Monday, December 31, 2012

Racing in the Rear View Mirror

At Daytona - February 2012
What a year this has been, both personally and professionally. So many good things have happened and opportunities have presented themselves to do what I love:  go racing, pursue photography, officiate youth sports and teach math to young people. Sadly, as I look back on 2012, I also feel the loss of two good friends in racing this year:  Keith Pritchard and Don Hamilton. As I have written here before, Godspeed my friends, and blessings to all who knew you for the coming year.

Since the world didn't end on December 21st according to the misunderstood Mayan legend, we are still here and there is much to write about, so I will take a moment to look back and then look ahead. This year has been incredibly hectic with teaching and the successful completion of my Marian University course requirements to obtain my Indiana teaching license which was issued in May. My racing season started off again this year at Daytona for the 500 weekend, although rainy weather forced me to come back to Indy before I could shoot the Sprint Cup race in order to meet my teaching obligations. I still regard the 2200 mile round trip as worthwhile since I got the chance to shoot the Camping World truck and Nationwide series races for Associated Press (AP) and build on that media relationship.

I also stayed physically active, and even though my left knee sometimes hurt like crazy, I still managed to officiate 80 basketball games and 91 soccer matches this past year. I have to thank my schedulers and the leagues for those opportunities for their confidence in me and giving me the chance to stay involved in two sports I love. I would love to have the chance to coach either sport again and I'm sure it will happen when the time is right. 

In between Daytona and now, there were numerous other racing road trips, and I was able to expand my relationship with ARCA this year to work directly for them at several races. As I have since 2006, a lot of my racing photography and writing was contributed to American Motor Journal's (AMJ) website, although I do not know what will happen with that in 2013 since the publisher, Don Hamilton, passed away recently. A quick rundown of my racing season following Daytona included:  Salem Speedway ARCA at the end of April for AMJ, then Talladega NASCAR the next weekend for AP; then the next three weekends were consumed by Indycar for  practice, qualifying and the Indy 500, plus the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race, for AMJ. In June, it was off to Mid Ohio Sports Car Course for the Rolex Series weekend two weeks after the 500 for AMJ, then my first race shooting for ARCA at Winchester Speedway two weeks after Mid Ohio. July was relatively quiet with a week's vacation at a beach house on Lake Michigan but that all changed the last weekend of the month, when I shot the Rolex Series at Indy during the morning for AMJ and then went to Lucas Oil Raceway to shoot for ARCA the rest of the day. The next two days I was back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) for AMJ shooting the inaugural Nationwide Series race at IMS and then the Brickyard 400. The next weekend I was back on the road to Mid Ohio for AMJ to shoot the American LeMans and Indycar events. The day after that, I started my new full time teaching job which consumed me until mid-September when I went back to Salem to shoot for ARCA again. Due to my teaching obligations, I had to take a pass on the fall Talladega weekend this year but I still managed to log nearly 5500 miles behind the wheel of my 1999 Integra to chase race cars during 2012.

As I do every season, I've compiled a "Best of Racing" photo slideshow of my personal favorites this year; this year's slideshow follows this post and includes Indycar, NASCAR, ARCA, Rolex Series and American LeMans competition. I regret not getting to shoot any dirt track races this season but I hope to make up for that in 2013. I will be going back to Daytona for AP in February but the rest of my 2013 plans are up in the air with the future of AMJ being uncertain. I am looking at doing more for both AP and ARCA, plus exploring other opportunities in motorsports media to stay involved with shooting my beloved Indycar series. I also have big plans for my website ( which I have renewed for another three years, and I'm sure I'll be blogging more in 2013 as I get a handle on balancing my teaching responsibilities with my outside pursuits.

As I prepare to sign off on this, my last blog post of 2012, it would not be complete without acknowledging people who have been influential through my 2012 journey, both at the racetracks and in my day to day work. To these people I owe a debt of gratitude which I can only hope to repay someday by paying it forward to others:  Mike Levitt at LAT Photographic; Doc Hunter at ARCA; Mike Stewart and Dave Martin with AP; Jesse Ghiorzi, @followmidohio; Richard W. Smith; brother Steve @salley42; GB Abbott at Salem Speedway; Julie G; Dr. Bevis at Marian University; and of course the late Don Hamilton. I am sure I have left someone out and for that I apologize.

I especially thank you, wherever you are, for reading! Spread the word and find me on Twitter @alleygroup. I look forward to seeing you at a racetrack, soccer field or gymnasium somewhere along the way. Happy New Year everyone, and keep shooting!