As the July 4th weekend approaches most people think of things such as outdoor barbeques, the beach and fireworks. For me there is only one thing I think of and that is NASCAR racing on the historic high banks of the Daytona International Speedway.
Recently I had been incredibly busy and was nearly getting burned out and in desperate need of a weekend off but it certainly wouldn’t be a weekend where packs of 43 cars would race bumper to bumper at nearly 200 mph! I was super excited and couldn’t wait to get there. That excitement was further fueled when due to a last minute change in scheduling, Guy Rhodes, one of my best friends would be shooting his first NASCAR race with me as we teamed together to cover the race.
After a very un fun filled travel day where I didn’t get to hotel till after 230am I awoke Thursday morning to go pick Guy Rhodes up from the airport and to head to the track to shoot a few practice sessions.
I hate days where there is only practices and no races, I had nothing to look forward to and didn’t really get many images I liked.
Friday wasn’t much better, it was a very hot and muggy day and I worked out in the heat shooting the Sprint Cup qualifying session that lasted over 3 hours. For qualifying there is only one car on the track so its pointless to shoot car shots because you will be very bored, so nearly all photographers hang out on pit road and shoot headshots of the drivers as they hang out by their cars and climb in for their qualifying laps. In recent years the access for that has gotten worse and worse with still shooters having to be behind white lines, barriers, while in front of us the crewmembers as well as TV and radio announcers, cameramen, assistants and cable pullers are mulling around the drivers making any attempt of shooting clean images a futile mission.
Most photographers shoot qualifying on pit road but with the above mentioned issues I have found it to be much better to shoot qualifying from where the drivers get out of their cars after their run. We can usually get a few feet away from the car as the driver pulls to a stop and climbs out, usually standing there a few minutes debriefing with crew members and being interviewed.
I got a few decent shots but nothing too great. Only had like 15 minutes to transmit some images before I began my long walk from the infield media center to the roof of the main grandstands outside of the track.
I shoot from the roof at a lot of tracks but without a doubt the Daytona roof is the best. It is a very tall grandstand I am above so the view of the track is unbeatable. There is a decent amount of room for the numerous shooters who venture up there for the races. Plus there are a few electric outlets so I can have my computer plugged in and connected to the internet for quick transmits throughout the race.
Saturdays Nationwide Series race was a super boring race. Usually the Nationwide race is a crashfest. Not so this time.
Saturday finally came around and after hanging around the media room for 4 hours leading up to the race (you gotta get to NASCAR several hours early to beat the horrific traffic) it was finally time to hump it up to the roof carrying all my gear. All that I was missing was a mule and a Sherpa!
After a nice fly-over the race finally began.
It was pretty boring for awhile, spent a lot of time BSing back and forth with Autostock Images photographer Nigel Kinrade and Getty Images staffer Chris Graythen, but around the halfway point the race finally began to get exciting as there was a rash of crashes.
After each crash I would download and transmit the crash photos before the green flag would come back out. Having a wireless card and the ability to transmit within minutes of the image being shot allows me to beat all the other wires by a minimum of 5-10 minues. In this business beating someone by a matter of seconds can make the difference between selling images and not.
As the race got to the closing stages it seemed there was a crash every 5 laps or so. The race ended with a bit of controversy as a big crash happened on the last lap as Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch were side by side. As soon as the crash occurred the caution was thrown and the field was immediately frozen at their current position. It took about 30 seconds for NASCAR officials to review the scoring and video before deeming that Kyle Busch was a few feet ahead of Carl Edwards and was the winner.
I like Carl Edwards but I’m really a big Kyle Busch fan. He is the racer with the personality most similar to my own. As he pulled up and stopped on the start/finish line fans were throwing beer cans over the fence at his car to express their disdain for his win. In typical Kyle Busch fashion he climbed out of the car and proceeded to toy with the fans and mock them to further infuriate them.
How can you not love the guy!
Below is a layout I made showing an overall of my position from the roof and I have included Closeup images I shot of crashes and random moments with my 600mm, The victory lane shot was with a 600mm plus a 1.4 converter. The burnout shot in the layout was shot with a 80-200mm.
CLICK ON IMAGE TO SEE LARGER
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