After experiencing the excitement and history of the Indianapolis 500 last year I made myself a promise that I would shoot this race every year for as long as I could. That brings us to 2009 which makes two years in a row for me. If I could pick who would win the race I totally would have gone with Danica Patrick, since it would make me a lot of money in sales. My second choice would probably have been Helio Castroneves. For starters he has been in the news a lot lately after being acquitted of federal tax evasion charges, second because if he won he would be a three time 500 winner thus making him one of the greatest Indy Car drivers of all time.

A few days before the race while having drinks with some friends I noticed a guy with a handful of envelopes and asked him what he was doing at a bar with a bunch of envelopes. He told me he was running an Indy 500 pool. In each of the 33 envelopes was one of the 33 starters of the race. It was 10 dollars a pick. The person with the envelope containing the race winning racer would win 200 dollars, second place 75 dollars, third place 25 dollars and the last place finisher would win 30 dollars. I’m not really the gambling type but I was bored so I busted out 10 bucks for a pick.

Pick 1- Mike Conway


That wasn’t a very good pick at all. I felt screwed with that one so I popped another ten bucks from my pocket and gave it another go.

Pick 2- Alex Lloyd


I didn’t even know who the hell that was so I pulled another 10 bucks out and went again.

Pick 3- Sarah Fisher


Ok this is getting ridiculous now, I need to start looking around to see if there’s a TV crew recording these picks as some kind of prank on me.

At this point I am a bit buzzed and probably should give up and accept that I am gonna loose 30 bucks. But of course I’m an idiot and as we are all about to pay and leave I grab a 20 someone laid on the table for their portion of the bill and make 2 more picks.

Pick 4- Graham Rahal


Sadly this was one of my better picks. But trust me thats not saying much. Yes this kid has won before, but never on a super speedway. Ok time for my last pick.

Pick Five- Ryan Hunter Reay


Yea I probably should have quit after my first pick. Actually as I write this blog I realize I should have bought the remaining 28 picks and I woulda owned every pick and would have broken even!

Below my buddy Jennifer helps me pose with my awesome picks for what certainly would become a photo to remind me to never gamble again.


Photo by Matt Kartozian

Ok on to the actual trip.

Because flights to Indianapolis were ridiculously expensive I ended up flying into Chicago and picking up a rental car and making the 3 hour drive down to Indy. After picking up fellow shooter Guy Rhodes we made the boring drive down.

I always carry my little Canon G10 point n shoot camera on my lap in case I see anything that would make for a cool photo. I never really post those kind of photos in my blogs but I will make an effort to show more stuff from my travels besides just the events.

Below, as the sun sets a semi passes by on Interstate 865 near Indianapolis.


Canon G10, 400iso, f2.8, 1/2000th

On Friday we headed to the track, first stopping by credentials, then it was inside to shoot the final one hour Indy Car practice followed by the Indy Lights race.

Traffic totally sucked getting into the track so once in I had about 5 minutes to drop my stuff off in the media room before heading down to pit road to shoot the final practice.

Below, Graham Rahal gets his helmet on before climbing into his car.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm with 1.4 convertor, 200iso, f5.6, 1/250th

For the start of the practice I got at the end of pit road to shoot wide shots of the cars pulling out onto the track with the blue sky and empty grandstands.

Below, Helio Castroneves leads teammate Ryan Briscoe out on track to begin the session.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/3200th

I tried moving around on pit road to shoot more driver shots as they went in and out of the pits but the crowds of people on pit road were ridiculous. Check out the below photo showing what I’m talking about. There’s more people on pit road than in the freaking crowd!


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/2000th

I went out to turn one and shot for a few minutes, it was basically a bunch of standard car shots that were really boring and average although I did kind of like the below shot of Justin Wilson as he throws up a shower of sparks while racing through the turn at 220mph.


Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 200iso, f5.6, 1/400th

For the end of practice I went back onto pit road to try and get some driver shots since head shots sell. Below, former Indy 500 winners and teammates Dario Franchitti (left) and Scott Dixon talk following the practice.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f11, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

I noticed this fan walking around with a sign directed towards the ladies (and not the fat men I hope).


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f11, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

The Indy Lights race was up next so I shot a few shots of the drivers on pit road. I have never heard of most of the drivers but I always make it a point to shoot everyone I can because you really never know who will be a superstar one day.

Below, Indy Lights driver Junior Strous stands by his car prior to the race.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f8, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

Below, the track reflects in the sun glasses of Indy Lights driver Pablo Donoso as he stands on the grid during opening ceremonies.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/800th

Nobody really cares about the Indy Lights race but I was already at the track and had nothing better to do so I posted myself in turn one and used the race as practice for the main race.

About 10 minutes into the race I got some action when Indy Light driver Martin Plowman spun entering the turn as teammate Pippa Mann was forced to go high and missed being clipped by inches.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1600th

Plowman continued out of control until he smacked the wall.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1600th


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1250th


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1600th


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1600th


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1000th

After the cleanup the race got back underway for a few minutes until Indy Light driver Ana Beatriz (20) clipped wheels with Gustavo Yacaman (44) as they went past me setting off a crash.


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

It caught me by surprise so the only shot I got before the want behind a fence was a blurry crappy photo of Yacaman as he started going out of control.


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

I was able to get one more shot when the car was going away and slid through a spot where I had a view of the track.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/3200th

What I couldn’t see was that the other driver, Ana Beatriz, slid into the inside wall where she made heavy contact. After the crash I was able to move and shoot photos as Beatriz was extricated from the car and taken away on a stretcher. She was later released from the hospital.


Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/1600th

Heres a video of the crash.

One of the few Indy Lights drivers I’ve heard of, Wade Cunningham, won the race.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1000th

That ended a busy Friday at the track.

Saturday was a nice laid back day where I was able to sleep in and basically do nothing. Late in the afternoon Guy Rhodes and I headed over to the track to check out some potential elevated shooting positions. While up there I couldn’t resist getting a photo of me with one of the most famous tracks in the world as a background.


Photo by Guy Rhodes

After that it was a relaxing evening of doing nothing and watching crash clips on youtube to get pumped up for race day. With the alarm clock set for 4 am I wanted to go to bed by 11pm. Of course that didn’t happen, I was too excited for the race to fall asleep so I ended up only getting two hours of sleep. That 4am wake up really sucked let me tell you!

After laying in bed for about 30 minutes waking up it was time to get up and get ready to roll out. On the road by 5:15 it was smooth sailing as we drove in the darkness to the track. 12 miles from the track not a single car on the road.


Canon G10, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/15th

Everything looked good to go as there was no traffic, 2 miles from the track life is good then BOOM. Traffic comes to a grinding halt. We sat in one spot and didn’t move an inch for over 45 minutes. If I had a gun I would have started shooting people.


Canon G10, 400iso, f4.5, 1/160th

The view in the rear view mirror was just as bad.


Canon G10, 200iso, f3.5, 1/320th

In the below photo I’m not sure if the guy is dead or passed out but either way he’s having much more fun than I am as I rot in the traffic jam from hell.


Canon G10, 400iso, f4.5, 1/100th

We ended up getting into the track just after 8am, a 20 minute drive to the track took just short of three hours! The worst part was pulling into the parking lot behind the Getty Images crew and hearing from my buddy Chris Graythen about how they left their hotel at 6:30am (an hour and 15 minutes after we left) and they arrived at the same time!

After getting all settled in the media center I took a walk out to turn one to make sure my marked spot was still there. Its not unusual for people to tear down your name and replace it with theirs so its always good to double check. (thanks to my friend Glenn Smith for guarding my spot for me)


With several hours until the race I killed some more time by walking around and shooting some random feature photos. Below are a few photos of the Pagoda on the inside of the start finish line.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/3200th


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/3200th

The amount of fans milling around the inside of the speedway was ridiculous.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5, 1/3200th

The Indy 500 has to have one of the coolest trophies in sports so I always make it a point to shoot a photo of it.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/2500th

Below is a detailed view of the famous yard of bricks that make up the finish line of the famed track.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/1600th

Below, members of the Purdue Marching Band kill time sitting in victory lane prior to performing during opening ceremonies.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/3200th

It was finally closing in on race time so I headed out onto the grid to wait for the drivers to show up to their cars. Walking between the cars on the track with the buzz of the hundreds of thousands of fans surrounding the straight away is a feeling like none other.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/2500th

Below, the rows of drivers wait to be introduced to the fans.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/1000th

Below, Danica Patrick waits by her car prior to the race.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/1250th

After shooting a few more driver shots on pit road it was time to head out to my spot in turn one. Once I got out there I quickly walked over to the short chute between turns one and two and mounted a remote camera on the inside catch fencing. While it is only about 100 yards from my shooting position it covered an area that wasn’t visible from my spot due to the inside catch fencing. Here are a few set up shots of the remote D700 with a 24-70mm lens.



Unlike NASCAR where when the green flag comes out and you get all the cars racing together into the turn, with Indy Cars they get spread out quickly. Below you can see the leaders as they enter turn one on the first lap.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f7.1, 1/1250th

Heres the view from the remote camera as Ryan Briscoe leads a pack of cars through the turn. Its really not that great of a remote angle but if someone was to crash in front of me they typically would slide down to the inside towards the camera which would have made for a cool shot. Too bad it never happened.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 800iso, f9, 1/2000th

Across the track from me I noticed co-worker Scott Rovak as he shot head on shots of the cars racing. Of course he noticed I was shooting him and cheesed it up for the camera. Took one try for me to get a speeding car going 220mph in the foreground to make the shot complete.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/1600th

Below, Helio Castroneves drives away from me into turn two in the middle stages of the race.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/1600th

Below is a photo showing the holes in the fence on the inside that us photographers have to shoot through. The photo holes at some tracks are at awkward heights, either too high or too low which leads you to having to crouch which is bad on the back or stand on your tippie toes but fortunately the holes at Indy were a perfect height for me.


Photo by Scott Rovak

Since I was shooting Victory Lane following the race I had to make sure I gave myself enough time for the 1/2 mile or so walk to the finish line from my position in turn one. I decided that with 100 miles to go in the race (Lap 160) I would leave my spot. Lap 160 came and I was pissed that I hadn’t gotten anything useful at all the entire race so I decided to give it a few more laps. On lap 162 Justin Wilson lost it entering the turn and spun as Milka Duno raced by beneath.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/1600th

Typically when an Indy Car spins out its always a good impact with tires and car parts flying. Of course not in this case as the car suffered virtually no damage and made for worthless photos.


Nikon D700, 400mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/1600th

With the caution now out for the incident it was the perfect time for me to pack up and head to the media room to drop all my extra stuff off and get prepared to shoot the finish as well as the victory lane celebration. While in the media room I decided to transmit a few photos from the race. While editing photos the green flag came out and as my luck this year would have it there was a big crash in turn one (where I spent the whole race) with Vitor Meira hitting the wall hard and flipping on his side and sliding all the way through the turn. As I watched the crash on the TV I let out a few choice words not appropriate for this blog (or pretty much any blog). As always is the case within minutes of the crash my phone started buzzing with an influx of texts and messages asking me, “did you get that?!?”  NOPE!

Here is a video clip of the crash so you can see why I’m so upset. (sorry its in a foreign language but this clip had all the angles together)

Initially I really thought the driver might be dead because on TV they wouldn’t show any close up views of the crash scene as medics worked to remove him from the car. Plus the TV announcers never said if they had seen any movement from the driver in the car.

So with that in mind I quickly looked through my shots of the drivers during pre-race to see if I had anything of Meira. I came across a few so I posted those to the web in the event something bad had happened since publications would certainly need them to go along with their stories. It sounds sadistic but with high speed motor sports anything can happen so whenever I am shooting I always try to get nice clean photos of as many drivers as I can regardless if they are a superstar or a no named rookie. Here was the shot of Meira from before the race.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 500iso, f5, 1/1000th

Thankfully Meira wasn’t seriously injured (unless you count a broken back in two places serious). He will fully recover so all is well.

I headed down onto pit road near the finish line to find a good spot where I could shoot the race finish as well as be in proximity to Victory Lane for the important shots.

While down there I noticed cool looking skid marks leaving each pit stall so I looked for some way to incorporate it in a photo. I saw one of the tech inspectors standing near a set of track so I shot the below photo.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm with 1.4 convertor, 640iso, f6.3, 1/1250th

Helio Castroneves had a nice lead as the laps winded down. With one to go I shot his pit board guy holding up a sign with the number one signaling he was on the last lap.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/2500th

Since it was the last lap I climbed up onto the pit wall to get a slightly higher angle in anticipation for the checkered flag shot when he came back around. As the crowd roared, Castroneves took the checkered flag to win his third Indianapolis 500.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/2500th

I knew that since he had won the race he would undoubtedly do his traditional fence climb so I waited for him to come back around and stop near my position for the climb. What I didn’t know was that I had bumped my camera settings and had inadvertently changed the exposure to some horrible blown out garbage. Here are a few shots illustrating what I’m talking about. First is one of him climbing out of the car


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/500th

Then he jumped on the fence and started climbing.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/500th

Luckily for me I always am paranoid about a settign being wrong so I constantly check the images on the back of my camera to make sure they are good. After a quick “oh shit” and a fast settings change I was back in business as he put on one hell of a celebration.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/1600th

As he celebrated by himself his crew began climbing the fence to join him on the celebration.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/1600th

He then hopped down from the fence and celebrated with more crew members. You just gotta love TV crews who are allowed in front of the rest of us using giant boom microphones. Thanks!


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/1600th

Castroneves started being led towards victory lane so I made the short walk that direction. On the way I spotted a semi dejected looking Dario Franchitti as he walked back to the garage area.


Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 800iso, f7.1, 1/2000th

Once in my assigned position in victory lane (front row and center, not sure how I got so lucky!) Helio was standing in his car as he was pushed in. The celebration and reaction from him was perhaps the happiest I have ever seen somebody. Its understandable since a month earlier he was faced with the prospects of up to ten years in prison. I’d be pretty damn happy too!


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/1600th

Overcome with emotions Castroneves buried his face in his hands and wept.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/1600th

Then it was time for an Indy 500 tradition, taking a swig of the milk. First hit took a big drink of it.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f5, 1/1600th

Then he took a bath in it as he dumped the bottle on his head.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f5, 1/1600th

After the dump there was still some left in the bottle so he spun it around in the air shooting milk all different directions. I didn’t notice it till a half hour later while editing in the media room but I got a pretty funny shot where two globs of milk are covering his eyes making for an incredibly lucky and pretty funny photo.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f5, 1/1600th

Heres a closer look.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f5, 1/1600th

Here were the last couple I liked.


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f5, 1/1600th


Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f5, 1/1600th

After the initial celebration I decided to head out of victory lane and run up to the media room to transmit since speed is the name of the game in this industry.

After editing and posting photos for close to two hours it was time to pack up and head back to the hotel. While driving out I noticed all the litter on the spectator viewing area in turn four and stopped to fire off a shot since it was a pretty cool looking scene.


Canon G10, 400iso, f4.5, 1/1250th

Once through the tunnel and out of the track I was sitting at a stop light and was once again impressed by the amount of garbage lining the gutters of Georgetown Street.


Canon G10, 400iso, f4.5, 1/1250th

I feel sorry for whoever has to pick that mess up!

The next morning I had to drive back to Chicago to catch my flight home. Below is a shot of the Chicago skyline as I waited in a traffic jam in the rain.


Canon G10, 400iso, f3.5, 1/640th

Once in Chicago I met up with my good buddy Jerry Lai at a cool bar and grill named Moonshine for a quick lunch before heading to the airport. Below is a pic of me and the ENORMOUS plate of nachos I had for lunch. They tasted glorious!


Canon G10, 400iso, f3.2, 1/13th

That wraps up my weekend covering the Indianapolis 500……

Oh wait, I forgot to tell you how I did with the betting pool.

Remember, first second and third place finishers made money and also 33rd place.

Alex Lloyd


Sarah Fisher


Mike Conway


Graham Rahal


Ryan Hunter-Reay


Next up is NHRA drag racing in Topeka, Kansas.

Below are some tearsheets from the race.














Posted in Indy Cars, IRL, Me, Pocket Wizard, Portraits, Racing, Remote Camera, Sports, Travel   | 15 Comments

15 responses to “Spiderman drives 500 miles for a bottle of Milk”

  1. The milk, eye photo of Castroneves is awesome! Stick with the tighter crop!

  2. Jason Brooks says:

    Damn that must be a huge place to try and cover. The victory lane shots were top shelf.

  3. You know you are going to buy into the indy pool next year too.

  4. Kristie B says:

    Nice set of images Mark!!

  5. Joey says:

    Castroneves on the fence is perfect!!

  6. Great blog post. I was fortunate to have a media pass as well, but it was a cold pass so I couldn’t go into the pit lane. Just curious, how many photos did you take during the weekend? I can’t imagine going through them all.

  7. Ariel says:

    That milk eye photo cracks me up! Great work Mark. 🙂

  8. Matt Dial says:

    Hey Mark,

    Damn.. I wished I would of known you were here at Indy.. I’ve been following you and your blog for quite awhile now and would of loved to have met up in the real world and said hello.

    I’m a staffer for The Indianapolis Star and I managed to get “the photo” of the Meira crash in turn one. I was across from you most of the day and had no idea. You must have been standing with Glenn Smith, who strings for us for the race.

    If you are curious, here was a blog post I put up about the crash:


    We ran a story about the crash in today’s paper because Meira was released from the hospital today. It’s amazing he survived that crash — which was estimated at 220+ head-on into the barrier.

    Crash safety advances help protect Meira:


    Photographer tells story behind the photo:


    Normally I’m in victory lane for the post-race jube, and I would of ran into you then.. Come back next year and come meet the Star guys.. We are a fun bunch.

    Matt Dial
    The Indianapolis Star

  9. Jack Megaw says:

    Terrible luck on the Indy 500 pool!

    Something kind of funny – In the picture taken on the saturday you are standing right where I watched the US Grand Prix from in 2002!

    Great blog as always!

  10. Alan Stewart says:

    You should shoot in three. No worries about shooting through a fence there …

  11. Jim Wallace says:

    I’ve posted a link on my site to your photos. Good job; I wish I had the same talent.

  12. Ted` says:


    Awesome blog and photos as always, all the photos are great; the milk in the eye photo, climbing the fence, sunset in the mirror, Justin Wilson wreck, Franchitti rejection photo (at least he didn’t tell/show you you’re #1) behind the scenes how everything is set up, but the photo that really made me go back and look at 3 times was the Junior Strous photo, he gave you a genuine pose and you captured it, probably in one shot.

    Good luck in Kansas, looking forward to seeing your great photos from there as well. Great blog Mark.

  13. April Woodard says:

    Great blog, great photos. Next best thing to being there! Like everybody else, I was hoping you had captured the Meira crash cause they would have been awesome photos. It was terrible to watch…so glad he’ll recover.
    Keep up the great work!

  14. Sean says:

    Great blog post and shots as always, I really enjoy the insight you bring for those of that don’t get to shoot this type of stuff. Too funny that you were at Moonshine, it’s all of about 50 feet from my front door. Let me know, next time, beer’s on me.

  15. Ricardipus says:

    Just getting around to reading this post now… great shots and narrative, really brings the event to life for somebody who was absolutely nowhere near it at the time (i.e., me).

    I like the personal touches too – the garbage, the traffic jam, the nachos. Really makes a nice story of it.

    Richard aka ‘Ricardipus’.

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