09
Feb

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Just a few months ago the NASCAR season ended in Miami, fast forward three months and about 250 miles north on I-95 and it was time for the 2010 season to kick off with high speed action in Daytona Beach.

Disclaimer: Before I begin this blog allow me to warn you that it is rather heavy on Danica Patrick.

Ok lets get started!

Nearly every NASCAR race weekend consists of 3-4 days of racing action, for Daytona various classes of stock cars are track for seven days of action.

This year the smallest event of the first weekend, the ARCA series, would be the most heavily anticipated event due to the arrival of Indy Car star Danica Patrick.

Patrick announced last year that she would begin running races in the NASCAR series as she began to get acclimated to having a roof over her head, with the ARCA race being the first event on her 2010 schedule.

To make sure I would get some good images of her I made it a point to fly in two days earlier than usual to be at the track for the first ARCA practice.

Below, Danica Patrick reacts at the large amount of media surrounding her car for the start of the first practice.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Under a nice cloudy sky I stood atop the pit wall and shot wide (below) as Danica is pushed down pit road prior to taking her first laps of the weekend.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f4, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

The one thing I gotta say about shooting Danica is she almost always provides a wide range of expressions that always lead to a good variety of photos of her.

Below, Danica appears to stare me down as she prepares to climb back into her car during a break in the action.

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

Below, Danica prepares to put her helmet on prior to climbing into her car.

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

After shooting a ton of head shots of her hanging around the garage it was time to head out on track to shoot some on track car shots.

Daytona is one of the best places to shoot car shots due to the high banking of the track which makes for great angles that gets you the top as well as side of the cars, below.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm with 1.4 convertor (280mm), 100iso, f8, 1/640th, Manual

While there was tons of media at the track there were very few spectators in attendance for the practice as evident by the below photo.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

After sitting in the turn for well over an hour shooting cars going by me I got bored and attempted to take an “artsy” photo.

Below, I lined up a shot with the right half of the frame being a reflection off one of the Musco lights on the inside of the track. I plan to go redo this shot in the next few days to get some reflections on the right side with the cars racing on the left.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/3200th, Manual

Below, ARCA RE/MAX Series driver Justin Marks drives through the garage area past a puddle with his cars reflection during practice for the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Following the ARCA practice it was a short ride over to the Sprint Cup garage area to shoot the first on track practice for the top class in NASCAR.

Below, Mark Martin sits in his new car with sponsorship this season from GoDaddy.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/125th, Aperture Priority

As the sun began to get lower in the sky it produced a nice light on drivers as they walked to their cars for the practice, such as in the below photo of Kyle Busch.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

After all the drivers were in their cars I headed to pit road to shoot some photos of the packs of drivers racing around the famed 2.5 mile track.

As the sun dipped lower to the horizon it lit the track under some dark clouds.

Below, Jeff Gordon leads a pack of drivers through the tri-oval.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/4000th, Manual

The sky looked like it would be great for a nice sunset so I figured I would stay on pit road and shoot a similar shot to the above one with a really nice sunset.

Unfortunantely a few minutes later a big crash occurred in turn one which would halt the practice for close to thirty minutes.

Since I was unable to shoot the crash I did the next best thing and hauled ass into the garage to shoot the destroyed cars as they were towed into the garage.

Below, I took advantage of the nice sunset I mentioned earlier and used the crashed car of Denny Hamlin on the back of the flatbed as the foreground for the image.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Not far behind was the destroyed car of Mark Martin being towed in, below.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

After the cleanup from the crash was completed they got back to practice, this time under the lights.

Below, light shines off the car of Ken Schrader as he pulls into the garage during the practice.

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

A few minutes later there would be another crash. This time the victim was Kurt Busch who crashed in the tri-oval.

Below is a detailed view to the crashed front end of Kurt Buschs Dodge.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/100th, Aperture Priority

Well over an hour after the first crash crew members for Mark Martin continued to take the usable parts off his wrecked race car, below.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/125th, Aperture Priority

That wraps up a long ten hour day of shooting at the world center of racing.

Saturday would be a very long day of racing action starting with Daytona 500 qualifying.

Below, Dale Earnhardt Jr climbs from his car after making his qualifying lap that would lead to him finishing second fastest.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f2.8, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Tony Stewart (below) appears to be very focused as he sits in his car following his qualifying attempt. You would think there was a big hamburger on the hood of his car that he was staring at!

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

The quickest qualifying time of the day would go to Mark Martin.

Below, Martin stands alongside his car as he waits to be interviewed following the lap.

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Nikon D700, 14-24mm, 320iso, f5, 1/500th, Manual

Fans look on as the car of four time champion Jimmie Johnson is pushed through the garage area, below.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

By underexposing a few stops I produced a dark photo with highlights lighting the car of Jeff Gordon as crew members push his car back to the garage following his qualifying run.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm with 1.4 convertor (280mm), 200iso, f4, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Following qualifying the top two qualifiers Mark Martin and teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr pose for photos together with their trophies, below.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 100iso, f5, 1/1600th, Manual

Next on tap for the day was the ARCA race which would be Danica Patricks stock car debut.

On my way to the roof I spotted the below boy sitting on the finish line having fun.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f5, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Danica Patrick (below) during driver introductions prior to the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f5, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

This would be the first oval race on the track since they upgraded to a taller catch fence and new flagstand, below.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

If any of you have ever watched (or attended) an ARCA race at Daytona you would know that the race is notorious for numerous crashes and pileups.

Click here to see my images from this race last year.

So along with shooting Danicas every move I also had to keep a watchful eye out for any crashes that occurred on the 2.5 mile super speedway.

Below, ARCA RE/MAX Series driver Danica Patrick (7) drives on the inside of the track during the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

The action got going about seven laps in the race as ARCA RE/MAX Series driver Tim George Jr (31) went low to avoid as Bill Baird (52), Steve Blackburn (68) and Russ Dugger (12) crash off turn two during the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

After the clean up from that crash was complete and the field went back under the green flag they didn’t even make it past the first turn when the caution would once again be displayed thanks to driver Dakoda Armstrong spinning in turn one, below. Note Danica Patrick (7) going high to avoid the spin.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

After the clean up for that crash was complete we got back under the green flag. It didn’t last very long though as Jesse Smith blew a tire and slid along the turn four wall. While shooting him a red blur of a car flew through my frame.

It was total dumb luck I got my first race car flip of 2010 as it was Jill George (below) who lost control and made a hard right towards the wall…….

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

……the hard turn was enough to cause her car to flip over…….

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

……..George hit the wall at the worst possible angle (roof first)…..

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

…..the brutal impact sent her car into numerous pieces as it flew through the air off the wall……

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

…….the front windshield (left), shock (center) and front tire (right) were just a few of the pieces flying through the air following the hit…….

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Below, rescue personnel tend to Jill George following the brutal crash. Luckily she would be fine other than a major headache.

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Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

The crash happened so fast that I was one of the only people lucky enough to get photos of it. Even the numerous TV cameras got much of the accident…..

Below, Danica Patrick makes her first career pit stop in a stock car.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

All the crashes led the race past sunset into the twilight.

Below, Danica Patrick (7) takes the high line as she leads several drivers through turn three with the track illuminated by the golden glow of the setting sun.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 2000iso, f4, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

One goal I had for the race was that if something happened with Danica being involved in a wreck that I would get photos of it. There has been a lot of talk in the NASCAR world that she wouldn’t perform well in stock cars so anything showing her crashing would be sure to get some use by publications.

Just after sunset while racing off turn four into the tri-oval Danica Patrick (right) made contact with Nelson Piquet Jr…….

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 4000iso, f4, 1/640th, Manual

…..the impact sent her on a 190mph slide through the slick infield grass where I was totally sure she was going to have a huge crash……..

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 4000iso, f4, 1/640th, Manual

……instead Patrick was able to keep the car from quickly spinning and she slid sideways which scrubbed a lot of speed off.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 4000iso, f4, 1/640th, Manual

Whether it was a great driving job by Danica or dumb luck it still made for a very memorable race moment.

Check out the video below.

Danica would recover from the crash and make her way back through the field to finish a pretty respectable sixth place.

While she was the story of the race, the big winner was long time ARCA racer Bobby Gerhart who won his sixth race at Daytona.

Below, Gerhart celebrates in victory lane.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/320th, Manual

The final event on the busy day was the Budweiser Shootout, an all star race comprised of 24 Sprint Cup Series drivers.

Prior to the race the field of drivers were introduced on stage set up in the infield grass, below.

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

Via a random drawing the cars of Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick would lead the field to the green flag, below.

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

Midway through the race Kurt Busch would get turned sideways and slide into the infield grass….

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

……I expected him to pull a Danica Patrick and slide through the grass and not crash. He probably would have done so until the low front end caught the grass and the nose of his car dug into the grass and dirt and pieces exploded through the hood of the car sending grass and dirt flying through the air……

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

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

…..with the hood of his car flipped up over the windshield Kurt couldn’t see where he was going and eventually slammed into the outside wall.

Below, Kurt Busch walks away from his crashed car following the accident.

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Click below to see video of the crash.

After each caution I would run beneath the photo platform where I had my laptop set up to post images to the wire for publications around the world.

Thanks to fellow shooter Glenn Smith for the below photo of me in action.

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Photo by Glenn Smith

Below, Kevin Harvick leads the field through the tri-oval in the late stages of the race.

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

In turn three coming to the white flag for the last lap Jeff Gordon (24) got into Greg Biffle (16) which sent him spinning around and would take out several cars, below.

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

Here is video of that crash.

Below, Kevin Harvick takes the checkered flag under caution to win his second consecutive Bud Shootout.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/60th, Manual

Harvick celebrated the win with a burnout and slide through the infield grass.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/320th, Manual

That wraps up the action from the first weekend of action in Daytona.

Here are a few web clips from the weekend:

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

6 responses to “Danicas debut dominates Daytona destruction”

  1. Ted says:

    Great photos Mark, you covered and captured every turn, every crash. Awesome pics.

  2. Pauli says:

    Again, nice shots. =) like those puddle reflection photos.

  3. Joey says:

    Great shots……we can always count on you for some race car carnage !!

  4. zideshowbob says:

    Awesome! She is pretty pretty! 🙂 Also pics rock!

  5. Peter says:

    Awesome coverage, Mark. Great combination of action and close-up shots. Really makes you get a feel for the race and everything that goes on behind the scenes.
    And we thought that shooting NASCAR would be boring… This post makes us want to hit up the next NASCAR race nearby!

    Signing up to the feed from this blog right now.

  6. Henry says:

    Great moment with her surprised shot!

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