The Biff rips through Kansas like a Tornado

After nearly three months off of NASCAR (thats longer than their offseason) I found myself back at the track to shoot the Pricechopper 400 at the Kansas Speedway. While it is not a track known for much action (at all) at least its a gorgeous facility and more importantly, a short flight!

Friday would begin with the standard day of practice later followed by qualifying. Nearly all that time I would spend in the garage firing off shots of as many drivers as I could. Pretty boring stuff here folks but lets jump in!

Below, championship contender Kevin Harvick might wanna remove the cover on his visor if he hopes to contend.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f4, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

Denny Hamlin (below) gets prepared prior to heading out on track for the first practice of the weekend.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Once all the drivers were strapped in and headed out on track to practice I made the hike to the outside of the track via the colorful pedestrian tunnel beneath turn one, below….

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

….so I could kill some time and shoot car shots, horray!

Five years ago had someone told me that Jimmie Johnson would win five championships in a row I would have gladly bet my life that no way in hell that would happen. Thankfully no such offer would be presented to me because at this point I would need to be finalizing my will…. following this race Johnson (below) would leave as the points leader with seven races remaining.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Below, Kurt Busch heads into turn one during practice.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

After about 10 minutes out there I had gotten clean car shots of every car so now it was time to make the journey back to the inside of the track. As I was walking along the catch fence I decided to stop and see if I could incorporate the green light signifying a green course into a photo.

Below, Paul Menard drives into turn one during practice.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Once back inside the track it was time to transmit photos, eat some of the marginal media room food and then prepare to shoot qualifying.

For qualifying I set up in the garage area to shoot the drivers as they climbed from their cars after their qualifying laps.

Kasey Kahne offers up his best GQ pose as he climbs from his car after running what would end up being the fastest lap of qualifying, below.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 100iso, f4, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Below, Martin Truex Jr removes his helmet after a lackluster qualifying lap would leave him in the middle of the 43 car field.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

An inferno of flames spit out of the exhaust on the car of Ryan Newman as he re-fires the car to blow out excess fuel following his qualifying lap, below.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f4.5, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Heres the full sequence of Newman flaming out.

One of the nicer guys in the Sprint Cup Series has got to be Joey Logano. I am sure as he gets older he will likely become more and more of a jerk (like many of the other drivers) but for now he is always smiling and happily signs autographs for all the fans, below.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 200iso, f4, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Below, Kasey Kahne is mobbed by fans as he signs autographs. When the drivers sign autographs they are always walking during the process so it can be rather difficult dealing with the mob of fans all while moving. For the shot I literally held the camera down low and was just pointing it up and blindly shooting as I kept my eyes in front of me to make sure I didn’t walk into a car or trip over a little person.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f4.5, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

For Saturday the schedule for me was more garage shooting during Sprint Cup practice and then the Nationwide race would follow after that. I ended up having to shoot a baseball game in Kansas City (30 minutes away) so I would actually have to leave during the Nationwide race to ensure I got to the stadium in time for the game.

Ahh my good buddy Tony Stewart, below. I hope to one day do a book of all the various death stares I consistently get from the guy week in and out.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

He sure looks a lot better with his helmet on and visor down wouldn’t you say? ¬†Even though he hates me I still like the guy because at least he has personality……

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f4, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

….. unlike some other driv… oh hey Jimmie Johnson!

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Below, Juan Pablo Montoya follows a line of cars through the garage on their way to the track for final practice, also known as “happy hour” in the biz.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f4, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Below, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Ryan Truex (left) with brother Martin Truex Jr prior to the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f5, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Below, Joey Logano leads the field at the drop of the green flag to begin the Kansas Lottery 300.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

I hung out in turn four waiting for some action but sadly none came, lets move onto the baseball game….

As soon as I got to the stadium and down on the field I noticed Kansas City Royals pitcher Kyle Davies (below) as he warmed up on the field with a cool LCD screen behind him prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Kauffman Stadium.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/4000th, Manual

The game was actually incredibly boring as far as action is concerned so there really isn’t too much cool stuff to show you.

Below, Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Sean Rodriguez is bathed in great sunlight as he tracks a ball in the first inning.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/2500th, Manual

Below, Kansas City Royals base runner Mitch Maier does an uncomfortable version of the splits as he is tagged out by Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Dan Johnson in the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium. For the record he stayed on the ground for a bit in pain before finally getting up and delicately walking off the field.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

I really enjoyed Kauffman Stadium, from friendly staff to nice shooting positions it was a fun evening. Here is an overall shot of the stadium from the upper deck.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

Ok time for Sunday and the main event, the Pricechopper 400!

The car of Jamie McMurray goes through pre race tech inspection, below.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Dale Earnhardt Jr fans cheer (below) as they await his arrival to a fan question and answer session. For the record he showed up close to 20 minutes late. Perhaps his golf cart is as slow as his race car??

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f4, 1/1000th, Manual

Pole sitter Kasey Kahne waves to the fans as he rides in the back of a military hummer during driver introductions, below.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 200iso, f5, 1/4000th, Manual

A group of fans (below) bask in the glory of the official merchandise trailer….. or they are all passed out drunk before noon.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f4, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

A full parking lot…..

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 200iso, f4, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

…… means a full crowd. I’d have to say one of the best crowds I have seen all year actually for the green flag to begin the race.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f4, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne (9) leads the field at the green flag of the Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

As cars race down the backstretch if you look close enough you can see downtown Kansas City, MO…. oh wait, thats just a pile of dirt and scrap.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f4, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Jeff Gordon (24) and Ryan Newman (39) lead the field on a restart during the Price Chopper 400.

Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 200iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

On the outside of the track near turn two construction is already underway for a casino that is being built, below.

Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 200iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

The only excitement in the entire race was the drama between championship contender Kyle Busch and not championship contender David Reutimann.

Below, David Reutimann (00) spins after contact with Kyle Busch (18). Later in the race Reutimann would purposely run into Busch causing enough damage to ruin his race.

Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 200iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

In the below photo of Kevin Harvick I was shooting through a photo hole in the catch fence, and when I say through the hole I mean from the waist up I am literally hanging out of the hole and above the track. Its somewhat scary but its a good angle to shoot car shots from.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Kevin Conway (below) leads a pack of cars during the race. When I say leads what I actually mean is hes so slow that all those cars behind him are in the process of lapping him. The sad thing is Conway will win the rookie of the year award this year. The reason why? Because he is literally the ONLY rookie in the series this year!

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

After that it was time to venture back inside the track to transmit some images.

On my way into the media center I noticed a long line of gas men waiting at the Sunoco (The official fuel of NASCAR!) station to refill their gas cans, below.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

While in the media room editing on the TV screen I saw Kasey Kahne blow a tire and hit the wall. The blown tire started flapping around destroying the front bodywork on the car. I knew he would need to take it to the garage area so I hopped off the chair and ran the 100 yards to the garage and got there in time to shoot as he pulled his battered car in.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

That made for a bad day!

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Greg Biffle didn’t have a bad day as he would go on to win the race and celebrate with a big burnout, below.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 200iso, f6.3, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D700, 400mm, 200iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

For victory lane I did my standard one camera in each hand to get two different shots as the winner emerged from his car.

Wide Camera view:

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Manual

Tight vertical camera view:

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

It was a happy day for team owner Jack Roush (below) who celebrated in victory lane for the first time since he was involved in a airplane crash (the second of his life) a few months back.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 200iso, f4, 1/1250th, Manual

Below, Greg Biffle (center) takes a coke bath….. no not that kind of coke Paris!.. courtesy of some happy crew members.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 200iso, f4, 1/1250th, Manual

That wraps up my weekend in the heartland of America. Next NASCAR race for me will be in the heartland of rednecks. Talladega baby!

Here are a few clips from the weekend:


2 Responses to “The Biff rips through Kansas like a Tornado”

  1. Bob says:

    Nice work, quick questions. Who pays for your travel/hotel expenses?? And when you go to these events are you hired by US Presswire and they distribute the images to espn, USA Today etc…???

  2. Vicki M. says:

    Mark, I always love your work, but I wish you wouldn’t dis my favorite driver! GOOOO JIMMIEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!

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