06
Jun

The highlight of May every year for me is knowing I will be in Indiana shooting the greatest motorsporting event in the world, the Indianapolis 500. With 2011 being the 100th anniversary of the first race it was guaranteed to be a big deal. Little did we know, those of us in attendance would also witness one of the most exciting 500 finishes ever.

Friday before the race would be spent at the track shooting the final hour of Indy Car practice, also referred to as Carb Day, which is immedietly followed by the Indy Light Series Freedom 100 race.

As always Danica Patrick is always in the news and with her Indy Car contract up at the end of the season all the world is wondering if she will stay in the open wheel cars or if she will take her talents south to the world of NASCAR.

Below are a few shots of Danica as she prepares for the final practice.

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

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

Out in turn one I got the below shot of Justin Wilson as he bottoms out his car in a shower of sparks.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

The final practice was uneventful as usual so lets move along to the Indy Lights race.

Below, Indy Light driver Josef Newgarden leads the field into the first turn on the first lap of the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 500iso, f4.5, 1/1600th, Manual

The Freedom 100 usually features a crash or two and this years race would be no different.

Below, Indy Light driver Victor Carbone (3) spins as Rusty Mitchell (17) goes high to avoid during the Freedom 100.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Just as Carbone was about to hit the wall the inside catch fence would get in my way and ruin what would have been a few decent impact shots, below.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D700, 400mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

With 10 laps to go I had to leave my spot in turn one to make the 3/4 mile walk to victory lane over on the front stretch.

On my way to victory lane I stopped in a fan area and put the 1.4 convertor on my lens to give me more reach and as luck would have it I got a crash the first lap the cars went past me as Anders Krohn (9) would lose control inside of Conor Daly (77).

Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 640iso, f4, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 640iso, f4, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Krohn would pound the outside wall, below.

Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 640iso, f4, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Just past where I could see the track another car would get involved and suffer a frightening impact into the inside wall.

Check out the below video.

The race would never return to green and the winner would be rookie driver Josef Newgarden, below.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 500iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

To say Newgarden was excited would be an understatement as he would emerge from his car to celebrate in victory lane after winning the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 500iso, f3.5, 1/1000th, Manual

And that ends an easy Friday at the track.

Fast forward to the big day, Sunday.

A fun 5am wakeup call is not the best way to start off what will be a very long day but upon arrival at the track the excitement and buzz of race day filled the air and quickly woke me up.

In the below photo by my good buddy Guy Rhodes you can see me walking towards the media room before the sun had even risen.

Photo by Guy Rhodes

With 6 hours till kill before the race began I walked around the historic speedway to shoot some artsy shots of the sunrise.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 500iso, f4.5, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

After about an hour of that I headed down to the yard of bricks on the start/finish line with my buddy Guy Rhodes to take a stupid photo for my Facebook page.  Mission accomplished!

Photo by Guy Rhodes

Below, fans check out merchandise at the Danica Patrick trailer.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 500iso, f4.5, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

The Pagoda reflects in a helmet sitting on the pit wall prior to the race, below.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 500iso, f4.5, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Before the start of the race they had a much hyped world record truck jump attempt by a driver they  wanted to keep a secret. (for the record I knew who the driver was two months in advance #secretfail) With all the pre race stuff I needed to shoot for the 500 I almost decided not to go shoot it but at the last second I decided that I wanted to witness (and shoot) the jump.

Below, Hot Wheels driver Tanner Foust jumps his truck off a ramp to set a new world record with a distance of 332 feet prior to the 95th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Recording artist Seal has a big laugh just prior to driver introductions, below.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 100iso, f7.1, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

The below shot of Paul Tracy next to the Borg-Warner trophy really shows you how large that trophy is!

Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 320iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

Apparently it is fashionably acceptable in Indiana for a man to wear cut off jean shorts and a super small Danica Patrick shirt. I can assure you that look wouldn’t fly in many other places…

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Before the start of the race legendary racer Parnelli Jones would take a lap for the packed crowd in the car driven to the 500 win in 1911 by Ray Harroun. It was cool to see such an old car but I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like to see 33 of those cars on the track racing.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

The first caution of the event would come courtesy of Takuma Sato who would get high and graze the wall, below.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

While Sato didn’t hit the wall hard enough for it to look very exciting it was still more than enough to end his day.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

A little while later it would be Satos teammate, E.J. Viso (below) who would crash into the turn one wall after contact with James Hinchcliffe.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Under caution there would be another incident when Jay Howard lost his tire coming off of pit road, below. He’s lucky that didn’t happen at speed.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

A little while later we would have an incident in turn one as Townsend Bell would come across the nose of Ryan Briscoe causing them to go sideway, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

After the initial slide they appeared to get the cars under control up near the wall….

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

But then Briscoes car would swerve to the right causing both drivers to impact the outside wall.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Below, Danica Patrick goes low to avoid the crashing cars of Ryan Briscoe (6) and Townsend Bell (99).

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

All the action in turn one would leave that pretty IMS logo (below) all banged up!

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 250iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

With about 18 laps to go I left my spot in turn one to once again make the long hike to the finish line to set up to shoot the winners celebration.

As I listened to the race broadcast over my headset it became clear that we could be positioned for an exciting finish as some of the lead cars were very low on fuel and could run out at any point.

Coming to the white flag it was unknown rookie driver J.R. Hildebrand in the lead.

Below, a crew member for J.R. Hildebrand holds up a sign on the last lap showing them in first place.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

As the field passed me and headed around the track for the final time all I could think about was how cool and rare it would be for Hildebrand to replicate the excitement that rookie Trevor Bayne did in the Daytona 500, another event I was lucky enough to shoot.

As the announcer said Hildebrand was in the lead heading through turn three I stood up on the pit wall (which we are only allowed to do on the last lap) to get ready for the shot of Hildebrand crossing the finish line. I was going to shoot it with my 200mm lens so I set the body with the 400mm down on the wall.

As Hildebrand went through turn four I heard the announcer freak out about him crashing into the wall. Before even looking towards turn four I quickly put down the camera I was using with the 200mm lens and snatched up my 400mm and started shooting.

In the below photo you can see Hildebrand sliding along the wall as Dan Wheldon (left) pumps his fist as he heads towards the finish line.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 250iso, f5, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

The announcers never mentioned that Wheldon had passed him for the lead so I assumed that Hildebrand was gonna take the win in the badly damaged car so I kept shooting him.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 250iso, f5, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 250iso, f5, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

A few seconds later they notified us that Wheldon had slipped past Hildebrand in the final 1000ft to pick up his second Indianapolis 500 win.

Here’s a couple of shots from victory lane as he celebrated the win.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Manual

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Manual

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

That brings to a close another wild and exciting Indianapolis 500. It would have been really cool had the rookie stolen the win but it will still go down as one of the more memorable Indy 500s ever where for the first time in the 95 race history of the event that the race leader crashed on the last lap.

Poor kid…

I recently started a Facebook page for my photography. 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 as well as my favorite photos from each event, as well as some old favorites from the last 20 years!


 
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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!