Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Another Racing Road Trip Adventure: ARCA Michigan

Rookie race winner Austin Theriault was impressive
When I left Indianapolis Tuesday morning June 10th to go help my Mom in Akron, Ohio for a couple of days before going to shoot for ARCA at Michigan International Speedway, little did I know what the universe had in store for me. The two days shooting at MIS were actually a great diversion and I was able to hone in on the job I had to do and block out everything else as I immersed myself in covering the Corrigan 200 as ARCA's primary photographer. It turned out to be a very entertaining race, as Austin Theriault won in his very first ARCA start. Not only that, it was the first time he had ever raced on a track longer than one mile. On Thursday when ARCA had use of the track exclusively for its teams, I had no idea that this young man, whose headshot I had to get before he could even go out and practice, would turn out to be the winner. Austin was so nice about it too. I had just grabbed a plate of food for lunch and he came over and asked if I wanted to do the headshot later but I told him I was all set up and ready. The last thing I wanted was to put it off, which would have kept him from practicing when that time came less than an hour later. So congratulations to Venturini Motorsports for once again plucking a young talent seemingly out of thin air and putting him in a race winning car. Last year it was Brennan Poole; this time it was Austin Theriault. Remember that name folks.

Pole winner Mason Mitchell takes the green flag
Gettting to MIS and working was the easy part. The hard part was what happened surrounding my Thursday and Friday responsibilities. When I got to Akron Tuesday afternoon, Mom wasn't feeling well and she ended up with a trip to the emergency room that night and then spending several days in the hospital with pneumonia. Anyone with senior parents knows how serious that can be but I knew she was getting the best care possible and I would only be three hours away. So I left for Michigan Wednesday night, worked at MIS for ARCA the next two days and then drove back to Akron Friday night after the Corrigan 200. I spent most of the following three days at the hospital with her and thankfully was able to take her home Monday evening June 16th. Once Mom's sister arrived that evening, I was able to head home to Indy where I rolled in after 1:00 a.m. June 17th. All told, I put in nearly 1250 miles on the road with several late night drives, plus I endured a ton of stress and anxiety over the last week. In contrast to what my Mom had gone through, shooting the race was a piece of cake, and I kept telling myself to have faith - everything was going to work out. And it did, thank God.

One of my favorites from Victory Lane - Gatorade splashes and the race sponsor hat
I enjoy shooting for ARCA probably as much as any other racing assignment, partly because there are usually surprise entrants and there's always a certain amount of pressure to deliver photos. I like that. If I screw up, then it's on me, and I have no one to blame. The series typically only has one shooter at each race so getting the photos they need is imperative. I have always had the ability to concentrate and go into hyper-focus mode - whether it was shooting free throws in a basketball game during my playing days or shooting photos for an important client. So that kind of pressure I actually enjoy. At the end of the 100 lap race, I asked a young man who had been shadowing me Friday if he noticed how quickly the race went by. To me, that's what happens when I get busy at a racetrack and I am able to get what I need on the go and move on. That is one of my favorite aspects of shooting motorsports and although I would not suggest that I was in "the zone" at this race, everything seemed to work out perfectly and the timing was right every time I moved to another location. I started off the race in the flagstand, which I had never done before, and ended up in Victory Lane, so it was a busy 100 laps, even before the hat dance began.

The old saying "no rest for the wicked" seems to apply here, as I have summer school to teach this week and next, but I don't have another race assignment until the July 4th holiday weekend when ARCA races a little closer to home - at Winchester Speedway, only about 70 miles from my home in Indy. I love the high banked short tracks line Winchester and Salem so I am really excited about getting back to work there for ARCA again. Life on the road continues to teach me lessons, so I will try and apply those at the next race. I'm grateful for the chance to work and learn while doing something I'm passionate about. If you're not doing anything in a couple of weeks, then get to Winchester! You never know what will happen. You just might see another future racing star make history and you can say you "saw him when..."