Thursday, June 25, 2015

Chicagoland ARCA Scott 150: My Weekend Adventure

Ryan Reed came from the back to win at Chicagoland
For the second straight week, the rains came just after ARCA completed its race - the previous weekend it happened after 20 miles at Michigan and this time it was at Chicagoland Speedway Saturday June 20th as severe weather rolled in before we could complete Victory Lane ceremonies for the Scott 150. Unfortunately the Xfinity Series, which was to follow ARCA at Chicagoland, got washed out until Sunday. Ryan Reed was pulling double duty in both races and took the his first ARCA win and the first for Lira Motorsports in a heated battle at the front of the field. Reed outlasted current ARCA season points leader Grant Enfinger, Will Kimmel, Matt Tifft and Frank Kimmel to pull into Victory Lane before the track announced that people should seek shelter. Reed had to bolt to the Xfinity garage in the midst of our Victory Lane photos due to the severe weather approaching, so I quickly finished shooting the Scott Rookie of The Race award with sixth place finisher Matt Kurzejewski and commenced one of the fastest post race editing jobs I've ever done for ARCA. For the rest of the finishing order, click here.

Tom Hessert teamed with Josh Williams at CLS
I kept an eye on the sky as I wrapped up my ARCA work that night at the track as I still needed to drive to Akron, Ohio (again) to be with my siblings who had already gotten there to help Mom who was having another scary medical episode. I left the track at 9:50 pm (eastern time) and could see on the weather radar that there was another huge cell of severe rain coming into the Chicagoland area from the northwest. I thought I had a window to outrun the worst of it as I headed east to Akron, and even as the skies were lit up all around me with spectacular lightning, I made my way east on I-80/94 and only encountered scattered rain showers which dissipated around the South Bend area. After that I was in the clear and other than one stop for gas, I rolled 389 miles eastward and got to Mom's in Akron at 4:30 Sunday morning. It was a banzai trip and I stoked up on Mountain Dew and Diet Coke to stay alert, but not surprisingly there wasn't much traffic on I-80 in the middle of the night, so it was a pretty uneventful drive once I got east of the Chicagoland weather.

The ARCA field funnels into Turn 1
The reason I've titled this post as an "adventure" is because I knew before the weekend even started that I would have to make a loop from Indy to Joliet to Akron and then back to Indy over a five day period. Starting at 7:00 a.m. Friday, I left Indy for an easy drive to Joliet and got set up to shoot for ARCA. There was no track activity until later in the afternoon, so I had a chance to catch up with friends I knew on the Chicagoland Speedway photo staff and get some preliminary shooting out of the way. My Friday ended around 10 p.m. once I finished editing for the day. The next day didn't start quite as early so I had time for breakfast at the Clarion where we were staying and then there was more down time at the track before ARCA qualifying. Even early in the day, people were talking about the weather forecast for the evening so I kept my fingers crossed and remained optimistic that we would get our race in. Over two days at the track, I logged over 33,000 steps on my phone's pedometer app, and shot from outside Turn 1, along the frontstretch outside wall, in the garages and pits, and on the roof of the main control tower atop the frontstretch grandstands.

Backlit pit action was a challenge
One of my main goals every weekend is to deliver photos to ARCA taken from a variety of angles and get something on every car and driver entered for the event. When I left Saturday night, I was sweaty and tired but generally satisfied with my work when I hit the road for Akron Saturday night, and felt like I had produced some of the best Victory Lane photos I have taken in awhile. Other than cropping and adding a touch of clarity, I still prefer to deliver images straight from the camera, so I was extremely pleased with my exposure settings and how everything looked. The late afternoon sun and shadows during the race were especially challenging but I thought the backlighting made some of my pit stop shots especially dramatic, so I felt good about meeting the lighting challenges.

Xfinity Series regular Daniel Suarez
With Chicagoland being my third straight weekend and fifth of the season overall shooting for ARCA, I think teams and drivers are getting used to seeing me around and have come to just ignore me, which is what I really want them to do when I am looking for candid photos. I find myself hiding around a corner or behind some equipment and using a long lens to get some shots so they don't even know they are being photographed. I have also really been concentrating on using only available light in the majority of situations, which automatically means I am constantly adjusting ISO, shutter speed and aperture settings, so I have to be alert all the time to  the lighting conditions around my subjects. I love that aspect of photography at the track!

I got back to Indy about 7:30 Tuesday night and am writing this Wednesday June 24th, the first day I've really had a chance to reflect on the weekend since leaving for Joliet last Friday. I am getting more and more opportunities to just have casual conversations with drivers or team members and owners. I haven't met anyone yet in the ARCA garage who isn't genuinely nice and I see every weekend how they help each other out when someone has trouble on the race track, i.e., someone has found the fence and bent a race car. I know it is like that at a lot of levels in racing, but I have a feeling that it's more prevalent in ARCA since the budgets aren't anywhere near what they are in other national series. It's all about "the show" and making sure everyone can race who wants to and I admire that communal spirit tremendously. I'm happy to be a contributor and hope some of that comes across in my photos. My fourth straight ARCA weekend is just a few days away now, and it's close to home at Winchester Speedway in east central Indiana, when ARCA headlines a two-day event which also includes Saturday features for the "King Of The Wing" sprint cars and the Top Speed Modifieds. Until next time, here's a few of my photos from Chicagoland. If you want to see more, then go to and click on the ARCA sites link or just click here. C'mon out to Winchester Saturday and Sunday! Hope to see you there.

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