Hello dear readers, let me start off by apologizing for my Tony Stewart Month in Review posting so late this month, but sometime real life just gets in the way. Now on with the important stuff.
When last I left you indicated that I’d start with Vegas so here we go: Let’s see this wasn’t a “good” week for Tony. The high point of the weekend at the track for Smoke fans was his starting 4th in the Busch race on Saturday. However that good start didn’t have a good ending. Tony did have what many consider the dominate car and many thought that Tony and the (Busch) 20 team were going to see their 3 consecutive win of the year but that all changed on lap 138 when Tony and David Reutimann’s 99 came together causing both to end up in the turn 3 wall. End result a 27th place finish for the 20 car. Oh and Mark Martin added to his all time series leading win list.
The next day saw Tony in the Home Depot 20 start in 25th spot, the car was good but not great early and Tony slowly made his way through traffic. Somewhere around lap 41 Smoke has cracked the top 10. By around lap 76 Tony has made it to the top 5 and is solidly performing up there with the front runners. Then the good day goes horribly WRONG! Lap 108 Tony’s running in the top 10 and he loses the right front tire and goes into the turn 2 wall HARD! Tony was slow to get out for the car and was heard on the radio saying “I’m hurt”. This accident just exacerbated the bumps and bruises he’d obtained the day before. Tony was checked out at the infield care center and released his major complaint being a sore foot/ankle from being banged around in the car two days in a roll. End result a last place finish for Tony and the Home Depot 20 team. End result, Carl Edwards takes the win albeit amidst some post race inspection issue that ended in a 100 point penalty and a little vacation for Bob Osborn.
Despite 2 hard crashes on Saturday and Sunday, Tony and the rest of the 20 team, along with everyone else in NASCAR were at PIR Monday and Tuesday to test. No earth shattering news to report from here.
Then we moved on to Atlanta, and yes the 2nd Tony Stewart controversy of the year, the tire debacle, but we’ll get to that in a little while. Qualifying, which is by admission not Tony strong point, left sometime to be desired as Tony and the Home Depot 20 started toward the back in 32nd position. However that bad starting sport didn’t really hurt the 20 team this week. By lap 76 Tony has moved up 22 spots and cracks the top 10, and by lap 122 he’s just outside the top 5 sitting in 6th. From here on out the 20 basically staying in the top 10 / top 5 the rest of the race, ending up with a solid 2nd place finish behind teammate Kyle Busch, who just eared Toyota’s first points win. But the real fun started after the race when Tony blasted Goodyear for the tire that they brought to the track. It was obvious that Tony was not happy with the tire and he really let them (Goodyear) have it, implying that they didn’t belong in racing. This was a hot button issue the rest of the week. Did most of the drivers in a way agree with Tony, yes but most didn’t have the “guts” to express it, at least the political incorrect way that Tony did. The good that came out of all of this Goodyear and NASCAR did admit that the tire needed work and at least I personally believe that it was a catalyst for improvement.
Next we move to Thunder Valley, yes folks Bristol Motor Speedway! OK weather was an issue here all weekend raining out qualifying so everyone started based on last seasons points, which put Tony in 6th at the start. (Now I’d be remiss here if I didn’t mention that this was the last points race for one of NASCAR’s classiest drivers, Dale Jarrett. He’ll be missed on the track but welcomed as a new addition to the broadcast booth. We have one more chance to see DJ behind the wheel in this May All-Star race, and after that the passing of the guard is basically complete.) Sorry back to the race, over the last few spring Bristol races the JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars have been the class of the field, leading the most laps, but at the same time the team has been snake bit at this track! In the last 3 spring races at Bristol the Home Depot #20 had lead 769 of the 1500 possible laps (51.3%), and yet no wins. This race wasn’t any different. Tony lead over ½ the race with 267 laps but in the waning laps there were yellows, a fuel pickup issue (which also effected teammate Denny Hamlin) and some contact with the 29 of Kevin Harvick the result of all of this, despite leading all of those laps Tony ends up 14th, and RCR (Richard Childress Racing scores it’s first 1, 2, 3 finish with Burton, Harvick and Boyer in that order). One of the most interesting things on this front was how would the “contact” on the track between Kevin and Tony affect the next day’s festivities, “Operation Wax Smoke”.
Well, it is a month in review and I have to cover “Operation Wax Smoke”. For those that don’t know a quick history lesson, last year Tony somehow mentioned that he’d have his back waxed if someone raised $100,000 for Victory Junction Gang Camp. Well Kevin Harvick and his fans took on this challenge and low and behold a year later Tony is lying on a table having his back waxed. Oh and by the time this happened Tony and Kevin had worked out what happened on the track the day before, Tony accepted Kevin apologies and understood that it wasn’t intentional that Kevin just lost it for a second. Anyways, sadly I don’t have Sirius radio so I wasn’t able to listen to the festivities live but I’ve read many accounts and seems that in addition to the $100, 000 that Kevin and his fan raised, Jimmie Johnson (Yes that Lowes driver) and JD Gibbs (Yep the boss) each toss in some extra money raised the amount raised to and nice $125,000 for the Petty’s camp. Now come on how can you not love a guy that willing to go through the pain of having his, for all accounts, rather hairy back waxed just so kids can go to camp. This is the side that I wish more people we see of Tony. OK not the hairy back but the caring, generous, funny loving guy.
Next week… oh there wasn’t a next week first off weekend of the year! I’m sure Tony recovered from his waxing experience and had fun spending the Easter Holiday with family and friends.
Now on to the 2nd short track of the year Martinsville. The weekend started OK with a 9th place qualifying run and hey at Martinsville starting top 10 is a good thing. The weather was weird for this one all day, always on the verge of raining with lost of mist at/on the track but not enough to stop the action. I’ll admit that this one is hard to summarize as there were so many different pit strategies and it’s a short track so stuff was going on all day. Tony basically stays in the top 10 most of the day only falling back into the 20’s do to pit strategy but he’s able to keep it clean and work his way back to the front eventually, ending with a solid 5th place finish for the Home Depot 20. The race winner, yet another of Tony’s teammates, Denny Hamlin, this leave Tony as the only JGR driver without a cup win this year, however no worries, of Tony’s 32 cup wins only 4 have come before June!
See ya next month when we’ll cover, Texas, the first night race of the year Phoenix and oh yeah Dega!