09
Jul

For most people the July 4th weekend is spent with family, friends and fireworks. Not for me, the July 4th weekend means one thing to me. Daytona. While the summer time temperature in Florida is ridiculously hot the action on the track is usually hotter. Lets get on with it.

Coming into the event without a doubt the biggest story line was that of Dale Earnhardt Jr, who would be racing in the #3 car his late father made famous. As most of you know Earnhardt died in a last lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500 so for his son to be driving a #3 painted like one of his fathers old paint jobs it would be a big story line to follow.

Below, Dale Earnhardt Jr smiles as he prepares to climb into the #3 car for Nationwide Series practice.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f5, 1/1000th, Manual

Earnhardt pulls out of the garage for the start of practice, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Summer time in Florida always means afternoon storms building and ruining the fun. Below, you can see dark clouds filling the sky during the Nationwide Series practice.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Dale Jr races the high line through turn four during practice, below.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 100iso, f11, 1/80th, Aperture Priority

Right after the Nationwide practice concluded it was over to the Sprint Cup Series garage to shoot their first practice.

Below, cars sit lined up in the garage prior to the start of the practice.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Below, Jeff Gordon hangs out in front of his car prior to the practice.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 640iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

Jimmie Johnson checks his review before pulling out of the garage, below.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

Dale Jr looks in pain (below) as he tries out a new helmet design.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Below, with heavy clouds looming and a threat of rain imminent, the drivers pulled out of the garage and headed out to the track for practice.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Jimmie Johnson pulls off the track after running some laps at the beginning of practice, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

As with nearly every practice session at Daytona someone is involved in a crash, this time Denny Hamlin was one of the unlucky ones as he crashed and destroyed his Toyota Camry. Below he walks away from his crumbled car.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/250th, Aperture Priority

That wraps up Thursday, on to Friday.

Friday was an afternoon of Sprint Cup qualifying (that would get rained out) followed by the Nationwide Series race.

Below, Dale Earnhardt Jr is surrounded by a sea of fans as he signs autographs prior to the Nationwide race.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

The races pole sitter, Brad Keselowski (below) was all alone with no fans wanting his autograph. How sad…

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 320iso, f5, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Up on the roof for the race I killed some time by shooting random pretty pics. Below is the hotels/condos on the Daytona Beach coastline.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 3200iso, f4, 1/1250th, Manual

Below, NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers Brad Keselowski (22) and teammate Parker Kligerman (26) lead the field to the green flag during the Subway Jalapeno 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

On lap three of the race fans throughout the grandstands held up threes in honor of the late Dale Earnhardt, below.

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

On that very same lap Dale Jr would take the lead in the #3.

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

After a few laps the race was getting very boring so I resorted to shooting pics of the sunset….

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 800iso, f2.8, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/320th, Aperture Priority

Midway through the race Michael Annett would spin coming off of turn four, below.

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

During pit stops under caution I noticed a loose tire rolling down pit road and threw up the camera just in time to catch Ken Schrader narrowly missing the tire, below.

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

The race was very boring with not too much passing or action. NASCAR ended up getting very lucky by Dale Earnhardt Jr (below) winning the race ahead of Joey Logano. Had Jr not won then all the fans and media would have talked about was how boring the race was in the newly designed Nationwide cars of tomorrow.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Normally Dale Jr celebrates with great burnouts but this time it was right to victory lane to celebrate, below.

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

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/125th, Manual

Below, car owner Richard Childress (left) congratulates Earnhardt Jr. In interviews following the race Dale mentioned numerous times that this was the last time he would ever drive a #3 car. Glad I was there to shoot the win!

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

For the Cup race on Saturday we were greeted with afternoon rain showers, below.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 640iso, f4, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

After a nearly two hour delay to get the track dried it was finally time to get the race underway with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Jimmie Johnson (48) and Kevin Harvick (29) leading the field to the green flag during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

The below photo is shot with my 80-200 as they headed towards me.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Right after that photo I quickly changed to my wide angle camera with the 24-70mm to shoot the below photo.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

Then as the fielded headed away from me into the first turn I picked up the 80-200mm body and shoot the below frame.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

The race got off to a pretty boring first part as drivers logged laps and bided their time.

The action heated up when driver A.J. Allmendinger would lose control of the #43 Ford and spun to the inside of the track, below.

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

…..boring racing for a bit so lets fast forward to 12 laps from the finish…….

….when all hell would break loose going into turn three with a massive 19 car accident including such drivers as Reed Sorenson (83), Jimmie Johnson (48), Ryan Newman (39), Juan Pablo Montoya (42), Marcos Ambrose (47), Joey Logano (20), Regan Smith (78), Paul Menard (98), Tony Stewart (14), Elliott Sadler (19), Bobby Labonte (09), Greg Biffle (16), Robby Gordon (7), Mark Martin (5) and several more.

Check out Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) narrowly making his way through the crash on the bottom of the track.

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

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

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

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

Here is video of the pileup.

Following the crash Mark Martin limped his car back to pit road, way before he got there a small fire began trickling from beneath his car. I figured he would quickly stop and climb from the car. Instead he drove the car nearly a half mile as the small flames quickly became a full on inferno, below.

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

After Martin finally stopped the flames were quickly extinguished leaving pit road with an eery fog hovering over the pit stall containing the damaged car of Ryan Newman, below.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1600th, Manual

One would think that after roughly half the entire field was in a crash that the drivers would calm down and safely finish the race right?

FALSE.

With only a few laps left in the race driver Clint Bowyer (33) would be leading the field as Elliott Sadler (19), Sam Hornish Jr. (77) and Kurt Busch (2) crashed behind him, below.

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

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

After a green white checkered overtime it would be Kevin Harvick (29) who would beat Kasey Kahne (9) across the finish line to win the Coke Zero 400, below.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Harvick would celebrate the win with some spins in the infield grass……

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

…….and a burnout……

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

….before climbing from his car in victory lane to celebrate with his crew, below.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/250th, Manual

That wraps up NASCAR race number seven on my season.

Here are a few web clips and tearsheets:

1.5 page spread in Sports Illustrated


 
Posted in Daytona, Florida, NASCAR, Racing, Scenic, Sports, Sports Illustrated   | 1 Comment

One response to “Hot Nights in Daytona”

  1. Shannon Frost says:

    Again I have to commend you on taking us along with you on assignment. It almost feels we are there as your assistant. Great!!!!

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