It has been three years since I made the trip to the rolling hills of the wine country to cover NASCAR as they raced around the winding turns of Infineon Raceway. NASCAR has 38 races a year and only two of them occur on tracks with left and right turns. This is the first road course of the season. It makes things a pain in the ass for drivers as well as us photographers.

Initially you may think shooting any type of racing is basically the same thing and to a point you are right, but with a road course NASCAR race the name of the game is to shoot photos to illustrate road racing. Why go to a unique track and just take the same type photos you take at all the other tracks?

The race wasn’t initially on my schedule to shoot but about a week before I added it to my schedule. Instead of covering all three days as I normally do, this race would be a one day show for me.

With that in mind I decided to go all out and put in a complete effort to make the one day worthwhile. I decided I was gonna carry 3 bodies and a full assortment of lenses including a 10.5-17mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 400mm and 600mm.

The day got off to a less than desired start when first, the Dennys I located on GPS and drove to had been shut down (damn you economy!) resulting in me having to settle for McDonalds instead. Even worse though was while sitting in the media room before the race I noticed that I had left my batteries sitting on the charger in my hotel room 46 miles away in San Francisco! Luckily my coworker Kyle Terada had extra batteries to loan me for the race. Without his help I would have been totally screwed, thanks Kyle!

Without an assistant to help out I was gonna have to carry it all (as well as my backpack with my laptop) over a mile up hill from the media room to the turn where I was going to begin the race.

Thanks to fellow photographer Jose Carlos Fajardo for the photos below showing me as I am packed down with way too much gear!

Just outside the media room I am all smiles before making my pilgrimage to turn four.


Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo

About a quarter mile into the uphill walk I don’t look so happy.


Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo

A half mile into it walking up the steps of the grandstands and I am totally not having fun. (Everyone staring at me and asking “can you see the moon with that lens” made me wanna kill myself!)


Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo

Ok on to the race.

I set up in turn four for the beginning of the race. It was a nice scenic spot that would make for an interesting shot of the whole field racing.


D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1000th

After a few laps of wide angle shots I grabbed the 400mm and moved about 30 yards past the turn and shot as the cars were clipping the inside curb and throwing the car on two wheels. Once again my goal was to get photos showing unique images you can only get at road courses. Cars going on two wheels (that aren’t crashing) is definently a road course only shot.

Below, Ryan Newman clips the curb in turn four while leading teammate Tony Stewart.


D700, 400mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/2000th

Kyle Busch was running a special paint scheme promoting the movie Transformers and in the below photo he really aired the car out.


D700, 400mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/2000th

Below, Martin Truex Jr plays follow the leader as a pack of cars race through the turn.


D700, 400mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/2000th

After several more laps shooting in that spot I headed up the hill back towards turn three. Turn three is a cool spot where you can get numerous angles just by walking a few yards between shots.

Towards the bottom of the turn you are shooting up at it and get nice clean backgrounds with just the sky visible such as the below shot of A.J. Allmendinger as he crests the hill while a plane flies in the sky.


D700, 70-200mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/2000th

Walking a little bit up the hill to the turn gets a similar type shot except more of a side angle like in the below shot of Kasey Kahne as he lifts a tire while turning.


D700, 70-200mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/1600th

Walking just a further up the hill to the turn you can get shots of the cars really lifting the tire as they hit the curb. Below, Greg Biffle takes the turn on two wheels.


D700, 70-200mm, 250iso, f2.8, 1/6400th

From the same spot as the above shot if you shoot them going away you get a nice background of the rolling hills as well as some of the crowd. Below you can see what I’m talking about as Tony Stewart prepares to drop down the hill into turn four.


D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f3.2, 1/3200th

After a few minutes at the top of the hill I began to make my way down back towards turn four. While walking I stopped briefly to throw on the wide angle lens and shoot a vertical angle to include the catch fence and add an element to the below shot of Kasey Kahne.


D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f3.2, 1/3200th

Near the bottom of the hill I looked up and noticed the cars would pop up from below the horizon and it could potentially make for an interesting shot.

Below, David Stremme crests the hill as he exits turn three.


D700, 400mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/2000th

Once at the bottom of the hill I shot for a few minutes to get rear angles of the cars clipping the curbs.

Below, Patrick Carpentier gets his damaged car up on two wheels as he takes the turn.


D700, 70-200mm, 250iso, f2.8, 1/4000th

Below, by throwing on the wide angle lens it provided a nice scenic photo as David Reutimann led Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard through the turn.


D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f3.5, 1/3200th

By moving a few feet away I was able to shoot dead side angles with nice crowd and mountain backgrounds like the below shot of Robby Gordon taking the turn.


D700, 70-200mm, 250iso, f2.8, 1/8000th

Looking back up the hill through the 400mm lens gave me the below angle as Matt Kenseth led a pack of cars over turn three and down the hill towards turn four.


D700, 400mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/2500th

Back at the exit of turn four I threw on the fisheye lens and shot through the catch fence as the drivers raced a few feet away from the tire wall I was leaning against.

Below, Patrick Carpentier races by.


D700, 10.5-17mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/2500th

By holding the camera up high over my head I was able to produce a cool angle as Jeff Gordon raced by in the below shot.


D700, 10.5-17mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/2500th

The whole time I spent in the turn four area I noticed a little miniature golf course set up in a sponsor suite area. I was hot, tired and lazy and kept thinking of excuses not to go shoot the photo but finally I forced myself because I knew I would be mad at myself if I didn’t shoot it. I headed over to the entrance of the suites and hustled past the security like I was allowed to be in there and climbed the stairs to the top of the suite and shot down as children played golf while the cars raced by in the background.


D700, 10.5-17mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/2500th

The shot would have been much cooler had I waited for a larger pack of cars to be racing in the background but with the potential for security to realize I’m not supposed to be in there and come grab me I wasn’t gonna stay there for more than the 30 seconds I did.

After leaving the suites I walked about a half mile through a tunnel to the inside portion of the track and once again found myself walking up a big hill with all my gear as I searched for a cool spot to shoot from.

I came to a spot between turn two and three with an interesting background of all dirt. The angle was interesting due to the fact you really couldn’t see the track giving the appearance of the cars essentially looking liek they were cut out and pasted onto a dirt backdrop.

Below, Denny Hamlin races towards turn three.


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

By shooting the cars a bit further down the background was completely clean and made for a unique shot that you can’t get at any other track.

Below, Carl Edwards heads towards turn three.


D700, 70-200mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/500th

From the same spot using a wide angle lens it made for a really cool shot (below) as Greg Biffle leads a pack of cars through the course.


D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f3.5, 1/1250th

Going away also gave a nice angle as the drivers poured into turn three.


D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f3.5, 1/2500th

By throwing on a 400mm lens and underexposing by a few stops I was able to get a more interesting silhouette shot as the drivers went into the turn with the sun reflecting off the rear windows


D700, 400mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/4000th

From my spot on top of the track I used the 600mm to shoot the below shots with fans in the foreground looking on as cars roughly a half mile away raced towards turn ten.


D700, 600mm, 320iso, f4, 1/4000th

From there I made the half mile walk from my spot back to the media room to transmit some images and get prepared to shoot the finish of the race.

After about 20 minutes of that I went to the top of the grandstands overlooking the finish line and victory lane to see if it would be a good spot to shoot the finish from.

Below, I toyed around using silhouettes of the fans in the foreground as Kevin Harvick raced by.


D700, 400mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/800th

Below was the view from the top of the stands looking right with cars taking the hairpin turn 11 with all the car haulers parked in the garage area.


D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/3200th

Below, a crew member for Jimmie Johnson pushes used tires back towards the Goodyear Tire shop for inspection.


D700, 400mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/800th

There were large billboards heading into turn 11 and I noticed one for Old Spice, the sponsor for Tony Stewart. I used the 400mm and waited for him to race by the billboard.


D700, 400mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/1600th

Tony Stewart (14) had a good day but it was Kasey Kahne (9) who had an even better as he was able to hold off Tony Stewart and win the race.


D700, 400mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/6400th

Below, Kasey Kahne does a burnout as he celebrates his first victory in over a year.


D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5, 1/4000th

The wind was blowing the wrong way so he ended up being cloaked in the smoke as his crew celebrated.


D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f4, 1/8000th

At the end of the celebration he finally emerged from the smoke providing me with atleast a semi decent photo.


D700, 400mm, 400iso, f5, 1/5000th

From there he made his way to victory lane. I shot the burnout from the roof of the media center so I had to haul ass and climb down a narrow ladder and down two floors of stairs and over to victory lane. Even with running I barely made it in time. Below you can see I ran into victory lane alongside Kahne driving. Of course I shot as I ran in.


D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/125th


D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/250th

With just seconds to spare I found a spot to shoot from and grabbed my camera just as he climbed from his car to celebrate his first road course win.

Below, you see the Budweiser beer flying through the air as he signaled “number one.”


D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f4, 1/4000th

Then the confetti flew as he held his fist high.


D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f4, 1/4000th

Crew members also got in on the celebration as one received a beer bath from his teammate.


D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/1600th

After that I ran into the media room to transmit some of the celebration photos from victory lane. After sending a bunch of photos I headed back out to shoot some more shots.

Below, Richard Petty (left) points towards victory lane as he walks with Kasey Kahne following a press conference in the media room.


D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f8, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

Below, the shadow from the hat of Richard Petty is visible on the wall of victory lane.


D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/800th

Below is the standard victory lane shot with car owner Richard Petty (left) posing with driver Kasey Kahne with the race trophy.


D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f9, 1/250th with SB800 Flash

That wraps up my one day trip to wine country for NASCAR. Next Cup race on my schedule is at one of my favorite tracks Daytona!

Here are some web clips from the weekend.








Posted in California, Me, NASCAR, Racing, San Francisco, Scenic, Sports   | 9 Comments

9 responses to “NASCAR Sonoma”

  1. Hey mark, great photo’s! I have a question to; why don’t u use a 200-400mm f4 zoom instead of all the huge zooms ?

  2. Joey Wilson says:

    Kasey Kahne’s winners circle shots are excellent…nice to see a driver celebrating without the team or the checkerboard wall behind them !! Nice gallery!

  3. Curt says:

    Mark, Just wanted to say thank you for posting your wonderful images. It looks like the D700 and you are getting along great…

  4. Grand PRIX says:

    […] more here:  NASCAR Sonoma at Mark J. Rebilas Blog Share and […]

  5. Batman says:


  6. Alan Stewart says:

    Great job as always, dude.

  7. Nick Dungan says:

    A Very interesting Entry Mark,

    Its interesting to see you shoot a motorsports event which isn’t an Oval Track, Much more like what we shoot over here in the UK, Just sunnier!

    Some of the shutter speeds you use still amazes me, we cant get away with anything much faster than 1/400 if you can see the spokes of the wheels.


  8. Ted says:


    Great photos and reporting as always. Looks like you are using the D700 all the time and not the D3. You use a wide variety of ISO’s do you manually change it or uses an auto setting? Thanks and keep up the great work!

Leave a Reply

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!