Late race carnage dominates Daytona

My last NASCAR race was back in March in Las Vegas so I had been itching for awhile to get back on the circuit to shoot some stock car action. For the fifth straight year I would be fortunate enough to cover the July Daytona race. Now most of my photographer friends despise this race due to the hot weather and high chance of rain but I honestly love this race. It always makes for great photos and this year would be no different!

Below, NASCAR driver Carl Edwards checks his front end following his qualifying run for the Coke Zero 400 at the Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 500iso, f4.5, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

In the below photo I’d say Mark Martin doesn’t look a day over 100. Martin would win the pole for the race.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 500iso, f4.5, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

For the Nationwide Series race I witnessed one of the weakest Daytona crowds I have ever seen.

Below, NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick lead the field to the green past the sparsely populated front stretch grandstands.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Perhaps all the fans were watching from the backstretch grandstands?

Thats a negative Ghost Rider… as evident by the below shot as Brad Keselowski leads the field down the backstretch.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 2000iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

The first incident of the race would occur early on when Joey Logano (below) would lose control of his car and take a long high speed slide through turn three.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 3200iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

After getting back under green it wasn’t very long before we had another caution, this time courtesy of Ricky Carmichael getting spun and making hard contact with the turn two wall, below.

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

Lets fast forward to the last lap. After a relatively tame race with few cautions it would all go to hell in a hand basket coming towards the checkered flag when NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Danica Patrick (7) would get turned sideways then slide into traffic taking out the cars of  Elliott Sadler (2), Steve Wallace (66), Tony Stewart (9) and Mike Wallace (01) on the last lap during the Subway Jalapeno 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

The pack of cars would all make hard contact with the outside wall. In the below photo there’s no cropping to the photo as they are completely filling the frame….

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

…it quickly became way too close for the long glass so I switched cameras as fast as I could to another body which had a 70-200mm lens to get the below shot of drivers Steve Wallace (66) and Brian Scott (11) sliding through the tri-oval infield.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

As the multi car crash continued past me I once again grabbed the camera with the long glass to get the below frame of Danica Patrick driving alongside a ball of fire from another crashing car. Damn you catch fence!

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

With the big crash I totally forgot to shoot the finish of the race and had no idea who the winner was till Joey Logano (below) started doing a celebratory burnout on the front stretch.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

Below, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Joey Logano celebrates after winning the Subway Jalapeno 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/320th, Manual

That wrapped up a late night of shooting. Lets move on to Saturday.

In the below photo shot by my buddy Kevin Liles you can see me all geared up as I make my way from pit road to the roof of the speedway prior to the start of the Coke Zero 400.

Photo by Kevin Liles

Driver introductions were set up where the drivers walked across a platform through a large crowd of fans.

Below, fans go crazy as their hero Dale Earnhardt Jr walks past high fiving everyone.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

In standard Daytona fashion a massive American flag was displayed across the tri-oval grass during the national anthem.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Below, pole sitter Mark Martin and Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne lead the field at the drop of the green.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 640iso, f7.1, 1/200th, Aperture Priority

A few laps later Trevor Baynes evening would come to a rough end as he would get turned and plow into the turn one wall.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 2000iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Bayne would be ok and would limp the damaged Ford Fusion back to the garage area (below) where his night would end.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 2000iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Standard Florida sunset shot….

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Points leader Carl Edwards (below) would have a rough night as he would spin coming off turn four…..

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

…..and slap the inside safer barrier….

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 4000iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

….and finally come to a stop at the entrance of pit road where Edwards would re-fire his car and spit out a large fireball.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 4000iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Below, the grandstand lights flicker off of Lake Lloyd in the infield as Martin Truex Jr (56) receives a bump draft from teammate David Reutimann (00).

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

I would get more fire later in the race as Andy Lally shot a large flame from his exhaust as he pitted for fuel, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

For the most part this race would be like the previous evenings Nationwide race where there were a few small incidents throughout the race but there’d be no fireworks till the closing laps.

Below, Jeff Gordon (24) spins in the middle of the lead pack with a few laps to go. Somehow Gordon would not make contact with the wall or any other drivers.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

The caution would end up leading to overtime where the action always gets wilder.

On the first green white checkered attempt they made it to turn two where  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Mark Martin (5), Martin Truex Jr (56), Travis Kvapil (38), Clint Bowyer (33), Joe Nemechek (87), Landon Cassill (51), Regan Smith (78), Tony Stewart (14) and Brian Vickers (83) would crash as Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) goes low to avoid

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

This would of course bring out the caution and lead to another attempt to finish the race.

This time they’d make a full lap without incident bringing out the white flag and ensuring the race would be ending.

On the last lap in turn three a pile up would happen with Landon Cassill (51), Marcos Ambrose (9) and David Reutimann (00) crashing as Tony Stewart (14) and Brian Vickers (83) would go low to avoid the accident.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

NASCAR didn’t throw the caution on the crash since it was behind the leaders and would set us up for a race to the checkers….

…actually it ended up being a race to the wreckers as all hell would break loose coming off turn four with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kyle Busch (18), Jeff Gordon (24), Kevin Harvick (29) and Paul Menard (27) in front of the crashing cars of Jamie McMurray (1), Juan Pablo Montoya (42), Jimmie Johnson (48), Dale Earnhardt Jr (88), Jeff Burton (31), A.J. Allmendinger (43) and Ryan Newman (39) on the last lap during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

Below, Jimmie Johnson (48), Dale Earnhardt Jr (88), Jeff Burton (31) all spin coming to the checkered flag.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

Even though there were cars crashing everywhere I would switch cameras to shoot the finish of the race as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan would take the checkered flag ahead of teammate Matt Kenseth, below.

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

After shooting the finish shot I quickly aimed back at the crash to see what was going on.

Cars were everywhere spinning and sliding in the tri-oval, below.

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

Lost in the excitement of the big crash was the fact that David Ragan had just picked up his first career Sprint Cup win.

Anytime someone wins their first race the celebration is usually pretty good.

First up Ragan would go slide through the race logo…..

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

….then come up on the track to do a large burnout….

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

….and finally over to victory lane to climb from the car and celebrate with his team.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 6400iso, f5.6, 1/320th, Manual

Following the race while walking back to the infield media center I would hit the world with my debut attempt at “Planking.” In case you have no clue what planking is the basic object is to lay flat as a board in various random places. I figured across the finish line in Daytona would be a cool spot to do one so face down in the tri-oval I went!

Photo by Chris Graythen

And with that my Daytona weekend would come to a close. Next NASCAR for me isn’t until Talladega this fall.

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2 Responses to “Late race carnage dominates Daytona”

  1. Dan says:

    Mark , great shots! How do you travel with both a 400 and 600 lens? Surely both don’t fit in carry on so one must go in the checked luggage?

  2. Glen S says:

    Mark,
    Thanks for sharing your shots. Though I am begining to hate you…
    I should just copy then cut and paste the usual “Great shots! Fantastic, ect”
    Then I look at my shots from the Friday and Saturday night dirt bull rings here in the south, trying to get the WB right when there are three different types of light on one pole, working with a 1DMKII with a top ISO of 3200 (and lots of grain) and a 70-200 2.8 canon, shutter speeds of 1/60th or less, fighting the dust clouds, leaning out of the inside chain link fence opening just long enough to hopefully catch at least the first two or three cars and ducking back in before the red dirt comes swirling all around.

    Then I look at your shots and just shake my head and just wish I could get at least one shot almost as good as all of yours.

    Do me a favor, just to make me feel good, show a shot where you cut a car in half, slightly out of focus, a pole right down the middle of the shot, anything to let me know that you too somethings mess up. ;)

    All kidding a side, Mark, you do great work and it gives me something to strive for. Keep it up buddy and I will keep coming here to get the inspiration that you and your shots give me.

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