Thursday, December 29, 2011

ARCA Stock Car Racing - Best of 2011

In a season that was dominated by series champion and ARCA rookie Ty Dillon, the ARCA series still managed to put on great races wherever they went. I was fortunate to shoot ARCA at Talladega, Salem, Lucas Oil Raceway and Winchester this season and have always enjoyed the rough and tumble action of the series. From the cramped pit lane of Salem to the wide open high banks of Talladega, this series also runs on mile dirt ovals and road courses, something no other current series can claim. I also love shooting ARCA because the drivers are so accessible and you get the chance to see the future stars of stock car racing on their way to the top. Guys like Dillon, Dakoda Armstrong and numerous others will be household names in NASCAR in the next few years, and former ARCA drivers are sprinkled throughout MASCAR's multiple series on any given weekend. Throw in seasoned veterans like 9-time series champ Frank Kimmel and you have a recipe for excitement at every track ARCA visits. And I have images to show "I knew them when..."

2011 Sports Car Racing at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course

Here's a slideshow from the two sports car events I shot at Mid Ohio this past season. I love the variety of equipment and the multi-class racing offered by both the American LeMans and Rolex Grand Am series. The series are so different in terms of their car specs but they always put on very entertaining races. This year's events at Mid Ohio were no exception and with the added element of rain, shooting at this beautiful natural terrain road course is quite the challenge. Someday I hope to cross off two other bucket list races from my list:  the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and the 24 Hours of LeMans. What a treat it would be to shoot the ultimate in endurance racing classics. The 12 Hours of Sebring or the Petite LeMans at Road Atlanta would be acceptable alternatives!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

NASCAR Photos Best of 2011

I was very fortunate this year to have the chance to shoot multiple NASCAR events, including bucket list races at Daytona and Talladega, plus the inaugural Sprint Cup weekend at Kentucky Speedway. I learned quite a bit along the way and drove thousands of miles chasing race cars. So here's a rather lengthy slide show of some of my best shots from NASCAR's Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World race series. I don't know what 2012 will hold for me but I am looking forward to the opportunity to shoot for Associated Press again this coming year. I hope I'll have many weekends like this past October's Talladega race weekend where I got to shoot from a prime position and sold quite a few pictures. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Race Season Review: A Photographer's Journey

It's hard to believe that the 2011 motorsports season is already over. It seems like just last week I was preparing to drive to Daytona. And now it's almost Christmas and time to review my travels for the year. Looking in the rear view mirror at this time of year is always a challenge, but this year moreso than ever as I shot 15 major race events this season while driving over 7,600 miles to cover Indycar, NASCAR, ARCA, American LeMans, Rolex Grand Am and USAC races just to name a few of the series. I posted over 1,500 photos linked to this blog in my Picasa photo galleries, shot untold thousands of images, and had a breakthrough year with Associated Press (AP). This is my recap of interesting notes from the racetrack and the road as I look forward to building on the momentum of 2011 for next year. Who knows what exciting events lie ahead for me as a racing photojournalist? I can hardly wait to find out. I hope you enjoy this recap and will click on the red links to specific photo galleries from selected race events.

Trevor Bayne
Daytona 500 2011
The story of my season lies in racking up mileage on my 1999 Acura Integra and reading road maps to lots of  new places. My race year started earlier than ever before with a 2100 mile round trip to the Daytona 500 in February to shoot for AP. I slept in my car at the track and managed to squeeze in a visit to the beach in St. Augustine but otherwise lived racing this weekend. I blogged and tweeted throughout the whole trip and felt it was just a sign of things to come for the year. To see rookie Trevor Bayne come out of nowhere to win his first Daytona 500 in my first visit to NASCAR's most hallowed ground was an unbelievable thrill.

After Daytona, the road led me to the following: Talladega, Salem Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), Lucas Oil Raceway (LOR), Winchester Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Lucas Oil Raceway, IMS, Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, IMS, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Mid Ohio, Kentucky Speedway and finally Talladega. Bucket list races at Talladega and Atlanta, plus the inaugural Sprint Cup race at Kentucky. I was fortunate to work for American Motor Journal for my sixth season as a contributor and added AP as an outlet this year to go along with my blog and photo galleries. In between race events, working as a soccer official, working full time and taking 22 credit hours in graduate school this year, there were days when I woke up and didn't know where I was or where I was supposed to be.

Bad hotel rooms and long hours behind the wheel are mostly forgotten once I'm at the racetrack. I shot more NASCAR than Indycar this year for the first time ever (6 races to 3) and had my best weekend at Talladega for AP for my return trip in October. I also had Yahoo's photo of the day from a crash in Kentucky Speedway's Indy Lights race in October after a weekend which started off very strange. I almost didn't get credentials for the Kentucky Indycar/Indy Lights race weekend but didn't find out why until the Monday before the race weekend. Someone had reported to speedway officials that I was selling photos from my Picasa galleries from the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup race so my request got flagged and held up until I agreed to remove the galleries. While the report was ludicrous (as anyone who knows my integrity as a media member or my financial situation will tell you), I did as they requested and have been working with Kentucky officials since then to be allowed to re-post those galleries as part of my photojournalism contribution to the event.

Other memorable tidbits from 2011 included:  Bryan Clauson going after Darren Hagen at the "Night Before the 500" USAC midget race at Lucas Oil Raceway in May. The Indy 500 saw a stirring win from the late Dan Wheldon who I last photographed at Kentucky in October. The great fans at Atlanta who invited us up onto their school bus to shoot the truck and Nationwide races; followed by the disappointment of having to return to Indy and miss the rain-delayed Sprint Cup race. Seeing Ed Carpenter get his (and Sarah Fisher's) first ever Indycar win at Kentucky. Then there was the American LeMans race at Mid Ohio which finished in a monsoon which I will never forget as my equipment got wet and quit working (my photographer friends won't let me forget either). My January 2011 predictions came true that Dario Franchitti would win the IZOD Indycar series championship and James Hinchcliff would be rookie of the year. The loss of two racing photographer friends due to illness. Sharing time on the road and at the track with my better half. Living in media centers and catching grief from my photographer friends. Making new friends and connections with other racing photographers. Learning new camera techniques and pushing myself to explore new creative ideas. Adjusting to the sense of urgency required for wire service shooting. Seeing my man Tony Stewart some from behind to win his third Sprint Cup title. The chance to shoot young guns like Ty Dillon and Josef Newgarden win championships. I could go on and on...

These and so many more moments have been catalogued in my blog posts this season and my only regret is that the pace of my life recently has not allowed me to do more writing here. The 2012 season starts up again in a little over a month with the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and I have no idea what my shooting schedule will be for next season. I hope to expand my work with AP and develop a new website called Race Photo Media to provide race event coverage independently. Everything is up in the air right now for next year as I complete my graduate school work to get my full time Indiana teaching license. I never thought making a career change to pursue the things I love - racing photography, coaching and officiating - would have been as rewarding (or as difficult) as it has been. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I am all in no matter what and look forward to seeing what else God has in store for me. See you at the racetrack. Until then here are a few more pix from this year that you may not have seen.