As with the previous four years of covering NASCAR the final race of the 2009 season would once again be all about Jimmie Johnson. This time he was closing in on a historic (and unprecedented) fourth straight championship.

Friday would begin in the Sprint Cup Series garage shooting random images of practice.

Below, Mark Martin wipes sweat from his face as he waits in the garage for practice to start. While most people wouldn’t transmit an image with a facial expression like that, I figured it would be a good image to tell the story of Martin being a five time runner up in the points and never breaking through to actually be the champ.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

I ended up setting up outside the Jimmie Johnson hauler to shoot him coming out on his way to his car. While waiting for his arrival I saw a commotion of fans behind me and spotted Jeff Gordon (below) as he was trailed by a pack of fans seeking autographs.


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

Finally it was show time as Jimmie Johnson headed out of his hauler over to his car, below.


Nikon D700, 17-35mm, 320iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Once Johnson made his way through the mob of fans he ended up in his garage stall where he chatted with crew chief Chad Knaus, below.


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

The garage stalls at the Homestead Miami Speedway are photographically less than desirable due to both sides of the garage being open which allows lots of bright light to come through the backgrounds which produces an annoying and distracting blown out background.

Instead of bitching and complaining about it I tried to use the lighting to my advantage and produce a silhouette view of Johnson (below) as he chatted with crew members before the practice began.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 800iso, f2.8, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

One of my favorite things about shooting the races in Miami are the abundance of cool clouds in the sky to utilize in my wide angle shots.

Below, Jeff Gordon waits in line for the track to open for practice.


Nikon D700, 17-35mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/1000th, Manual

With as many races as I cover each year once we get to the end of the season there is really no reason to shoot car shots during the practices since I have countless images. So what I typically do is shoot around the garage area when drivers are getting into their cars and heading out and when they head out on track I head to media room to transmit images, BS with my friends or eat the wonderful horrible media food they cater.

While relaxing in the media room editing photos I noticed on one of the TVs that NASCAR CEO Brian France was giving a press conference next door.

Since France rarely comes to the tracks I figured it would kill a few minutes by shooting him giving a state of the sport address, below.


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

Later in the practice I headed out to turn four to see if there was anything worth shooting.

Below, Juan Pablo Montoya makes the left turn into the garage area at the end of pit road beneath some more of those trademark Miami puffy clouds.


Nikon D700, 17-35mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Manual

Using the giant Sprint logo and Chase for the Cup banner on the wall as a background I shot Jimmie Johnson (below) as he raced through turn four.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

What better way to show that we are in Miami than by including palm trees in my shot of Jimmie in the garage area, below.


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

In the garage I found Jeff Gordon standing alongside his car looking up at a timing monitor, below.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/320th, Manual

A semi happy Tony Stewart (below) in the garage.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

A few hours later was qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series.

Before security pushed all the photographers back from the cars I got low and shot with a wide lens as Mark Martin put on his racing shoes before climbing into his car (below).


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Manual

Mike Rowe, the creator and host of the television show Dirty Jobs was on hand taking in the sights and sounds of NASCAR, below. Perhaps he was researching for a show on Dirty Jobs about being a motorsports photographer! Probably not though.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

The below photo of Jimmie Johnson during his qualifying lap was an example of a photo that would have been a much better frame during the actual race  since there would have been a full grandstand to make the shot much cooler looking.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

At the conclusion of Johnsons qualifying run which put him on the pole position, I set up where he would be parking and climbing from his Lowes Chevrolet.

For some reason I really dig the below photo as he pulls off his helmet since it gives the illusion that he has no face…..to go along with the whole no personality thing! (jk)


Nikon D700, 400mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

With his face back on (below) Johnson embraces a crew member as he celebrates his front row starting position.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

After qualifying was complete we had over three hours until the Camping World Truck Series race would begin. With that much free time and a Chilis less than five miles from the track you can guess where I went for dinner.

Ok on to the truck race.

There is one photo hole near the exit of turn two that I typically shoot in. Much to my surprise when I made the long walk to the position I found out that the photo hole had been removed and was now covered with fence. With trucks pulling onto the track for the pace laps I didn’t have much time to come up with a plan B. A quick through the turn led me to a robotic TV camera hole.

If you want to follow the rules by the book you aren’t allowed to use the TV camera holes to shoot from since you can get in the way of the cameras of you lean into the hole too much. I shoot enough racing to know that the camera technicians typically don’t mind if you shoot from their holes as long as you stay back somewhat to not interfere with the cameras view.

Below is a wide view showing the TV camera hole with the robotic camera in the left side of the frame.


Nikon D700, 17-35mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Below, the shadow of Ricky Carmichael’s truck shows on the outside safer barrier as he runs high through turn two during the race.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

The truck race was a pretty boring event that didn’t provide much action to shoot.

You can tell I was getting bored by the below photo of Brad Sweet as he drives off pit road with the inside Musco lights providing a unique backdrop.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f3.2, 1/2500th, Manual

As you may remember from last weeks truck race in Phoenix it was Ron Hornaday who clinched the championship. While they presented him the trophy and did a quick ceremony last week they would save the “official trophy presentation” for the conclusion of this race.

So after not winning the race Hornaday would replicate the celebration of last week with a long smokey burnout, below.


Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 3200iso, f3.5, 1/640th, Manual

Not a mosquito would be alive for miles as the smoke engulfed the fans in the main grandstand, below.


Nikon D700, 17-35mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

When Hornaday pulled into championship victory lane he simply climbed from the truck without facing the photographers to celebrate for the camera so the below photo of him on top of the truck was actually a posed photo op several minutes later.


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

Ok enough from Friday, on to Saturday.

The day would begin as the first day did with Sprint Cup Series practice.

Below, Jimmie Johnson sits in his car as he gets prepared to head out on track.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

I was trying to look outside the box and find a shot that would be more unique than the same old crap that is done week in and week out which is hard to do when you cover as much NASCAR as I do.

I remembered that on their way from the garage to the track that the drivers would drive through an empty garage so I headed down there to see if there was anything cool that could come from that spot.

I set up inside the empty garage and slowed the shutter speed down to see if I could take advantage of the empty garage and semi decent looking roof patterns.

Below, I shot Jimmie Johnson as he drove through the garage at about 5 mph and the shot is crap.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/125th, Manual

After looking at the image on the camera I realized the problem was I wasn’t wide enough to take advantage of the roof and the shutter speed needed to be much slower to attain any appearance of motion with how slow they were driving through the garage.

With a fisheye on the camera and a much slower shutter speed I got the look I envisioned.

Below, Greg Biffle drives through the garage on his way out to the track for practice.


Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 100iso, f8, 1/15th, Manual

Not done yet with looking for interesting shots I walked just outside of the drive thru garage and held the camera high above my head as cars made the turn into the garage to try and use the shaded garage roof as a framing effect for the sunbathed cars.

Below, the exposure wasn’t dark enough so you could see too much of the garage and the car of Matt Kenseth was too bright.


Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

By dialing down the exposure I got more what I had been planning on as Jeff Gordon (below) is framed by a nice and dark garage which makes a good photo with lots of dark space to put text if a client was to run it big.


Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/640th, Manual

After killing several minutes trying to be creative I went back to the standard garage shots.

Jimmie Johnson, below, climbs from his car at the conclusion of the first of two practices.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

For the second practice I decided to head out to the track to see what I could find to shoot.

On my way out to the track I saw a nice frame of Jeff Gordon, as he sat in his car waiting to head out on track, below.


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

Out on pit road a lone NASCAR official (below) holds a long line of drivers as they wait for his go ahead to begin practice.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 320iso, f9, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Below, Bobby Labonte is framed by a fire truck in the infield as he drives through turn four.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

A better example of framing is the below shot from the infield suites as Jimmie Johnson is dwarfed by three palm trees as he races through turn four.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 320iso, f5, 1/5000th, Manual

Ok enough practice, lets move on to the Nationwide Series race.

Unlike the truck series race which had the championship clinched the previous week this race would come down to the last race of the season, the Ford 300…..

….well kinda.

Kyle Busch simply needed to start the race to win the championship so once the green flag came out it was over.

Unlike the truck race this race began with some daylight left so I was runnign all over trying to take advantage of the great light Miami has to offer.

Below, rays of sunlight pierce through advertising billboards outside of turn two as Kyle Busch leads the field off the turn.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/2500th, Manual

One of the scarier shooting spots I go to is a large photo hole midway down the backstretch.

While it is a tough place to shoot with how close you are and how fast the cars are going, the images you can get there makes it totally worth it.

Below, Brad Keselowski races towards turn three past a long line of palm trees.


Nikon D700, 17-35mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/3200th, Manual

From the same spot as the above photo I turned and faced turn two and shot the below frame of Justin Allgaier (12) as he raced alongside Paul Menard, below.


Nikon D700, 17-35mm, 2000iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Manual

Since the Nationwide Series race (and season for that matter) belonged to Kyle Busch, I had to shoot him as he raced past with a now brilliant sunset going on behind him.


Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 2500iso, f4, 1/2500th, Manual

Not one to turn down a cool self portrait for my Facebook profile, I couldn’t resist shooting the below shot!


Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 2500iso, f4, 1/1000th, Manual

After the awesome light from the sunset was gone it was back to the boring race that Busch was dominating, below.


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

A gecko on the outside wall (below) was the main excitement for awhile.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Some other excitement was an incident that occurred between Brad Keselowski (88) and Denny Hamlin (11) after a crash in the previous week. Hamlin vowed to get revenge on Keselowski and did just that by spinning him out. Of course the crash (and EVERY other) this weekend took place where I was not so all I have is the below photo of them racing together.


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

As the race began to wind down I had to get from my spot in turn two back to the finish line to get ready to shoot championship victory lane.

On the way I stopped to shoot from turn one as Carl Edwards (below) led a group of cars on pit road during a round of pit stops.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

The Nationwide season came to an end with yet another Kyle Busch victory.

Fireworks go off as Busch celebrates his race win and championship with a smokey burnout on the front stretch, below.


Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 4000iso, f4, 1/800th, Manual

As he always does, Kyle Busch climbs up on his car to celebrate in front of the booing fans.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Then he retrieves the checkered flag to wave it around.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

One thing with Kyle is you always get nice stuff in victory lane when he celebrates because he is always genuinely happy when he wins, below.


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

Below, Busch hoists his first ever championship in a NASCAR series.


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

Unlike women, the trophy can’t run away when Kyle tries to kiss it.


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

With Saturday is complete its time for every photographers favorite day……

The LAST day of the NASCAR season!

What better way to start off a day than by shooting a boring photo of NASCAR fans autographing the start finish line (below).


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

The championship trophy was set up at the end of pit road which worked out perfectly since Johnson was on the pole so he had the first pit stall. By laying down on the ground I was able to include his pit sign in a photo, below.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Needing to only finish 25th or better to clinch his fourth straight championship the odds were very good that he would have a historic day.

Below, Johnson waves to the crowd during driver introductions prior to the race.


Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f5.6, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

I would end up setting up outside of turn one to shoot the start of the race, of course going really wide to include the nice sky, below.


Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Johnson leads the field into turn one on the opening lap. By leading a lap now he only needed to finish 27th to wrap up the title.


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

Local fan favorite Juan Pablo Montoya (below) belches flames from his car as he hits the banking of turn one.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm with 1.4 convertor (280mm), 200iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

As sunset began to approach I once again went to the spot on the backstretch to hopefully get a cool sunset again.

Thanks to co-worker Jerry Lai for the below photo of me in action.


Photo by Jerry Lai

Unfortunately the cloud cover was getting too thick which would end up ruining my cool sunset I was banking on.

Jeff Gordon (below) leads a pack of cars down the backstretch.


Nikon D700, 17-35mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Manual

From the same spot I would go tight to shoot Jimmie Johnson as he led the field (below). To get that shot I physically had to lean out over the track to clear the catch fence, needless to say it was sketchy at best and I would constantly get pelted with bits of sand and hot pieces of rubber from the tires.


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

Once the sun set the cloud cover ended up being a good thing as it helped produce a nice deep blue sky for the below shot.


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

Denny Hamlin (below) leads the field through turn two on a restart.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

With all the cool light gone and a boring race in progress it simply became a matter of killing time until the end of the race and championship victory lane.

What better way to kill time than to hike to the roof of the turn one suites. I had never gone up there before and was surprised to find out it was a pretty good shooting position to go to.

Below, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch pit during the final round of pit stops for the race.


Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 4000iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

Kyle Busch races alongside brother Kurt Busch during a late race restart.


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

Beyond the packed parking lot the sun lit up the horizon with a red sunset, below.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/160th, Manual

The race winner of Miami never gets any love since everyone only cares about the champions victory lane.

This years under appreciated winner ended up being Denny Hamlin, who gave the crowd a great victory burnout, below…..


Nikon D700, 17-35mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

…..but the real winner was Jimmie Johnson who accomplished four championships in a row, somethign NEVER done in the history of the sport.

With as much as Johnson wins he really has mastered the art of the burnout, evident by his dangerous (but perfectly precise) burnout past hundreds of fans a few feet away, into victory lane.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Manual

I usually shoot championship victory lane from down in the first row near the car but for the second year in a row the track officials didn’t open the crossover gate in time for me to get a spot so I was relegated to shooting from the flagstand (which honestly isn’t a bad spot at all).

Below, Johnson yells as he climbs from his car to celebrate.


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

Then he grabbed wife Chandra and planted a big kiss on her (below) as the crowd cheered.


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

Probably the most important shots would be of Johnson holding the championship trophy and holding four fingers up to signify four championships.


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


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

While I have to admit I’d rather get to shoot a new champion every year since its great to add new champions to my archive of images there is still something special about being there and having images of each of Johnsons four straight championships.









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

After posing for several shots it was time for Johnson to spray his crew with a gigantic bottle of champagne, below.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Fast forward two hours later for Johnson to return from all the post race media interview obligations and we were back in victory lane to shoot a few shots of him with all four of his trophies.

Below, confetti litters the finish line from the initial celebration.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

Below, Johnson looks offstage as he received posing instructions from NASCAR PR reps.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Instead of shooting all the straight on shots that about 50 other photographers were doing I moved all around looking for different angles.


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual


Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Manual


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

And with that yet another season of NASCAR racing was over. While its great that its all done and I will actually have a little time off, I am sure in a few weeks I will be itching for the season to kick off down in Daytona Beach, Florida!




















Posted in Florida, Me, NASCAR, Racing, Sports   | 4 Comments

4 responses to “Jimmie Johnson wins historic fourth straight Championship”

  1. Once again you do great work.. Thanks for bringing us these amazing photos. Love the new self portrait, just fantastic..


  2. Laredo says:

    It would be interesting to show us all the equipment that you carry for a report.

  3. Mark says:

    Been following your blog all season–just want to say awesome job, and thanks for sharing your experiences and expertise!

  4. Shane Falco says:

    Love following your blog – thanks for taking the time to put such a detailed description of your experiences – makes me really appreciate the hard work that top-notch photographers need to put into their craft.
    Great insight!

Leave a Reply

Check out my Facebook page devoted my photography where I routinely share my favorite photos from each shoot as well as favorite photos from the past. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to "like" the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing!