Just three months ago NASCAR closed out their 2008 season down in Miami. At that time I was close to burned out after a pretty rough schedule of races and was glad to see it end. As it always works, after a few weeks off, I was ready for it to come back. The 2009 season began this weekend up the Florida coast in Daytona Beach, where the stars and cars of NASCAR and the ARCA series wasted no time in destroying some cars. 

But before the carnage could begin I first had to shoot the boring stuff, practice. Obviously with this being the first race of the new year it was all about getting photos of the new drivers, cars, sponsors. So here are some random shots around the garage area.

Anyone can shoot a standard driver shot standing around, so what I look for is interesting effects I can include into images to add a cool graphic or artsy feel to the image. One thing that can cause all sorts of issues when shooting drivers in their cars are reflections from lights or the roof of the garage. The below shot of Jeff Gordon is an example of an attempt to use the disadvantage to my advantage.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/800th

Is it award winning? God no, but the reflections add a somewhat interesting pattern to fill all the deadspace to the left of the frame.

The below photo of A.J. Allmendinger I had to move all around the front of the car in order to get the reflecting lights to line up where it opens up above and below his head to make for a unique effect that leads your eyes right to his head.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/640th

One of the biggest stories that will unfold this season is how two time champion Tony Stewart will perform as an owner/driver with his new team. It was very important for me to get some good shots of him in his new colors and sponsor. Things didn’t get off to a very promising start as I totally screwed up my exposure when he went from the dark garage to the bright sun light.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f3.5, 1/2000th

Trust me these failures happen to even the very best photographers, the only difference between them and I is they are smart enough not to let people know that they make stupid mistakes. I enjoy being made fun of so I love to give you guys ammunition. 🙂

Another big story for 2009 is that of Joey Logano, who is replacing Stewart in the #20 Home Depot Toyota. I got many good pics of him during practice on Saturday but its the same crap everyone was shooting. I kinda liked the below photo of him sitting in his car peeking around all the safety gear built into the seat.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 1600iso, f4, 1/320th

Below a young fan squishes his face against one of the garage viewing windows to have a look.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/6400th

I really like the below shot of Kurt Busch as he stood between his two cars in the garage. I moved around until I was able to frame him between his hoods.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/2000th

My sister Alison and my best friend Sophie are both big time Kasey Kahne fans and won’t stop harassing me for photos of him (and his phone number) you girls will just need to settle for the below photo for now.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 640iso, f5.6, 1/400th

I shot rookie Cup driver Scott Speed as he conferred with crew chief Jimmy Elledge in the garage before a practice run.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1000iso, f4, 1/500th

From the newest rookie (Speed) I went and shot the oldest driver in the lineup (and most likely history) James Hylton, as he sat in his car prior to a practice run.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/125th

For the second practice I decided to head out to turn four to shoot car shots. On my way out I stopped in the garage when I noticed some killer light coming in the viewing window on a member of Jeff Gordons team as he worked on the front end of the car. 

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

It seemed I wasn’t alone with the idea to go to the turn to shoot as evident by the below image which showed the mass of photographers set up on the hill.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/800th

Below David Reutimann speeds past a few palm trees outside of turn four.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/500th

My whole reasoning for shooting in turn four was to get nice clean shots of every Sprint Cup Series car with their new paintjobs. Instead of boring you with showing a bunch of boring car shots I put together a shot of every car and put them all together in a composite image that took me about four hours to do (I was VERY bored!) In the interest of being an ethical photographer I must admit the photo of the #29 car of Kevin Harvick was shot at a race last year. (He didn’t come out on track in the practice session)

Click the photo to see it larger

Late in the practice session I noticed an egret pecking around in the grass at the edge of the track for food. I figured once a car came speeding by it would fly away but much to my surprise it didn’t seem to care at all. I threw the 600mm on my camera and ran down the hill to get a low angle with a car in the background.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 400iso, f8, 1/800th

It is an odd looking photo but I like it and it was a welcome break from the boring car shots I had been taking for an hour and a half.

After the practice session ended I had less than an hour to swing by the media room, gear up and head across the track to the outside and up 12 stories to the roof of the main grandstands for the ARCA race which ALWAYS is out of control action. Little did I know but this race would make all the previous ARCA races I shot look tame!

About 10 minutes into the race the first crash happened when one driver lost control and spun in turn three, it appeared it would be a one car incident but suddenly other cars began crashing about a half mile past the original incident. Be sure to click the below photo to see the full sequence.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 640iso, f6.7, 1/4000th

With the 600mm and a 1.7 convertor it made the lens a 1000mm! With all the cars involved in that crash I basically had to look all over during the crash and try and shoot as many individual cars as they crashed. I got incredibly lucky to catch J.R. Fitzpatrick as he clipped another car and launched in the air, briefly on his side before landing on all fours.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 640iso, f6.7, 1/4000th

I liked the below shot of driver Brett Butler as he is led from his car by rescue personnel. The shadows made a boring photo look slightly cooler.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/1250th

Big crash number two happened in turn four once again and I dropped the hammer and blew about 100 shots on it as cars crashed and crashed. It honestly seemed to last forever.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 1000iso, f6.7, 1/5000th

After that crash I started to wonder how many (if any!) cars would finish this race but surprisingly enough cars were able to continue on that once again a third big crash occured in turn four!

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 1000iso, f6.7, 1/3200th

With the giant lens I had it allowed me to shoot a pretty cool close up of the nearly full moon rising over the track.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 1250iso, f6.7, 1/5000th

The race settled down for a few minutes until veteran driver Bobby Gerhart blew a tire and pounded the turn two wall.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 1250iso, f6.7, 1/640th

While the photo doesn’t look like anything spectacular, the impact was severe enough tha Gerhart had to be transported to a local hospital for evaluation.

Off in the distance a wildfire burned, I resisted the urge to shoot it until the setting sun lined up close to the smoke billowing which made for a pretty shot.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f4, 1/2500th

Back on track a very scary moment occurred when Patrick Sheltra was tapped and spun into the outside wall.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 4000iso, f6.7, 1/640th

He backed into the wall and it wasn’t really much of an accident..

Until Larry Hollenbeck came into the turn and t-boned the nearly stopped car of Sheltra in a massive impact…

Parts and pieces flew from the cars as they spun around…

And eventually came to a grinding stop.

It was quickly apparent that the crash was bad as ARCA officiallys quickly threw out the red flag which stops the race immediately.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 4000iso, f6.7, 1/320th

The field of cars stopped at the entrance to turn one.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 4000iso, f6.7, 1/320th

The roofs were cut off on both cars to help extricate the injured drivers from their cars.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 4000iso, f6.7, 1/160th

Shertra was taken away on a stretcher to the local hospital with vertebra injuries.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 5000iso, f6.7, 1/200th

After over 30 minutes the race began and the final 6 laps were run without incident. James Buescher won the race and celebrated in victory lane.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 5000iso, f6.7, 1/160th

After a few minutes of transmitting photos and allowing my heartbeat to slow down from the ARCA race it was about time for the Bud Shootout, a non points paying all star race for the Sprint Cup Series.

Things kicked off with driver introductions on a pyrotechnic laden stage.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1600th

A few minutes later the race began as the field took the green flag in the tri-oval.

D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/800th

Normally the Cup Series drivers are good enough that they don’t crash too often. Evidently they didn’t get that memo tonight because on the fourth lap of the race the fun began when Robby Gordon (7) clipped David Ragan (6) setting off a multi car accident that took out super rookie Joey Logano (20) and Scott Speed (82).

Nikon D3, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/500th

The race got going again and ran for a little bit before Greg Biffle (16) had his first of three incidents, spinning in the middle of the field in turn two. How nobody else got taken out in the accident is beyond me.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/640th

Look at Kevin Harvick (29) as he goes five wide on the bottom of the track to avoid the accident. 

Nikon D3, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/640th

Greg Biffle (16) had his second incident of the race as he spun along with Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) and Paul Menard (98) coming off turn four.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/640th

After the green flag came back out a few minutes later it was once again Greg Biffle crashing, this time along with David Stremme. Performing the crash hat trick at a superspeedway is pretty impressive in my book!

Nikon D3, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/640th

On the last lap of the race heading into turn three things got crazy with Kevin Harvick (29) passing Jamie McMurray (26) for the lead as Jimmie Johnson (48) and Denny Hamlin (11) got together.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/640th

Kyle Busch (18) piled into the crash and shot sparks across the track as the field drove through the smoke and sparks.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/640th

The caution flag was quickly thrown giving the win to Kevin Harvick as he crossed the finish line.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/640th

The very damaged car of Denny Hamlin limped around the track a few minutes later to finish the race.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/640th

Harvick drove back around the track and celebrates with a precision burnout at the finish line.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

After the burnout smoke cleared there was not a mosquito alive in Florida!

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/640th

Harvick was doused with beer as he climbed from his car in victory lane.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.7 convertor (1000mm), 5000iso, f6.7, 1/160th

And with that my 15 hour day of racing came to an end.

Here are a couple of clips I found online from the race.




Posted in Daytona, NASCAR, Racing, Sports   | 12 Comments

12 responses to “The 2009 NASCAR season gets off to a smashing start”

  1. Scott says:

    Great set! Do you shoot in aperture priority, shutter priority, or manual?

  2. Dani says:

    WOW! fantastic shoots!

  3. Reinhold says:

    Great Job on the blog Mark. If the world only knew how many mistakes we professionals really made……well lets just say that the amateurs don’t need to feel bad. Working harder to get it right the next time and topping the shot that got away is what fuels the creativity that drives us. Shots like the ones you displayed here happen every day at tracks across America every friday night. For the beginners this is the perfect opportunity to experament, expierament, experoment, hell, practice. (Inside Joke) The rest of you will get it soon enough!!

    Keep it up Mark your stuff is first class.

  4. Kevin says:

    Great shots, as usual. I can’t wait to see what you come up with from The Big Race!

  5. Tim O says:

    Great set — I’m happy to see you’re in Daytona for the big race!!! It just wouldn’t be fun to see pics if they weren’t yours…

  6. Ross says:

    Mark, that shot with the lights in the foreground at the start of the race is great!

    voted for your blog on that link

  7. Ben says:

    Something is going on with the subscription I am not getting emails?

    The grid shot with all the cars is something. The line in Harvick’s photo is different but I wouldn’t have noticed if you didn’t point it out. Numerical order too! Nice.

  8. Lois says:

    You photos are amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. ZuDfunck says:

    NASCAR is such a colorful sport ti begin with
    You capture those colors so well!

    Nice blog as well…

    Will stay tuned for the season via twitter


  10. Denise says:

    WOW,, great shots of the ARCA race! Thank goodness Patrick and Larry are on the mend ARCA has about 2 months off so they should be racing at Salem!

  11. Al says:


    Found your blog via twitter and love the photos.


  12. DAD says:

    Mark, Glad to see you’re using all of the tools and then some that I have taught you, Love DAD

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