Once again for no good reason I spent a weekend shooting NASCAR in Fontana, CA. Now don’t get me wrong, its a nice track, with a great staff and plenty of good shooting positions but plain and simple, its a boring track. Trust me I am not the only one who feels this way, just take a look at any race here and you will see thousands of empty seats that end up being more of a story each year than the races themselves.

Due to me being an idiot and not checking the schedule my flight was not gonna work and there was no other flights available so I sucked it up and drove my car 5 hours to Fontana. Of course during the drive I found time to stop for a minute to take a pic in front of the giant dinosaur made famous in the classic movie “Pee Wees Big Adventure.”  For the record you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the movie….especially the Large Marge part!

Ok back to business.

Once at the track I grabbed my credentials and got right to work shooting Sprint Cup practice followed by qualifying. It was a bunch of standard boring shots so I will spare the bore of them. I got a couple that I somewhat liked so I will show them.

While shooting cars racing through the tri-oval there was a little spot where the sun glared off the rear wing and gave me somethign beyond the standard car driving shot. Below Greg Biffle races by.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 100iso, f8, 1/400th

I also liked the below shot as the car driven by Jeff Gordon goes through tech inspection prior to qualifying. The snow capped mountains add a nice scenic touch to a standard boring photo.

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

Saturday was gonna be a very busy day as things got kicked off with the Camping World Truck Series race followed by Sprint Cup practice and closed out with the Nationwide Series race. Two races in one day is very rare and usually only occurs due to a rain delay.

Lets get on to the truck race. As this blog began I mentioned this was a boring track and the truck race was very indicative of that.

What I do when I shoot a race that I think will be boring instead of setting up for crashes I roam around and look for feature pics (pretty pics). Since the snow capped mountains were about as pretty as it got I focused on including them in a lot of my photos.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 500iso, f6.3, 1/2500th

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f8, 1/1000th

The only accident of the race occured when Brian Scott crashed into the tri-oval wall. Of course it was nowhere near me so all I got was a shot as he limped his truck back around the track.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/2500th

When it became very obvious (around lap three) Kyle Busch was gonna dominate I began shooting different type shots of him so clients would have plenty of different images to choose from.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/2500th

With the snow capped mountains in the background, Kyle Busch crossed the finish line to win the race.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 640iso, f5.6, 1/4000th

He then came back to the starting line and stopped right on the line and climbed out of his truck to celebrate.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 500iso, f6.3, 1/3200th

Then Busch ran up to the NASCAR official a few feet from where I was standing to grab the checkered flag.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 640iso, f5.6, 1/3200th

Then it was back to his truck to head to victory lane….

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 640iso, f5.6, 1/3200th

….where he celebrated for the media.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/2000th

After transmitting a few photos I went into the Cup garage to shoot a few photos of practice before getting ready for the Nationwide Series race.

I saw a small crowd of media surrounding former country star Billy Ray Cyrus.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f6.3, 1/1250th

After realizing Hanna Montana was nowhere to be found I moved on and looked for something more interesting.

What I came across was the car of Reed Sorenson limping into the garage after his best attempt at 200mph lawn mowing. (I hear its gonna be an Olympic sport in the summer of 2012)

Sorenson climbed from his car (to hopefully repair his divit)

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 400iso, f8, 1/1000th

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 400iso, f8, 1/800th

I found a small puddle to do one of my trademark reflection shots that I jokingly do now when I am bored.

Clint Bowyer was my victim today.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 400iso, f8, 1/1000th

After transmitting a few practice photos I made the long hike out to turn two for the start of the Nationwide Series race.

As with the truck race a few hours prior, Kyle Busch took the lead and didn’t share very much.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/4000th

While in turn two I shot the obligatory wide shot with palm trees that I always shoot there when I have nothing better to do.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 800iso, f2.8, 1/800th

After shooting 50 of the races 150 laps from turn two I decided it was time to find a new spot. A media relations guy came by on a golf cart and I hoped on and we drove along the top of the track back to the other side. Of course seriously less than a minute after leaving my spot Michael McDowell comes into the turn and blows his engine in a huge ball of fire. Watching a car in a big ball of fire coming right at me while I ride in a golf cart SUCKS. The car went past me in a blaze of glory so I jumped from the moving cart with one of my cameras and pushed it up against the fence to try and shoot as he went away from me in flames.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

While the car is pretty small in the photo, the background really helped make the crappy photo a lot cooler. The big screen TV showing the car on fire as well as the scoreboard saying “Trouble in Turn Two” really made for an interesting photo. Below is a looser version of another shot in the sequence.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

The shot is similar to a photo I shot at this same race two years ago when I was far away from Brad Keselowski as he had a hard crash into the turn one wall and I got the below photo.

Nikon D200, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/400th

Both times I wasn’t in the best of spots but I got lucky with a quick acting sign operator who helped add an element to my far away shots.

Ok back to the current race…

I hopped back into the golf cart and continued around the track towards the tunnel in turn four to go back inside the track. While driving by pit road I again jumped out of the golf cart to shoot the field as they pitted under the caution for the McDowell fire.

Second place driver Carl Edwards pits in front of about 40 other drivers.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

Once inside I spent about twenty minutes transmitting I headed out on pit road to shoot the next round of pit stops. Instead of the normal stop action pit stop while standing against the wall I instead got all the way down on the ground to get a low angle, to make it even more different I slowed the shutter speed way down to blur the crew members as they ran around the car.

First up was Kyle Busch.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/30th

Then Carl Edwards.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f4, 1/15th

In the end nobody had anything for Kyle Busch and he beat Carl Edwards by a few seconds. In Kyle Busch fashion he did a great burnout.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/800th

After shooting the above shot tight I switched to my other body with a wide lens to show off all the smoke in the air.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

Then he parked on the start/finish line and stood on the car.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

After that it was on to victory lane where he once more climbed out of his car to celebrate with his team.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/400th

With the win Busch set a NASCAR record for being the first driver in history to win two races in one day.

Ok time for Sundays stuff…

Prior to the race while looking for some pre race photos I came across actress Angie Harmon and husband Jason Sehorn in the garage area.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f6.3, 1/640th

For driver introductions I followed the story of the weekend, Kyle Busch and his HOT girlfriend Samantha Sarcinella, as they made their way to the main stage for driver introductions.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f6.3, 1/800th

Note the cheesy red carpet they laid down for the drivers.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f6.3, 1/400th

For the race I found one of the few available photo holes in the outside catch fence and set up shop. Below is a photo of me that shows the holes they cut into the fence for us photographers to shoot through.

Photo by Kirby Lee

One of the stories always in the news at this track is the empty seats they always seem to have for every race. So with that in mind I shot a few pics in an attempt to show the less than full stands.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 1600iso, f4, 1/800th

Then I went vertical and used the yellow caution light to try something different. It didn’t work.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 1600iso, f4, 1/800th

Once underway I started shooting all the cars since you never know who is gonna win and/or be an important story.

I liked the below shot of Tony Stewart leading a pack of car while fire comes from the exhaust.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 1600iso, f5, 1/1000th

A few minutes into the race it started to rain. Luckily it wasn’t for very long so a few laps with the jet dryers (below) and they were ready to run again.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 1000iso, f4, 1/800th

Once back to racing it quickly got boring so I looked for some more featurish photos to shoot with the snow capped mountains surrounding the track.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 1600iso, f5, 1/3200th

As Jeff Gordon (24) and Jimmie Johnson (48) battled for the lead I shot wide to include the mountains in the background.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Then I slowed the shutter speed way down to blur the hell out of the cars for a different looking photo.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 100iso, f10, 1/8th

I like it but really wish I had more cars in it.

With Jeff Gordon leading I made sure to get the standard tight bank turn shot that every NASCAR shooter has shot a million times.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

During yet another brief rain delay I caught a ride back inside the track to transmit and then do some pit road shots.

First up was Greg Biffle racing off pit road. (should have shot a slower shutter speed)

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/640th

Then I slowed the shutter speed way down and shot a Jimmie Johnson pit stop.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4, 1/10th

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4, 1/10th

Then I worked my way into the crowded pit area of Jeff Gordon and shot a hail mary of him pitting.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/640th

In the end though nobody had anything for Matt Kenseth and he won the race.

In victory lane I held a camera in each hand, one with a wide lens and the other with a tight lens. Below is the same moment almost from the two different cameras.

Tight shot.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/500th

Wide Shot.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 3200iso, f3.2, 1/800th

After shooting his initial celebration I ran to media room to transmit the photos out then ran back in time to shoot the champagne celebration.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/640th

That wraps up the weekend of boring NASCAR in SoCal.

Here are some web clippings from the weekend.



Posted in California, Me, NASCAR, Racing, Scenic, Sports   | 6 Comments

6 responses to “Plenty of good seats available for yet another boring Fontana race!”

  1. Ariel says:

    I’m really enjoying your creativity, Mark.

    It musta sucked to see that fireball whiz past you, but the resulting shot turned out really cool. It’s always fun to see the perspective and unique look you bring to the table when you shoot events, even when it’s “just boring NASCAR.” 😉

  2. Tim O says:


    That’s it.. These are Sweet.

    Your photos are 100x more interesting than the race.. What a sleeper, well done making great images out of a boring race!

  3. Great shots as usual. I actually saw you on Speed TV during the final practice right after you shot those Sorenson photos. Great job of bringing some excitement to your photos too.

  4. Dan Carr says:

    Hey Mark , I noticed you were using the 400mm for this race and not the 600mm. IS that a decision you make before heading to the track simply based on past experience there? Can you get closer to the action at Fontana?

  5. AdamV says:

    “Boring” – I love it !

    I laughed out loud when I got to the bottom of your post – that was eight times the verb “boring” was used ! Thanks for the honesty in calling it how you saw it. No trying to hype things up with airs of ‘Mr Big shoots cars’ (and Oh how boring those photographers are !)

  6. You are a Nascar dgaf’er. I think you do nice work when you are bored.

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