NASCAR kicks off 2012 in jet dryer exploding Daytona 500

February always means two things for me. Superbowl and Daytona. I already did the Superbowl blog so lets take a look back at an action packed trip to the World Center of Speed. The Daytona International Speedway.

The first race of a new NASCAR season always has plenty of storylines. New drivers with new teams, new paint jobs and sponsors are always a big deal at the beginning of the season. For 2012 the big story was by far the first Sprint Cup race for Miss Danica Patrick.

In the 5 years I have been shooting here I’ve learned people either love Danica or they hate her.

If you hate her then this blog will piss you off because with her being the story she was I shot tons of pics of her. *Disclaimer Given*

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/320th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick pulls out of the garage to head on track for Daytona 500 practice.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5, 1/640th, Manual

Looking at the damaged car of Sprint Cup series driver Kasey Kahne (below) makes his new sponsorship make so much sense…

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/640th, Manual

Heres some highlights from the Twin Qualifier races held on the Thursday before the 500.

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Danica Patrick (10), Trevor Bayne (21) and Mike Wallace (37) go low to avoid the crashing cars of David Gilliland (38), Juan Pablo Montoya (42) and Paul Menard (27) during race one of the Gatorade Duel at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D700, 850mm, 400iso, f7.1, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Danica actually did a respectable job during the race but in one of the few remaining laps she would get punted and spin off the exit of turn two and nail the inside wall, below.

Nikon D700, 850mm, 400iso, f6.3, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Below, NASCAR champion Tony Stewart celebrates winning race one of the Gatorade Duels at Daytona….

Nikon D700, 850mm, 400iso, f6.3, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

….while a tow truck drops off what remained of Danicas car back in the garage, below.

Nikon D700, 850mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/12500th, Aperture Priority

Below, Below, NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth celebrates winning race one of the Gatorade Duels at Daytona.

Nikon D700, 850mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

One of the more exciting races of Speedweeks is the Truck Series race held under the lights.

Below, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers Paulie Harraka (5) and Jason Leffler (18) crash during the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

One of the biggest crashes of the weekend would be a single truck incident involving driver Miguel Paludo (32) who would get loose off turn four and head towards the inside wall….

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

Paludo would impact the inside soft wall with enough force to push the wall all the way in upon impact…

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

…the wall would rebound and send Paludo helicoptering through the air…

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

… the impact was so big that it ripped the radiator completely from the truck which added to my shot by putting a nice background behind the truck…

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

….in a shower of sparks Paludo would finally land and continue spinning…

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

…towards the end of the crash the truck would burst into flames.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

Below, Miguel Paludo waves to the fans as he walks away uninjured to a waiting ambulance to be checked out.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

After that savage crash you would think the drivers might calm down and race easier?

False!

Below, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Parker Kligerman (29) and Ross Chastain (08) crash during the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

Shortly after that crash we would wad up several more trucks in the tri-oval as NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers Brendan Gaughan (2), David Starr (81), Ryan Sieg (39), Nelson Piquet Jr (30) and Parker Kligerman (29) crashed during the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D700, 6400mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Late in the race it seemed Johnny Sauter would be in line to take the checkered flag but while leading he would get turned from behind…

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

… and tag the outside wall taking him out of the race.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

On the last lap of the race we would have the biggest crash of the night when Joey Coulter would get turned and go airborne into the catch fence, below. The crash occurred directly below my shooting position which is the worst spot for me to be able to get shots. Check out the thick steel catch fence post snapping as the truck flies into it!

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

Luckily Coulter would land on the ground right side up and slide to a spark filled stop. Coulter would be uninjured.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

The big winner of the race would be a driver I never heard of, John King, below.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/400th, Manual

The truck race set the action bar pretty high for the remaining two races of the weekend.

Lets move on to the Nationwide Series race where Danica Patrick would be starting on the pole for the first time in her NASCAR career.

Below, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Danica Patrick (7) follows the pace car alongside Trevor Bayne prior to the green flag of the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D700, 280mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Danica has shown some promise on the restrictor plate tracks so I was very hopeful that she would have a strong day and contend for the win.

Early in the race that would all go to hell as Patrick would get turned by her teammate while bump drafting and crash into the turn three wall, below.

Nikon D3S, 850mm,400iso, f7.1, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Her Go Daddy Chevy would suffer some pretty heavy front end damage that would destroy her chances of contending for the win.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 400iso, f7.1, 1/2500th, Manual

Lots of races have their trouble spot for the drivers. For this race the problem area seemed to be in turn four. That worked perfectly for me since my shooting position high above the track was the perfect position to cover all the turn four carnage.

Below, Nationwide Series driver Justin Allgaier (31) is lifted off the ground as he crashes along with the cars of Kenny Wallace (09), Reed Sorenson (52), Michael Annett (43), Mike Wallace (01) and Denny Hamlin (18) during a turn 4 pileup during the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway

Nikon D3S, 500mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 500iso, f7.15.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

A few laps later Sam Hornish Jr (12) would spin in the middle of traffic off turn four, below.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

The last lap of the race would provide us with a very interesting finish when NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers Kyle Busch (54), Ricky Stenhouse Jr (6), Cole Whitt (88), Kurt Busch (1), Kasey Kahne (38), Joey Logano (20), Trevor Bayne (60), Tony Stewart (33) and Elliott Sadler (2) would crash coming out of the final turn on the last lap during the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway. If you look all the way on the right corner of the shot James Buescher (30) who was in 11th place in the last turn on the last lap.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

The field would all crash in the turn.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Allowing James Buescher to pick up his first career Nationwide Series victory.

Buescher would park his car in the infield grass below me and climb atop his car with arms raised. His shadow in the grass alongside him added to the shot.

Nikon D3S, 600mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3S, 600mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

That brings us to the final day of the weekend, the Daytona 500.

Rain was in the forecast right around race time but NASCAR always does everything to get all the pre-race festivities out of the way so that when the rain eventually stops they can get right to the racing.

Below, recording artist Lenny Kravitz performs a concert prior to the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Manual

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson holds daughter Genevieve Johnson as he reaches out to high five a young fan during driver introductions…..

Nikon D700, 70-2000mm, 250iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

….while Tony Stewart goes the other route and instead stares down his adoring fans.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 250iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

A wall of fans (below) photograph driver Carl Edwards during driver introductions.

Nikon D700, 850mm, 250iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

With perfect timing, the rain began pouring down within minutes of the scheduled start time to the Daytona 500.

Below, Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch is led back to the garage with his umbrella holding PR rep.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/40s0th, Manual

When you see the NASCAR officials walking off pit road you know its gonna be awhile, below.

Nikon D700, 320mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

With rain in the forecast for the rest of the day they decided to call it a day and reschedule the race for prime time on Monday night.

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick passes her crew members on pit road prior to the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. With her being such a big name and it being her first career Sprint Cup race I would be keeping a close eye on her all night.

Nikon D3S,600mm, 8000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Below, in front of a surprisingly full Monday night crowd, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle take the green flag to begin the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nikon D700, 5000mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

Usually the first half of a race like the Daytona 500 can be quite boring since the drivers realize you can’t win the Daytona 500 until the end of the race but you can lose it on the very first lap.

In this Daytona 500 there were no losers until the second lap when Jimmie Johnson (48) would get turned into the wall. In the below shot you can see his car sliding back across the track. There is always a chance the car will slide down across the track and nobody else will crash….

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

…. that would not be the case this time as Danica Patrick (10) would lose control….

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

….her car would head right to the outside wall and for a second it appeared as if she may save the car….

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

…. until the car of David Ragan (34) would slide into the crash right into the path of Danicas out of control car….

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

….. along with Trevor Bayne and Kurt Busch, Ragan and Patrick would slide into the infield….

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

….While Danica’s car was not damaged enough to be out of the race it was bad enough that she would spend many laps behind the wall for repairs and have no shot at a decent finish.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Greg Biffle leads the field as Terry Labonte (32) spins off of turn four.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

During caution periods at Daytona I set my cameras down and run a few feet away from the photographers platform to my laptop set up where I can download, edit and transmit images within minutes of their occurrence. If I work fast I can almost always get the images of a crash downloaded, edited, captioned and posted to the wire before the field gets back under the green flag.

While editing images during a caution, as I always do, I kept my radio and headset on to hear what was going on. While editing pics I heard the MRN announcers freak out about a crash on the backstretch while the field was circling the track under caution.

While thats incredibly rare it sometimes happens. Then the announcers say how he hit a jet dryer. Thats all I needed to hear to jump up from my computer and up to the photo platform to grab my camera!

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya (in red) runs from his car after hitting a jet dryer under caution during the Daytona 500. Note the jet fuel pouring from the truck and down the banking of the track.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/400th, Manual

Below, Safety crews were quickly on the scene to extinguish the flames to Montoya’s car (left) but then the fuel from the jet dryer ignited and a fire quickly enveloped it….

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

…as the flames followed the jet fuel down the track in a spectacular waterfall of fire….

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

… safety crews were quickly on the scene to put out the flames.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

The safety crews did a great job of getting the flames put out but it caused some pretty big damage to the race track, below.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

After about an hour of cleaning and repairing the track we would get the race under the green once again.

Below, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Aric Almirola goes low to avoid the spinning cars of Casey Mears (13) and Marcos Ambrose (9) exiting the tri-oval.

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 10000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

A few laps later the exit of the tri-oval would once again be the action spot with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Jamie McMurray (1) and Brad Keselowski (2) crashing in a shower of sparks, below.

Nikon D3S, 600mm, 8000iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Manual

And one more time there would be a crash exiting the tri-oval, below, with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers David Reutimann (93), Ryan Newman (39), Ricky Stenhouse Jr (6), Dave Blaney (36) and Tony Stewart (14) crashing in the closing laps of the race.

Nikon D3S, 600mm, 8000iso, f4, 1/800th, Manual

In the end it would be Matt Kenseth leading Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr to his second Daytona 500 victory.

Nikon D3S, 600mm, 8000iso, f4, 1/640th, Manual

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Here are a few shots of the semi boring celebration, below.

Nikon D3S, 600mm, 8000iso, f4, 1/640th, Manual

Nikon D3S, 850mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/400th, Manual

Walking back across the track after editing I had to stop and shoot a few images as the fog rolled in over the empty track that just an hour ago had well over 125 thousand people inside.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/250th, Manual

Next up is NASCAR in Phoenix.

I have a 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!

Leave a Reply