07
May

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After 5 days of attempting to get over screwing up and missing the Carl Edwards crash in Talladega it was time to put it behind me as I made the trip up to Richmond, Virginia for a nice weekend of NASCAR on the 3/4 mile short track of Richmond International Raceway.

Unlike most NASCAR races which are comprised of three days of action, this race would be a nice short two days of action. As usual I got the first day off by shooting various images during Sprint Cup Series practice.

Below, I shot a tight image of Jeff Gordon sitting in his car prior to heading out on track.

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Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f5.6, 1/500th

In the below photo I was shooting Clint Bowyer as he climbed into his car, right as I was shooting him before his face disappeared into the car a crew member walked in front of my shot. Here is how it ended up looking.

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Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f5.6, 1/2000th

At most tracks you can shoot from the inside of the track and the outside. For some reason at Richmond, even though its a short track and slow by NASCAR standards, they deemed shooting from the outside too dangerous. Hmm

So basically the only shooting locations are one of the five little photo towers scaffolds around the track. They look old and crappy but they elevate you about eight feet above the ground which ends up making for good car shots in the turns.

Below, LAT photographer Michael Levitt shoots from the turn three photo tower.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f3.5, 1/3200th

Here is how the view looked from the tower.

Below is a wide shot as Tony Stewart raced through the turn.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f3.5, 1/4000th

Below is more of the standard car shot as Reed Sorenson races by.

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Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 200iso, f6.3, 1/320th

Below, crew members for Dale Earnhardt Jr survey the damage to his car after hitting the wall in turn two.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f3.5, 1/200th

Fans get an up close look at Kyle Busch heads from the garage onto the track.

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Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 640iso, f7.1, 1/2500th

Below, fans wave as the car driven by Kevin Harvick speeds behind.

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Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 100iso, f10, 1/160th

Below, a crew member signals Jeff Burton to turn into his garage stall during practice.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/640th

While shooting random photos in the garage area I noticed several photographers surrounding Kurt Busch as he sat in front of his garage stall. Since he could get up in a moments notice and the shot would be gone I hurried over and threw up the camera for a shot. The one problem was my shutter speed was way too slow and I ended up with this accidental jem.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/40th

After fixing the camera settings I shot a wide shot showing the photographers surrounding him as he sat there modeling for the cameras.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 800iso, f2.8, 1/400th

Below is how the standard close up shot ended up looking.

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Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f5, 1/800th

A few days before the Richmond event long time Charlotte Observer motorsports writer David Poole died of a heart attack. Due to his many years traveling the circuit it was a story mentioned throughout the sport. I noticed a decal memorializing Poole on the car of Tony Stewart so I made sure to shoot a shot of it.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 800iso, f2.8, 1/5000th

I was getting bored and running out of ideas so I went back to where the crowd was congregated near the garage entrance where the drivers were pulling out to practice. I got close and held the camera above my head to see if that would make for anything nice.

Below, A.J. Allmendinger heads past the fans to the track.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/1250th

Through the course of the afternoon dark storm clouds were forming above the track, in the below shot of Kyle Busch racing through turn four you can really see what I’m talking about.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5, 1/1000th

After the conclusion of practice I had about two hours before Sprint Cup qualifying so I spent that time by editing, captioning and transmitting all my images from the day.

For qualifying I headed onto pit road to roam around looking for drivers to shoot.

Below, Mark Martin sits against the pit wall near his car as he waits for his turn to qualify.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f5, 1/2500th

As I usually do during qualifying instead of shooting the drivers getting into their cars before their run (where most of the photographers tend to shoot) I hung out where they stopped following their run. Access is typically better and usually allows me to get a few feet from the cars as the drivers climb out.

Since I was able to get so close to the cars I busted out my off camera flash cord to achieve a different look from the boring on camera flash look. In the below screen capture from espn.com you can see me (on the right) shooting with the off camera flash.

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Since hardly anyone shoots with off camera flash I typically get lots of weird looks from the drivers and even the other photographers but its all good since the resulting shots are worth the ridicule.

Below is my shot of Brian Vickers that you see me shooting in the above clip.

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Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 320iso, f8, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

Here are a few other shots with the off camera flash technique.

Denny Hamlin

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Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 500iso, f8, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

Jeff Burton

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Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 320iso, f7.1, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

Some of the cars parked farther away from where we were allowed so for those I shot with my other camera body with the 80-200mm lens on it.

Below, Dale Earnhardt Jr prepares to take off his helmet following his qualifying run.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/2000th

Below, Bobby Labonte leans against the rear wing of his car following his qualifying lap.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/2500th

Following Jeff Gordons qualifying run he stood a few feet from me as he talked to a crew member about his lap. I quickly noticed Gordon reflecting in the crew members sunglasses and spent several seconds trying to come up with something cool. The below shot is what I ended up getting.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/800th

Brian Vickers ended up winning the pole position so it was a quick walk to victory lane to shoot the stand boring ass pole winner photo op. Bleh.

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Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

After about 15 minutes of transmitting it was a quick 10 minute walk to the roof overlooking turn one for the start of the Nationwide Series race.

As you may notice in the below shot there were plenty of empty seats available.

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Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/200th

It only took a few laps before the first incident of the night occurred when Steve Wallace (66) made contact with Benny Gordon (72) at the exit of turn two.

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Once they got back to racing again the action heated up once more as Eric McClure (24), Scott Lagasse Jr (11) and Justin Allgaier (12) tangled in turn two.

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Allgaier and Lagasse Jr were able to restart their cars and get back in the race. McClure wasn’t so lucky. On his way to the ambulance to be checked out he took a brief detour to express his frustrations as Lagasse Jr drove by.

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

The crowd cheered wildly, actually they kind of just sat there.

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/800th

Below, Kenny Wallace makes a pit stop during the race.

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Nikon D700, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/640th

As has been the case multiple times this year, Kyle Busch would take the checkered flag to win the race.

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

And in typical Kyle Busch fashion he celebrated with a massive burnout as his crew celebrated on the wall.

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

Busch then parked on the finish line to climb out and grab the checkered flag. I ended up being lined up in a perfect spot with the crew in the foreground when Busch turned towards his crew and pointed at them as they cheered with their arms in the air. It is probably one of my top five favorite NASCAR celebration shots.

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

Once back in the car Busch held the checkered flag out the window as he did another long and smokey burnout on his way to victory lane.

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

Victory lane was a 20 second jog from where I was so I ran in there found a spot and shot Kyle as he climbed from the car celebrating.

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Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/320th

That wraps up day one. On to the main event!

The weather forecast didn’t look very promising leading up to the race. Luckily the rain ended about an hour before race time. As jet dryers worked to dry the track I shot some of the drivers as they hung around waiting for the track to be ready to go.

Below, Dale Earnhardt Jr is all smiles as he hangs around prior to the race.

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Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f6.3, 1/400th

Below, David Reutimann took some time to play with his daughter Emilia.

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Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f6.3, 1/800th

Below, Kyle Busch, who was celebrating his 24th birthday, was all smiles leading up to the race.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 800iso, f6.3, 1/200th

Once the track was nearly dried the drivers stood near their cars for the cue to climb in. While the drivers hung out near their cars it was a perfect time to once again bust out the off camera flash cord. Here are a few of the shots.

Martin Truex Jr is all smiles as he waits for the race to start.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

Kasey Kahne smiles as he leans against his Budweiser Dodge.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f6.3, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

While all the other drivers were smiling and happy, a quiet and pensive looking Dale Earnhardt Jr stood alongside his car.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f7.1, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

For the start of the race I once again went to the roof overlooking turn one. Check out the dark clouds above the track. With the clouds plus the radar map I looked at earlier I didn’t think there was any chance of us getting the full race in.

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Nikon D700, 10mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/160th

After the Carl Edwards crash into the Talladega catch fence last week the sport instantly became under mass scrutiny from the media and fans about how to make things safer. Below me I noticed a Richmond police officer directing fans to stay back from the catch fence. Fired off a few shots until I got a car blurring through the background.

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Nikon D700, 600mm, 2000iso, f4, 1/160th

I didn’t plan on staying on the roof very long so while up there I slowed down the shutter speed and did some pan blur shots through the catch fence as the drivers raced into turn one. Most of the cars would spit fire from the exhaust as they entered the turn like the below shot of Matt Kenseth.

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Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/125th

As you can see from the shot, if you slow the shutter speed down enough you can take decent photos right through the heavy catch fence.

Below, Brian Vickers (83) races alongside teammate Scott Speed (82)

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

After the sun set the clouds had a nice dark blue tone to them so I did one more wide angle track shot as the field raced below.

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Nikon D3, 10mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/640th

Once I got down from the roof it was a quick walk to the infield media room to transmit some images.

After about 20 minutes of sending images I went to the turn one photo scaffold and threw a star filter on my lens and here is how the shot looked as Carl Edwards (99) led a pack of cars through the turn.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/640th with Star Filter

Below, from the backstretch photo scaffold I shot Kurt Busch (2) as he led brother Kyle Busch (18).

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/640th with Star Filter

In the closing stages of the race I shot from the photo scaffold in turn three.

Below is a slow shutter speed shot of Jeff Gordon as he races by.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f2.8, 1/40th

A few laps after a restart a pile up occurred in front of me as David Stremme (12) was punted by  Bobby Labonte (96) entering the turn.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/640th

He did his best to try and save it but it wasn’t in the cards.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/640th

After Stremme hit the wall the cars of Jimmie Johnson (48) and Kasey Kahne (9) slid into the wall behind him as the rest of the field went low to avoid.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/640th

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/640th

Johnson drove his damaged car right to the garage. Since I was close by I climbed down from the photo stand and ran over to his car to shoot photos as the crew pushed him into the garage stall to work on the car.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/100th with SB800 Flash

Stremme wasn’t as lucky as his destroyed car was undriveable and had to be towed into the garage.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/100th

Here is a video of the crash. The photos make it look more exciting than it actually was.

Tony Stewart (14), in his first year of team ownership, had a great race along with teammate Ryan Newman (39). Below they raced side by side through turn three in the closing laps of the race.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/640th

Just as with the night before nobody had anything for birthday boy Kyle Busch as he crossed the finish line to win the race.

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

Time for a burnout!

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

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

After the above shot I quickly shot with my other body with a wide angle lens to show off more of the burnout smoke.

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Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/500th

Then it was back to the other camera to shoot tighter as Kyle climbed from the car to celebrate.

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

After the on track celebration it was time to hustle over to victory lane.

As I usually do I shot Kyle climbing from the car with a camera in each hand.

Wide shot:

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Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/320th

Tight shot:

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

After celebrating on his car he pulled the rockstar move and leaped backwards into the mosh pit of celebrating crew members.

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

From there it was back to the media room to transmit images so I could get the hell back to the hotel and fall asleep!

Here are a few clips from the weekend.

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Posted in Me, NASCAR, Portraits, Racing, Sports   | 9 Comments

9 responses to “Kyle Busch celebrates Birthday in Richmond Victory Lane”

  1. al says:

    Great shots as usual. The off camera flash produces a nice effect. I’ll have to try that.

  2. Daniel says:

    Nice stuff as usual. I like the off camera flash look and you’re right, it is totally worth the jeers. Also noticed the new logo, interesting. You might want to make the box with the logo in it a bit shorter so it fits better, but that is just my opinion. Anyway, thanks for another interesting blog post!

  3. G’day Mark,

    Great shots once again. Loving the driver shots where you really seem to capture the person & the driver in the single shot.

    I also love the star filter shot, I have never heard/seen the effects of such a filter and I only get close with the small aperture shots (f22).

    Once again, great shots and thanks for sharing!

    PS. Love the new logo!

    /craig.

  4. Jamie says:

    Awesome shots, I always look forward to your shoots, no matter what sport it is! I like how you shoot the celebration shots with two cameras at once!

  5. Ted says:

    Mark,

    Awesome photos, looks like you recovered (not sure why you thought you screwed up the #99 crash, your Dega photos were fantastic!) from Talladega nicely. Your night shots, blur, still frame as well as off camera flash are great! Did you not set up a remote camera for this race? Thanks for sharing your knowledge and your blog. I’m looking for your Manny photos on the web! Stay well.

    Ted

  6. Jason says:

    Hey Mark, just quietly, what focus mode do you typically use? I would imagine you’d Autofocus and you must jump between S and C depending on the situation, or are you a Manual man?

  7. Pille says:

    Nice work, I like the fact that you take the time to have the shots you want instead of taking the easy and boring way out.

    That’s why I keep coming back to this blog 😉

  8. Curt says:

    I really want to thank you for the time you put into your blog and sharing it with us. As I scroll down in anticipation of the next shot, I’m not left disappointed.

    My fav of this post is the Kenseth shot. Flames and red hot rotors!!

  9. Kristie says:

    Your images rock!! 🙂 Nice work!!

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