It has been several years since I have gone to the Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth. With the AZ Cardinals on the road this weekend and nothing else to shoot I traveled over to Texas for what I hoped would be an exciting weekend of action with a triple header of the top three NASCAR series.

After some logistical issues I got to the track in time for the Camping World Truck Series race Friday night.

Below, the field of truck racers sit lined up on the track prior to the start of the race.


Nikon D700, 600mm, 4000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

With a healthy crowd on hand (below) Matt Crafton and Todd Bodine lead the field on the first lap of the race.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

On the inside of the track I saw a scaffold set up with fans lined up on it watching the race. Since the track is illuminated by lights and the scaffold is in the dark I was able to get a cool silhouette effect shot in the below photo.


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Below, trucks go four wide as they head into turn one.


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Rookie driver James Buescher (below) avoids an errant tire rolling down pit road.


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

Midway through the race I noticed the moon rising behind the backstretch. I was trying to come up with a cool photo with the moon rising behind the race but the below photo was the best I could come up with. Moonrise FAIL.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Manual

Below, race leader Kyle Busch (51) goes high to avoid Mario Gosselin (12) as he spins into the infield grass during the WinStar World Casino 350.


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Kyle Busch stayed out of trouble and went on to win the shortest NASCAR race I have ever been to with the total race time lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Below, Busch celebrates with his trademark celebration.


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

From the roof I shot the below frame as Kyle climbed from the car to celebrate in Victory Lane.


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

Once back inside the track I briefly stopped in Victory Lane to get a shot of Kyle posing with the trophy.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

After transmitting images it was time to head back to the hotel to get some sleep before an early start the next day.

Unfortunately I was in such a hurry to get the hell outta the track that when I threw all my gear into the trunk of the rental car I also dropped my keys in the trunk and didn’t realize my stupidity until the trunk was closed.

At this point its after 11pm and the track is quickly becoming a ghost town. I went back to the media room to their media relations office to see if anyone had any suggestions for my “situation.” Luckily one of the employees was a volunteer firefighter and had a slim jim to get into cars.

Within 3-4 minutes he had my car open. Now all I needed to do was push the trunk release button and on my way I’d be.


The Kia rental car I had requires the key to be in the ignition for the trunk release button to work. Awesome!

The next idea was to see if I could lower the backseat to crawl into the trunk to retrieve my keys.


The release to lower the backseats was in the trunk so I was once again screwed.

I called the rental car roadside service number to see what they suggested. They checked and informed me that none of the locksmiths they used were open this late at night (its after midnight at this point) and told me nothing could be done till morning.

Luckily I was able to catch a ride to my hotel 30 miles away so that I could atleast get a good nights sleep before dealing with this issue.

For the record I hardly slept at all since I was so livid.

The next morning I took the shuttle from my hotel to the airport where I rented a second car (renting a second car would have been cheaper than a cab ride) and headed out to the track to meet up with a locksmith.

When the locksmith arrived I was happy and hopeful that he would get into the car quickly and I’d be on my way.


Photo by Jennifer Stewart

As time continued to pass with no success by the locksmith my mood began heading downhill.


Photo by Jennifer Stewart

With the amount of time this was taking I missed both Sprint Cup practice sessions as I waited for locksmith to do his job.

A few minutes later Getty Images staffer Chris Graythen came by to make fun of me and take photos of the ordeal.

A few minutes before I was about to tell him to break the lock out of the trunk to get in he finally got the trunk to pop open.

Below, is my genuine jubilation as I hold up the keys! Woo hooo.


Photo by Chris Graythen

With less than 30 minutes till the Nationwide race I had to haul ass to get my gear together and walk to the outside of the track and up onto the roof.

From the roof I spotted Kyle Busch (below) as he is photographed by fans as he waited to use a port-a-potty a few minutes before the race. It would have been funny if some fans had pushed the toilet over while he was inside!


Nikon D700, 600mm, 400iso, f5.6, 2000th, Aperture Priority

Cars reflect in the windows of the suites as drivers race through the quad-oval.


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

Midway through the race (below) NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Morgan Shepherd (89) and Jeremy Clements (0) crash in the quad-oval.


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

A short while later driver Mike Wallace (01), Justin Allgaier (12) and Michael McDowell (96) crash down the backstretch, below.


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

Below, fans look on as the destroyed car of Justin Allgaier is towed to the garage following the accident.


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

Behind the track a pair of fans (below) leave early to avoid the traffic jam that ensues following every NASCAR race.


Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

In the closing laps of the race Steve Wallace (66) and Michael Annett (15) crash down the backstretch (below).


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


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

In the final restart of the race Kyle Busch (below) leads the field into turn one.


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

Kyle would hold on to win the race and for the second day in a row celebrate (below) on the front stretch.


Nikon D700, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority


Nikon D700, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority


Nikon D700, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

That ended an eventful day at the track. With the keys safely in my hand lets move on to Sunday.

Race day festivities kicked off with a concert by Rock and Roll legends ZZ Top.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 200iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f7.1, 1/160th, Aperture Priority

Prior to the race a Chinook military helicopter landed in the infield to drop off the pace car for the race. Check out the heat waves below.


Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 100iso, f8, 1/200th, Aperture Priority

As the helicopter took off I noticed the chopper reflecting in the windows of the suites (below) so I quickly grabbed my other camera with a wider lens on to shoot it going by.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 500iso, f6.3, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Normally I would shoot the entire race from the roof. However I decided to start low and take advantage of the awesome light pockets at the start of the race.

Too bad cloud cover ruined the plan and only allowed me to shoot a standard boring start shot (below) as Jeff Gordon races alongside Kasey Kahne.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

The field goes beneath the massive turn two condos as they race towards the backstretch, below.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

I wanted to come up with something interesting to shoot while in the turn so I threw on a fisheye lens and stuck the camera through a photo hole for a super wide shot (below) as the field raced through my frame.


Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 400iso, f5, 1/1250th, Manual

On lap three runaway points leader Jimmie Johnson crashed his car on the backstretch.


Below, fans cheer after Jimmie Johnson pulled his car into the garage.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/320th, Aperture Priority

With Jimmie in the garage for repairs it easily would be the biggest story of the race.

After shooting the restart (below)…..


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5, 1/2000th, Manual

….I decided to head into the infield through the below pedestrian tunnel…….


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/80th, Aperture Priority

….to the garage to shoot photos of crew members working on the damaged car of Johnson (below).


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 320iso, f5, 1/400th, Manual

Over an hour later the rebuilt car of Johnson pulled out of the garage (below)…..


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f5, 1/2000th, Manual

…..and back out to the track to log laps.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f5, 1/2000th, Manual

The other big story of the day would be Kyle Busch who had won the previous two races of the weekend and was attempting to become to the first ever NASCAR driver to win in all three series on the same weekend.

Below, Kyle Busch pits while leading in the mid stages of the race.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f5, 1/4000th, Manual

For the rest of the race I decided to head to the outside and onto the roof of the track to shoot.

Below, a pretty full crowd looks on as cars race down the front stretch.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Less than five minutes after getting to the roof drivers Carl Edwards (99) and Juan Pablo Montoya (42) crashed in turn one, below.


Nikon D700, 600mm, 640iso, f4, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Seconds later Jeff Gordon (24) came sliding through my shot……


Nikon D700, 600mm, 640iso, f4, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

……for an almost quarter mile slide in which Gordon hit nothing.


Nikon D700, 600mm, 640iso, f4, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Below is an overall view of the Texas Motor Speedway shot with my fisheye from the roof.


Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 320iso, f4.2, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

Driver A.J. Allmendinger (below) sports a special retro Richard Petty paint scheme.


Nikon D700, 600mm, 640iso, f4, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Jimmie Johnson (below) drives down pit road past a tribute to the soldiers killed and injured in the Fort Hood shooting.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 800iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

The roof of the speedway is one of the best roofs of any racing facility to shoot from where photographers are free to walk the entire 3/4 mile long roof.

Below is the view from turn four looking down to turn one.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

Behind the speedway the sun sets over a giant parking lot (below) filled with cars.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Below, the damaged car of Jimmie Johnson in the later stages of the race. After the crash Johnson was in 43rd place, by repairing the car and driving the rest of the race he was able to improve his position to 38th place. Not a big deal but by doing so he was able to earn 15 more points than if he had just packed up the car and headed home. (In 2004 Johnson finished second in the championship by 8 points so you just never know when a small amount of points can come back to haunt you)


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

With three laps to go in the race Kyle Busch had a big lead on brother Kurt Busch and seemed in line to make NASCAR history with a 3 for 3 weekend.

The party ended for Kyle (18) as he ran out of gas on the backstretch (below) and was passed by brother Kurt (2) with less than three laps to go!


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Below, Kurt celebrates the victory with a burnout on the front stretch……


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

……followed by a reverse victory lap (below).


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/200th, Aperture Priority

Kurt would run out of gas before getting to victory lane so he received a push by the crew of a teammate (below) and climbed on the car to celebrate the 20th win of his NASCAR career.


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Kurt Busch celebrates in Victory Lane (below)…….


Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

…….while the fans wait in a traffic jam from hell (below) trying to leave the parking lot.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/250th, Aperture Priority

After transmitting some images from my spot on the roof I headed down to the inside of the track and got to Victory Lane just in time to shoot Kurt Busch celebrating with a bottle of champagne, below.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

The evening ended by shooting some more images as Kurt celebrated.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f3.2, 1/640th, Manual


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f3.5, 1/800th, Aperture Priority


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/125th, Aperture Priority

While it was a weekend filled with issues it still worked out ok for me.

Next up is a weekend at home covering NASCAR in Phoenix!

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Posted in Me, NASCAR, Racing, Sports, Texas   | 7 Comments

7 responses to “Busch Brothers sweep Texas while Idiot photographer locks keys in Car”

  1. Cheryl says:

    ok, what an ordeal but HOW did you get both rental cars back to the airport with only ONE of you?

  2. Jennifer was with me on Saturday so she drove one and I drove the other. We were gonna race like the rental car scene in Days of Thunder but thought better of it!

  3. Thierry says:

    Hi Mark

    I am a French photographer and faithful reader of your blog is for me the best that I can see a date.
    Looking at the EXIF data in your pictures I see that you are using more and more the D700 than the D3. Is it better?
    in a future story, do not hesitate to show us even more behind the scenes of your stories, your equipment as many bags needed to go on assignment …

  4. Erica says:

    A trunk monkey sure woulda come in handy, huh?

  5. Cathi says:

    I was smack dab in the middle of the mess leaving the track after the cup race! It took me half an hour to move 10 feet. From the time that I left my spot until I was out on 114 at speed limit towards Grapevine it was prob close to an hour and a half. I should have stayed in the stands and tried to get down into the pits to get some more pics of KB in VL.

  6. Dawn says:

    Dude, the fisheye shots are spectacular! Another awesome blog Mark. THANKS!

  7. steve says:

    I almost emailed you to see if you needed a gofer/assistant for the weekend. Even if we locked the keys in the suburban we could of used onstar! Great to follow you and if you come for any Cowboy games we are right down the street. Thanks for the posts.

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