying day is the best day to have the garage passes (in Vegas the Garage passes are expensive…friday alone is $99.00 but both of us thing they are WELL worth it).  We got to the track probably around 9:00 ish and spent a good portion of an hour and a half or so just messing around the midway checking out the merch haulers and stuff.  The busiest haulers seemed to be Junior (no suprise), Tony (probably his fans stocking up on new merch) and Digger (yeah Digger has his own little merch booth).  Then it was off to the neon garage:

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Saturday started with final Daytona 500 practice for Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman of Stewart-Haas racing- and ended badly for the pair. Ryan Newman blew a tire- sending him up the banking and into the wall where he collected his teammate/owner Tony Stewart.  That was not the way one wanted to start their day.  However only hours later Tony Stewart stood in victory lane at the Nationwide race where he drove the Number 80 Hendrick car to victory.  Not a bad turn around in one day. However, Sunday would be the day where all eyes were on Stewart-Haas racing’s number 14 and 39 Chevrolet Impalas.

Watching this Daytona 500 was much like driving while blind deaf.  I did not have the advantage of having HOTPASS this year since DirecTV decided to drop the only sports package I cared about.  I really missed being able to tune into Tony’s in-car radio because it’s how I judge how he feels about the car and his progress during the race.  That way I am not relying on the race announcer’s view of what is going on- I can pretty much tell for myself.

Anyway- during this first race weekend for the newly Stewart-Haas racing, emotions had to run the complete gamet during the week.  The team went through three race cars before the race on Sunday- a feat I am pretty darn sure they were not pleased with.  Ryan Newman’s primary car was wrecked during the Gatorade Duel number 2 on Thursday when he was wrecked by David Reutimann- forcing Newman into his backup car.  Then during the final practice on Saturday, a tire blew and Newman collected teammate/owner Stewart.  Because of the late practice tangle, Stewart had to go to his backup car and Ryan Newman was forced to use Tony’s backup Shootout car, thus sending both cars to start at the back of the field for Sunday’s Great American race.

By lap 25 Stewart had driven his car from 37th to 14th.  After taking on gas and tires during the competition yellow, Stewart was in obvious high spirits as the broadcast switched over to his radio to catch him singing “Ole Ole Ole Ole” and then telling his crew chief Darian Grubb that he didn’t have anything else to do. Announcers later state that Tony believes he has the best handling car out there.  And during short runs on fresh tires Tony seems to be able to draft well and pass cars- charging towards the front. However it seemed to me that the longer the green flag run, Stewart’s car just didn’t seem to have the ability to cut through the field with the ease it did early in the runs.  Also a big kudos to the Team Office Depot pit crew who seemed to get Tony in and out of the pits quickly…Tony rarely, if ever, dropped position after a pitstop…he always seemed to gain a position or two.  I hate to say it but it seemed last year Tony would lose three -five positions during pitstops alone.

Meanwhile teammate Ryan Newman never seemed to really get a feel for the car under him. He was at a serious disadvantage- in a car that was not set up for him or for this race.  The US AMY team did a great job getting the car rewrapped and decal’ed up so that at least it looked like Ryan’s car and not Tony’s. However they did have a slight problem in the pits when Ryan came in for what he thought was a problem with the tire, the crew somehow dropped the car off the jack after the tire had been removed and then had to pick it back up to put the tire up – costing Newman valuable spots in the pits and on the track- a mistake that he was never able to overcome on the track.

At the end of the evening, however, Matt Kenseth ended up winning the rained-shortened Daytona 500 after having led just one green flag lap.  Tony Stewart finished 8th while teammate Ryan Newman finished 36th.

As for Stewart-Haas racing- I think they accomplished one of the bigger tasks on their to-do list for the start of the 2009 (their inaugural) season.  They came to Daytona extremely competitive.  I think good things are going to come out of this team in the very near future.

Other Notes on Daytona:

  • I heard from the national broadcast that Ryan Newman’s crew chief Tony Gibson even used Sharpie markers to cover over some of the last bits of red on the backup car. This I think deserves the race award for most innovative use of a sponsor product.
  • Best quote from the entire speedweeks session at Daytona? Comes from none other than Mr. Tony Stewart who was quoted as responding to the question if going to a backup car after the happy hour crash was a disadvantage to his ability to win the 500 with “I don’t know, Rocket Scientist-I’m sitting here with a backup car. What do you think?”
  • I am probably going to feel the wrath of Jr. Nation for saying this but I really think that frustration was a definite mitigating factor that lead to Junior’s on track skirmish with Brian Vicker’s that ended up taking out a lot of the key players in the race.  I think Junior might not have been thinking clearly because he was pissed about the penalty that he incurred at the previous pit stop.  Junior was held one lap for having the right front tire on the pitbox line which apparently is considered out of bounds.
  • I am also still questioning Joe Gibbs Racings decision to rush Logano into a full-time cup ride. I seriously don’t think he was ready. He seemed to be smacking that car against the wall everytime he went out there and that last incident with Scott Speed  Logano nosed the car into the wall pretty damn hard.  I said this last year and I will say it again…Logano might be too green to be out there with the cup guys on a weekly basis. I still say that Logano should have run a full season or two in the Nationwide series first to break in slowly to the Sprint cup series.

Next weekend NASCAR takes us to the Autoclub Speedway in Fontana California.