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Memo: Racing The Good Race

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 9 2010

Jimmie Johnson leads the field out of a turn at last year's Prelude to the Dream. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for True Speed Communication)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Let’s see what’s in the old Morning Memo today:

Predicting the outcomes of races is normally pretty tough. And I generally stay away from making them because, well, just because. But I am going to issue this air tight prediction simply because it is air tight: Tony Stewart will come away as this week’s champion.

Not at Michigan and not as a Sprint Cup driver or team owner. Stewart will win as a participant in the most important race of all – human race.

Tonight, Stewart holds his annual “Prelude to the Dream” race at the dirt track he owns in Rossburg, Ohio.

A large contingent of biggest-name drivers will join him at wonderful old Eldora Speedway. They’ll all spend a couple hours driving out of their normal elements in Late Models and some will stumble and some will impress but all will entertain.

At the end of the night, they’ll all shower (hopefully), put their really nice street clothes back on and head out of town – most on private jets.

Not going with them will be the money generated from the event. That will all be collected, counted and sent to children’s hospitals in Indianapolis, Charlotte, Cincinnati and Memphis.

And there will be lots of it.

Thanks to Stewart.

From, virtually, the first day which the marvelously talented driver from Indiana broke into big time auto racing, the annoyingly tough-to-figure Stewart has been the subject of some the most heated debates I’ve had in the sport.

Some of those debates have been with colleagues gathered around media-room coffee pots and some with fans by email and telephone.

And there is no doubt: Some of the things which Stewart has done around race tracks have been tough to defend. I mean over the years, there have been scores of incidents in which the guy has acted, well, like a human being.

But while I have lined up with the anti-Stewart forces from time to time, I simply cannot do so with the zeal which do some of the hardcore types. And for a couple of reasons.

First – and least importantly – Stewart has treated me like gold. In one-on-one interviews at places ranging from the the back rooms at Home Depot and Office Depot stores to his motor coach, Stewart has been nothing but respectful and gracious. Wish I had video of the time that Stewart, former newspaper colleague Joe Posnanski and I drove in a van from Kansas City to Topeka. Stewart sat there, with his shivering little Chahuahua on his lap, intelligently and calmly talking everything from dogs to politics. It was beautiful.

Second – and super importantly – I have a real hard time coming down on racing’s baddest bad boy for whatever he does on at a race track because of what he does away from race tracks. Stewart has given away millions of dollars – literally – to causes which improve the human condition.

He’ll do that very thing very publicly tonight, but he does it very privately the year ‘round.

(Another boring-, story-concluding anecdote alert here) I picked up the phone one day a couple of years ago and a frothing-mad fan was on the line. Stewart had wrecked his driver the day before and then, with a post-race smirk, said, bascially, take that.

I mean this fan was hot. I nodded along in silence until asked if I didn’t think Stewart was the biggest jerk in motor sports. As tactfully as possible, I explained that what Stewart does in the race of life far exceeds what he does at race tracks and I just cannot separate the two sometimes.

There was click and then a dial tone.

Oh well.

Tony, enjoy your night. I lot of hospitalized children sure will.

Memo to self: Prepare for an angry email from Stewart for attempting to make him look human.

Plate spinning

NASCAR announced this week that when the Sprint Cup cars arrive at Daytona International Speedway for the July 4th-weekend race, they will be fitted with new restrictor plates.

The plates will have bigger holes in them – the biggest holes ever. We know that means more horsepower but we’ll have to wait to see if that means better racing.

Driver David Reutimann of Michael Waltrip Racing cast an early vote on the subject. It was a yes vote.

“I think a bigger plate is a good change,” Reutimann said. “I know that NASCAR has put a lot of thought into that stuff. We are talking about very, very small changes. We’re not talking about going from one inch to two inches.  Anytime the plate gets bigger the horsepower goes up – and I’m a fan of that. With the new configuration of the spoiler on the back I think it’s a good fit for what we’re trying to do.”

Memo to self: Make sure cable bill is paid before July 4th weekend.

TNT fizzles

Not a wonderful start to the TNT portion of the Sprint Cup broadcast schedule. The broadcast of the race was, well, business as usual. You know, people talking just to talk and I understand how that works.

But at the end of the race, the flaws became more egregious. One of the pit reporters caught up with Kevin Harvick after his run-in with Joey Logano in the pits. The reporter apologetically asked Harvick about Logano with the first question, got an unsatisfying non answer and then, sounding intimidated, moved on to less controversial topics.

Oh, and one reminder to the reporter who did the Victory Lane interview: It’s all about the driver, not about you.

Memo to self: Get some “D” batteries for the radio before the Michigan race.

Speaking of TV

Dear Versus; stick to the NHL.

Dear ESPN and Speed; Get Randy Bernard’s number and pitch your services to the Indy Racing League. Lets get the pros back into this thing.

Memo to self: Get lots of “Ds”.

Good electronic

And finally, yes, this is a shoutout and a bit of a self-serving one as members of the RacinToday staff are frequent guests, but I continue to be a fan of the PowerUpChannel’s radio show, “The Race Reporters”. It’s radio done right. Host Michael Knight sticks to racing and keeps the volume at a professional level.

Tonight’s show marks its one-year anniversary.

The guest tonight (7 p.m. Eastern, www.powerupchannel.com) is John Force. Should be interesting to see how many questions get asked in the alloted time. Let’s see, hour show…I would put four as the over/under mark.

Happy anniversary, MK.

Memo to self: Make sure the laptop is charged up.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 9 2010
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