Tuesday, June 21, 2016

ARCA Beat Goes On: 8 Races - 8 Winners

Brandon Jones took the Michigan win
Prior to this weekend's race in Madison, Wisconsin, the ARCA series had started off the season with eight different winners in its first eight races and Brandon Jones kept that streak alive with his one-off race win at Michigan International Speedway (MIS) on Friday June 10th. I had worked four of those first eight ARCA races as the series photographer but was on vacation this past weekend and could not get to Madison to see Josh Williams break that streak and become the first dual winner in 2016. Just prior to leaving for vacation I had worked the Corrigan 200 at Michigan and was never more relieved to get to lap 51 of a 100 lap race than on that  day, as we had plane reservations the next afternoon for our vacation that I did not want to have to change if weather had intervened. And if you have ever been to southeastern Michigan in June, then you know how a pop up thunderstorm can happen just about anytime, but everything came off without a hitch, we made our Allegiant flight the next day and were off to Sunset Beach, North Carolina for a week of sorely needed rest and relaxation.

Great side lighting is a feature at Michigan in the afternoon
Now my summer of racing really gets going as I will work 10 of the final 11 ARCA races beginning this weekend at Winchester Speedway Saturday and Sunday. Billed as the "World's Fastest Half Mile", Winchester is another "home" track for me since it is only 70 miles from our house and I can commute for the weekend. I've lost track of how many times I've been to Winchester since I started shooting there in the 1990's. It is a fast and bumpy racetrack with many similarities to Salem Speedway. It has some unique features as well with a curving pit lane that dives down to the bottom of the banking inside Turn 1 being one of them. Winchester weekend also includes other support series so local fans get a solid two days of track activity. If you've never been to Winchester for a race, then you need to get over to east central Indiana and check it out. From Muncie on State Road 32, you will go through Farmland and Maxville, Indiana as well as a few other small towns before you see the race track lights rising out of a corn field on the north side of the highway.

Brennan Poole got his first ARCA win in 2013 at Michigan
I started going to to Michigan in the 1980's so it's another track which has a lot of personal history for me. The contrasts between the two tracks couldn't be more extreme although both ARCA events are two day shows with practice one day and racing the next. This June's Michigan race was the fourth year in a row that I have worked for ARCA as its official photographer at Michigan. Not coincidentally, it was the first track where I filled that role on my own in 2013. The last two years my trips to Michigan have involved family drama as my Mom's health deteriorated, so this was my first trip back to MIS since she passed away last July. I called her last year leaving the racetrack in a torrential downpour but couldn't do that this year, so driving away from the track Friday night this year was bittersweet even knowing that we were leaving for vacation the next day. I've shot there enough now that I know where to go to get the right lighting I want, and since the race itself starts in the late afternoon, there's an opportunity to get some very nice side lighting on the front stretch as the sun sets behind the grandstands. I was fortunate to have plenty of help this year as the big Michigan oval is hard to cover by myself. I will have no such issue at Winchester since it is such a small bowl and easy to get from one area to another.

Brandon Jones' first ARCA win in 2014
There's another connection between Winchester, Michigan and ARCA for me that seems ironic now but I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Two years ago Brandon Jones won at Winchester with a last lap, last corner bump and run move to win in his first ever ARCA race. Now he's moved up the ranks in NASCAR and I would bet he probably doesn't remember me telling him in 2014 that I was his lucky charm as I took his headshot photo before his first Winchester race. There was a stretch where it seemed like every race I worked for ARCA was being won by a driver who had never even raced in ARCA before and I told Brandon then that he might be the next one to do so. So now two years later, Brandon continues his winning ways in ARCA and I got to shoot pictures of him celebrating in Victory Lane once again. Brandon is not on the entry list for Winchester this year but season points leader Chase Briscoe is due to pick up his first ARCA win after numerous pole positions and close calls already this season, including at Michigan where he led a ton of laps but still finished second to Jones after issues in the pits. The Winchester entry list right now is a bit light but you can count on an action packed race whoever shows up.

I hope to see you at the track soon. If not at Winchester, then maybe at Iowa in July when ARCA is paired up with Indycar for a race weekend in the heat of summer! C'mon out and say hello. Or follow me on Twitter @alleygroup to stay in touch as the season unfolds. For the time being, here's a gallery of photos from Michigan to tide you over. Go to www.arcaracing.com for more!

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