22
Oct

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After a few years of not shooting NASCAR at Charlotte I decided I wanted to cover the fall chase race at the Lowes Motor Speedway. It is a great track to shoot at and usually is an action packed race. The one thing I wasn’t expecting though was the low temperatures (40s) or the high ISO’s (6400).

Due to me being an idiot I flew into the Raleigh-Durham International Airport thinking it was only 40 miles from Charlotte.

Try more like 200 miles!

With that distance there was no chance in hell of getting there in time for practice so my revised goal was to get there in time for qualifying.

Credential office closed at 7pm so I would have to average at least 82 mph over the next two hours to have a shot of getting to the track in time.

Driving like a bat out of hell (ask Jennifer) we got to the credential office at 7:02. Luckily they hadn’t closed down yet so we were good to go.

Night qualifying at Charlotte is actually really cool to shoot because the lights on pit road are low and provide nice clean light on all the drivers as they wait to run.

Below, Sam Hornish Jr leans on his car on pit road as he waits for his turn to qualify for the NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowes Motor Speedway.

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Even though its a great place to shoot driver shots I decided not to continue shooting there because the cold temperatures had nearly all the drivers in big jackets which made for worthless photos.

Another thing I quickly noticed was numerous cars had special paint jobs for breast cancer awareness month and various other things.

So for the first time in a few years I ended up going out to a turn and shooting car shots.

In the below photo I framed Tony Stewart by the catch fencing and musco lights as he raced through turn four.

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Here are some of the special paint jobs that various drivers had.

Michael Waltrip

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Ryan Newman

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Juan Pablo Montoya

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Jamie McMurray

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Martin Truex Jr

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Bobby Labonte

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Clint Bowyer

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Jeff Gordon

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Elliott Sadler

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Dave Blaney

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Manual

Bill Elliott

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Kyle Busch

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

All the cool paint jobs were nice but nobody had anything for Jimmie Johnson in his standard paint job (below) as he ended up on the pole with a lightning quick lap.

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Friday was spent shooting the two Sprint Cup practice sessions before the Nationwide race later that night.

Below, from a few garage stalls down I got down low and shot Mark Martin as he waited in his car for the practice session to begin.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

Jimmie Johnson (below) is quite the happy guy as he climbs into his car.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Below, David Ragan sits strapped into his car before heading out on track.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

During the practice session I noticed the sky started to look cool as sunset approached so I strapped on a wide lens and set up an exposure and as cars would pass by in the garage I would hold the camera close to the ground and run alongside the car driving shooting frames in hopes of getting a decent shot.

Below, Bill Elliott drives through the garage as he heads out to the track.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Manual

It was a pretty bland practice for me with not many good shots, however I did like the below shot of A.J. Allmendinger. Nothing amazing, just a nice clean headshot that clients will like.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

For the Nationwide Series race the Dollar General 300 I ventured to the top of the grandstands at the end of the front straight to see if it would be a good spot for the main race the next day.

It was a very good spot and gave a pretty good view of the track for me.

I was able to spy on Jennifer as she walked down on the inside of the track. Using my god voice I told her I was watching her and to look up.

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Below, Matt Kenseth (17) leads a pack of cars early in the race.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

The action began shortly into the race as Reed Sorenson (10) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr (17) crashed in the tri-oval with Stenhouse hitting the outside wall hard.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Both cars slid to a stop in the infield grass.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Here is video of the crash.

Even though it was a very hard hit by Stenhouse, he quickly climbed from the car and walked to the ambulance, below.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

The main reason I shoot from elevated positions at most tracks is because it enables me to cover most of the track (if not the entire track).

The one issue from shooting elevated is a lot of times my big weakness is the spot directly in front of me where the cars are too close for the lens I’m using and/or the catch fence blocks the shot.

Example

As luck would have it there ended up being an incident that happened in my one weak spot directly in front of me.

Below, David Gilliland (1) had a huge lapse in judgement as he attempted a four wide pass entering turn one. Three wide rarely works so four wide was a kamikaze move with no chance of success.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Gilliland lost control and slid into Steve Wallace (66)

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Causing both drivers to lose control and crash directly beneath me

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Nice catch fence shot below eh?

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Along with Gilliland and Wallace, Kevin Hamlin (81) also got caught up in the crash and slid into the outside wall.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Check out the below video of the crash. You know you made a bonehead move when your own spotter calls you out. Also check out Steve Wallace spiking his helmet after the crash!

After the clean up the race got back underway and a few minutes later another big crash occurred when Erik Darnell (6) lost control and spun in turn two.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Just when it looked like it would be a harmless one car spin trouble occurred behind him as teammate Matt Kenseth (16) got spun and slid backwards towards Darnell.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

It was a pretty hard collision.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Even though it was a hard crash all drivers emerged from their cars safe and sound.

Video of the crash.

While shooting night races can be a pain in the ass due to the high ISO’s and slow shutter speeds used the one cool thing is being able to see sparks when cars bottom out.

Below, John Wes Townley sends up a shower of sparks as his car bottoms out entering turn one.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

As I have had to type numerous times this year, was Kyle Busch who emerged victorious.

Below, Busch celebrates with a burnout at the finish line.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Followed by his trademark flag waving to the booing crowd.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

That wrapped up a long cold evening.

Saturday we were greeted with dark cloudy conditions with a chance of rain. Oh and it was still gonna be a cold evening in the 40s.

I feel bad for the young fan in Dale Jr. gear below. Thats as bad as proudly wearing Tennessee Titans gear (even their head coach is ashamed to!)

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

The car of Matt Kenseth is pushed to his spot on the starting grid (below).

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Back in the photo room numerous photographers were getting in on the “Where will Dale Earnhardt Jr finish pool.” It was a dollar a pick with the winner getting all the money.

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I chose 21st place…..more on that later.

Prior to heading up to my shooting position I got all geared up in my cold weather gear. Lots of people were making fun of me “the desert guy” for showing up with such a big jacket. (later that evening I was needing every bit of that jacket to not freeze!)

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Photo by Jennifer Stewart

Once on the roof I waited for the pre race ceremonies to end and the race to begin.

During the national anthem fireworks lit up the infield (below).

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/320th, Manual

The subsequent smoke draped pit road with some nice moody light below. If only it was during the race and cars were pitting!

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

With a semi decent crowd for the NASCAR Banking 500 I busted out the fisheye for an overall shot of Lowes Motor Speedway (below).

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Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 2000iso, f3.5, 1/160th, Manual

Below, a fan takes a picture as the field heads by on the pace lap before beginning the race.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

The cars lined up as they slowly made their way through turn two, below.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Mark Martin races alongside Jimmie Johnson as they take the green flag to begin the race.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

A few laps into the race Sam Hornish Jr (77) lost control in turn four and spun out, below.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Awhile later it would be Kyle Busch (below) who spun the exact same way in the same exact spot as Hornish.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

During the first round of pit stops I shot Jimmie Johnson (below) as his pit crew changes tires.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

For those of you wondering how I was doing in the “Where will Dale Earnhardt Jr finish pool” He ended up having car problems and finishing 38th. The winner of the pool was Getty staffer Streeter Lecka.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Entering the race Juan Pablo Montoya was third place in the points within striking distance of leader Jimmie Johnson.

He would leave Charlotte a very unhappy man after an evening filled with problems (below) which landed him with a 35th place finish (still better than Dale Jr!)

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Kasey Kahne races alongside Jimmie Johnson as they take the green flag on a mid race restart, below.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Carl Edwards, who earlier in the weekend announced he’s gonna be a daddy, had a night to forget where he never contended all race long and to add insult to injury blew an engine late in the race, below.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

The evening wasn’t much better for teammate Greg Biffle who took a high speed slide (below) through the infield of the track late in the race.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

As Biffle (16) slid across the track it was driver Mike Bliss who had to take a detour through the infield grass (below).

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Below, a long shadow follows the car of Juan Pablo Montoya as he leaves pit road.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/200th, Manual

Late in the boring race there was a bit of good racing as Jeff Gordon (24) battled teammate Jimmie Johnson (48) for the lead.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Of course that lasted a few laps before Johnson pulled away to a rather convincing victory as he takes the checkered flag below.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

I knew that Jimmie would celebrate with a good burnout as usual but I was pleasantly surprised when at a semi high speed he drove into the grass to tear up some grass.

In the below shot he slid in so fast that it actually popped his roof flaps as he slid backwards through the soft grass.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

I feel bad for the groundskeeper who has to fix that mess!

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

Once back on the track he celebrated with a nice long burnout down the front stretch.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

That wraps up a cold weekend in the heart of NASCAR country.

Next race up for me is my favorite TALLADEGA!

Here are some web clips:

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Posted in Me, NASCAR, Racing, Sports   | 6 Comments

6 responses to “Cold weather makes for miserable Charlotte weekend”

  1. Not too bad Mark, however, I think you should start taking pointers from this site http://jaylynphotography.blogspot.com. Besides, she didn’t need that big sissy jacket, I’m sure she lent it to you so you would stop crying… Later!

  2. ben says:

    Nice shots as always mark, cant even tell what iso you are shooting at!!!

    You have to wonder just what sort of a picture that fan would have got haha. Always makes me laugh when you see all the falshes go off at the start of the race.

  3. Dawn Rosconi says:

    Hi Mark,
    A friend of mine (Becky Parker) shared your blog with me and I’m hooked! You capture the very essence of racing with your lens. If you have a mailing list, please add me so I can keep up with the latest photos. Thank you very much for sharing your talent!

    Dawn

    P.S. I’m a die hard 48 fan! The race at Fontana was far from boring and the most exciting driver WON! 😉

  4. Deb says:

    Awesome photos! Found my way to your blog via @WeCreateBuzz on Twitter (Activ8). I noticed the first RSS link (top right) didn’t work, at least with Google reader. I just did a copy and paste of the web address, so no big deal, but it might frustrate other fans. I really admire Mark Martin, so especially liked the great closeup you got of him through the car window. Looking forward to seeing more pictures!

  5. Too Tall Guy from 07 NLDS says:

    That might be the saddest jacket I’ve ever seen.
    Nice pix as always.

  6. Randy Gentry says:

    I can hear Dorsey laughing in that photo.

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