13
Dec

The previous race I covered was an epic championship race for the NHRA so heading to Miami for NASCAR I was hopeful for another close championship race. Close would be understatement as heading into the race Carl Edwards led Tony Stewart by an astoundingly close three points. Time to award some hardware!

After five straight years of shooting Jimmie Johnson hoisting the Sprint Cup I can’t express how excited I was to arrive in Miami for the Ford Championship Weekend to shoot a different driver winning the championship.

The two contenders were two time Cup champion Tony Stewart (below) looking for his third NASCAR championship…

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

and Carl Edwards, below, who was looking for his first career Sprint Cup championship.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

While most of my weekend would be focused on those two drivers I still did my best to shoot shots of the other drivers.

Below, the helmet of Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick sits atop his car prior to the opening qualifying session.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Just before the drivers were to hit the track for practice a massive rain shower hit the Homestead-Miami Speedway, below.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

Below, a devoted Tony Stewart fan stalks his garage area during the rain delay. I saw her all three days at the track and in all three days she was wearing that same shirt.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Below, a crew member checks the local radar on their tool box in the garage area. Looks promising eh?

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f3.2, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

With the bad forecast and the tight schedule I was pretty confident we wouldn’t see the Cup cars on the track all day so I had to come up with some photos from around the garage for the wire.

Below, a crew member with an umbrella walks through the rainy garage during a delay to Sprint Cup Series practice for the Ford 400.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f3.2, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

A crew member for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman (below) uses the rain delay to catch up on some reading.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f3.2, 1/320th, Aperture Priority

I hadn’t packed a jacket or anything with long sleeves for that matter so I was stuck running around in the rain with two cameras looking like an idiot. After only five minutes in the rain I looked like a wet dog… with two wet cameras!

Photo by Sam Sharpe

For Friday nights NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, the Ford 200, I set up on the outside of the track to cover the race.

Below, a lizard hangs out on the outside wall as trucks drive past on the pace laps.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 6400iso, f5.6, 1/250th, Manual

Below, the field of trucks race into turn one on the opening lap of the Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Austin Dillon races into turn one during the Ford 200 at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Dillon had a pretty comfortable lead in the points standings but he wasn’t a lock until the race ended and he was in front of second place Johnny Sauter. With about 10 laps remaining in the race the skies opened up and drenched the track. I figured with it being so late and so close to the end of the race that the odds would be good of NASCAR ending the race and calling it a night.

With that in mind I ran down the outside of the front stretch to get across from where Dillon had parked his truck on pit road. Less than five minutes after getting in position they called the race.

Below, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Austin Dillon celebrates after winning the 2011 championship following the Ford 200 at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Next season Dillon is moving up to the Nationwide Series full time so hopefully one day he will be a NASCAR star and these celebration photos will gain value.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

Even though he only looks about 14, Dillon is of legal age as evident by the below photo of him getting fed a Budweiser.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Saturday was a beautiful day with lots of sun and pretty clouds for a busy day of Sprint Cup practice, qualifying and the Nationwide Series race.

Below, Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson pulls out of his garage stall to head out to the track for practice. In the previous five years when he was in position for the championship there would have been a massive crowd of photographers and media surrounding the car.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 640iso, f4, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Three weeks before the final race of the season driver David Reutimann was notified this would be his last season for Michael Waltrip Racing. The below photo of him in the garage area makes him look really sad.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Below, a random eyeball shot of Tony Stewart.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth sits in the cockpit of his Ford Fusion as he waits to head out on track.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 100iso, f8, 1/500th, Manual

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch drives through the garage on his way out to the track for practice.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/20th, Manual

Ok lets move on to the Nationwide Series Ford 300.

Below, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr (6) during the Ford 300 at Homestead Miami Speedway. Stenhouse had a large lead in the points so by lap 30 he had clinched the championship.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 800iso, f6.3, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Around sunset the clouds got nice above the track so I had a little fun with that.

Brad Keselowski

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

Danica Patrick

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f3.5, 1/1250th, Manual

Below, the field of NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers race into turn one as nightfall takes over the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

The winner of the race would end up being Brad Keselowski, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

While the 2011 champion would be Ricky Stenhouse Jr, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Enough of Saturday, on to the main day.

Earlier in the week we had found out that first lady Michelle Obama would be in attendance for the Cup race along with Jill Biden, wife of vice president Joe Biden. With that in mind we were notified of much higher than usual security screening and were told to arrive much earlier than normal.

Below, fans, team members and media go through full security screening prior to being allowed in the garage area.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f4, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

On the roofs around the speedway were members of the Secret Service, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 500iso, f4, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

The media weren’t provided any specific photo opps to shoot uh, I mean photograph the first lady. While walking to the bathroom next to the media center I noticed huge crowds and tons of security. After peeing (and washing my hands) I grabbed my cameras and headed out to try and find a good angle to shoot from.

After I talked my way past some track security I was allowed atop of the garage suites just across a street from the first ladies path to visit the pre race drivers meeting, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f4, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

After shooting some wide shots I quickly changed to my camera with the 400mm lens on it for some closer shots of the first and second ladies…

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 500iso, f4, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Below, a secret service officer stands watch from atop of the media center.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

The first lady disappeared for awhile but then while walking around killing time before the race I saw a crowd of people up to a chain link fence watching Obama on the other side chatting with championship contender Carl Edwards. I pushed my way through the crowd then got down on the ground to shoot through the fence beneath an advertising banner and ended up with the below frame.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

Ok enough of that stuff, lets get to the race!

For driver introductions I skipped the media area near the stage and instead waded my way into the sea of fans near the walkway to the stage and held the camera up above my head as the drivers walked by.

Tony Stewat

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f9, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Carl Edwards

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f9, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards (left) leads the field on the opening lap during the Ford 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Early on in the race there was a rainstorm that came through delaying us for close to two hours. The delay sucked but as the field went around the track under caution I was able to get some cool rainbow frames.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 3200iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

As is typically the case in Miami, the sunset would be beautiful…

The only problem was it occurred during the nearly hour and a half track drying process, below.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 1000iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Here are two shots of the sunset that would have been great had we been racing instead of sitting around bored.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f5.6, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/60th, Aperture Priority

Finally we would get back to racing.

Below, race leader Carl Edwards follows the pace car under caution.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards (99) leads Tony Stewart (14) during the Ford 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

While Edwards led most of the race, Tony Stewart was right there at the front chasing him. In the below shot you can see Edwards leading while Stewart (on the left) takes it four wide to make an insane pass in the turn.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Finally Stewart was able to overtake Edwards for the race lead, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

And would never look back as he would cross the finish line as the checkered flag waved to win the Ford 400 and tie Carl Edwards for the points lead. Stewart held the tie breaker with more wins so in the closest points finish in history Stewart would be crowned the 2011 Champion…..

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

…. as his elated crew went nuts on pit road….

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

Stewart was quite the happy camper as he climbed from his car in victory lane to celebrate his third career NASCAR championship.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Minutes into the victory lane celebration heavy rains would return, drenching us photographers. Check out the below shot I took of a few of my pals loving the rain!

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 800iso, f2.8, 1/50th, Aperture Priority

Thankfully the rain would cease after about 10 minutes making it easier to shoot the rest of the celebration.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2000iso, f3.2, 1/1000th, Manual

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2000iso, f3.2, 1/1000th, Manual

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2000iso, f3.5, 1/1000th, Manual

And that wraps up my seventh NASCAR championship race. Time to shoot lots of football!

I have a Facebook page devoted my photography where I routinely share my favorite photos from each shoot as well as favorite photos from the past. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to “like” the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing!


 
Posted in Florida, Me, NASCAR, Racing, Sports   | 1 Comment

One Response to “Tony Stewart wins closest championship in NASCAR history”

  1. Like always, your images are outstanding Mark! You have the gift of being able to take what would be an ordinary image and bring it to life allowing it to tell the story to its viewers! Kudos, and keep up the amazing work!

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Check out my Facebook page devoted my photography where I routinely share my favorite photos from each shoot as well as favorite photos from the past. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to "like" the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing!