Friday, October 30, 2009

Do Something Crazy Jimmie - It's Dega!

What's not to love about Jimmie Johnson?

He wins races, looks like a model, does tons of work for charity, and is on the verge of a something that hasn't been accomplished in the history of NASCAR. Still I wonder...even if Johnson does win his fourth Cup championship in a row, will that be enough to make him famous?

At the risk of writing the biggest understatement of the year, Johnson is a racer who knows how to win. He's calm. He's patient. He doesn't send people spinning into the fence as a general rule. And he's bound and determined to fight back to the front when a race takes a less-than promising turn. But the same personality traits which have put Johnson into this history-making position may be the reasons why he isn't what you'd call the face of NASCAR.

In fact, Johnson is so "unfamous" that when he and Jeff Gordon attended Game One of the World Series this week, the cameras never honed in on the driver of the #48. In contrast, they did show Gordon for a considerable bit of time. It's as if the Fox camera crew didn't know who Johnson was. Or else they assumed their viewer's didn't.

During today's chat with the media, a reporter asked Johnson how he felt about being omitted from the Series broadcast while his teammate was not. Here's what he said: "Man, I was up there eating peanuts and having a beer. I didn't want to be on TV. We're on TV enough. Too bad it rained and the Yankees lost, but I was just having a good time."

A very PC answer from a very polished interviewee. But maybe if Johnson went "un-PC" some of the time, he'd endear himself to race fans a bit more. I'm sure Johnson would rather make racing history than get his mug shown during the World Series broadcast. But it sure wouldn't hurt the sales of NASCAR merchandise if Johnson was a bit more, well, notorious. And it would sure as heck make for some good TV.

Even Jeff Gordon said today that Johnson needs an enemy. And, there's quite possibly no better time to begin a big rivalry than Halloween weekend in Talladega. Perhaps Johnson could throw a few punches Kurt Busch's way, throw tacos at Juan Pablo or cuss out Denny Hamlin on pit road.

At the very least, Johnson could try stealing the pace car. Now that would make for some good TV--and perhaps a little fame to boot.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Breakin' Up With Junior Is Hard To Do

Call me crazy. A dreamer. Out of touch with reality or blinded by perception. But regardless of all the red flags that tell me I should, I just can't bring myself to break up with Dale Junior just yet.

To be honest, it's been tempting at times. A smarter fan than me would leave Junior for a Cup driver with more going for him - say a few wins, a spot in the Chase and a Cup team with his name on it. And on the surface, it looks like there's no good reason to stay. After all, the fans of other drivers don't have to suffer the pointed insults, ceaseless speculation and nagging doubts at the hands of the media and their peers.

But at the risk of suffering more hardship, disappointment and yes, even the whispers of my friends, I'm gonna stand by Dale Earnhardt Jr. like Tammy Wynette - at least for a couple more seasons.

Because say what you will about his disappointing performance, Junior is like the boyfriend you just can't turn loose. Sure he may buy you Carhartt for Christmas and use your Lenox champagne flute for a spit cup, but underneath it all lurks some serious potential and the makings of a winner. And you just know - even though your Mama says you're half-cracked and your best friend is begging to set you up with her cousin the doctor - that all Junior needs is better luck next time and the right kind of encouragement to turn things around.

So while the fans of Stewart, Martin and Johnson root their drivers on to a possible championship, this fan is gonna hunker down and cheer her boy on for a win (or at least a couple top five finishes) before Homestead rolls around.

Of course if next season also goes bust, I may seriously have to re-examine my life choices as well as my racing judgment. But I won't worry about that now. 'Cause today I'm just not ready to walk away from Junior - at least not yet.

Monday, October 26, 2009

At Least Busch Is Popular One Day Outta the Year

NASCAR bad boy Kyle Busch may not get too much love from race fans most of the season. But when Halloween rolls around, he's the most popular driver of them all.

Of all the folks who searched for NASCAR Halloween costumes so far this year, 35 percent were looking for a Kyle Busch costume. I can only imagine what some of those costumes might look like...

In the parallel world that is Halloween, Dale Junior garnered the least number of custome searches with seven percent.

The graphic above tells the rest of the story. Interesting aside, more than half of the NASCAR costumes searched were for Hendrick Motorsports-affiliated drivers. I'm just sayin'!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Estrada Glasses - Going, Going, Gone!

Boy those Estrada glasses from Tony Stewart's newest Burger King commercial sure have started somethin'. They're all the buzz online -- even Michael Waltrip was obsessing a little about "Estrada" on a recent episode of This Week in NASCAR on Speed TV.

In the Burger King Corp. ad campaign titled, “The Tony Stewart School of Endorsements,” Stewart advises other celebrities on how to successfully endorse products. In the quirky ads, Stewart explains to his class that they should “only endorse things you believe in” and that they have to be authentic to be successful – just like his love for the WHOPPER® sandwich.

Stewart’s famous students included actor Erik Estrada, the infamous Ponch on the 1980s hit television show “CHiPs". The first ad features Estrada promoting a line of sunglasses with his name emblazoned across the lenses.

The shades have become an instant cult classic and 150 pairs are currently being auctioned on eBay. The bidding ends at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, so be sure to check out for more information.

All proceeds from the sale of the sunglasses will go directly to Burger King Corp.’s HAVE IT YOUR WAY® Foundation.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ride to Victory Round-Up

Kyle Petty and more than 300 of his closest friends completed the Ride to Victory last week and the result was a smashing success. Here's the round-up of how much was raised, and how things went:
  • As a result of the Ride to Victory VII, 15 campers will attend Victory Junction for a weeklong summer session free of charge. (The cost for one camper to attend for a week session is about $2,500).

  • Approximately 200 motorcycles and 350 people participated in the Ride.

  • While it rained before the Ride, the group had clear skies by the time it was ready to roll. NC Highway Patrolmen escorted us the entire 111 miles.

  • The group stopped at the NASCAR Hall of Fame for a hard hat tour, participated in a “classic charity ride pit stop” at Pilot Travel Center and arrived at Victory Junction by 2:30 p.m. ET.

  • Rumor has it that their bikes were so loud when pulling into the NASCAR Hall of Fame parking garage that they set off EVERY car alarm in the building.

  • The Gastonia HOG chapter presented a check for $30,045 to Victory Junction at Camp.

Photo caption: The riders arrive at Victory Junction.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tony Stewart - Teacher's Pet?

Tony Stewart took a break from all things Chase-related Wednesday to help the Office Depot Foundation give away another 5,000 backpacks to Charlotte area students. The event marked Stewart's last "Backpack Celebration" of the season. And it also marked two million backpack donations for the Office Depot Foundation.

Although it's surely been a while since Smoke spent time in the classroom, it looks like he was right at home surrounded by school kids and school supplies.

We asked Smoke a few questions about what he was like as a student, back in the day. And here's what what he was kind enough to tell us:

What was your favorite subject in school?
“I liked all of my math classes. In high school, I liked physics and geometry. Those were probably the classes I liked the best. Obviously, I didn’t even realize at the time why I liked them so well, but after graduating high school and moving on, you realize how much you use all of that in racing. Those three subjects were very important and still are.”

Were you ever a teacher's pet?
“I could schmooze some teachers in the past. There were some teachers that I couldn’t get away with anything, but a couple of them, I was able to sweet-talk a lot.”

What kind of a student were you?
“I wasn’t the best student. I didn’t get the best of grades, but it was because I didn’t apply myself. From the time I was eight on, I wanted to be a racecar driver. I didn’t understand how important school was at the time, so I didn’t apply myself as well as I should have.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Labonte Goes Pink for Charlotte Race

When NASCAR comes home to Charlotte on Oct. 17 for the NASCAR Banking 500, Bobby Labonte will have more people on his tail than any other driver on the track – literally.

More than 13,000 names of people affected by breast cancer will be featured on the rear of Labonte’s pink No. 96 as part of a breast cancer awareness program with his sponsor The search engine transformed its homepage into a one-day memorial for those affected by breast cancer on Oct. 1 to celebrate the start of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and its national partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Each Tribute made that day will be incorporated into the #96 paint scheme.

Labonte, will also sport a firesuit and helmet inspired by the pink colors of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, “ did a great job allowing people a way to honor and remember loved ones affected by breast cancer because it does affect everyone,” said Labonte., the Official Search Engine of NASCAR, recently announced a national multi-faceted partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure which included a pledge to invest $1 million to the organization. Throughout October, race fans can continue to participate in the Search for the Cure program at By downloading the special Komen search “skin” and answering questions about breast health, will continue to make donations to Susan G. Komen for the Cure on behalf of users.

Other drivers with breast cancer awareness paint schemes include Elliott Sadler, Kyle Busch and Bill Elliott.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fontana: Different Track, Same Story

Sound familiar?

Jimmie Johnson pulls out a win. Dale Junior's promising run ends in catastrophe. And Juan Pablo Montoya scores a top five finish.

Yup, California may have been a different track. But Sunday's race was the same old story.

Of course, there were a few small Sunday surprises - like the strong finishes of Casey Mears, David Ragan and Sam Hornish Jr. But all in all, Fontana just didn't have any shock value. (Unless you're Richard Petty and all four of your cars ended the day in a crunched up mess)

In my book, the most entertaining moments of the day were Jesse McCartney's embarrassing flub-up of The Star Spangled Banner and watching the ailing Kyle Busch get pulled from his race car.

Maybe my expectations for Sunday were too high from the get-go. After watching Saturday's Nationwide race, I was all hyped up for some head-to-head racing at every turn, a few dramatic cautions and possibly post-race fisticuffs. But instead there was just phantom debris, a mildly belligerent Kasey Kahne, and Jimmie Johnson back in the Chase lead.

Ho-hum. Let's hope the Sprint Cup race in Charlotte packs more of a punch!

All About Danica and Hall of Fame Announcement

Danica Patrick Special Airs Sunday on ESPN

If rumors are true, she may be partnering with either Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Michael Waltrip next year. But, in the meantime, you can find Danica Patrick this Sunday on ESPN. Racing fans can learn more about the Roscoe, Ill. , native in the Peak Performance Fast World of Danica Patrick, a 30-minute special program airing Sunday, Oct. 18, at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

The program is an in-depth look at Patrick during the recently-completed IndyCar Series season, as told by her, and examines her life away from the racetrack.

Live Coverage of NASCAR Hall of Fame Announcement Wednesday

ESPNEWS will have live coverage on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 4 p.m. ET as the first five inductees into the new NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte , N.C. , are announced. NASCAR Chairman Brian France will reveal the names of the first five in a news conference at the Charlotte Convention Center adjacent to the site of the under-construction Hall of Fame.

NASCAR Now host Mike Massaro will host the telecast with ESPN NASCAR analyst Brad Daugherty. Following the news conference, more reports and analysis of the announcement will air on NASCAR Now at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Talk About an Unlikely NASCAR Feud...

Forget Junior vs. Kyle Busch, Keselowski vs. Hamlin and Johnson vs. Kurt Busch.

A new NASCAR feud has erupted and it comes from the most unlikely pairing of all - Joey Logano versus Greg Biffle. Logano is the well-meaning new kid on the block. Biffle a seasoned vet who doesn't usually let his temper run away with his reason. But relations between the two got downright ugly this weekend.

Maybe it's the California smog that mucked up Biffle's thinking. But early in Saturday's Nationwide Series race, the Biff -- who later declared he was still resentful of last week's dust-up with Logano-- radioed to his crew that he was gonna put the Kid into the wall. And sure enough, when he got next to Logano, he gave him a less-than gentle shove right into the fence, causing fender damage to the #20 car and frustration for Logano.

In an ironic twist of fate, or perhaps a humorous turn of Karma, it was Logano who ended up pulling out after the dust settled. Meanwhile, Biffle was forced to swallow his own bitter pill as Hamlin sent him wheeling into the concrete and away from contention.

Grinning from ear-to-ear in Victory Lane, Logano described the event as the most fun race he'd ever won. Meanwhile Biffle summed up their altercation by misquoting an old axiom thus: "What comes around goes around in this sport."

But it didn't end there. Somewhere in Fontana's infield, Logano's Dad Tom was still fuming at his boy's playground bully ...and he decided to give Biffle a piece of his mind on pit road. And although the ESPN cameras missed this fascinating bit of drama, NASCAR officials did not. They pulled Papa Tom's hard card, which means he'll have to file for credentials on a race-by-race basis.

I don't know if Biffle will face any penalties from the boys in the hauler. But one thing's for certain - he better stay away from Tom L. And he might just want to watch his back around Joey today. Logano starts just a couple rows behind him -- and he's got a score to settle.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wanna Star in the Next Coca-Cola Commercial?

Coca-Cola is known for some of the world’s most iconic advertising and is turning to Facebook to find the stars of its next big commercial. The Company is taking an unconventional approach to casting the new high-profile spot, offering racing fans and people from around the world the opportunity to audition by submitting short videos through an application available only on Facebook through October 15.

The new commercial, called “Sounds of Coca-Cola,” will feature real people demonstrating their own renditions of the distinct sounds that occur every time they enjoy a Coca-Cola. Drivers Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Bobby Labonte, Elliott Sadler, Michael Waltrip, David Ragan and Kyle Petty appear in the video to show off their sounds of Coca-Cola and encourage fans to participate.

Check out the video!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Earlier Start Times Mean An Old Sunday Routine

When I first started watching Winston Cup races, my Sunday routine went something like this:

Mad dash home from church - maybe picking up some food on the way - then a quick change into comfy clothes before scarfing down Sunday dinner in the kitchen or (depending on how much I socialized after church) in front of the TV. All because racing started early, and if you dilly-dallied at church you might miss a few laps.

Well, after NASCAR's announcement today, it looks like I'll be getting back into my old Sunday habit.

As part of the sport's "back to basics" approach, Sprint Cup races in 2010 will have earlier and consistent start times each Sunday. The race start times for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in the eastern and central regions will begin at 1:00pm ET, west coast events will begin at 3:00pm ET, and night races will begin at 7:30pm ET. (The one exception is NASCAR’s longest night race, the Coca-Cola 600, which will have the same 5:45 p.m. ET start time.)

Following the invocation and national anthem, the green flag will drop at approximately 15 – 20 minutes past the hour after each stated race event start time.

"NASCAR fans have been asking for earlier and more consistent start times, and we are making this change for our fans, beginning with the Daytona 500 next February," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France.

“We are revisiting our sport’s tradition of earlier green flags, and the added consistency will make it easier for fans to know exactly when the races are being televised," explained France. "Additionally, the new start times will help track operators get fans in and out of the track earlier in the evening. Many fans heading home from the race earlier will be able to eliminate the costs of an extra travel day.”

In making the decision for earlier, more uniform start times, NASCAR consulted its Fan Council, comprised of 12,000 avid fans who serve as a sounding board on important topics. Half of NASCAR avid fans said they are often unclear about what time NASCAR races actually start. When given the chance to choose a start time, more than two-thirds of avid NASCAR fans preferred early Sunday afternoon.

I'm not sure how this will affect the pre-race shows on each network or, for that matter, the fantastic and worth-watching Race Day show on Speed TV.

All that is still to be decided I suppose. But one thing's for sure - I'm gonna have to start attending the early service.

This One's For the Ladies - More Shirtless Carl

The uber fit Carl Edwards is one of six cover athletes who will appear on ESPN The Magazine’s cover for its inaugural "Body Issue".

And goody for us - the folks at ESPN just released a new image of the hunky Carl Edwards on the cover.

The Body Issue hits newstands Friday, Oct. 9, and will feature nearly 80 athletes from a variety of sports in a celebration and exploration of the athletic form.

The issue honors athletes of diverse shapes, sizes, genders and races within the boundaries of taste and frontiers of creativity upon which ESPN The Magazine and ESPN have built their reputations.

According to the news release, "It is a testament to the work the athletes do, the effort they exert and the price they sometimes pay in reliance on their most important asset – their bodies."

Plus, it ain't bad for eye candy ...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Story Behind That Carl Edwards' Shirt

After Sunday's race in Kansas City, the folks at ABC stuck around long enough to interview just about every driver on the lead lap. They even talked to racers who had already shucked their firesuits for more comfortable casual wear.

Carl Edwards was one of the latter interviewees. And the T-shirt he wore during his post-race interview has caused quite a stir on line. From what I could see at the time, it looked like a bunch of balloons and birds. But there's much more to this shirt.

The tee is from a company called Mythic LLC, which is run by siblings Kody Davies Strong and Rocky Davies. It turns out their Mom's company sponsored Edwards during his rookie year, and they still maintain a good friendship. So Mom passed the word about her kids' new t-shirt line on to Carl and the rest is history.

"She told him about the shirts my brother and I were distributing and he asked us to send our full line to him because he liked them so much," Strong said. "He wears them for fun or to work out in."

Here's the scoop on the particular shirt Carl wore on-camera. Entitled "The Wrong Brothers," the shirt was concepted by Rocky and comes complete with a back story--the tale of two brothers (Orvelli and Wilbert) who don't quite discover the secret of flying. Considering that Edwards is a fan of flying--both on the racetrack and in the skies--the shirt is entirely apropos.

The shirt (and most of Mythic's other offerings) comes in men's and women's sizes and retails for $20.

"We are desperately trying to get them in popular stores around The States," Strong said. "It takes time to get a line started, but we are working on it through friends and clever tee ideas."

Looks like they've got a good start. I'm thinking a little nationwide airtime by a bona fide NASCAR star is gonna be good for business.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kyle Petty - Hall, Bikes and Project Runway

Former NASCAR driver and current TV personality Kyle Petty was kind enough to answer a few questions for us yesterday about his upcoming Ride to Victory. But he also discussed a few other topics about which race fans are curious. Read on for a brief Q&A with the ever-accommodating KP.

During this year's ride, you guys are stopping at the new NASCAR Hall of Fame. Race fans are really excited about its opening. Have you cast your vote for who should be in the first class...and who did you vote for?

"I think Bill France Sr. should be the ONLY person inducted the first year. There would be no NASCAR without him. Everyone else comes next year."

How many bikes do you own and which one is your favorite?

"I have enough bikes for Pattie, Montgomery Lee, Randy, Austin and myself to ride when we take trips. It’s fun to ride with the whole family. My favorite is my 65 PanHead and my project bike that may never be finished."

I know you're a big Project Runway fan. But would you rather ride your bike or watch Runway?

"ALWAYS rather be riding! But I wish Project Runway would design me a cool motorcycle jacket!"
Photo courtesy of the folks at Kyle Petty Charity Ride

Take a Ride to Victory With Kyle Petty

If you're on the highways of North Carolina this weekend, keep your eyes peeled. You might just see Kyle Petty and a few hundred of his best bikin' buddies taking to the road for a good cause.

This Saturday, Petty and friends will fire it up and head out for the Seventh Annual Ride to Victory. The en masse ride will benefit Victory Junction, a year-round facility founded by Petty's family which serves children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses.

"This ride is so important because all monies raised go directly to Victory Junction," Petty explained. "The camp is always fund raising and the motorcycle community has always played a large role in our efforts. From this ride alone we'll be able to send 10 or 15 kids to camp. I can't think of a better reason to ride..."

In addition to raising funds for Victory Junction, this year's event will pay tribute Petty's long-time friend Click Baldwin. A member of the KPCR Board of Directors and owner of Carolina Harley Davidson in Gastonia, NC, Baldwin passed away following a motorcycle accident last year.

"He was a part of the Charity Ride from the very beginning," Petty said. "And he and I rode across the country together many times. He was one of the best friends I ever had."

Rally points on Saturday include Tilley Harley-Davidson in Statesville, Iron Horse Motorcycles in Monroe, Harley-Davidson of Charlotte and Carolina Harley-Davidson in Gastonia. The full group will depart from Carolina Harley-Davidson at 10:30 a.m.. And Petty said he's especially excited that the group will be making a special stop at the new NASCAR Hall of Fame.

"The Charity Ride in the past has stopped at numerous tracks BEFORE they were opened so this just continues that record," he explained.

After paying homage to The Hall, the group will continue to Kannapolis , N.C. and participate in a “classic” Charity Ride pit stop at Pilot Travel Center before arriving at Victory Junction.

Race fans and bike enthusiasts alike are welcome to join this year's Ride to Victory gang. In addition to Kyle Petty, NASCAR personalities confirmed for this year's ride include Harry “The Bandit” Gant who has 18 career Cup wins; Waddell Wilson, crew chief and engine builder to former NASCAR greats such as Junior Johnson, and Darrell Waltrip; and Donnie Allison, part of the original “Alabama Gang”.

For more information about the Ride to Victory, or to pre-register, visit or call (704) 714-4545. And for the story of how Victory Junction became a reality, check out this touching segment which ABC aired before Sunday's Cup race.

Photo: A pic from last year's Ride to Victory, courtesy of the folks at Kyle Petty Charity Ride

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hope Is Not Enough for Junior Nation

When you have the second fastest car in qualifying, and lead a heap of laps at the beginning of a race, you sure as heck don't expect to end up in 36th position.

But as you likely already know, such was the fate of Dale Earnhardt Jr's sojourn in Kansas City.

The weekend didn't start out so dire. Friday afternoon, in fact, it seemed that the winds of change had finally blown Junior's way (quite literally) when he laid down one of his quickest qualifying laps of the season.

But the great expectations and grinning exuberance were shattered by an uncanny combination of race day frustrations. An ill-placed lugnut. A fateful caution. An equipment malfunction. An early exit.

Clearly, there must be some great cosmic joke afoot. Or perhaps a higher power is trying to teach Junior and The Nation a deeper universal truth. Surely there's a meaning behind the madness, because you just can't script a season of disappointments like this. Not that you'd want to.

Try as they may, the #88 team just can't shake the dark cloud that's been hanging over their garage since that regrettable race in Daytona. And though there's been sure signs of improvement of late--like the proverbial light in the distance--fortune's wheel hasn't spun Junior's way quite yet. The stars have not aligned.

Though still loyal, Junior Nation is not happy. And adjusting pre-season expectations for their favorite driver hasn't been pleasant. But Junior Nation now admittedly and necessarily harbors more modest hopes for their #88. Namely, that he wins at least one race before the season ends.

Yet, as I recently heard on a political talk show of some ilk or other, hope is not a strategy. And, in Junior's case at least, it would seem that it's going to take more than hope for his fans' goal to be realized.

It may take nothing short of help from on high.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Logano's Made a Fan Outta Me

Joey Logano has made a fan out of me.

I'm sure there are legions of folks who feel the same. Back in February, I sat in the Daytona grandstand and decided that Joe Gibbs had a screw loose when he put Logano on the track at the 500. I mean, Joey didn't even have a full Nationwide season under his belt for heaven's sake! Surely Sprint Cup racing would would eat this neophyte alive.

But such thinking would be why Joe Gibbs owns a race team and I own a diecast.

Of course, I've never harbored any ill feelings toward Kid Joey. I just had my doubts--and lots of them. But after last Sunday's roller coaster ride down the concrete of Dover and this afternoon's pass of Kyle Busch for the win, Logano has zoomed meteorically in the humble opinion of NASCAR peons like me.

First, the kid is tough. Six days ago, he walked away from a wreck that would have left even a hardened driver questioning his choice of careers. And today, he got right back in a race car and proved he has the mettle to tangle with the big boys. And how.

Second, the kid is focused. Logano hung around in the top five for most of the race, just biding his time, waiting for his chance And then he took his No. 20 car to the outside and went around his teammate Kyle Busch and ended up with the "W". Even the TV talking heads were surprised, nay, shocked. After all, they had called the race for Kyle Busch about 50 laps earlier.
But pundits have been wrong before.

Finally, the kid has class. Sure, he's young. And at times he still sounds like your 16-year-old cousin talking about the hit he took at football practice. But Logano manages to always speak to reporters, look at the camera even on an off day, all while exhibiting a smile and a controlled demeanor--a demeanor which seems to belie a fiercely competitive spirit.

So kudos to Joey from your brand-new fan. Oh, and my sincerest apologies to Joe Gibbs.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Awww...Smoke Gets a Hug

Tony Stewart may be tough as nails behind the wheel of his Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy. But Wednesday in Kansas City, he was all heart.

At an event staged at the Office Depot at North Oak Village Plaza, Stewart joined the Office Depot Foundation for a special "Back to School Celebration. That's where Smoke helped donate more than 2,200 backpacks loaded with school supplies to representatives from local schools and children's organizations. While there, Stewart also signed autographs for more than 300 fans.

One young backpack recipient was so happy with his new school stuff, that he couldn't help but give Stewart a hug.

But I'm not so sure Smoke would want you to see this sweet little photo. Might ruin his tough-talkin' image.