Wednesday, April 22, 2015

ARCA Descends on Salem Speedway This Weekend

The 2010 spring race at Salem had beautiful weather
Other than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I've been to Salem Speedway in southern Indiana more than any other racetrack through the years. The parallel to my history is that ARCA has raced at Salem more than any other track on its diverse schedule. The last time ARCA raced here, the win wasn't decided until the last corner of the last lap as 2014 ARCA champ Mason Mitchell made a last ditch passing attempt on Tom Hessert that came up short, resulting in Hessert's third Salem win in the last five tries. I expect more of the same close racing this weekend.

Ken Schrader congratulated Grant Enfinger on his 2014 win
Ageless Ken Schrader will be back to challenge the ARCA field which must be getting antsy to do something about Grant Enfinger's early season dominance. Enfinger could win his fourth straight race (out of four) this weekend and he won at Salem last year before making the switch to his current team GMS racing, so he would have to be booked as the favorite. Don't count Tom Hessert out though as he has found ways to win at Salem that in hindsight must have seemed improbable. Ironically, one of his wins came in Schrader's #52 Federated Auto Parts machine but his Cunningham team clearly knows how to prepare a car he likes for the bumpy high banks of this historic short track.

Tom Hessert knows the way to Victory Lane at Salem
One of the great things about the spring race at Salem is the fact that it is a two-day event and fans bring their motor homes, pop-up campers or tents and spend the whole weekend on the Speedway property. The fall race is run at night where ARCA practices, qualifies and races all on one day, so the spring race's extended schedule is not quite as hectic and probably gives fans more track action for entertainment. Race fans in southern Indiana love this track and I do too, as I started shooting the ARCA races here in the fall of 2006 and have only missed one ARCA race at Salem since then. The pits are crowded, the action in Turn 1 is always intense, often three or four wide, and there's always a certain amount of beating and banging that goes on. Teams must have a good supply of racer's tape when they come to Salem. As a photographer, I have to make sure I stay out of the way, especially during pit stops, and keep my head on a swivel to make sure I stay on top of the hectic action.

Salem pit action is always exciting
Two hundred laps at Salem can go quickly and there's a lot to do once the race starts. I am shooting for ARCA again this weekend for the second time this season and my job will start on Saturday before practice even begins. I enjoy the variety of assignment work I get when I shoot for ARCA and when I see teams using photos I've supplied on social media or their websites, I know I will have done a good job. A lot of the required shooting will get done Saturday and include the Pole Winner award so look for that on ARCA's website late Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning always involves an autograph session on the front stretch where fans can meet all the drivers and get hero cards or personal memorabilia autographed. This series does a great job getting fans in touch with the men who drive these machines, and if you haven't been to an ARCA race because you think it's a lower tier series, then you are really missing out. After all, these drivers are the future stars of stock car racing and you can say " knew then when..." if you get to an ARCA show. And they will put on a show once the green flag drops.

Expect a good crowd when you come to Salem Speedway
One of the nicest things about going to Salem for me is the short drive: it's only 110 miles from my house in Indy, so it is easy to get to and doesn't involve a long trip home. I will "commute" this weekend, going down and back both Saturday and Sunday, so I will still rack up some miles, but not nearly the amount of other trips I will take this season. The photos I shoot will be on ARCA's website within a day or so after the race, so if you can't make it to the race, at least check the site for photos to purchase. If you do make it down to "God's Country" this weekend, then give me a shout and I'll take your picture! Until next time, here are a few from prior years at this fast and historic racetrack nestled in the rolling hills of southern Indiana. Godspeed and safe travels everyone!

Frank Kimmel during a pit stop last year; Brandon Jones will be running the Menard's colors this weekend
Tom Hessert also won at Salem in 2013
Ken Schrader ran afoul of a lapped car while leading last year and hit the wall
Let's race!

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