Every year I keep saying I am not gonna do the race at Fontana yet every year I end up caving in and covering the action on the two mile oval of Auto Club Speedway. Don’t get me wrong, the track is top notch and the media are treated great by the tracks staff but nothing can overcome the simple fact that it is a boring track that lacks the normal action fans are used to at other tracks.

After a late evening in Las Vegas shooting UFL it was a 3.5 hour drive south on Interstate 15 to Fontana, CA for NASCAR California style.

I woke up later than I wanted so I would end up missing the Sprint Cup practice session but was able to make it to the track just in time for qualifying.

As I typically do I shot where the drivers climb from their cars after their runs.

Below, Joey Logano during Sprint Cup qualifying for the Pepsi 500.


Nikon D700, 85mm, 100iso, f1.8, 1/800th, Manual, 2 stop ND Filter

Using a wide angle lens and holding the camera over my head I shot the below frame of Greg Biffle as he speaks with crew members following his qualifying run.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f4, 1/1250th, Manual

Below, Juan Pablo Montoya climbs from his car after a good qualifying lap.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Three time Sprint Cup winning crew chief Chad Knaus (below) is the face of intensity as he awaits his teams lap.


Nikon D700, 85mm, 200iso, f1.8, 1/640th, Manual, 2 stop ND Filter

That was about it for a boring afternoon of qualifying.

On to Saturday.

For the Sprint Cup practice I shot in the garage area.

While wandering around the garage area I came across actor John C. Reilly (below) who you may have seen in such films as Talladega Nights and Days of Thunder.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f4, 1/2500th, Manual

I had some nice natural light as Mark Martin stood in the garage prior to climbing into his car, below.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 1600iso, f4, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

In the below photo I caught another photographers flash on the face of Jeff Gordon as he climbed into his car. For most photographers it would be a throw away frame but for some reason I kind of like it because of the way it makes his eye look.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f3.2, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Kasey Kahne (below) sits in his car in the garage area during practice.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 1600iso, f4, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Shortly after Cup practice was the Nationwide Series Copart 300 race.

For the start of the race I went to the outside of turn two.

Below, the field of Nationwide racers head down the backstretch on the second lap of the race.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 200iso, f4, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Shooting from the outside head on is probably the cleanest angle you can shoot race cars from.

Below is an example of what its like shooting through a typical photo hole.


Photo by Jennifer Stewart

And below is how shots look from the outside.

Brad Keselowski leads cars through turn two during the Copart 300.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 200iso, f4, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

Back on the inside of the track I hung around on pit road to shoot some pit stops as well as race action as the race winded down.

John Borneman III takes on new tires in the below silhouette which I shot a few stops underexposed.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Using the same technique, I shot the damaged car of Jason Leffler (below) as he drove down pit road to repair damage.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Below, in the closing laps of the race, while leading, Denny Hamlin (18) made contact with Greg Biffle (16) and hit the wall hard.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

After sliding along the wall for several hundred yards the car came to a stop at the bottom of the track in the tri-oval.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Hamlin was done for the day while Biffle was able to limp his damaged car back to pit road for service, below.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

In a semi surprising finish Joey Logano moved through the field in the later stages of the race to take the checkered flag (below) for his second Nationwide win in a row.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

As with the previous week in Kansas, Logano performed an impressive burnout.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Using my two camera set up (I will try and get a photo of how I do it soon) I shot Logano as he climbed from his car in victory lane.

First up is the wide camera in my left hand:


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

Here is the tight camera in my right hand:


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Manual

That wrapped up a semi decent Saturday.

With most NASCAR races you need to get to the track 4-5 hours early to avoid rotting in traffic. The good thing about the California race is you can get there an hour before if you want (Gary Vasquez) and you still won’t have traffic to contend with.

I got to track just over two hours before the race.

Walking around the garage area I was looking for some pre race photos to take.

Below, the car driven by Juan Pablo Montoya goes through tech inspection prior to being rolled out onto the grid for the race.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/320th, Aperture Priority

In the garage I spotted a large crowd following a hot brunette in leather pants, being that I am a photojournalist it was my job to investigate.

It was none other than actress Audrina Patridge from the MTV show “The Hills”


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/160th, Aperture Priority

Below, Audrina poses for a photo with Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne.


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

She seemed much happier when she posed with me, below.  Haha


Photo by Jason Smith

For the race the big story (as it has been the last several years) would be the horrific attendance.

With that in mind I would spend some time looking for images to illustrate that story.

Below, Jimmie Johnson races past a nearly empty grandstand during the Pepsi 500.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

From the outside of turn two I noticed that by standing in a certain spot I could frame the cars racing down the backstretch (below) through the opening in one of the photo holes.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 800iso, f14, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

A half mile down the backstretch I found myself at the entrance to turn three where it is a great place to shoot cars as they head into turn three.

Below, Greg Biffle leads a pack of cars as he heads into the turn.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Below, a row of palm trees provides a very California looking backdrop as Juan Pablo Montoya races towards turn three.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

I have been shooting NASCAR for many years but I had never seen an exhaust pipe fall off a car for no reason.

Leave it to Robby Gordon (below) to make it happen.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Kyle Busch had been feeling under the weather all weekend with flu like symptoms. Over the racing radio I heard the announcers saying Kyle Busch would be pulling onto pit road to get out of the car and be relieved by David Gilliland.

I headed back to the inside of the track to hopefully get to pit road in time to shoot the driver change.

By dumb luck I got there with less than five minutes to spare.

Below, Kyle Busch (right) is pulled from his car by a crew member as David Gilliland (red suit) prepares to climb into the car.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

After climbing from the car Busch slowly walked behind the pit box and coughed and dry heaved for a few seconds.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 320iso, f5, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

Below, a NASCAR Sprint Cup official looks down pit road as cars race past on a restart.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 100iso, f9, 1/250th, Aperture Priority

In the next round of pit stops I found myself in Denny Hamlins pit stall where I held the camera above my head hail mary style as his crew ran around the car changing tires.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

My first race at Fontana was in 1998 and I realized during the race that I had never shot on the inside of turns one and two.

In the below photo I noticed the big Home Depot sign in the background and shot as driver Joey Logano raced beneath it.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Manual

While on the inside of turn two I spotted Jennifer as she shot from the outside two photo hole.


Using the inside catch fence bracing I framed Jimmie Johnson as he raced through turn one. Most people will probably find the shot lame but during the course of a four hour race at Fontana boredom typically takes over and I start shooting all sorts of random crap to pass the time.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f4.5, 1/800th, Manual

While shooting in turn one Denny Hamlin crashed on the front stretch while leading the race.

Since I missed the actual crash the next best thing I could do was head into the garage to shoot some aftermath shots as crew members tore down the damaged car.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f4, 1/640th, Manual

For the second day in a row Greg Biffle would be involved in some late race action as he collided with Kasey Kahne off turn four and both slid into the front stretch grass, below.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 100iso, f4.5, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Below, Jeff Gordon (24) leads teammate Jimmie Johnson (48) on the restart as the pace car races down pit road.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 100iso, f5, 1/250th, Aperture Priority

The green flag run lasted just a few laps before all hell broke lose on the front stretch as a multi car accident occurred (below) taking out Marcos Ambrose (47), Dale Earnhardt Jr (88), Reed Sorenson (43) and several others who would also pile into the carnage.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Heres a video of the crash with multiple angles.

Unlike his first incident a few laps earlier, Kasey Kahne (below) would be done for the day with the damage from the crash.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

As has been the case far too much the last few years Jimmie Johnson would once again take the checkered flag (below) to the loud yawn of race fans who have grown tired of Johnsons domination.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 500iso, f5, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

At least Johnson knows how to do good burnouts!


Nikon D700, 400mm, 320iso, f4.5, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

In victory lane Johnson provided his normal good jubilation.

Wide angle camera:


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f4.5, 1/1600th, Manual

Tight shot camera:


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

Crew chief Chad Knaus (below) screamed as he sprayed champagne……


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f5, 1/1600th, Manual

……..while a victorious Johnson drank the champagne from the bottle.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f5, 1/1600th, Manual

Thus ends another ho hum race at the wonderful Auto Club Speedway.

Up next NASCAR racing from Charlotte.

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Posted in California, Me, NASCAR, Racing, Sports   | 5 Comments

5 responses to “Boring driver wins boring race in Fontana”

  1. aradilon says:

    Nice photo’s once again Mark the 85mm photo’s are awesome again, also i just noticed now (bit late) that u don’t use lens shades, whats with that? (don’t u get flares ?)
    Cya from a Belgian fan!

  2. Laredo says:

    Still a very interesting story. Motor sports still offer an interesting choice to find different angles of shooting.
    At a forthcoming report do not hesitate to show us the scenes of Mark for example what’s in your bag, your place in the press room.
    Behind the scenes are always interesting to do with the photo equipment.

  3. Pille says:

    The race might have been boring but the shots make it seem a lot more interesting 🙂

    I’ll have to try your two-camera-approach next time I take podium shots…

  4. Tim O says:

    I love that Audrina’s Press pass says “HOT” on it… Amazing photos from a total sleeper of a race.

  5. Ted says:

    Great entry Mark, the race may be boring to you but your photos make it an exciting weekend. I cannot thank you enough for your explanation of your photos and providing the metadata. I really like the Jeff Gordon part flash photo and the Montoya/palm trees shot. Great work as always.

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