2008 was a good year for me covering NASCAR, and although for the second straight year I shot less races than the year before I feel I produced many more quality photos in the shorter time span. Continue reading to check out some of my favorite NASCAR photos from 2008. Be sure to click the photos with the INMOTION logo beneath to see the full sequence from the shots.

As with every NASCAR season things got kicked off at speedweeks, leading up to the Daytona 500, the signature race on the NASCAR schedule.

The below shot of Kurt Busch is a prime example of taking something bad (window glare) and shooting a little wide to allow it to show an interesting design.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f5.6, 1/500th

A week prior to the Daytona 500 they ran the Bud Shootout, it is a race for previous Pole winners from the prior season. Usually the race isn’t that important to shoot. This year would be different as Dale Earnhardt Jr, who was running the first race for new team owner Rick Hendrick, won the race. He celebrated beneath me with a big smokey burnout.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 5000iso, f3.2, 1/800th

For the Nationwide Series race the early afternoon start led to some decent backlighting and highlights on the field as they drove past me heading into turn one.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.4 convertor, 500iso, f8, 1/5000th

For the Daytona 500 with it being the 50th anniversary they pulled out all the stops and had a great pre-race celebration capped with a very low fly over by the US Air Force Thunderbirds. It was incredible having the planes flying a few hundred feet above me at about 400mph.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/8000th

The race was won by Ryan Newman. From about a 1/4 mile away I shot him celebrating in victory lane. With the amount of media in victory lane using flash it is imperative to hang the motordrive in order to get a good shot thats not blown out by the flashes. Click the photo to see what I’m talking about.

The next weekend I was in Fontana, CA (40 miles from Los Angeles) for the race. It was a very frustrating weekend with rain and track problems delaying the race to monday. Plus it was very cold, as seen by the snow capped mountains.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 800iso, f6.3, 1/1250th

When they tried to run the race they got a few laps before the rains came. After about a five hour delay they tried again and it rained once more. The cars were pushed back to the garage after activities were postponed to the next day. I hung out and tried some slow shutter speed stuff as the cars were pushed back.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f8, 1/2 second

The next day ended up being a beautiful sunny day for the race.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 200iso, f6.3, 1/1600th

A few weeks later I was in Las Vegas for the race. The Vegas track is out in the desert with cool mountains surrounding the track.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1250th

The garage area in Vegas provided for a cool shot as here is a spectator viewing area above the garages so of course it was a capacity crowd above the car of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 250iso, f2.8, 1/640th

Another really cool thing about the track in Vegas is in the late afternoon pockets of light sneak through the turn two billboards to put a cool pattern on the track like the below shot of Ryan Newman in action.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/1000th

During a late race round of pit stops I put my camera down on the ground aimed on the pit crew as they jumped over the wall during a Mike Skinner pit stop.

At the race in Phoenix I had nice light shining on the fans observing the race from mountainside in turn four. More on that spot later.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 2000iso, f4, 1/1600th

Up next was Talladega where I was bored and wanted something different from usual so I set myself up to have photographers in the foreground with the racers speeding by behind.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm with 1.4 convertor, 200iso, f7.1, 1/250th

In Richmond fans get up close and personal as they watch their favorite drivers head from the garage to the track for practice.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 200iso, f2.8, 1/2000th

During the Nationwide race in Richmond I put the camera down on the ground to get a low angle of a Kasey Kahne pit stop with the giant grandstand and ambient blue dusk sky.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/400th

Before the Sprint Cup race I shot a cool portrait of Kyle Busch as he checks out the front end of his car. A few hours later he would use that front end to spin out fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr who was 2 laps away from winning the race. The boos could honestly be heard above the engines of the cars.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 800iso, f2.8, 1/800th

In Daytona I noticed some nice puffy clouds so I underexposed by several stops to silhouette crew members watching practice from their haulers.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 100iso, f8, 1/6400th

Also during the practice Kurt Busch scraped the wall. After the standard full car shot showing damage I zoomed in on his number and it made for a pretty cool detail shot.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 400iso, f4, 1/1600th

After over a month away from NASCAR while covering the Olympics I returned back to the states and two days later was off to Fontana, Calif. for the fall race. The race starts in the daytime and finishes under the lights and there is usually a nice sunset, this year would be no different. 

Just prior to the sunset the light was hitting the advertisement billboards and making them a nice golden color as clouds hovered near the peak of the nearby mountains.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/2000th

Once the sun dipped over the horizon it lit up the sky with an amazing array of colors. 

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/800th

Shortly after that shot the sky turned a dark red color that made for a cool shot as the cars raced away from me down the backstretch.

I wanted to try something different so I threw on a star filter and shot some of the cars. Luckily I got the below shot of Jimmie Johnson as he went on to win the race.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1600th with star filter

A few weeks later in Dover, Delaware I shot Paul Menard during practice with a wide angle to show off the nice puffy clouds.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 200iso, f9, 1/4000th

During qualifying for the East Series (a low level NASCAR series) I shot motocross superstar Ricky Carmichael as he strapped into his car. Prior to climbing in I asked his permission to stick my camera inside his car as I held an SB800 flash with an off camera sync cord through the front window.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f7.1, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

A few weeks later during qualiifying I saw Tony Stewart being interviewed and noticed his face reflecting in the video cameramans lens. It took about 12 shots but I finally got one I liked.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 500iso, f5, 1/640th

During the race at Talladega I always end up shooting a shot that shows off the insane amount of motorhomes parked in the infield.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f7.1, 1/4000th

In the later stages of the race when the cars come through the tri-oval the shadows of the cars line up perfectly for a cool head on shot.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f5.6, 1/3200th

Back in Phoenix for the second stop of the year I laid on the ground in the garage area during practice to produce some reflection shots of drivers heading out to the track.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/2000th

During Sprint Cup qualifying lens flare from the setting sun on my lens made for a cool photo of Carl Edwards as he raced through turn two.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/1250th

In the Nationwide Series race Carl Edwards was leaving late in the race. Everyone knows when he wins he does a backflip off his car so I left my spot on the roof to shoot from ground level to make the flip look better. As you will see in the Inmotion I had to crop in quite a bit, even though I was shooting with a 600mm.

For the Cup race I hiked about halfway up the mountain in turn four to shoot some shots with a Saguaro cactus in the foreground.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 320iso, f4.5, 1/1000th

While up there I shot a wide angle shot with some nice clouds above the track.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/1000th

There was a surprise rain delay which ended up resulting in the race finishing at night. In the late stages of the race I shot a Matt Kenseth pit stop. Instead of the normal stop action stuff I shot slow shutter speed to get some blur out of it. Heres the results.

For victory lane I got in the corner and shot with a 70-200mm on a camera in one hand and a wide angle on the ground with my other hand. Here is the view from the low angle wide shot.

During the Craftsman truck race in Miami I noticed a gecko running along the catch fence so I shot him with a wide angle and ran along the fence hail marying the shot trying to keep up with him.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 6400iso, f7.1, 1/1000th

During the Sprint Cup race I shot Brian Vickers as he drove down the backstretch with nice palm trees filling out the shot.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 2500iso, f3.5, 1/3200th

I will end my best NASCAR photos of the year with an example of how many good shots and angles you can shoot if you try hard enough. With Jimmie Johnson clinching his third consecutive championship I made it my life goal to get as much variety as possible of him at the championship race. Here is the result.

Next up in my best photos of 2008 is my best football images.

Posted in Dover, Kansas, NASCAR, P.I.R., Portraits, Racing, Sports, Talladega   | 11 Comments

11 responses to “Best of 2008-Best NASCAR Photos”

  1. Ariel says:

    Outstanding work, Mark. I’m in awe of your creativity and eye for creating these shots.

  2. Excellent post! Love your “inmotion” work!


  3. Alex says:

    Amazing series! Thoroughly enjoyed them 🙂

  4. Tim says:

    Unbelievably cool — as expected… Thank you Thank You for posting this inside look to your work… I LOVE it!


  5. michael says:

    these are some of my fav,

  6. Frederic says:

    Great best of.
    It’s very interresting to look at your work.


  7. vdeputy says:

    Wow, what absolutely amazing work!

  8. Jeremy says:

    Fabulous shots. I know squat about NASCAR, but I loved the detail shot of the Kurt Busch #2.

    The Jimmie Johnson mosaic is great!

    I am curious – what do you usually shoot on? Manual? or do you use Shutter or Aperture priority?

  9. Jeremy,
    That question totally depends on several variables such as if its an evenly lit scene or if there’s light reflecting back at me and if its night. At night I always shoot manual. During the day if there’s some light and dark areas or if I am constantly switching directions I sometimes use aperture priority with exposure compensation at -.7 or sometimes -1. It is always different depending on the scene and what I am shooting though.


  10. Jeremy says:

    That is what I thought. I like using manual most of the time, but then the light will change and I will forget and click off several shots in bright conditions at f2.8 with a shutter of 1/100. DOH!

    Thanks for the info!

  11. danny says:

    WOW! thats all I can say WOW!
    Every pic is so good!
    Very Talented!

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