Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Racing Reflections: A Photographer's Journey

Tony Kanaan finally got milk at the Indy 500
My 2013 racing photography season encompassed 22 races over 10 event weekends. I drove roughly 5500 miles to get to and from the racetracks. It started at the beginning of April and ended in late October. I shot for Associated Press, ARCA, motorsport.com and Salem Speedway. Untold thousands of images rang up on my Canon 7D and 40D. Best of all, I get to start all over again in less than four weeks when I go to Daytona to shoot the Rolex 24 Hours. Here are my top five memories of my 2013 season.
#1. While the images I shot were not all winners, my favorite moment of the entire season was getting to shoot Victory Lane at the Indianapolis 500. I've been in a lot of Victory Lanes over the years but never at the Indy 500. It was the most chaotic victory celebration I've ever shot as team owner Jimmy Vasser effectively blocked most shooters from getting Tony Kanaan's initial milk celebration and photographers were very upset. But I just happened to have the right angle to get Tony's face through Vasser's outstretched arms in the photo above and I kept shooting while others around me were yelling for Vasser to get out of the way. It was a crazy happy situation and I was glad to have had the opportunity to shoot for motorsport.com.
Austin Dillon goes airborne in Tony Stewart's #14 at Talladega
#2. My next most favorite moment of the year came at Talladega in October. The fall NASCAR weekend was quite a contrast to the one in the spring, as the weather was much more favorable and the races went off on time both days. I was shooting for Associated Press and had a bird's eye view of the entire 2.66 mile racetrack from atop the tallest grandstand on the tri-oval. I was trying to be patient and just waiting for action during both the Trucks and Sprint Cup races and was rewarded with last lap mayhem as airborne racers filled my lens in both events. At the time, I remember thinking I hadn't shot so many flipping racecars since the last sprint car race I did a couple of years ago. I certainly never saw anything like that weekend's madness on a paved track, let alone during a NASCAR weekend. The best news was that no one was hurt and I got spectacular images that AP was able to use.
Brennan Poole won the ARCA race at Michigan for Venturini Motorsports
#3. Coming in as my third most favorite memory was Father's Day weekend in June at Michigan International Speedway when I was the principal photographer for the ARCA series. Although I had been a support photographer for ARCA several times previously, this was the first event where I was responsible for their entire event coverage. I had to be sure I got everything from driver headshots to the hauler layout to Victory Lane celebrations and everything in between. There was not a lot of downtime during the two days ARCA competitors had the track and I loved the pressure of having to deliver timely coverage for the ARCA website and various team public relations reps. On the way back to my mom's in Ohio afterward, I got pulled over in some small town but only got a warning from the nice officer as I simply told him I had just wrapped up two very long days shooting at Michigan and was hurrying to get to Akron and unwind. He must have seen the roadtrip fast food debris and race promotional materials on my passenger seat, and once he checked my driving record, he was quite gracious and let me go on my way. It was a perfect ending to a great weekend.
#4. The most exciting finish of any race I worked in 2013 was perhaps the best Indy Lights race in history. Getting a vantage point on the lower roof in front of the Pagoda at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a few laps from the finish, I was prepared for a last lap slingshot move for the win, but getting a four-wide photo finish never entered my mind as a possibility. I recall ratcheting the ISO up on my main camera body so I could shoot at 1/4000th of a second. The last couple of laps, I set the photo up with the flagstand as the main focal point and took a few practice shots as cars came past the yard of bricks. I am sure glad I did as the race to the checkered flag was dramatic, my framing was good and the images I got for motorsport.com were on the money. No one had ever seen anything like that at Indianapolis and it was quite a thrill for me to be able to capture that moment for the ages at my favorite racetrack.
Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball, Chip Ganassi & Dario Franchitti
#5. I had a hard time coming up with this one as there were so many moments which could have made my Top 5 for 2013. But I gave the nod to Charlie Kimball's win at Mid Ohio, his first in an Indycar, as much for the fact that Charlie raced the wheels off his Dallara as for events which subsequently effected teammate Dario Franchitti. While most of the field adopted a fuel saving strategy, Charlie went balls to the wall the whole race and was a deserving race winner. No one could have known at the time that this event might be one of the last times that Dario would earn a podium placing in an Indycar, but barely two months later, injuries suffered in his horrific Houston accident forced him to announce his retirement. A sidebar to this weekend for me was meeting friends from Indy at Mid Ohio and hanging out with them in between traipsing all over the Mid Ohio grounds shooting or uploading for motorsport.com over the three day race weekend.

I could go on and on with memories from my road trip racing life in 2013, but I will leave you with this: more pictures gleaned from all the races I shot in a "best of" slideshow for the whole year. This is probably my last blog post for 2013 but I'll be back again soon to bring you my view from the road - one photographer's journey. Until next time, Welcome to Indiana-ville! Please come back soon.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Firestone Indy Lights Recap 2013

The 4-wide photo finish at Indy was a season highlight for Indy Lights
The Firestone Indy Lights Series has been the last step on the Mazda Road to Indy for several years now and although the car count in 2013 was less than what people would like to see, great things are expected in the future as new series management takes over in 2014. A new chassis and engine combination has been announced for 2015 which should update the equipment to more modern specifications and make the transition to Indycars even smoother for the top series drivers.

Even with small fields, the Indy Lights drivers put on some spectacular races at times, topped by the crazy four wide photo finish in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis as the undercard to the Indy 500 in May. I knew something wild was going to happen when the top three went wheel to wheel through Turns 3 and 4, but no one expected Peter Dempsey to jump to the high side on the front straight to make it four wide and steal the win at the finish line. I was at the finish line and got the photo finish for motorsport.com in one of my best moments of my 2013 racing season. It was a great moment for the series too and I always love shooting these races since they involve the future stars of Indycar who you can watch learn their craft.

Carlos Munoz
The star of the 2013 season was Carlos Munoz as far as I am concerned. He blew away the field at Barber Motorsports Park early in the season and then nearly won the Indy 500 as a rookie when he was doing double duty during May in the big cars and in Lights. He followed up his impressive month of May with a strong and aggressive drive at Fontana in the season finale to earn a full time Indycar drive with Andretti Autosport for next season. With four Indy Lights wins and a third place season finish in 2013, he's clearly a star on the rise but he also has a lot to learn. His fearless style rankled his more experienced Andretti teammates in May on more than one occasion. I had two memorable encounters involving Carlos in 2013 and the first one involved listening in on a huddle among his teammates James Hinchcliffe, EJ Viso and Ryan Hunter-Reay after Munoz dive bombed one of them during Indy 500 practice in May. Apparently, no one told Carlos you can't (or shouldn't" run below the white line in Turn 1 or that passes during practice needed to be coordinated to avoid an incident. We all know how that turned out as the Andretti boys were strong all month and either Carlos or RHR could have won the 500 if the late caution flags had fallen differently.

Hinch, RHR & Viso discuss a Munoz maneuver at Indy in May
My second encounter with Carlos was during the Mid Ohio weekend when the friends I was traveling with and I decided to hit a Mexican restaurant at the Belleville exit. After a few minutes, in walks Carlos with a few guys in Andretti gear and I said "Hey, it's Carlos!" as his group sat down at a table nearby. From the way he reacted, I don't think he expected anyone to recognize him. It was another one of those moments where it felt good to know people in the sport and be where racers were gathering on a race weekend.
Sage Karam took the Indy Lights season championship
Firestone Indy Lights has produced a number of excellent racers who have moved up to Indycars over the years and I'm sure the 2013 crop of drivers will be no different. Sage Karam won the season title and there were several times where I saw him soaking up advice from various Indycar drivers, most notably Tony Kanaan at Mid Ohio after Sage had an off during an Indy Lights session. You could see how upset he was with himself but TK's advice clearly calmed Sage down, and it looked like he was telling him "It's OK kid. It happens to all of us" so he could go back on track with a clear head and forget about the mistake he'd made. It's another one of the great things about this series running as a companion event with Indycar. Not only do young drivers get experience on Indycar tracks and exposure to Indycar owners, but they get the benefit of counsel from their big car brethren on occasion. I would bet that those words are often as valuable as the seat time for some of these young guys who surely must feel the pressure to perform in a series where sponsorship is hard to come by and where their very futures as racecar drivers may well be at stake.
Sage Karam gets some words of wisdom from Indy 500 champ Tony Kanaan at Mid Ohio
At any rate, I'm glad to have had the chance to experience these kinds of moments while on assignment and I look forward to more of the same in the future. With Christmas now just a few days away and 2013 winding down, I still have a couple more blog posts to complete in order to finish my season reflections, so until then, here's a slideshow of my Indy Lights work this year to tide you over.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 NASCAR Reflections

Hoosier Ryan Newman won the 2013 Brickyard 400 but lost his ride with Stewart Haas Racing
One of the best things about my racing road trip life in 2013 was the variety of events I got to shoot: Indycar, ARCA, GrandAm and of course, NASCAR. While I only got to cover three NASCAR races this year, they were each significant and memorable. I also got to grab a few shots at Michigan during down time from my ARCA duties in June, but the spring and fall races at Talladega were ones for the record books and the Brickyard 400 was noteworthy if not spectacular.

Talladega in the spring
After missing the fall 2012 race at Talladega due to my teaching schedule, I was not about to miss the spring event this year. It turned out to be most memorable for the persistent rains and cool weather which plagued both the Nationwide race on Saturday and the Sprint Cup race on Sunday. I spent nearly 10 hours each day in the main grandstand outside the tri-oval lugging my gear up and down multiple flights of stairs both days, in and out of the rain, waiting for the track to dry and racing to resume. I don't think I've ever shot a NASCAR race in the kind of darkness that descended on the track both days as the rain delays pushed action into the early evening hours both days. The weekend began with a long Friday night drive through heavy rain most of the way and ended just about the same as I left Talladega after dark on Sunday as the rains hit again. The most sensible thing I did all weekend was stop and grab a room around midnight that night and finish the drive back to Indy on Monday. I think I called it the 24 Hours of Talladega at the time and my frog togs never came in more handy!

Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards & Juan Pablo Montoya race at Indy
The next NASCAR race I shot was the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis at the end of July and it was really cool to see Ryan Newman, a Hoosier from South Bend and a Purdue grad, take the win, his first at Indy. The weekend included the Nationwide Series on Saturday and the GrandAm races on Friday, so it was a hectic weekend of shooting and editing for motorsport.com. I walked all over IMS for three straight days but loved every minute of it and have quite a few images I am extremely proud of as a result. 

Ryan Newman's baby daughter
My personal highlight of the Brickyard weekend was shooting Newman, his family and his team during the post race ceremonies at the yard of bricks. His infant daughter seemed bewildered by all the people milling around and the attention her daddy was getting but she never flinched or cried as the kissing of the bricks process wore on. She even seemed at home with daddy's bottle of Coca Cola nearby as the cameras clicked away around her. It was a sweet and quiet moment after hours of noise. The race itself was a typical Brickyard with single file racing in the corners and positions being made up in the pits moreso than on the racetrack. With IMS talking about adding the apron in the turns again, perhaps that will improve the racing product and bring fans back to the Brickyard for NASCAR. At least Jimmie Johnson didn't win!

Jamie McMurray won from the back of the pack
My final NASCAR race of 2013 took me back to Talladega in October and the weather was infinitely better than it had been in the spring, even though sprinkles Saturday morning washed out Sprint Cup qualifying. The fall weekend had the Camping World Truck Series paired with Sprint Cup and both races involved flying racecars which was just crazy as I couldn't believe what I was seeing through my lenses when the incidents occurred. The truck race on Saturday ended with a flip coming down to the checkered flag and then Austin Dillon got airborne on the last lap in Tony Stewarts's #14 during the Sprint Cup race on Sunday. Jamie McMurray won the Sprint Cup race when no one could mount a charge as the race ended under yellow.

My text to AP read "32 upside down"
I shot both Talladega races this year for Associated Press and I am so thankful that I have developed that relationship as those people really have taken care of me and given me some great opportunities to "make some pictures", as they like to say. It's awesome to view the post-race slideshow with the other AP photographers and see how they tell an event story through photos. It's also exciting to google my name after a race with AP to see where my pictures have ended up. Calling home after a race weekend like this is also exciting as my friends and family can do a similar search and see my photos picked up by news outlets all over the world. I love that aspect of AP's instant news service and have developed a greater sensitivity for timeliness and efficiency as a result of my work with them.

I have learned so much from other photogs on weekends like these and am really excited to hit the road again in 2014 and head back south to 'Dega. The track's promo tag line is: "This is more than a race. This is Talladega". I can attest to the fact that there's no place like it and just hope to continue having good luck down there. I will be ready to make some pictures, that's for sure. Until next time, here's a slideshow of my personal best NASCAR photos from 2013.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sports Car Review 2013

Brickyard Superweekend Rolex winners Alex Popow & Ryan Dalziel
While I only got to shoot two main sports car races in 2013, they were epic. My sports car season started with the Rolex and Continental Tire Series races at Barber Motorsports Park in April as part of the Grand Prix of Alabama Indycar weekend. The other sports car race was at Indianapolis as part of the Brickyard Superweekend at the end of July. I did manage to grab a few shots of the Pirelli World Challenge race at Mid Ohio in August but that weekend was consumed with shooting Indycar and Indy Lights so I don't really count that as a race I worked per se. Both the Barber and IMS weekends were part of my 2013 work for motorsport.com which you can see the photos here from IMS and from Barber here.

Wayne Taylor Celebrates win
The Barber weekend was capped by an enthusiastic win by Wayne Taylor's Corvette team with Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor at the wheel. Max "The Axe" is always a thrill to watch race and the twisty, hilly confines of the Barber track made for some close and interesting racing as the prototypes raced through the GT traffic. Then Wayne gave a little air guitar solo in Victory Lane afterwards to the delight of those witnessing the Victory Lane celebration. As it turns out, that race proved to be the start of something really big for Taylor and Angelelli as they went on to claim would would be the last ever GrandAm season title at the end of the year. Then at Indianapolis, the 8 Star team of Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel surprised a lot of people by winning  over a field full of experienced drivers from a variety of backgrounds. Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan, former F1 and Indycar driver Rubens Barrichello was entered, as was Sebastian Bourdais among others. Thankfully the weather this year was better than 2012. although a little rain would have made it even more interesting!
Scott Pruett & Memo Rojas were unable to grab another season title in 2013 for owner Chip Ganassi
Both weekends were a lot of work but resulted in photos I was quite pleased with, especially since I had never been to Barber before and I missed the 2012 Rolex race at IMS due to my photo commitments to ARCA. My biggest disappointments this year in sports cars were missing the Rolex event at Mid Ohio which I have covered for years, and then not having the American LeMans Series (ALMS) race during the Mid Ohio Indycar weekend. Those events have been staples of my sports car photography the last few years, but I was working at Michigan for ARCA when the Rolex race was at Mid Ohio and ALMS just simply didn't schedule a race at Mid Ohio.

In 2014, my season will start off even earlier as I am scheduled to shoot the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in January for Associated Press. That race will be the first event in the newly merged Tudor United Sportscar Racing series and I couldn't be more excited to have this opportunity. It will be my first chance to shoot the Rolex 24 Hours and it should be a historic event as reports now are that there are 29 prototype cars set to compete. It should be a wild and woolly 24 hours with probably 60 cars or more on the track competing. I will bring back photos and more stories from the road, so until then here's a slideshow of my 2013 sports car work that will have to tide us over.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Indycar Season Review: #ThankYouDario

Scott Dixon snagged his third Indycar crown
Congratulations to the 2013 IZOD Indycar Series champion Scott Dixon, best wishes to a champion's champion Dario Franchitti, and better luck next year Helio Castroneves. That pretty well sums up the late season drama in Indycar. Next year much will change, including the title for the series as IZOD steps aside after this season, there will be two races in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the 2014 schedule ends Labor Day weekend. And while I didn't blog this year about my usual pre-season predictions, there's little doubt that I would have missed the mark by miles, as this season was both tumultuous and unpredictable in many ways. So here's my recap along with my favorite moments.

Dario Franchitti 
I have to start with a sad note:  Dario is leaving Indycar but he is one lucky guy after his horrific accident in Houston which hastened his retirement from Indycar racing. I hate to see him retire under these circumstances but it's good to know that he will make a full recovery and hopefully find a role in the series as an elder statesman or spokesperson. So #ThankYouDario indeed for all the memories.

Tony Kanaan celebrates his first Indy 500 win
My favorite personal moment this year was being able to shoot Victory Lane at the Indy 500 to capture Tony Kanaan's emotional celebration after taking his first Indy win. In a 500 for the ages, I started the race on the roof of Stand E overlooking Turn 1 and ended up in Victory Lane so my day shooting this year's 500 for motorsport.com was quite special. It would be hard to top that day in the years to come but who knows? Maybe next year will be even better! I had picked Ryan Hunter-Reay to win Indy before the month of May started this year but I was really happy for TK to get his first one. And wouldn't you know it - a late crash by TK's buddy Dario brought out the yellow which effectively ended the thrilling lead swapping duels which had transfixed the Indy crowd all race long up to that point.

Ryan Hunter-Reay won from the pole at Barber
Defending Indycar champ Ryan Hunter-Reay started off the season on a role by taking pole position and winning at Barber Motorsports Park. That was where my Indycar season started this year and the race weekend included a couple of firsts. I had never been to Barber before, although I have driven past it several times on my way to Talladega, so it was a treat to get another maiden racetrack visit under my belt. I also got to shoot for motorsport.com for the first time as a sort of trial run and warmup for May in Indianapolis. It was quite a challenging weekend dealing with the terrain at Barber and learning the technical requirements for submitting photos to motorsport.com's website. An added bonus was shooting the Rolex Series that weekend. I felt really good driving home after three days ambling around Barber's rolling circuit and producing images I was proud of. One of my favorite shots of the weekend was taken during RHR's pole award celebration when he was holding his infant son who gave the slightest hint of a smile. He must have been enjoying all the attention!

Charlie Kimball outraced everyone at Mid Ohio to get his first win
The bookend to my Indycar season was the race weekend at Mid Ohio the first weekend in August, again shooting for motorsport.com. I love shooting at Mid Ohio and I used to think it was pretty hilly until I went to Barber! I would love to shoot more Indycar races each year but circumstances and my teaching responsibilities intervened. As it turned out, the Honda 200 was another weekend of firsts, albeit not for me as I have been shooting at Mid Ohio since the 1980's and took part in the track's Acura High Performance driving school in 2006. Charlie Kimball got his first career Indycar win by running hard and outracing everyone else who had adopted a fuel saving pace. Chip Ganassi and Dario seemed genuinely happy for Charlie to get his first win. Although there was no way to know it at the time, that weekend was also to be one of the last times that Dario would spray champagne and celebrate on the podium.

Takuma Sato 
In many ways, 2013 was a season of firsts in Indycar. In addition to Kimball, several other drivers got their initial Indycar wins. James Hinchcliffe got his first at St. Petersburg and then added wins in Brazil and Iowa. Takuma Sato got his first at Long Beach, finally rewarding the AJ Foyt team for their patience with the Honda favorite who's motto has become "No Attack - No Chance" after nearly winning the Indy 500 in 2012. Simon Pagenaud got his first in the second Detroit race and took Baltimore later on. Neither Brazil nor Baltimore are on the 2014 Indycar schedule so those race winners may be "defending champs" at those venues in perpetuity. I would expect both events to return to Indycar in the future however, but schedule conflicts must be resolved first. While not in the category of first race wins, this year's comeback story has to be Mike Conway who got a win at Detroit in a one-off ride. Conway will be with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2014 and run all the road races, so his comeback from injuries in the Indy 500 in 2010 is complete.

Carlos Munoz pits at the Indy 500
The most impressive driver this year had to be rookie Carlos Munoz. He started second in the Indy 500 and could have won the race if the last yellow for Dario's wreck hadn't waved. He was exceptionally strong at California in the season finale and was equally impressive filling in for an injured Ryan Briscoe the morning of Race 2 at Toronto He looked good in his first Indycar road race, he is fast and fearless, and has done such a good job in the Firestone Indy Lights series that Andretti Autosport has rewarded him with a full season ride for next year. I expect he will add his name to the list of first time winners in 2014.

Fan favorite Helio Castroneves was title bridesmaid again
Scott Dixon's championship run started at Pocono in July, then he swept both races in Toronto and closed it out with a first and second at Houston. He overcame a huge points deficit, along with adversity at Sonoma (where he was penalized for a pit lane incident from the lead which didn't really seem to be his fault) and at Baltimore (where Will Power squeezed him into the wall and put him out of the race). Coupled with his late season hot streak, perennial series runner-up Helio Castroneves suddenly became snakebitten during the Hosuton weekend with mechanical gremlins which wiped away his points lead in one weekend. That just didn't seem right watching it at the time, but that's racing and Dixon took advantage. If there was a trophy for the worst luck this season, it would have to go to Helio. For someone who represents Indycar so well, has won Indy three times, and is always upbeat with a smile on his face, he sure got kicked in the teeth by the racing gods this season. He led the points standings for months yet on the penultimate weekend, it all fell apart. Rarely have the words Helio and disconsolate been used in the same sentence but after Houston they belonged together and you just knew his championship hopes were gone even though the final race of the season was still ahead at Fontana.

My plans for covering Indycar in 2014 have not been solidified yet, although I am hoping to shoot for motorsport.com again whenever I can. It's a lot of work but a labor of love. So until next time, here's a gallery of my personal Indycar favorite photos from the 2013 events at Barber, Indianapolis and Mid Ohio.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

ARCA Season Review - @arca_racing Is Stock Car Proving Ground

ARCA Veteran and fan favorite Frank Kimmel took his 10th season title in 2013
The ARCA racing series has become one of my favorites over the last few years, not just because I have had opportunities to work for the series directly. I love it for its schedule diversity and the fact that the future stars of American stock car racing almost always get their starts racing fendered cars in ARCA. I've written many times about the "young guns" of ARCA and the 2013 season had these younger drivers in abundance - some as young as 15 years of age winning races - see Kyle Benjamin at Salem for example. Many people don't know that ARCA has been around longer than NASCAR and is preparing for its 61st Championship Awards banquet in Indianapolis December 14th where 2013 season champion Frank Kimmel will collect his 10th title and awards. 

ARCA Rookie of the Year Justin Boston
The youth movement is the real attraction in ARCA in my opinion. Here are some names that you will surely hear more about in the upcoming years who have raced and starred in ARCA: Brennan Poole (two wins), Kyle Benjamin (two wins in 2013), Justin Boston (2013 Rookie of the Year), Mason Mingus (second to Kimmel in 2013 series points), Mason Mitchell, Erik Jones and Chris Buescher (one win and defending series champion). A couple of years ago at Salem Speedway, the pole winner and next two qualifiers were all still in their teens, so the opportunity to race full bodied stock cars on a variety of tracks is an attraction for the drivers as well. Just look at the NASCAR Nationwide Series or Camping World Truck Series rosters: they are full of former ARCA drivers. Ty Dillon, Justin Allgaier, Parker Kligerman, Ryan Blaney, Dakoda Armstrong, and Chase Elliott have all been winners in ARCA and moved up. In Sprint Cup, Michael McDowell, Scott Speed and Justin Marks have all come through ARCA and there are many more who cut their teeth in stock car racing in this series.

Series runner-up Mason Mingus at Michigan International in 2013
There is no other major nationwide racing series which visits so many different types of tracks. The series races on big, fast tracks like Daytona, Michigan and Talladega, plus an assortment of 1.5 mile tracks like Kansas and Chicagoland. They race on plenty of short tracks including the aging but storied high banks of Salem and Winchester in Indiana, the flatter tracks like Elko in Minnesota, Toledo (Ohio) and Mobile (Alabama). Add to this recipe the road course events at Road America and New Jersey Motorsports Park, then spice it further with mile dirt tracks at Springield and DuQuoin state fair tracks in Illinois, and you have a tasty mix that would satisfy the most diehard stock car fans.

Frank Kimmel congratulates Brennan Poole on his 2013 Michigan win
One side benefit of this schedule diversity is the number of different drivers the series attracts. While Frank Kimmel added to his ARCA legacy in 2013 with a 10th season championship and broke the all-time ARCA wins record formerly held by Iggy Katona, seemingly everyone seeking stock car experience races at some point during the season. As a training ground for drivers, there is no better series, but team owners and crew members also find their way to the big time by following the stock car ladder up through ARCA. If you want to see the youth movement and be able to tell your friends that "you knew them when...", then ARCA races are where you need to be. Evidence of the attarctiveness of the series is the fact that 141 drivers scored points in 2013. Granted many of these drivers were there for one-off appearances, but part of the excitement of any ARCA event is seeing who is entered. Anyone can win in ARCA - just look at want Corey Lajoie did this year: three wins out of five starts!

James Hylton
One of my favorite drivers has become James Harvey Hilton. Here is a man who has been around the sport seemingly forever and is finally calling it a day after 2013. He shows up at every race, enjoys a stogie or two and has a good time at the race track even though he doesn't have the pace anymore to challenge for race wins. He did, however, finish 11th in the season standings and clearly just loves to race. A few years ago, he showed up at Salem with dollar bills taped all over his car from fan donations, so while no one would ever confuse his operation with a Roush development team in terms of financial backing, few would argue with his passion for the sport. And he is not alone in ARCA as there are a number of drivers who may not be the fastest on any given weekend, but they are loyal to the series and might be called racer's racers. Darrell Basham is one such driver, and his story is unique in the sense that his race shop got blown away in the Hewnryville, Indiana tornado a couple of years ago but he carried on. ARCA fans know these stories and appreciate guys like James and Darrell trying their best to be competitive and put on a good show.

I have been very fortunate the last seven years to shoot more than two dozen ARCA races, including 15 straight at Salem Speedway. Next year it looks like I will add to that total as I have an opportunity to be the primary photographer for the series at a few of the summer 2014 races. I also have a project involving mathematics in racing that I hope to do with ARCA's support next summer which will tie in with my classroom teaching and involve students from the University of Northwestern Ohio's motorsports program. For me, the chance to support this series, which has a unique history in stock car racing, is quite gratifying and I am looking forward to the photography challenges I am likely to face next year. Until then, I hope you enjoy this photo gallery of my 2013 ARCA work. Look me up at the track next season!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

#ThankYouDario - A Legend Retires

Dario Franchitti on his 2012 Indy 500 victory lap with Ashley Judd & Susie Wheldon
It seems my life is full of irony. Or maybe it's all just coincidence - except I don't believe in coincidence: everything happens for a reason. So last Thursday, on the day I posted a "Throwback Thursday" video I had created of my photo sequence of Mike Conway's 2010 Indy 500 crash, Dario Franchitti announced he was retiring from Indycar racing for medical reasons as a result of his similarly frightening crash at Houston last month.

And who won the Indy 500 which finished under yellow in 2010 as a result of Conway's accident? Dario. Then the next day I read about Mike getting a ride with Ed Carpenter for 2014 to run all the road course races next season. So in the span of 24 hours, I wrote about Mike's accident (and the fact that his Indycar comeback from his Indy 500 accident was underscored by a win at Detroit's Belle Isle circuit this past June), Dario retires and Mike gets a new ride for next season.

The common thread here is airborne Indycars. Mike Conway decided not to run ovals after getting upside down at Indy the last two times he ran the 500. Dario decided to retire after climbing over Takuma Sato at Houston and taking out the catch fencing, suffering a concussion and back injury in the process. Dario got airborne twice in 2007 (at Michigan and at Nashville), escaping without a scratch both times but this time he was not so lucky. In the aftermath of his Houston accident, I would guess that the specter of his pal Dan Wheldon was also weighing on Dario's mind with Danny's loss still fresh from the fatal accident at Las Vegas two years ago. Everyone knows that racing is dangerous but that is part of its allure - men and women risking everything at speeds most of us can only imagine:  until the risk is too great.

While I hate to see Dario retire, I am happy he is able to make a reasoned decision and walk away with his health largely intact. From the medical reports I have read, it sounded like his greatest concern is the long term impact of repeated concussions, and who can blame him for deciding that the rewards no longer outweigh the risks? Especially given all of the media attention to the effects of concussions on players in football, I hope he stays retired and doesn't fall prey to the urge to return to the cockpit.

Dario has become one of my favorite drivers the last few years and I would love to see him assume an active role in Indycar similar to other greats like Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford or Mario Andretti. Since I expanded my motorsports photo work in 2006 to include multiple races on the Indycar circuit, I have been up close and personal with Indycar drivers like Dario many times. After his 2012 Indy 500 win I was standing next to him and Ashley by the yard of bricks and was close enough to hear their conversation. So I feel like I know racers like Dario personally and when someone leaves the sport, either by their own volition or other circumstance, I can't help but feel the loss. I feel like I am losing a hero, but thankfully this time it is not the ultimate loss as with DW. It's a loss nonetheless, so I hope I get the chance someday to tell Dario how much I've enjoyed him as a person, a racer and an icon in our sport.

So this past weekend in my ongoing efforts to experiment with video production, I put together the following video with photos of Dario from races at Indy and elsewhere I've covered the last six years. Some might think the Evanescence song "Immortal" is too melancholy for this, but for me it reinforced the notion that as long as we have memories of our heroes, then they are immortal. God bless you Dario and I sure hope to see you at some races next year so fans can salute all that you've done for the sport of Indycar racing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

#TBT Throw Back Thursday: Mike Conway Indy 500 Crash

By far the scariest racing incident I have ever photographed took place at the Indy 500 in 2010 when Mike Conway ran up the back of a slowing and out-of-fuel Ryan Hunter-Reay near the end of the race. I was shooting in Turn 3 that year as I have for many years and the race had been fairly uneventful from my vantage point most of the day. With a couple of laps to go, I had turned on my digital voice recorder and set it on top of the fence post in front of me to pick up the sounds of the cars and the track public address system announcers making the call of the winner. I don't usually pan during a race at this location as I watch the entry to the turn, how the cars are coming along the apex and looking for the slightest little twitch or for a car running above the normal line. I also listen for changes in engine notes or any unusual sounds. On this day it was my ears that tipped me off to a problem, and then my eyes followed.

Then I heard a loud clunking sound to my left. I swung around to see RHR's car damaged and limping through the turn so I laid on the shutter release button thinking that he might get t-boned by other cars that were trailing him. At eight frames a second, it is hard to tell what is going on sometimes but I stayed relatively wide with my 70-200 and kept shooting, when I realized something (or someone) was airborne and I was seeing black which meant the bottom of the car was facing me. Then it was like a bomb had gone off with more awful sounds and a debris field filled my viewfinder. I ended up with 48 photos in the whole sequence and my first thought afterwards was that someone had gone under the stands. There was a gaping whole in the fencing beneath the North Vista grandstands which safety workers were peering through. The mangled cabling framed a piece of the nose of Conway's car behind the wall and the only other section of his car that remained in front of me was the engine and rear end  assembly. I feared the worst and the crowd in the north end was absolutely buzzing in the aftermath of the accident. Thankfully, the worst was not realized and I ended up with 16 minutes of audio on my digital recorder as it continued to record while I finished shooting the aftermath of the accident and checking with other photographers to see what they had. A lot of spectacular photos were taken that day by members of the Third Turn Society.

Monday, November 11, 2013

2013 Racing Sampler, Part 1: New Video

Part of the thrill of chasing race cars around the country with my cameras is reviewing the finished product. That is also some of the most tedious work involved since there are usually hundreds, if not a thousand or two, images to sift through after a race weekend. Multiply that by the number of race events I've done (and this year there were 10) and the editing process can be overwhelming. Thankfully, however, because of the nature of my assignments, most of the concise editing is done at the racetrack on any given weekend and I am still quite happy if 1 out of every 10 pictures is a keeper. Of course, I consider myself my own worst critic, although photo editors of the people I work for often make the final call. So putting together slideshows or other presentations is often not as daunting as you might think.

One of my goals going forward is to create more video content, even if it means putting still photos together with music, wild sound or narrative soundtracks (or some combination of them all). The following is one attempt to do so and includes photos from the IZOD Indycar Series, the Rolex GrandAm Series, NASCAR's Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series and the Firestone Indy Lights series taken at Indianapolis, Barber Motorsports Park, Mid Ohio and Talladega. I am calling it Part 1 for 2013 as I intend to do others over the next few months before I head to Daytona to shoot the Rolex 24 Hours race in January. Once that race weekend gets here, all bets will be off for 2013 and the images mostly get archived to make way for a new crop of images at various events. I have a few "sequels" in mind, but I had to start off with one that has music created by my son Max and no narrative track. There will be more as I work to polish my video production skills in anticipation of a major project I am working on for the summer of 2014. Details on that will be revealed as that time gets closer. Needless to say, lots of road miles on my '99 Integra will be involved, and I will be embedded in a six week frenzy of travel, shooting multiple events, and special video compilations to add to this blog as continuing chapters in this photographer's journey. Welcome to Indiana-ville, y'all!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

October Insanity - Road Trip Life

Austin Dillon flips Tony Stewart's #14 at Talladega with help from Casey Mears
October was an insane month of activity - witness the fact that I haven't been able to write here in 30 days. The month started off rather slowly with a weekend at hone in Indy when the highlight was going to see the movie "RUSH", which I thought was fantastic. That weekend also featured Dario Franchitti's scary flip into the fence at the Houston Indycar race, which in hindsight was a portent of things to come for me.

The second weekend of October was filled with soccer officiating at local tournaments. We had passed the halfway point of the semester in my teaching job the previous week and the decks were then cleared for my last racing road trip of the season:  to Talladega Superspeedway, where I had my best weekend ever shooting for Associated Press. I had 15 photos used by AP over the weekend and several featured flipping race cars. I felt like I was at a sprint car race. I had never shot so many upside down race cars in one weekend on a paved track before, let alone in NASCAR and at someplace like Talladega which is huge and fast. The road trip entailed 1279 miles round trip and I made it back to Indy on only one stop - which I had never done before - at 3:00 a.m. Monday morning. Going in to teach that day I was still running on adrenaline after an awesome weekend, and it was a thrill showing my colleagues and students some of my work. Naturally there was some teasing involved about being "famous" but I knew it was more about opportunity and being ready than anything else. That was especially true in both the truck series and Sprint Cup races as the big melees with airborne race cars happened on the last lap both days. I learned a lot at the track that weekend, and using a big lens taught me some valuable lessons which I will put to use in the future.

The next weekend involved a much shorter road trip, to Bloomington, Indiana, for a family wedding where I didn't have to be "the photographer", although I did have a lot of fun putting together a slideshow of the bride and groom for their rehearsal dinner. I ended up shooting lots of video that weekend which I still have to edit, but making movies from video clips is something I need to do more often and this was a great opportunity to capture some memories for a very happy couple which did not conflict with the work of the wedding photographer they hired. After the wedding, school was on Fall break so it was back home in Indy for two days before I headed to Akron, Ohio to help my mom. I logged another 650 miles or so on the road in my '99 Integra and she just keeps rolling along, now with over 231,000 miles on her. On the way back that Friday, I was sailing along past New Castle when everything came to a screeching halt and I got stuck in a 90 minute traffic jam for an accident involving two semis which blocked Interstate 70 near Knightstown. The weekend and fall break wrapped up with my last two soccer games to officiate this fall, a visit to Scotty's Brewhouse before going to the Pacers game, and then my son and I went to see the movie "Ender's Game" on Sunday afternoon. In and around all the travel, teaching and photography, I managed to finish a grant application for several photo projects I'd like to do next summer which will put me on the road even more and take me to places I have never been and others I haven't been to in a long, long time.

Next up is the holidays but I am already scheduling my racing work for 2014. I will be shooting for AP at Daytona in January for the Rolex 24 Hours when the combined GrandAm and American LeMans series will debut as the Tudor United Sportscar Series. I have never shot the 24 before so I am really excited about that opportunity and already have my plane flight booked. So even with a little less than two months left in 2013, it's never too early to start making plans for the year ahead. Until the next time I get to go racing again, I leave you with slideshows from my super weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. See you on the road or at a racetrack somewhere soon!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Indycar Schedule Diversity - How about Lime Rock Park?


2013 Indy 500 Winner Tony Kanaan Will Race for Chip Ganassi in 2014
With this week's announcement by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) that May 2014 will start with an Indycar road race at IMS, the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis has me thinking about fans and the series schedule. The 2014 schedule is not yet ready for unveiling but should be out before the season finale at Fontana. The addition of an IMS road race the first weekend in May is almost surely a replacement for Brazil. It has already been announced that Baltimore is going by the wayside due to date conflicts so where does that leave the series? On top of that, IZOD has announced it will be leaving as the title sponsor for Indycar after 2013, so the braintrusts at IMS, now led by the very capable Mark Miles, have some serious work to do in the months ahead to put the best possible series together.
The real work lies in the next 24 months as the sport hurtles toward the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. Discussion of breaking speed records at Indy by that time are intriguing and Dallara and Firestone will need to have their acts together to get these cars close to 240 miles per hour. There is no doubt that Honda and Chevy can produce the horsepower necessary to hit that speed. Both manufacturers have shown in pole qualifying at Indy the last couple of years that adding a few more inches of boost will result in more speed. But that is not my main concern. Quite simply, it is where will the fans come from? Will speed and a new event at IMS be enough? And what about the rest of the series?
Top level open wheel racing in America has a history of schedule diversity whether we're talking about Indycar or Champ Car. With the Indy 500 as the lynchpin, season schedules have been built around Indianapolis with races on short ovals, high speed ovals, street courses, and natural terrain road courses. That is a good thing in my opinion since it showcases the technical capabilities of the machinery as well as the talents of an international field of drivers from diverse racing backgrounds. Yet as diverse as the schedule has been over the last ten years, the primary ingredient which has been lacking is stability. I have to believe that stability in Indycar scheduling will do more to generate fan loyalty than all the technical changes combined. By my count, Indycar has raced at 15 tracks since 2004 which are no longer on the schedule: Michigan, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Nashville, Pikes Peak, Las Vegas, Richmond, Nazareth, Motegi, Homestead, Chicagoland, Kansas (all ovals), plus road/street courses at Baltimore, Edmonton, and Watkins Glen. Nazareth closed, there are too many bad memories to return to Vegas, fans ignored New Hampshire, and Richmond was too deep in NASCAR country to be successful. The other ovals are controlled by International Speedway Corporation whose bread and butter is NASCAR, so it’s no surprise those are gone. Nashville used to sell out, Kentucky had some of the closest finishes in Indycar history, and I haven’t even mentioned Milwaukee yet which seems to be iffy from year to year.

Not all is doom and gloom for the series schedule however, as there is a solid core of race events which can be the basis for stable and sustained future growth. Outside of Indianapolis, staples would seem to be St. Pete, Long Beach, Barber, Milwaukee, Belle Isle, Texas, Pocono, Iowa, Toronto, Mid Ohio, Infineon and Fontana. Doubleheaders at Belle Isle and Toronto are likely to continue along with Houston if all goes well this year. That’s an 18 race schedule so if dates and television coverage are confirmed next week, then it starts to look like there’s some schedule stability in addition to track diversity. Champ Car fans still lament the loss of Elkhart Lake and Laguna Seca, while the presence of two races in Texas most likely precludes Indycar from going to Circuit of the Americas. Could the exclusion of Lime Rock Park from the 2014 Tudor United Sportscar Series present an opportunity for Indycar in the northeast? Adding any of these tracks would be a boon for Indycar racing, as I believe the series should become known for bringing the fastest and most competitive race series to the best tracks in America.

My concern about stability for fans is based on three things. First, I wonder if fans are going to any other races than the one in their immediate area. Second, are fans getting alienated by having a race a couple of times in their area and not knowing if they can plan their schedules around that event for the following year (or years)? Third, if fans can't rely on schedule stability, then are they going to support the series on television or just happen to find the races as they channel check on the weekends?
Do events which are essentially "one-offs", like Baltimore, generate long term fans, where locals may go just to be part of the event due to its novelty and promotion as a "happening"? Has Indycar surveyed those fans and determined where else they attend Indycar races? Do they follow the series at all or just go when the race is in town because it's the thing to do? Or are they bailing out on the series when a race disappears from the schedule after a short stint because they are pissed off about losing their race? I sure don't have the answers but I hope the leaders at Indycar are asking these kinds of questions.

Are fans getting alienated by the loss of a hometown race or the instability of the season schedule? If so, are they going to make vacation plans for the next year with an Indycar race in mind? Indycar has races in some great tourist areas and fans of the Indy 500 certainly plan that way since you know the race is on Memorial Day weekend every year. Somehow I don't see the addition of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis being added to such vacation plans, but I expect it will be well supported locally and regionally by the diehards. Over time, the novelty factor may come into play, as it has with other events held on the IMS road course over the years, where crowds have been good initially but then tapered off.

Television coverage holds the key to future success for the series. It was good to hear that ABC would be televising the Grand Prix of Indianapolis live as well as the 500. NBC Sports Network continues to do a good job of covering the majority of Indycar’s races with extended and in-depth coverage. It would be ideal to have all the races on one network, but that will have to wait until current contracts are up. Improved fan experiences with real time internet content delivery at each racetrack would also help, in order to take advantage of smartphone and tablet technology. The social media efforts of the series have been well intended but that presence (and that of the drivers) needs to increase tenfold to attract (and keep) new fans.

The next generation of fans needs to be identified and nurtured, and there is no time to waste in this world of instant gratification. If you’ve read my blog before, then you know I’m not just spouting off. I love Indycars and the Indy 500. I give a damn. I hope the folks running the Hulman empire are up to the task. I believe that they are, and that the best is yet to come. We just have to get people to the tracks and they will come back for more once they smell the ethanol exhaust and the hot tires in the summer sun. You know where you can find me – with cameras in hand.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Salem Speedway Fall Classic - Stock Car's Future

Fresh faced kid Kyle Benjamin took Salem for his second ARCA win of the season
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menard's continues to provide tantalizing glimpses into the future of stock car racing with its healthy roster of talented youthful drivers. Last Saturday night's 200 lap feature at Salem Speedway was no different as 15 year old Kyle Benjamin won his second ARCA race of the 2013 season. Benjamin was already the youngest ARCA winner ever and now he is the youngest two-time winner in series history. At a track where ARCA has run more races than at any other, Salem Speedway is a tough nut to crack with it's bumpy, worn out asphalt and imperfect oval shape challenging the most talented of drivers on every lap. Yet Benjamin has managed the almost unthinkable:  winning twice in a national stock car touring series before he is even old enough to get a drivers license. Quite impressive.

Ken Schrader races hard at Salem whenever he's entered
It was a beautiful early fall night in southern Indiana for the race at Salem. Comfortable temperatures, clear skies and a packed house greeted the ARCA competitors for the annual fall event. I was shooting my 15th straight ARCA race at Salem and the track (and series) has seen it all through the years. By no means the most modern of racetracks, Salem is homey and possesses a great local following who turned out this year in droves to pack the house and get autographs from the drivers during pre-race festivities. The autograph session along the pit wall is a fan favorite and one of the great things that ARCA does to get fans involved in their events. Local favorite and nine-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel was racing to break the all time ARCA wins record, but came up short. Another fan favorite and former Salem ARCA winner, Kenny Schrader, also raced and 79 year old James Harvey Hilton received a special token of appreciation - a signature Louisville Slugger bat - in his last appearance at the track. The series is one of contrasts and the racing is fierce with youngsters like Benjamin, ARCA champion Chris Buescher, 16 year old Michael Lira, Manson Mingus and polesitter Justin Boston seemingly barely old enough to shave. But they race like veterans and put on another good show.

Frank Kimmel pits at Salem Speedway in front of a packed house
I love shooting the fall race at Salem as there are a variety of challenges. First, the pit lane is cramped and it's easy to get in the way if you're not watching what is going on around you all the time. The last thing I want to do is interfere with a team's pit stop during a race! Second, the event starts off in the daylight and finishes under the lights so the lighting changes dramatically the later it gets. Once it's dark, the track lighting isn't the greatest so the third challenge is getting usable images. The choices come down to blasting the flash with relatively low ISO or going to high ISO and dealing with pixellation in the final product. I tried a mixture of both this year with shooting available light my preferred setting for this event. Flash photos at night races have their place but shooting sequences is another challenge, even with a battery pack, and reflections off of walls or other nearby objects can still interfere with the flash - either the subject in the image will still be dark or there will be a reflection of flash back at the camera from walls or other objects. The law of unintended consequences rules with flash photography at night races and since I don't own a big Norman unit like a lot of my friends who shoot spring car racing, sometimes it's just a crapshoot. Adjust settings on the fly, try lots of different things, and then sort it out in editing later!

Salem was the next to last race I will probably shoot this season and I have had an incredible year. I had intended to shoot the Daytona 500 for Associated Press (AP) but winter intervened in Indy and my flight got cancelled. So I had to wait until April to get my season going when I went to Barber Motorsports Park for motorsport.com to shoot the Indycar and GrandAm weekend. It was my first event for that website and proved valuable once May rolled around. Then I did the spring race at Salem shooting for Salem Speedway before heading south to Talladega for NASCAR to work for AP the first weekend in May. The next weekend, Indy 500 practice started which involving daily shooting and blogging for motorsport.com. This led to my first international publication credit with the Autosport Japan magazine. Two weeks after the 500, I got to serve as ARCA's official photographer at Michigan for two days and then helped them at Winchester at the end of June. July was somewhat of an off month, but the Superweekend at the Brickyard closed the month with a flourish covering GrandAm and NASCAR for motorsport.com again. The next weekend took me to Mid Ohio for Indycars again with motorsport.com in early August so the Salem weekend ended a long racing drought for me. I will be going back to Talladega in October to shoot NASCAR for AP and that will wrap up my year at the races.

Soon enough, however, it will be time to start planning for 2014 when I hope to shoot the Rolex 24 at Daytona, make it to Daytona for the 500 and who knows what after that. The Indy 500 of course is a mainstay on my calendar and it won't be long before I start asking the annual winter question: "Is it May yet?" Until then, here are slideshows from the ARCA 200 and Salem street stockers to tide you over.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Indycar Heats Up at Sonoma - Power Gifted a Win

Scott Dixon pits at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course
One of the great things about shooting motorsports is the ability to get up close and see things from the inside which a lot of fans don't get to experience. So as I was watching the telecast of the Indycar GoPro Grand Prix at Sonoma, I began to get a sense very early in the race that something wacky was going to happen. Sure enough, it did, as a pit incident occurred involving members of Will Power's crew getting knocked over by Scott Dixon as Dixie left his pit box on the final set of stops. Team managers Tim Cindric (Penske) and Mike Hull (Ganassi) were politically correct in their television interviews afterwards talking about the need to protect the guys that go over the wall. Of course that is true, but was this situation really worthy of a penalty on Dixon which cost him the race win and handed it to Power? I think not.

Will Power, Sonoma winner
After listening to Beaux Barfield's explanation, I must say that I understand his reasoning but everyone knows the pits are dangerous and shit happens. Thankfully no one on Power's crew was seriously hurt, but in my opinion, Dixon's collision with the tire held by Power's right rear tire changer was just a racing incident. Barfield said the pit boxes were not being determined by the painted white lines on pit road since those were there for NASCAR but instead were sized by the banners hung by the teams on pit wall. That is just a load of crap frankly, and leaves too much open for interpretation. Did Power's tire changer walk into Dixon's car with the tire on purpose as Mike Hull suggested? I doubt it. But you can't legislate intent and where there is room for interpretation, decisions ought to favor letting the race play out with no intervention by the officials. If everyone had said something like "We do everything we can to protect crewmen on pit lane and it's an unfortunate situation which can sometimes happen on a crowded pit road", then I don't think anyone would have complained. As it turned out, Barfield's decision may end up having a huge impact on the season championship and my guess is we haven't heard the last of the fallout from Sonoma. The best part of the whole deal was hearing Dixon's interview afterward when he said "It was a dick move" by Power's crew member. Scottie D is usually as cool as they come but you could tell he was furious with a comment like that! And I don't mean to diminish the pit lane risks by any means, as I've taken hits from air guns while shooting pit stops and those things hurt! But let them race!

Tony Kanaan counsels Sage Karam at Mid Ohio
While I had to be in Indy couch racing this past weekend and haven't been able to shoot a race since the Mid Ohio event, August has been a whirlwind for me and I will likely only have two more race events to shoot this year:  ARCA at Salem Speedway September 14th and NASCAR at Talladega in October. Those races will bring my 2013 total to a nice round 10 race events and if I could find people to pay me to do more then I would love add to that total. Two days after getting back from Mid Ohio, I got a lead on a new teaching job and by that Friday evening I had the job and then started teaching the following Monday. With soccer officiating added to the mix on the rest of my August weekends, I have been crazy busy but loving every minute of it. I've told many people recently that I've gone from the outhouse to the penthouse with this new job and as much as I love shooting motorsports, I have to say that my cup runneth over and I have been truly blessed to do all the things I'm doing.

Until next time, I will leave you with a few more shots from Mid Ohio which show the variety of racing that occurs at great road course weekends. Be sure to check motorsport.com, my Picasa web galleries or alleygroup.net for more! See you at the track!

Randy Pobst wheels the K-Pax Volvo in Pirelli World Challenge action at Mid Ohio
Pro Mazda runners had to contend with a wet track at Mid Ohio

Jack Hawksworth navigates a turn in Indy Lights
Johnny O'Connell in the carousel in his gorgeous looking (& sounding) Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac