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Did anyone see that a woman sat on the pole and actually won the Fuel Funny Cars at the NHRA opener Sunday?

and it was over 300 MPH!

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Living in Jacksonville, we are fortunate to be close enough to Daytona to be able to go down and back in one day easily.

I really, really wanted to get to the 500 this year, and was hoping to finally fulfill my dream of camping at a track. My sons are now old enough that they could sit through it and get what was going on.

But, that was not to be for various reasons. I've been to it twice, but not in many years. I did get to the shootout 2 years ago, which was my third time at that event. So I have been lucky enough to go before, and am glad for that.

But, one thing we could do is go to the PRN driver appearances at the Volusia Mall. I had been with my Dad many years ago, and found it to be a pretty easy way to see some NASCAR celebs and not have to deal with the hassle of parking and walking all over the track/garage, etc. You just park at the mall, find a seat, and wait for the show to begin. You have to get there pretty early to be able to be in the audience.

This year, they were doing shows on T, W, and Th of speed weeks. Our schedule didn't allow for us to go on T or Th, but Wed. I could move some stuff. Plus, my kids have early release from school on Wednesdays and get out an hour early. So we decided that would be the day we'd go. It would just be my boys and I, since Dad had some late meetings he couldn't miss at work. And, it just so happened that both my older son and my favorite drivers would be appearing that night! Yes!

Wed. the 20th rolled around, and I got us all packed up with snacks and drinks for the drive, something to do while we waited at the mall, cameras, sharpies, etc.

Plans changed last minute when my youngest got home and decided he would rather not go because his driver wasn't in it. Luckily my husband can work from home so he stayed home with him and it ended up just being my 12 year old and I.

We left around 3 pm and made a stop at the Walmart in Ormond Beach to get my son something to have Tony Stewart autograph in case the opportunity arose. He had a #14 hat on but it was black and he wanted something lighter. We found a huge racing section in the front of the store set up especially for speed weeks. TONS of stuff, much of it marked down already. He ended up getting a very cool 500 cap, and we got a bunch of other stuff.

There were show cars in front of the store, and some contests going on:

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We got back on the road and were at the Volusia mall, which is just down the street from the track, at about 5. We would have gotten there earlier, but some of our stuff didn't ring up right at WM so I had to go to cust. svc. to get it straightened out. That set me back a good 15-20 in. Typical Walmart.

The show was to start at 6, and there were hardly any seats left, but we managed to squeeze into a row and get seated within the roped off area.

Around 5:30, Doug Rice from PRN came out to talk to the audience. He joked around for a bit, then coached us on what to do, when to holler, and not to boo, since it was a live show.

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They were also throwing SWAG out into the audience and gave out some raffle tickets. A frisbee hit my bag and landed on the floor next to me, my son bent over to grab it, but some old dude got out of his chair and took it out from under him. I didn't get a photo but he needs to be added to the FF DDB HOF thread. Who takes stuff from a kid? And what is an old dude gonna do with a frisbee, anyhow?

After waiting more, Mark Garrow from PRN came out, joined shortly afterward by Wendy Venturini from SPEED channel.

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They got the show rolling and before they even had a chance to do an intro, out walked these guys:

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Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne!

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Both adorable, and very entertaining. They had a big discussion about the half marathon they had both raced in on the beach before qualifying on Sunday.

They only stayed out for about 10 minutes, then went behind the stage where there was a mob of folks waiting for autographs.

Next up was Ryan Newman. He was SO funny! He made fun of the hosts. He didn't stay very long.

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Then it was my guy's turn. He was very gracious, and spent a good amount of time talking with the hosts. They talked extensively about the Gen-6 cars & how much things have changed since the 90's when Jeff started out.

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The hosts picked on him because there had been this photo circulating everywhere of his daughter and Danica, and how much she had wanted to have her picture taken with him. He confirmed that Ella indeed was more excited about having her photo taken with Danica than her own Dad. Cute.

Speaking of Danica, she was up next. I like her OK, but have found she is kind of polarizing……either people like her or they don't. Some men like her for obvious reasons, others complain that she wrecks too much and doesn't have enough finishes. Some women like her for the "girl power" aspect of her achievements, others have a kind of "yuck" attitude about her. I am in the middle. I like her just fine and think it's pretty cool a woman is finally competing at this level. However, she made it QUITE clear during the interview that she just wants to be thought of as a race car driver, not a female race car driver.

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She was only 3 days from her history-making event of being the first woman to win the pole for the 500, and was probably getting a little weary of all the hype and media. At least it seemed that way to me. She seemed like she'd rather be somewhere else and all but rolled her eyes. She chewed on gum the whole time and looked at the floor, not the fans.

Still, she is very striking in person. And really thin.

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Then, also without introduction, this guy walks out:

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He and Danica had some banter going on, they both got some digs in, but some compliments too. They make good teammates.

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Danica left, and Tony stayed out there. For a LONG time! He was very entertaining, as well. And a big wise a*@. It was fun.

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He stayed and signed some stuff for the drawings and pulled tickets for them, too.

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At one point, the producer came out and told him that he was needed elsewhere. To which he replied, "No, I am needed by these people right here!".

He stayed at least 20 min. longer than the allotted time. He was very generous!

Carl Edwards was supposed to be in the line-up too but never showed, not sure why.

Finally they wrapped the show after all of the drawings and Tony went to the back to sing autographs. I told my son to get over there and try to get one, couldn't hurt. He dashed off and I gathered up all of our bags and stuff and walked to the opposite side to try and get a photo in case he did get close enough for a signature.

I couldn't find my son in the crowd, but hoisted the camera up and took a couple of "blind" shots of the crowd across the way getting autographs, just in case I captured him.

This is what I ended up with:

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We got a huge dose of pixie dust, though……wait I guess it would be racing dust? What would that be, like the black soot from the rubber that you get covered with?

Whatever it is…..when I got home, I checked in on Facebook. Check out the photo that Stewart-Haas racing had posted from the evening's events:

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See the kid in the middle holding the red, white and blue ball cap?

That's my son, and Tony is in the process of signing his cap!

Talk about luck! My son was soooooo excited!

Here he is holding it at the venue after everyone was gone:

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Let me tell you. That is one happy kid. He told me on the drive home it was "one of his best days ever"!

As it happens, he had been through a tough couple of weeks with some trouble with kids @ school, his basketball team was 0-5, and he hadn't done well in a jazz solo for a band competition. So it was really nice to see him so happy.

So I got to "scratch the itch", at least. Not nearly the same as being at the race, but just being around those drivers was super cool. And, we had made a pit stop in Daytona (pun intended) earlier in the week, on Monday while driving home from Orlando. Spent about 2 hours there while my husband got on the wifi at Panera across from the track for a work meeting. Cars were running……cannot remember which ones……so I got to hear that sweet sound……and just the air in general that is speed weeks with all of the tents everywhere, race fans milling about, and checkered flags all over the place!

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As I was writing that mini TR, the horrible wreck was happening at the track. I thought about scrubbing that post to make this one, but was too far in.

I do hope everyone involved in the incident just now will be OK, and that none of our fellow fiends who are there this weekend were involved……..

And hats off to Tony for forgoing the victory lane hoopla to respect the injured fans.

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Great report and good for your son!

Thanks for sharing. I appreciate it.

Tony seems to be a a genuine person and always seems like he always has time for the fans.

Hope everyone at the track is okay and the person who is undergoing treatment for head trauma pulls through with no lingering problems.

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Thanks Aaron. He is still tickled pink and puts that hat on every chance he gets! It says "Daytona 500 2013" with the new logo for this year's race. I told him, if Tony wins the 500 he will really have a special piece of memorabilia.

That photo is so sweet, particularly since mine was an epic FAIL!

This wreck is terrible. I cannot believe this has happened and share your thoughts for those involved.

We lived in Charlotte the year that nasty IRL wreck happened there. Scary stuff.

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Yes, plus at least one tire.

Last update I read stated at least one individual with life threatening injuries.

Do you think they'll postpone the big race since the fence has been compromised?

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The weather doesn't look like it will get better before Wednesday, so I think they will try hard to pull it off tomorrow.

That crash was very scary. I saw the wheel go over the fence and my heart dropped. Then it seemed like everyone in that section was waving frantically for help. Definitely praying for the fans and glad that more were not hurt.

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I just saw some video a fan took from the stands on Yahoo. One of the wheels ended up several rows up in the stands and they were all calling for help for somebody. Good chance that was the head injury. It looked even worse from the fan's perspective and I pray they all end up okay. What a horrible situation.

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