Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Daytona 500 Road Trip Recap

What are we willing to do to pursue the things we love? In my case, I was willing to drive solo 2,047 miles on a round trip to the Daytona 500 to have the chance to shoot the race at this legendary cathedral of speed. It's hard to believe that it has already been a week since I was there and I am still trying to process all that happened during the trip. When I made the decision to go, I had major doubts about whether I would be able to handle such a long trip driving on my own. I love to travel and I really love to drive, but this trip tested me in ways I could not have foreseen beforehand. All's well that ends well and while I was not in a position to produce photos that Associated Press wanted to put on the wire, I still shot nearly 2900 images from Friday through Sunday and am pleased with the work I was able to do. The slideshow with this post includes scenes from the road trip and the racetrack and are in addition to the slideshows I posted previously about the weekend's three race events themselves.

I told the AP person in charge to put me wherever they needed me and brought back pictures of what was available from my viewpoint. Having shot the Indy 500 since 1984, it was odd being a Daytona 500"rookie" shooter and as the weekend went along, I asked myself several times why I had never gone down there before this year. I did not have a good answer. One word describes my trip however: surreal. I left Indy on a Thursday morning after my class at Marian University and the next morning I was standing on the beach in St. Augustine, Florida. The trip back gave me a similar feeling as most of it was during the night, and I only stopped for breaks, fuel and a couple of catnaps on the road. Nineteen hours after leaving Daytona International Speedway, I was back home in Indy, bedraggled but happy that my '99 Integra got me there and back safely.

The most fun I had during the trip involved technology and social media. I posted like crazy on my Twitter account, posted mobile blog notes here and kept a chatter going on Facebook whenever I could. When I got home, I saw that I had done nearly 25 blog posts, including three race reports with photos. I'm not sure who (if anyone) took the time to wade through them all, but I sure had fun doing them!

Scroll down past the slideshow for a few other random thoughts from the trip:

I love the whistle the AEM cold air intake makes on my Integra under acceleration. She turned over 189,000 miles on the odometer this trip.

Bullitt County, Kentucky had me thinking of Steve McQueen, Mustangs and Chargers.

The "See Rock City", "Ruby Falls" and "Lookout Mountain" signs seemed to be everywhere in Tennessee. I recall as a kid these signs were mostly painted on barns but billboard proliferation has apparently replaced most of those. I prefer the barn signs.

The steep, sweeping turn near Monteagle, Tennessee southbound was a sight to behold. I can't imagine driving that in an 18 wheeler. And how do they make brown asphalt in Tennessee? I saw it all over the place around Chattanooga.

Rolling into Georgia and then hitting Atlanta at 6 pm was no picnic. I loved all the pine trees along I-75, but why in the world do they need so many double decker billboards along the interstate? They were a major distraction, especially at night when they were all lit up and hundreds of feet off the ground, poking up above the tree lines.

I found plenty of towns that ended in "-ville" along the way and my favorite was Maxville, Florida. There's a Maxville, Indiana too.

What was everyone burning in Georgia and Florida? It smelled like campfires everywhere. That might explain the "FOG SMOKE" signs in Florida.

I loved the drive on I-10 and I-95 at night in Florida. No billboards. Driving through a canyon of pine trees in the darkness. The hum of my Integra's Magnaflow exhaust with the cruise control set and the music blasting. This is why I love to drive.

On the way back, I stopped outside of Jacksonville at a "Race Trac" convenience store to get fuel and a black guy in a big SUV asked "You got a price on that car?" I wasn't sure what he said at first but my response was "Nah. She's got almost 190,000 miles and is just getting broken in." He responded "That's a sweet car!" I'm thinking the same thing and got back on the road laughing about the encounter.

I turned the counter over for the second time on my Canon 7D during the weekend. That means over 20,000 images since I bought it last April, the majority taken at races.

On the topic of towns ending in "-ville", I'm not sure I would want to live in Barneyville, Georgia, although I am sure it's a nice town. I couldn't help it when images of purple dinosaurs and Don Knotts flashed through my mind though. Glad I am back in Indiana-ville! Now I can plan the next race trip and I am no longer a Daytona 500 rookie.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Back Home Again In Indiana

My #Daytona500 road trip ends safely after 986 miles and 19 hours. 15 hours of seat time, 3 hours for cat naps and 1 for fuel/other breaks! The last hour in blinding rain was really hard work. It's all good.
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Trevor Bayne Takes Daytona 500 As Rookie

In a most remarkable Daytona 500 that went 208 laps rather than the scheduled 200, rookie Trevor Baynes survived the carnage on the race track to prevail for the storied Wood Brothers team in the classicly painted #21 made famous by the "Silver Fox" David Pearson. On a perfect weather day, Baynes got the right drafting assistance at the right time and held off all challengers through the final green-white-checker finish to get to Victory Lane one day after his 20th birthday. On a record setting day for cautions and lead changes, the race was topsy turvy from the very beginning as the "Big One" occurred on lap 28 and took several favorites out of contention right from the beginning. The tandem pushing draft work was a sight to behold as drivers ran inches apart at close to 200 mph in pairs or pairs or fours, or eights - sometimes a pack of 20 would roar by my position in Turn 1 and it was difficult to get them all in the frame.

For my first Daytona 500 experience, I loved every bit of this weekend, but now I must hit the road back to Indy. I know I will be back again and am very appreciative of the opportunity given me by Associated Press to work for them this weekend. And while I did not sell any pictures to AP, I made some new friends, added to my racing photography resume while checking off a Bucket List item. When I get back to Indy this week, I have several thousand images to sift through from the last three days of on track activity, and notes from the long drive or conversations with my racing friends to put into another blog post. Until then, here's my first quick slideshow from today's race. Enjoy. See you at the racetrack!

Let the Daytona 500 Editing Begin!

In the #Daytona500 media center. Backing up image files then a quick edit for the web. Nothing I shot in 1 was of interest to AP. Oh well. It was an awesome experience.
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Rookie Upstages Vets to Steal Daytona 500

Congrats to Trevor Bayne & the Wood Bros. Great to see those colors in Victory Lane. Sun was right in my eyes last 20 laps. #Daytona500
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Daytona 500 - 62 laps to go

Shot Kyle Busch spin and Labonte's amazIng save in Turn 1 so far. Of course the "Big One" was at the other end of the track!
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Daytona 500 Race Day Update

I've been assigned to Turn 1 by AP for the 500 today so I will get to shoot a different part of the track for the race. Should be fun. Hope I get something out on the wire!
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Daytona 500 Race Day

Sunrise over the Sprint Cup garage area. Everyone is getting busy and the heavy early fog has already lifted. Off to photo meeting.
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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tony Stewart Storms to Win Daytona Nationwide Race

It was a great day at the beach for Hoosier Tony Stewart as he seemingly came from nowhere after the final restart inside 10 laps to go to win by a nose. My vantage point in Turn 4 enabled me to shoot lots of pack racing, side by side and tandem pushing attacks as leaders fell back then moved up through the field with partners all day long. On a chamber of commerce day at Daytona International Speedway, any number of contenders could have won today, but it was simply a matter of who was going to get the right push at the end. Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. were in the final push to the finish line, but I hope Tony is going to take Landon Cassill out for dinner tonight, as that young man gave Stewart the shove he needed to get by in the last few feet. Cassill was very impressive all day and might just have earned a return favor from "Smoke" on another day.

Here's a quick slideshow of action from my viewpoint this afternoon. More to come later as I get time to do some serious editing. I do not yet know where Associated Press will position me for the 500 tomorrow but I am looking forward to it as the race promises more of the same pushing and shoving that we've seen in the truck race last night and today's Nationwide event.

Daytona Nationwide Race

Here we go!
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Daytona 500 Road Trip Day 3 - 12:30 pm Update

Uneventful #Daytona500 happy hour. Never did see Stewart, J Gordon or JJ. They must be really happy with what they've got. NNS race next.
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Daytona 500 Road Trip - Day 3

#Daytona500 Sprint Cup Happy Hour about to get underway. Hot & not a cloud in the sky. I'm hearing there have been lots of engine changes.
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Daytona 500 Road Trip - Day 2 Recap: Truck Race Pix

Michael Waltrip earned his first Camping World Truck Series win on the 10th anniversary of his Daytona 500 victory and the death of Dale Earnhardt in a wild and woolly 250 mile event. The race itself was uneventful until past the halfway mark when all hell broke loose - everywhere except Turn 4 where I was working! I saw lots of damaged race trucks and close racing - nose to tail, side by side and in packs. And it was a very long day that didn't end until almost midnight. For my first race event at Daytona, I was very happy with the lighting and the help I got from lots of folks around the track. Today is another busy day but after the Nationwide race, I should have some time to relax and do some proper editing of my photos from yesterday and today. Until then, here's a quick slide show from last night's truck race.

Daytona Camping World Truck Series Race

Friday, February 18, 2011

Daytona 500 Day 2 - 2:30 Update

Standing on the Sprint fan deck along pit lane. No action on track right now. Just saw Roger Penske, Kurt Busch, Bobby Allison and Carl Edwards around the media center. I will be working the exit of Turn 4 for the truck race tonight and the Nationwide race tomorrow. Sunday's assignment is unknown as of now. I will go to the spot for Nationwide qualifying which starts at 4 pm to scope everything out.
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Daytona 500 Day 2 - 1 pm Update

Finally parked in the infield at the #Daytona500. Road trip miles from #Indy here totaled 1061. Infield is already jam packed. Now I have to find the media center and see what my assignment for AP will be today.
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Daytona 500 Day 2 Noon Update

#Daytona500 credentials are in hand. Time to head into the track. The weather is just gorgeous. Beautiful day for motor car racing!
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Daytona Day 2 update

Left St. Augustine beach and headed to #Daytona500 credential office. About time to get busy!
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At the Fort at St. Augustine

Off to the beach and a cruise down A1a next!
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Daytona 500 Road Trip - Day 2

Taking the scenic route from JAX to get my #Daytona500 credentials today from St. Augustine down A1a. Going to the beach first.
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Daytona 500 Road Trip - End of Day 1

Found room at Bobby Rahal's old sponsor, Red Roof Inn, in JAX. Good to be out of the car. Done with third leg of #Daytona500 road trip. Insane amount of solo driving. Find the nearest beach tomorrow for the sunrise - or as close as I can make it. Got to get a few hours sleep!
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Daytona 500 Road Trip - 3rd Leg

Almost to Valdosta, GA. I swear ATL needs to get another bypass for the I285 Bypass. Worse than the Dan Ryan in Chicago. #Daytona500
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Daytona 500 Road Trip 2nd Leg

Hit ATL right at rush hour. Good time to refuel and grab dinner. Rockin' to Jimi, Tull, Scorps, DP, SRV and Satch on #Daytona500 road trip.
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Daytona 500 Road Trip Update

Bowling Green KY for gas & food. Drove through Bullitt Co looking for green Dodge Charger. #Daytona500 road trip first leg.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Indy 500 Oldtimer as Daytona 500 Rookie

The longest racing road trip of my life starts in less than 15 hours as I head to Daytona to shoot this weekend's races for Associated Press. My goal is to be on the beach for Friday morning's sunrise. I will have the chance to shoot the Camping World truck race that night, the Nationwide race Saturday and the 500 for Sprint Cup on Sunday. With NASCAR making changes to the rules all week to keep the packs below 200 mph on the freshly paved surface, it will be an interesting 500, especially now that pole winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. hit the wall in practice this afternoon and will have to start from the back in tomorrow's Duels and in the 500 on Sunday.

I have been crazy busy lately with teaching, officiating basketball and my own classes at Marian, so a long racing road trip seems like just the ticket! My race photography season has never started this early before, but I've been salivating ever since the Rolex 24 hours race three weeks ago. I hope to post regular blogs and photos throughout the weekend but I have no idea what AP will want me to do or where I will get to shoot. Whatever happens, I will try to post it here so stay tuned race fans.

RIP to longtime Indy 500 public address announcer Tom Carnegie who passed away this week. He's calling races with all the legends now. God rest his soul; prayers to his wife and family. The words "It's a new track record" will never be the same at Indy again.