01
May

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Ever since the beginning of the year when NASCAR officials made the now famous quote, “Boys have at it” in regards to relaxed rules with bump drafting and drivers self policing the garage everyone has been waiting for the drivers to get on track at the biggest and baddest track on the circuit. Talladega. The racing would more than live up to the hype. Strap in tight, its gonna be a bumpy ride!

Friday began like every race weekend with me being bored and scouring the garage area looking for interesting driver photos to take (there were none).

Here are a couple that I didn’t hate.

Below, Mark Martin grimaces as he pulls his helmet down on his head prior to first practice for the Aarons 499 at the Talladega Superspeedway.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Kevin Harvick (below) drives down pit road as a large pack of drivers race through the tri-oval during practice, below.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

NASCAR driver Kurt Busch (below) lays on the ground as he examines the front end of his Dodge in the garage.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 3200iso, f4, 1/200th, Aperture Priority

A crew member for Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth works beneath the car in the garage area between practice sessions.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

After a rather lackluster time spent shooting practice I made the trek up to the roof of the main grandstands to get in position for what is typically a wild ARCA Series race.

The ARCA Series is comprised of many up and coming drivers as well as several older guys (most of which who were never good enough to move up to NASCAR). So the combination of young rookies and older has beens (never weres) is a recipe for disaster as they take to the biggest track on the circuit.

Check out the awesome paintjob on the car driven by Rob Jones. Looks like a car you would find in the ghetto neighborhood I grew up in!

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 250iso, f5.6, 1/25000th, Aperture Priority

Below, high school student Dakoda Armstrong sits on the pole as he leads the field through the tri-oval on their way to the green flag

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f6.3, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Just like the drivers in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, the ARCA drivers found themselves racing in large packs of cars, below……..

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

……which led to large crashes……

Below, ARCA RE/MAX Series drivers Mark Thompson (66) and Alex Kennedy (38) are involved in a multi car accident during the Talladega 250 at the Talladega Superspeedway.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

While fire is usually pretty race in stock car racing the high speeds and big crashes usually end up providing a fireball or two each Talladega weekend.

This years unlucky winner of the catch your car on fire contest would be Alex Kennedy (below) who had a bit of a fire after crashing hard into the outside wall. (note his exhaust pipe in the middle of the frame)

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Below, ARCA RE/MAX Series drivers Bill Baird (52), Ricky Carmichael (4) and Bobby Gerhart (5) are involved in a multi car accident during the Talladega 250 at the Talladega Superspeedway.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

A surprisingly tame race ended with high school Dakoda Armstrong taking the victory.

The new fence in place did a stellar job of ruining my burnout photo, below. Thanks!

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Dakoda Armstron (below) celebrates in victory lane after winning the race.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 800iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

That wrapped up Friday.

Normally this is where the Saturday portion of the blog would begin. However, massive storms in the area completely wiped out everything for the day.

My day was spent with co-workers JD and Doug drinking lots of alcohol at a dive bar….uh I mean “Sports Cafe.”

The Nationwide race would be moved to Sunday right after the Sprint Cup Series race. Its gonna be a loooooong day.

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series fans cheer as F-15 fighter jets perform a flyover prior to the Aarons 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

I always love shooting the fighter jets who perform fly-overs at most races.

Below, an F-15 Eagle gets a lot closer than he would like to a helicopter flying over the track. That woulda been an all new meaning to “The big one!”

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 250iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

A very tattooed and devoted NASCAR fan (below) watches from the top of the grandstands with his shirt off displaying a glorious Dale Earnhardt Sr tattoo.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Here is a photo by good friend David Griffin showing me in action on the shot.

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Photo by David Griffin

Below is a wide view showing the entire field lined up as they go through turn two prior to the start of the Aarons 499.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

The field of 43 drivers make their way (below) through the tri-oval prior to getting the green flag to begin the race.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin (11) spins as Brad Keselowski (12) goes high to avoid during the Aarons 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Hamlin got lucky in the deal and never hit anything as he slid through the infield concrete runoff area, below.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

The below photo is a good example of being over lensed (and screwed by the catch fence) when an accident happened with Johnny Sauter (36) losing control and starting a multi car accident.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

David Stremme (26), Matt Kenseth (17) and Paul Menard (98) were just a few of the cars caught up in the accident.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

You know you’re in Talladega when you see a guy wearing a beer case on his head and a beer can necklace. Hmmmmm

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

The below photo isn’t anything special until you realize its the entire Hendrick Motorsports team lined up with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) leading teammates Jeff Gordon (24), Mark Martin (5) and Jimmie Johnson (48).

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

Bobby Labonte (71) leads a pack of drivers down the backstretch, below.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

While the race was full of close action and countless lead changes, it was a pretty clean race with few cautions which led to green flag pit stops.

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers fan out as they slow down to enter the pits for green flag pit stops during the Aarons 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

In case you forgot where you were at (I didn’t get that drunk) they had your location painted in giant letters on the walls, “THIS IS TALLADEGA”……umm thx?

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

In the late stages of the race Jeff Burton would get in an accident and slide his Chevy through the grass like a 200mph lawnmower, below.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Along with Burton, Jeff Gordon wouldn’t fare so well in the accident and was left with a giant dent in the front end of his car. (Looks kinda like the front end of Tiger Woods Escalade)

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f5.6, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

After the race got underway again it wasn’t long before a multi car pile up in turn four taking out several drivers including Elliott Sadler (19), Joey Logano (20), Ryan Newman (39), Brad Keselowski (12), Kasey Kahne (9), Bobby Labonte (71) and Brian Vickers (83).

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

The race would come down to a two car drag race off turn four on the final lap.

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jamie McMurray leads Kevin Harvick on the last lap during the Aarons 499.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

It looked like McMurray was gonna hold on to win the race but at the last possible second Harvick pulled out and drafted past him right at the finish line (below).

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

To really appreciate the amazingly timed pass check out the below video.

After his cool down lap, Harvick slowly drove past the main grandstand as the fans saluted him, below.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

With this being his first victory in over three years, Harvick celebrated with an especially long and smokey burnout……

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

…..then over to victory lane to celebrate for the cameras, below.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

After a long and intense race I was pretty worn out. Handholding the 600mm for a few hours takes a lot out of me. I needed to man up and quit thinking about it because I had another 312 miles of Nationwide Series action.

Below, fresh off his victory an hour earlier in the Cup race, Kevin Harvick (33) got off to a great start as he led the field several times throughout the race.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

As with the Cup race, the Nationwide race had its share of small incidents.

Below. Nationwide Series driver Carl Edwards (60), Brendan Gaughan (62), and Clint Bowyer (21) spin through the exit of the tri-oval.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Heres your sign….

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1600iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

Near the end of the race things started getting wild.

Below, Nationwide Series drivers Morgan Shepherd (89), Scott Lagasse Jr (43), Kyle Busch (18) and Steve Arpin (7) crash during the Aarons 312 at the Talladega Superspeedway.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1600iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

After they got the track cleared up it was time for a green white checkered finish.

Hold on, its about to get bumpy!

I remember on the last few laps of the race looking through the lens at the cars and I could only think of how crappy of a weekend this was and a big waste of time, all that was about to change.

Coming off the final turn on the final lap of the final race (on a day when they ran the most miles in a day in the history of the sport) all hell would break loose.

Jamie McMurray would try fitting into a spot that wasn’t big enough setting off a massive high speed pile up.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

The car driven by Dennis Setzer (92) would become airborne in the crash……..

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

…….and fly above the wall and into the catch fence………

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

…..the fence tore through the car and sent parts and pieces everywhere………

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Since half of the track was still lit by the sun and the other half in the shade I shot in Aperture Priority mode, basically meaning the camera automatically adjusts the exposure setting to give a good exposure. Well bright fire in the shade does not work well for getting a proper exposure so the bright fire tricked the camera and it made the frame WAY dark.

See for yourself below.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Thankfully I know how to save a photo. Below you will find the super dark shot essentially fixed.

…….oh by the way, the car of Setzer would erupt in a giant fireball………

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

……as if that wasn’t enough the out of control car of Justin Allgaier slid into Setzers car sending him airborne again!

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

After all the smoke settled all that was left in turn four was a graveyard of destroyed cars surrounded by ambulances and tow trucks, below.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

A few days after the race I got bored and put the sequence (zoomed in on Setzer) into a layout. The finished result is pretty damn spectacular I must say.

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The below video is a must see, many different angles of one of the wildest NASCAR crashes I’ve ever witnessed.

Oh, BTW Brad Keselowski won the race…..and celebrated with a burnout, below.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Completely sore and fatigued from over 850 miles of NASCAR action I finished off the race with the 1/2 mile walk back across the track to the media center, briefly stopping on the track to shoot a few photos showing off the tire tracks everywhere left by crashing cars.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1000iso, f4, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1000iso, f4, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Heres some clips:

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Posted in Me, NASCAR, Racing, Sports, Talladega   | 6 Comments

6 responses to “850 miles of carnage in one day at Talladega!”

  1. Paul says:

    awesome blog as usual, keep up the good work

  2. Vicki M. says:

    It was an awesome Racing weekend! Great photos!

  3. phule says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a while. Today when I visited (and I tested this from two different machines) I got warning messages about your site trying to install drive-by download trojans through the browser. You should have your web host take a look at your blogging software for exploits.

  4. Andreas Ott says:

    Hello,
    do u currently have a problem with virus? my antivirus program always tells me when i visit ur site?!

    Andy from Germany

  5. Shannon Frost says:

    Thanks for taking the time to let us in on your photo assignment. Again, through your blog we can get a glimps of being on assignment with you.

  6. rady says:

    Hi Mark, just wanted to give you a heads-up on your blog getting trojans all over. You might wanna check your files, usually there’s a mallicious code inserted in the footers. Also, i recommend changing your ftp passowrd and if you’re using total commander for ftp don’t save the password in the session! Hope it helps!

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