Trevor rides the Bayne Train to Victory Lane

After several months of only shooting football and basketball it was time to get back to shooting one of my favorite sports, NASCAR. Unlike nearly every other sport in the world which has their biggest event towards the end of the season, the biggest race on the NASCAR calendar is the first race of the season. Strap in as I show you my best imagery from 12 days at the World Center of Speed in Daytona Beach.

My first day in Daytona would be spent at the track covering NASCAR media day. I had never shot media day before so I really had no idea of what to expect. Once inside the giant tents where the event was hosted I quickly saw it would be a tougher shoot than I had hoped for. The drivers walked down lines and would stop in front of microphones to speak and be interviewed by the media. None of this event was made for still photographers so we were the lowly pests swarming around drivers trying to get photos of them.

In the below photo of Greg Biffle you can get an idea of what I was up against. Behind the drivers was a blue banner covered with logos (which make for horrible photos).

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f3.2, 1/640th, Manual

After a few minutes of getting terrible photos I realized I would have to try a bit harder to get good pics. I ended up sitting on the ground and shooting up at the drivers from the side which eliminated the terrible banners from the background and actually provided a pretty cool look. Here are a few of my favorite shots.

Matt Kenseth

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Manual

Danica Patrick

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/200th, Manual

Denny Hamlin

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

With media day behind me the next day would be a long day of shooting Sprint Cup practice followed by the ARCA race and then closing out with the Bud Shootout All Star race.

Below, 5 time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson sits in his car prior to the start of practice.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

Kevin Harvick (below) races through turn four in his new look #29 Chevy with new sponsor Budweiser. Great looking car!

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/500th, Manual

This is pretty much the coolest t-shirt ever so I made it a point to model it for all you guys! For those of you who have no clue what that picture is from its the painting the crazy kid in the movie “Wedding Crashers” paints of Vince Vaughn…

Photo by Chris Graythen

The newly repaved track was not only super smooth (which brought about much higher speeds) but it also was now nearly black which made the cars on track really pop in photos.

Below, Kyle Busch races through turn four during practice.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Ah, my good buddy Tony Stewart, looking good as ever!

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Brad Keselowski inspects the rear wheel of his car in the garage area, below.

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Everyones favorite Australian NASCAR driver… oh wait, he’s the ONLY Australian driver…. Marcos Ambrose, takes a nap in his car as he waits for practice to begin.

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 800iso, f4, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

After practice I made my way to the roof of the speedway to shoot what always ends up being a wild and crazy ARCA race.

Below, ARCA Racing Series driver Brett Hudson spins during the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

From the roof you could really see how dark the track was as ARCA Racing Series driver Bobby Gerhart (5) led the field during the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

A big reason for my success with always capturing the crazy crash shots I get is because I don’t allow myself to be distracted while shooting. Well until today…

In the middle stages of what had been a rather boring race I felt my Blackberry vibrate in my pocket, with the cars all spread out the chances of a crash weren’t very high so I made the mistake of grabbing it to check my texts.

It was my good friend David Griffin who was at home watching the race, the text simply said “Boring!”

Just as I was starting to reply to him with, “yea I know” out of the corner of my eye I saw the car of ARCA Racing Series driver Chad Hackenbracht flip over and slam into the turn four wall. By the time I dropped my phone and threw up the camera the car had already rolled back over onto its wheels leaving me with the below photo.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

I was instantly livid with myself (and you too David!) for allowing a distraction to get the best of me and cause me to miss a great photo.

Below is a photo of the screen of my phone showing the text which ruined my day as well as my reply.

After that I turned my phone to silent and got back to work.

A short while later there would be a big pileup coming off turn four involving the cars of Maryeve Dufault (12), Steve Blackburn (68), Steve Arpin (25), Milka Duno (63), Nick Igdalsky (23) and Bryan Silas (11).

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

In the end the win would go to long time ARCA Racing Series driver Bobby Gerhart, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/200th, Manual

After a short break between races it was time for the Budweiser Shootout, a race where no points are awarded so it is all about the money. Races like that usually end up having lots of action as the teams don’t have to worry about losing points by crashing or being too agressive.

Below, the field of 24 drivers walk out onto the main stage for driver introductions prior to the race.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) and Tony Stewart (14) lead the field to the green flag to begin the Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Manual

After the above photo I quickly changed cameras to capture a fisheye view of the start of the Budweiser Shootout.

Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

The new smooth surface of the race track created a new form of racing where two cars lined up with each other could bump their way ahead of the rest of the pack and turn incredibly fast speeds. While high speeds are good having the entire field spread out around the track was pretty boring.

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Burton (31) leads teammate Kevin Harvick (29) during the Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

The hardcore bump drafting the drivers did took a lot of skill and the slightest bump in the wrong spot would cause both cars to lose control and crash like in the below photo of Mark Martin (5) and Kyle Busch (18) crashing in turn two.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

After the crash Kyle Busch would head to the garage area for repairs.

Well if he could find the garage!

After making a wrong turn Busch would find himself driving on the public roads in the infield of the track, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/320th, Manual

After several minutes of driving round he would eventually find his way to the garage.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/320th, Manual

Below, Michael Waltrip kicks up a cloud of dirt and grass after he spun off track into the turn four grass.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

On the last lap Denny Hamlin found himself going below the yellow line as he attempted to win the race, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

While Hamlin would end up being the first car in a photo finish to cross the line he would be disqualified for the move which gave the victory to Kurt Busch.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Manual

Below, Kurt Busch celebrates with a burnout on the finish line.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

After the smokey burnout Busch climbed atop his car to celebrate for the fans.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/1000th, Manual

Then it was over to victory lane to celebrate for the photographers, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

After the long day of shooting I was able to sleep in Sunday morning as the only thing to shoot would be Sprint Cup qualifying for the Daytona 500.

Below, Kyle Busch jokingly pretending to kick the car of Tony Stewart as Stewart drives towards him on pit road during qualifying for the Daytona 500.

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Manual

The mass of media shooting on pit road was a little crazy so I incorporated them into my photo as Jeff Gordon (below) climbed from his car after his lap.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/250th, Manual

Jimmie Johnson heads towards the garage following his qualifying lap, below.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 320iso, f8, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

The top two qualifiers ended up being Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) and Jeff Gordon (24).

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual

After two days off at the track it was back to work Wednesday for practice. Practice would start nearly five hours late after persistent rain storms would wreak havoc on the schedule.

Below, the car of Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch reflects off a puddle of water in the garage area during a rain delay.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 125iso, f3.2, 1/1000th, Manual

Once the practice finally began I headed out to turn four to shoot some shots of the drivers drafting.

Below is a close up shot of the cars of Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch bump drafting through the turn.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

And here is a close up view of the front bumper on Busch’s Toyota showing the paint worn off from the physical racing.

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 640iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

This year would mark the 10 year anniversary of the death of the sports larger icon, Dale Earnhardt Sr. With it being such a big story I would spend all weekend looking for any photos to go along with the story.

Below, #3 flags of Dale Earnhardt Sr fly a few yards away from the turn four wall which took the life of Earnhardt on Feb. 18, 2001.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f4.5, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Back in the garage I shot the below frame of driver Clint Bowyer as he is lit by the setting sun as he drove out to the track to practice.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 640iso, f5, 1/2500th, Manual

Below, I wonder if Casey Mears sponsor, Geico Insurance, covers blown engines….. He would blow up two engines on back to back days and not qualify for the Daytona 500.

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 3200iso, f4, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Everyones favorite under achieving female driver Danica Patrick walks through the garage prior to Nationwide Series practice, below.

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f3.2, 1/1600th, Manual

I remember being at my first Daytona 500 back in 1998 and seeing a eerily similar Dale Earnhardt Sr look a like walking through the garage area. Since Earnhardt died I hadn’t seen the guy again, until today when I saw him riding a golf cart in the infield, below. Tell me that isn’t creepy as hell!

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f4, 1/320th, Aperture Priority

Thursday would be the qualifying races which would determine the starting order for the 500.

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driversRyan Newman (39) and Paul Menard (27) lead the field at the start of race one of the Gatorade Duel at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

I liked the abstract look of the below photo with fans in the grandstands watching the race as fans 10 stories below walked through the concourse with their shadows.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Kurt Busch would maintain his winning ways by taking the victory in what was a rather boring race one.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

In race two the action would be much better.

Below, Brad Keselowski takes a high speed slide through turn three during race two.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 640iso, f6.3, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Joey Logano flies through the air after nailing the inside wall coming out of the tri-oval towards turn one, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 500iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Below, on the last lap of the second race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon (right) goes low as David Ragan (6) and Trevor Bayne (21) crash during race two of the Gatorade Duel at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Jeff Burton celebrates in victory lane (below) after winning race two of the Gatorade Duels.

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

The next day would be a semi long day of Sprint Cup practice, Nationwide practice and then closing out with the Truck Series race under the lights.

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon (right) talks with crew chief Alan Gustafson as crew members work to repair damage to the car in the garage from the previous days last lap accident during practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Below, Kasey Kahne sits in his car as he waits to head out on track for practice.

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f4, 1/320th, Aperture Priority

With all the heavy bump drafting the drivers were doing on track it would require nearly all the teams to be making repairs to dented up front ends of the cars such as in the below photo with crew members working on the car of Regan Smith.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Juan Pablo Montoya mean mugs for the camera as he prepares to pull out of the garage and head on track for practice, below.

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Ok here are a few highlights from the Truck Series race under the lights…

Below, Sparks fly as NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers Travis Kvapil (5), Ron Hornaday (33), Brendan Gaughan (62), Jason White (23), Shane Sieg (93), Todd Bodine (30) and T.J. Bell (50) are involved in a multi truck crash during the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Below, Truck Series drivers David Starr (81) and Justin Lofton (77) crash coming out of turn four towards the tri-oval.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers James Buescher (31), Austin Dillon (3), Chris Fontaine (84), Kyle Busch (18) and Parker Kligerman (29) crash during the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

The big winner of the race would be Michael Waltrip who would take the checkered flag ten years to the day of the Daytona 500 that he would win while losing team owner (and good friend) Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

Waltrip climbs from his truck to celebrate in victory lane, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 6400iso, f4, 1/250th, Manual

The next day would be the Nationwide Series race. Here are a few highlights…

Below, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Landon Cassill slides through the infield grass after spinning out during the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f6.3, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Below, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Justin Allgaier loses a tire as he pulls onto pit road after hitting the outside wall during the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Last years Nationwide Series champion Brad Keselowski would get his 2011 season off to a bad start by getting turned sideways (below) and spinning into the infield grass.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f6.3, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Keselowski would end up hitting the outside wall and then sliding down into the grass where the front end of his Dodge kicked up one hell of an impressive cloud of dirt and grass. Don’t forget to replace your divots Brad!

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

In the end, for the fourth straight year, the winner would be Tony Stewart, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f6.3, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, all the Nationwide Series drivers who didn’t win the race climb from their cars back in the garage area.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f6.3, 1/1600th, Manual

And now we are finally down to the last day of my nearly two weeks in Daytona. The Daytona 500.

Prior to the race I shot gorgeous actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley from the upcoming Transformers movie as she spoke at a press conference in the media room, below.

Nikon D3s, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

And for all my female readers here is some eye candy for you with Transformers co star Josh Duhamel as he toured the Sprint Cup garage area, below.

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

About an hour prior to the race I made my way to the top of the roof to get all set up for the race.

Below, Country singer Brad Paisley performs a concert for the fans.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Manual

Prior to the start of the race the US Air Force Thunderbirds performed a fly over above the track.

Nikon D700, 10.5-17mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

Below, A great crowd looks on as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kurt Busch (22) and Jeff Gordon (24) lead the field to the green flag during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

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

On lap three of the Daytona 500 all the fans held up three fingers (below) in the air in memory of Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

I totally predicted this race to be rather boring until the end but was quickly proven wrong as Kyle Busch would get spun by Michael Waltrip on lap four, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

That would be nothing though as 20 laps later all hell would break loose in turn four with a 13 car pileup including drivers Brian Keselowski (92), Andy Lally (71), Joe Nemechek (87), Jimmie Johnson (48), Matt Kenseth (17), Greg Biffle (16), Mark Martin (5), Brian Vickers (83), Marcos Ambrose (9), David Reutimann (00) and a few others.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers race through turn two past an F-18 Hornet during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

The two car pack racing was the only way to run fast at the race which was odd to watch but made for interesting photos at times.

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Ryan Newman (39), Joey Logano (20), Clint Bowyer (33), Jeff Burton (31), Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) and Kasey Kahne (4) draft during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) pulls onto pit road past a number three painted in the grass in honor of his late father Dale Earnhardt Sr during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jamie McMurray (1) leads Juan Pablo Montoya (42) as Matt Kenseth (17) crashes just behind them, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Below, fans stand dangerously close to the catch fence as the field of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers race towards turn one during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Coming off turn four to the tri-oval seemed to be the trouble spot in this years race as I would be in the perfect spot to get several crashes throughout the race.

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Greg Biffle (16) and Juan Pablo Montoya (42)crash during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

After hitting the outside wall Biffle would slide down into the infield grass and plow through the #3 painted in the infield. Whoops…

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f5.6, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Then he would plow across the giant Daytona logo in the infield. Double whoops!

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Biffle would walk away from the accident.

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

In the late stages of the race fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr would be leading the field. I couldn’t help but start thinking of how great it would be if he could hold on and take the victory in the race that took his fathers life 10 years earlier. It wouldn’t end up happening though as Earnhardt would have to pit for a flat tire and would then get caught up in a crash.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Below, Clint Bowyer (33) leads the field through turn three with a few laps remaining.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

In what would end up being a very surprising finish, unknown rookie driver Trevor Bayne who had just turned 20 the day prior would take the checkered flag in an extremely unlikely but very popular victory. I rarely get worked up during a shoot but even I was screaming in celebration as he crossed the finish line, below.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Below, Bayne does a burnout as the fans look on.

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

After the burnout Bayne would stop in the infield grass to climb atop his car (below) and celebrate with his team who had last won a race nearly 10 years ago.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 2000iso, f4, 1/2000th, Manual

Then it was over to victory lane (after he eventually found it) to celebrate as his crew doused him with gatorade.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 2000iso, f6.3, 1/2500th, Manual

A few hours later after an hour long press conference with reporters, Bayne headed back to victory lane to finish the obligatory photos for the photographers.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/320th, Manual

And that wraps up a wild and exciting Daytona 500.

Next up for me is the season opening race for the NHRA in Pomona, CA.

Here are some web clips from the weekend…

One Response to “Trevor rides the Bayne Train to Victory Lane”

  1. Erica says:

    The Dale Earnhardt Sr. look-a-like is uber creepy. Yikes.

Leave a Reply