13
Nov

The NASCAR Chase occurs at the same time as the NHRA Countdown to the Championship so my availability to shoot NASCAR has been much less than in years past but luckily I had an opening in my schedule to head to one of my favorite tracks, Talladega. The high banked restrictor plate track has always been called the wildcard race of the 10 race playoffs because one persons mistake can quickly become your problem. This years race would be no different.

Lets get started with some shots from the Sprint Cup Series garage area during practice.

Below, A sticker in memory of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon is displayed on the car of NASCAR driver Kurt Busch. Nearly every car in the garage had some sort of a tribute to Wheldon who was killed two weeks earlier in a crash.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

Below, driver Kyle Busch looks ready to go as he sits strapped into the cockpit of his Toyota during practice.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 2500iso, f4.5, 1/320th, Aperture Priority

Championship contender Carl Edwards (below) pulls out of his garage stall on his way out to the track for the opening practice session.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 2500iso, f4.5, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Just like in the last few plate races, the name of the game would be tandem bump drafting. Below, teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) and Jimmie Johnson (48) practice their drafting.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 100iso, f5, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Back in the garage on found some nice light on driver Andy Lally as he hangs out between practice sessions, below.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Five time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson sits strapped into his car wearing a tribute helmet to Dan Wheldon (below) that he would auction off for the Wheldon family following the race.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 1000iso, f4.5, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Below, Jeff Gordon appears deep in thought as he waits to climb into his car for the second practice session.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 2500iso, f4, 1/640th, Manual

Towards the end of the final practice for the day I was back in the media room packing up gear to beat the traffic out of the track when I heard a loud bang. I looked up to the TV which was showing practice and saw that Kyle Busch had just blown a tire in the tri-oval and pounded the outside wall. I quickly grabbed my cameras and ran out to the garage to see what I could get for photos.

Here is Kyle making the turn into the garage area as the blown tire spins around damaging the body of the car, below.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 200iso, f4, 1/320th, Manual

Busch quickly climbed from his car and made a fast walk to the privacy of his garage stall to wait for the backup car to be pulled from the hauler.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f5, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

That wraps up Friday. Next on tap is a Saturday of Sprint Cup qualifying followed by the Camping World Truck Series race.

Qualifying at Talladega is about the most boring thing in the world. Not just boring for the fans and photographers but also the drivers.

A track as big and fast as Talladega simply requires you to keep the foot on the gas and NEVER touch the brakes, according to this sign inside the cockpit of the car of Kevin Conway, below.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 400iso, f4, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

Below, Joey Logano prepares to climb out of his Home Depot Toyota following his qualifying lap.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

With qualifying at Talladega I typically hang out where the drivers climb from their cars following the laps because its a great place to get up close pics of the drivers. Here are a few examples.

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f9, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Carl Edwards

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f9, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Mark Martin

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f9, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

With qualifying finally in the books it was the long walk up to the roof off the grandstands in the tri-oval to shoot the Truck Series race.

Below, Truck Series drivers wait on pit road to begin the pace laps near a pink ribbon painted in the infield grass in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f5, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Below, early in the race Nelson Piquet Jr (8) would loose control of his Chevy in the middle of the field and spin out. It was amazing that this didn’t turn into the dreaded “Big One.”

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f6.3, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

The late afternoon light produced some nice shadows as the field of drivers raced through the tri-oval, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f6.3, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Below, check out the truck of Donnie Neuenberger driving on the apron after his hood came unlatched and flew over his windshield blocking all visibility. With the help of his spotter directing him, Neuenberger was able to make it safely back to pit road for repairs.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f6.3, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

Below, Jamie Dick blows an engine during the Coca Cola 250 at the Talladega Superspeedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

The winner of the race would be long time fan favorite Mike Wallace who picked up his first NASCAR victory in over seven years, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1600iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Manual

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1600iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Manual

Time for the main race!

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

Below, the field of 43 Sprint Cup Series drivers take the green flag to begin 500 miles of racing at Talladega.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f3.5, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

The race was pretty tame for awhile before Joey Logano, below, would spin out while trying to enter pit road for green flag pit stops.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f7.1, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

Dale Earnhardt Jr pits in his one race paint scheme with a Diet Mountain Dew design, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f7.1, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

Below, Ryan Newman spins after contact from teammate Tony Stewart in one of several bump drafts gone wrong on the day.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f7.1, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

From half a mile away you can see the fans cheering (below) as Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) takes the lead from Jamie McMurray (1).

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f7.1, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

In the tri-oval we would have a multi car crash as several drivers made contact….

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f7.1, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

…taking out championship front runners Kevin Harvick (29) and Kyle Busch (18).

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f7.1, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Kyles car actually was ok and spun several times without hitting anything, well until Juan Pablo Montoya slid in and t-boned the side of the M&Ms car, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f7.1, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Flames pour from the exhaust of Harvicks car as he refires it to limp it back to pit road….

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f7.1, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

…uh, make that the garage.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f7.1, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Below, Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) gets a bump draft from teammate Jimmie Johnson (48) as they try and make their way towards the front of the field.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f7.1, 1/125th, Aperture Priority

Below, Kasey Kahne would also be a victim of a bump draft gone bad as he spins through the tri-oval infield.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f7.1, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

In the late stages of the race more crashes happened as the drivers turned up the heat as the finish approached.

Below, championship points contender Kurt Busch (22) would take a big hit (figuratively and literally) as he nailed the spinning car of Bobby Labonte (47) during a turn two crash.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

The below shot was kinda cool as Kurt Busch was lined up next to a TV showing a replay of his crash as he climbed from his car.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f6.3, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

In the final laps of the race there would be a pretty scary impact as Regan Smith (78) would get hooked and make a hard right up towards the safer barrier, below. Look how insanely close his car got to taking out Jeff Gordon (24).

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Smith would pound the outside wall at a similar speed and angle of the crash that killed legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Sr back in 2001. The difference is along with the safety of todays cars you can also look closely at the wall and actually see it bending as it cushions Smiths hit. He would be uninjured.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

The below shot looks like a standard picture of the field drafting but it actually shows one of the bigger stories of the race where young Trevor Bayne (21) ditched drafting partner Jeff Gordon (24) after telling him minutes earlier he would draft with him. Gordon would drop way back in the field without a drafting partner and put an additional nail in the coffin of his chances of becoming a 5 time champion.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

On the final lap it would be RCR teammates Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer fighting for the win, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Below, It would be Bowyer (left) beating his teammate to the line in a photo finish.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

A happy Bowyer would celebrate by burning the tires off his Chevy.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Clint Bowyer celebrates with his team in victory lane following the win.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

Below, smoke pours from the hauler of Regan Smith following a fire inside. Luckily firefighters would quickly be on the scene to put out the fire. Nobody would be injured.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 1000iso, f5, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

That wraps up another fun weekend in Talladega. Up next is a few NHRA races and I will end my travel season in Miami shooting the NASCAR championship race.

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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!