Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.4 convertor, 400iso, f7.1, 1/1250th

For some reason I chose to do the NASCAR race in Kansas City even though I hate shooting at this track. The first two days of horrible shooting made me realize why I hate the race but the last day did a pretty good job of making the weekend worth while.

Friday was the standard practice and qualifying where all I shot were redundant head shots like every weekend. Exhibit A- Jimmie Johnson sits in his car prior to heading on track to practice.

Nikon D3, 85mm, 250iso, f1.8, 1/320th

Exhibit B-Rookie sensation Joey Logano also known as “Sliced Bread” prepares to pull out of his garage stall.

Nikon D3, 85mm, 200iso, f1.8, 1/200th

Exhibit C-Jeff Gordon secures his helmet as he prepares to head on track.

Nikon D3, 85mm, 200iso, f1.8, 1/250th

Saturday started with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice. To break up the monotony of garage photos I chose to do car shots. I took the short walk to pit road where I shot every driver in front of the Kansas sign. The below image is an example of what I was going for as Greg Biffle races by the sign. Its a totally lame and easy to take photo but images liek this make great stock images that will sell down the road for post race coverage if the driver does well or a preview photo before the next race at the track. Boring!

Nikon D3, 600mm, 100iso, f8, 1/500th

After transmitting some of those images I hiked it up to the roof of the track for the Nationwide Series race. Unlike most tracks where the roof is a great spot the Kansas Speedway roof is very tall (good) but far away from the track and turns (bad). The distance forced me to shoot with a 600mm and a 1.4 convertor bringing my lens to an 850mm! But for the start I shot with a wide lens to show of the packed crowd.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/4000th

The infield had a nice pattern cut into it so I tried accentuating the lines with a photo. This was as good as I could come up with as the field headed down pit road to make pit stops.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/1600th

I started getting pretty bored and was entranced by the site of the Chilis outside of turn four…seriously!

But anyways…back to the race!

The only real action in the boring race was when Kyle Busch was rear ended by Mike Bliss and spun up into the outside wall where he hit hard.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 640iso, f6.3, 1/3200th

Nikon D3, 600mm, 640iso, f6.3, 1/3200th

Not sure how he could see through the bent up hood and smoking front end but he drove the car off the track into the garage.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 640iso, f6.3, 1/3200th

After that incident it was a boring conclusion to the race as Denny Hamlin took a big lead.  Each lap while on the backstretch they would race behind the scoring pylon in the foreground so I tried a picture that would have his car going by the pylon with his number in first place. Here is what I got on my first attempt…not too bad.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.4 convertor, 640iso, f6.3, 1/3200th

Hamlin destroyed the field and easily won the race. In typical Hamlin fashion he did a great burnout after the race. For the start of the burnout I shot it with the long lens.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.4 convertor, 800iso, f6.3, 1/1250th

After enough smoke was in the air I quickly switched to my wide body to get a totally different perpective of a nearly identical moment.

Nikon D3, 680-200mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/500th

One thing you struggle with when in the same spot the entire race is to try and make the images not all look the same even though they are shot from the same spot. Busting out the wide lens is a great way to come up with some different shots.

Following the race I headed across the street from the track with fellow shooter Douglas Jones for the Chilis I was staring at all race.

Sunday was raceday and as with every other track I headed to the track about five hours in advance to avoid spending an hour in traffic. One thing I gotta give Kansas is they have the best traffic flow going in and out of any track I have ever been to. I could have headed to the track three hours prior and I would have been fine.

While setting up my buddy David Griffin mentioned two giant Elk heads sitting at the Bass Pro Shops car hauler in the garage. With some time to kill we walked over there to check it out. It was a tough place to come up with a cool photo with the elk heads in the shade with the bright sun in the background. I did my best to try some off camera flash on the elk heads while exposing for the bright sun. David out of nowhere decided to get kinky with one of the elks. The sad part is he never realized it was a male!

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 250iso, f11, 1/250th

I waited around for about 15 minutes waiting for a car to get pushed by to try and tie the elk heads in with a NASCAR theme. Of course as the car of Dale Earnhardt Jr was pushed by fans were standing in the middle of my shot, I refused to yell for them to get out of the way since that is unethical, so I had to shoot from a crappy going away angle. It wasn’t what I wanted but it was more than I would have got sitting around the media room.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 250iso, f8, 1/250th

As race time approached I hiked to the outside of the track and up to the roof to ensure I had a spot for when the race started. While waiting for the race to start I walked to the back of the roof and saw a packed parking lot that made for a decent pattern photo.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/2000th

The race began and it was a typical Kansas race at the beginning with nothing much going on. When teams made pit stops things got a bit more exciting. While pitting under a yellow flag Carl Edwards (99) ran into Brian Vickers (83).

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 400iso, f7.1, 1/1250th

Luckily for Edwards the car wasn’t damaged as he would be needed later in the race to make it fun.

The next round of pit stops had yet another incident involving Brian Vickers as his car came in sideways and blocked the exit of Tony Stewart. Instead of backing up or simply waiting the extra second or two Stewart decided it would be better to drive (slowly) into the pit crew and eventually ended up with the gasman on his hood!

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 400iso, f7.1, 1/1250th

Thats one hell of a hood ornament. Here is a closer look.

Stewart was penalized by being sent to the end of the field for the restart.

Just after the restart Matt Kenseth (17) got turned sideways by Casey Mears (5) and did a 180mph high speed drift for over a 1/4 mile without hitting anything. It was amazing.

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 400iso, f7.1, 1/1250th

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 400iso, f7.1, 1/1600th

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 400iso, f7.1, 1/1600th

After a quick caution the race restarted with Tony Stewart (20) racing behind Brian Vickers (83). Stewart was still upset at Vickers over the pit road incident and attempted to run into Vickers car.

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 400iso, f7.1, 1/2000th

Instead he ended up looking foolish as he lost control of his car and did a 160mph slide through the infield grass.

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 400iso, f7.1, 1/2500th

As he slid through the grass the front end up his car scooped up a bunch of grass damaging the car.

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 400iso, f7.1, 1/2500th

Here is a closer look at the worlds fastest lawn mower in action.

A little while later on another restart Sam Hornish Jr (77) and Michael Waltrip (55) got together and spun in the middle of the field. How more cars weren’t involved I’ll never know.

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 400iso, f7.1, 1/1600th

In the closing stages of the race Jimmie Johnson (48) led a hard charging Carl Edwards (99). On the last lap Edwards tried a move anyone who has played a racing video game knows well. Instead of slowing down going into the turn he drove in at full speed and used the wall to help him turn. As I shot the below photo I was screaming with excitement as he attempted the banzai move.

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 500iso, f5.6, 1/3200th

Had he pulled the pass off it would have ranked up there with the Dale Earnhardt Sr “Pass in the Grass” but unfortunately it didn’t work out like in the video games as the wall scrubbed off too much speed and Johnson was able to take the lead back exiting the turn.

Here is a sequence of the last turn of the race and how Edwards nearly pulled off the amazing pass.

With most of his speed scrubbed off Johnson took the win by a quarter of a second.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 640iso, f5.6, 1/3200th

Carl Edwards pulled his scraped up car onto pit road….

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 500iso, f5.6, 1/4000th

As Jimmie Johnson celebrated with a abnormally weak burnout…

Nikon D3, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/4000th

After the burnout Johnson pulled onto pit road where he was greeted by Edwards he walked to his car to congratulate him on the wild finish.

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 500iso, f5.6, 1/4000th

From about a quarter mile away I shot him climbing from his car in victory lane to celebrate.

Nikon D3, 600mm with a 1.4 convertor, 500iso, f5.6, 1/4000th

After that shot I quickly packed up shop and headed downstairs and across the track and grass to get into victory lane just in time for the champagne shot as Jimmie and the crew doused each other.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 640iso, f6.3, 1/3200th

As I have done in the last several NASCAR blogs here is an eagle eye view of the track from my position along with examples of where some of the pics in this blog were shot from.

Next stop is my favorite race of the year….TALLADEGA!!!



Posted in Chilis, Kansas, NASCAR, Racing, Sports   | 9 Comments

9 responses to “Kamikaze Carl hits the wall, Tubby Tony hits the gasman”

  1. Guy Rhodes says:

    So you’re implying Edwards hit the wall on purpose, as a strategy, at the finish?

  2. Yes, by not hitting the brakes he knew he was gonna hit the wall so he just stayed on the gas to try and slide along the wall like people do in the video games.When I play my Nascar video games thats my number one move to win a race.

  3. j s says:

    quote….”physics took over”………

    it may work in EA Sports 08, only bec/ you have the damage allowed set to minimal!

    See you Friday.

  4. Amy says:

    I am not a big fan of Nascar at all, but I googled “tony his pit crew” after hearing my boss talking about it in our Weekly Tuesday meeting this morning and came across your page.

    You have an amazing page! I absolutely LOVE the photos. That’s amazing that you can get shots like that being so far away. Added plus was your commentary and down-to-earth explanation of the race. I live in Birmingham so everyone around here in talking about Talladega coming up this weekend, and frankly, it is getting kind of old… But after reading your blog, I am actually going to watch the race. Who knew there was so much more to racing than a bunch of cars driving around in a circle!!! 🙂

    Again, I love the photos! Those are amazing!

    Have fun at the race this weekend!

  5. @Guy–Carl actually said he does this move in video games and thought he would try it (post race network interview).

    @Amy–I highly recommend (if you can) is to watch the speed channel. The most enjoyment I get out of Nascar is the personalities. There is so much more to Nascar than the race itself. The speed channel chronicles all aspects of Nascar behind the scenes. There are so many great charities tied to the drivers and their wives. Look at Victory Junction Gang as an example. You will soon find a growing fondness for the many wonderful aspects besides “going around in circles”.

    @Mark–I just found your blog. I subscribed immediately. I’ve been looking for a Nascar photographer blog for the past month or so. I became a fan the day Dale died. I found myself drawn in to all the drama and haven’t missed a race since. Soon after I started telling my wife my new dream job was to be a Nascar photographer. I’ve never even been to a race in person as I live in Denver. In June we purchased a Nikon D60. Now it’s not good enough and I’m already looking at the new D700. Anyway, keep em’ coming. As much as you seem to be bored with your job, Just remember that you have fans looking forward to your next post.

    God Bless to all


  6. HOLY HELL! How do you get capture that chilis logo in your shot! Did it make tony stewart crash?!

    Wow Mark, great shots…as usual. You are a fair better man than me when it comes to taking photos of metal boxes going in circles. Great job!


  7. Amy says:

    Thanks Curt! I will check out the speed channel. I’ve actually decided to have a Race Party this weekend!! I’ve invited a couple of friends over, cook out, watch the race, and catch up with everybody. I’m looking forward to it…. should be interesting… haha.

    I’ll let you know how it goes on Monday!

    Have a good weekend!

  8. Michele says:

    Found your blog while doing a search on nascar and photography! You have my DREAM JOB! Your shots are fantastic, and the commentary you put with them is priceless! I especially like the lawnmower remark! I can’t wait to show my husband when he gets home! I used to think I did pretty good from the stands…after seeing your shots, I am not so sure! At least we have the same love for Nikon! I LOVE my Nikon, and will usually never leave home without it! Now to be in your shoes, maybe one of these days…*sigh* We shall see…

  9. doug newell says:

    Mark, I know it has been a long time since Kansas, and I thought I had seen about all the photos of the “gasman on the hood”. I really like your site, and now that I know where it is, I will check back for your take on future races. By the way, this is doug, the gasman on the hood.

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