I have always referred to Pocono as “that evil little triangle track” Now I don’t know why I feel the need to say “little” because there is nothing little about Pocono- it’s a 2.5 mile track with one of THE widest pit roads on the circuit. But still I guess I feel the need to add the diminutive to the moniker because it’s not a favorite track of mine. I have no real explanation as to WHY but it just is not a favorite.
Anyway this was a rollercoaster of a weekend for team OfficeDepot/OldSpice. First both first practice and qualifying get rained out- thus giving Tony Stewart his first Pole of the season. That is a definite up right? Well then- on Saturday during second practice Tony spun his car- ended up taking a ride through the grass and when he hit a grass burm he pretty much ripped the whole front of the car up- separating the splitter completely off the car and damaging the radiator. So…off to a backup car…and thus starting at the back of the field on Sunday. That was definitely a big downer.
So the race, the first of the TNT Summer series, started and I nearly forgot that Tony was a HotPass driver. So I switched over to HotPass just in time to hear Darian Grubb tell the Tony and the #14 guys that he wanted them to bring home a “little triangle trophy” which humored me immensely. Once the green flag dropped, Tony immediately began working his way up the field of cars like a man on a mission. He was very upbeat on the radio and seemed pretty pleased with the way the car was handling as well as with the tweaks that they made on the car during the pitstops to refine that handling. Between Tony just slicing and dicing his way through the field and some awesome pitstops- Tony soon heard “Welcome to the top fifteen” from his spotter soon followed by “Top 10″ where Tony would stay for the remainder of the race.
His last pit stop was completely awesome. That pitcrew got him out just in time for him to roll across the line just in front of Carl Edwards…however Jeff Gordon had opted to stay out to lead a lap. Then is started to sprinkle on the track. This meant Tony was in second because Gordon stayed out. I know all the Gordon fans were probably doing rain dances- (I know my friend was) but the sprinkle was short lived and Jeff Gordon soon ended up having to pit. Once Tony was in the lead he never really looked back.
From here it would be a fuel milage race. Darian Grubb told Tony to save fuel. This is never a good thing. Could you imagine the hunger you have wanting that first points win. You are within reach. You are in the lead. You have 800 horses under your foot and you have to conserve fuel? It has to go against everything that makes sense to a racer. Instead of “GO FAST. TURN LEFT.” you now have to “Go Fast enough to stay in the lead but not so fast that you run yourself out of gas- but not so slow that the guy behind you catches you and passes you. oh and TURN LEFT.” Tony was pretty quiet on the radio during those last 40 laps. He came on once and said “I Hate This.” I took it to mean he hated having to hold back and the whole not knowing if he had enough gas. The sportscasters didn’t think Tony would be able to do it. That last 40 laps to me seemed to take about three hours to complete. At one point Jimmie Johnson started coming up towards the field and was battling second place Carl Edwards pretty hard. I suddenly had visions of Dover last weekend and Jimmie passing Tony to take the lead. Luckily this did not happen as Jimmie ended up running out of gas. Like Tony, I was fairly quiet (Odd I know- considering I thought that I would get the cops would get called on me last weekend I was cheering so loud). But finally Tony Stewart took the white flag and then the checkered. His first Points Race win as an Owner/Driver. Stewart maintains his lead in the points standings. Teammate Ryan Newman also had a stellar top-five finish.
- I was surprised at the small number of cautions at Pocono. They were few and far between. It made for some great green flag pit stop action.
- How frustrating was it to be Denny Hamlin? He struggled all day…right from teh gitgo. I felt kind of bad for him.
- My friend pointed this little gem out to me: Tony Stewart…the number #14 wins the 14th points race of the season. Hee I think 14 should be Tony’s new favorite number…if it isn’t already.
- I was glad to see that Jeff Gordon was able to work his way up to a fourth place finish after pitting late. It was a great finish.
- Was I the only one who was worried Tony didn’t have enough gas for that little burn out he did?
- I was pretty pleased with the TNT broadcast. Granted I was watching HotPass so ask me for sure next weekend…but they seem to have improved from last season. And I love Larry Mac as an announcer. I think he is my favorite.
- I was glad that Tony’s father Nelson was there at Long Pond to watch the first win in person. It was great to see him congratulate Tony before he got out of the car. The crew even made sure to douse him during the celebration in Victory Lane.
- I was glad to see that Patrick Carpentier was back behind the wheel. I hope they are able to come up with a more permanent ride for him.
- Congratulations to Robby Gordon who won the Baja race, and then flew directly to Long Pond to race in Sunday’s Pocono 500…his car was practiced for him by Travis Kvapil.
- Did you happen to notice the hats that Tony’s pit crew were wearing? I want one. They say Office Depot on one side and Old Spice on the other. They had a similar hat at the merchandise Hauler at Phoenix…but it was beige. I want the red one.
- Also incase you missed it: Valli is giving away one of Jeff Gordon’s Lugnuts from the race at Talladega as part of an awesome Jeff Gordon/Pepsi throwback prize package. Be sure to enter now.
- You might also still have time to submit your questions to From The Marbles for a chance to have RACE WINNER Tony Stewart answer an interview question of yours. Like I said on Saturday this is a cool contest…I would love to be able to run one like this.
CONGRATULATIONS AGAIN TO TONY STEWART, TEAM OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE, and STEWART-HAAS RACING.
Next Weekend will find us at Michigan Internationl Raceway.