Monday, July 25, 2016

Chase Briscoe Earns ARCA Trifecta at Lucas Oil Raceway

Chase Briscoe celebrates his third consecutive ARCA win
With Chase Briscoe's background in USAC short track racing, I guess we should not be surprised that he got his third straight ARCA win on a short track. He grabbed the checkers at Winchester at the end of June, then again at Iowa Speedway two weeks ago and added Lucas Oil Raceway this past Friday night. On the other hand, maybe we should be surprised about Chase's wins since his USAC experience was almost entirely on dirt tracks in open wheel machines, not on pavement tracks in big, heavy stock cars! However you choose to look at it, this kid is on a role and is just starting to display his talents in an ARCA stock car. Having seen him race a lot already this season, I for one am not surprised that he is getting to Victory Lane on a regular basis now. Earlier this season, he was always fast but something would happen during the races to keep him out of first place. Quite a few people (including me) told him that when he got that first win the floodgates would open and that's exactly what has happened.

Briscoe (77) held off Kligerman in a clean fight for first
I don't know how the Sioux Chief 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway west of Indianapolis translated on the FoxSports1 telecast, but Chase did a masterful job on track and in the pits to snag the win in fairly convincing fashion. All the ARCA teams know that Cunningham Motorsports fields some quality equipment every week and expect the 77 that Chase pilots to be up front most every week. This race Chase had to not only fend off the usual challengers from Venturini's stable of three cars, two from Mason Mitchell Motorsports, but Justin Haley was entered for Braun and seasoned veteran Parker Kligerman was on hand subbing for concussed Jon Wes Townley for Athenian. Kligerman took pole and led early but once Chase got out in front, he held off every challenge and managed to get out of the pits before everyone else when it counted. A red flag just past halfway gave everyone time to cool down and plot strategy but Briscoe had them all covered after subsequent restarts. It seemed like half of his hometown of Mitchell, Indiana joined the Cunningham team in Victory Lane at the end of the night. I'm telling you that was fun to watch and it was  even more fun to be there to document the event in pictures for the ARCA Series.

A nice little reflecting pond appeared in the infield of Turn 1
With the completion of the race at Lucas Oil Raceway, I am now halfway through my commitment of 14 races shooting for ARCA this season. I have to miss Pocono this weekend due to school commitments but from the following week through the season finale in Kansas this October, I will be there for all the action. It's been great working with long time ARCA photographer Harlen "Doc" Hunter and having Rich Corbett join us at various races this year. There's so much we can do for the series with more than one photographer on hand. 

Can't use flash from three feet away!
It's also been fun for me to see the styles of other people I get to work with. I have become somewhat of an available light snob and avoid using flash during a race at almost all costs. I will use fill flash in Victory Lane once the race is over, but there's something moody and emotional about night racing that available light captures better for my eye, so I leave my flash in its pouch and crank up the ISO. I don't know that everyone feels that way, but if you look at enough of my night racing photos over the last few years, you really can see that style preference emerge. I think using a flash to get on track pix looks unnatural and with the Canon 7D Mark II I bought this spring specifically for its low light capability, I don't see any point in shooting action with flash. In fact there are some action photos I could not get at all with flash as the last thing I want to do is blind a driver with a big booming flash in a head-on shot like the one above. I never owned a big Norman flash unit that a lot of sprint car photographers use and I understand why they have them, but I've just decided to do it another way. Ain't creativity grand?

On the other hand, a good flash exposure does have its place and I could not have gotten this shot without it. That's another aspect of doing this work that I truly love. There are so many technical challenges to overcome every race and I have to be sure to get variety in my photos so the series can use them in all kinds of marketing and promotion activities. And after a 17 hour day in the Indiana summer heat and humidity, 20,000 plus steps on my pedometer app and editing about 2500 photos, I want to go home satisfied that I've done a good job and captured the spirit of the events I cover.  Last Friday I did all of that and in two weeks, I get to do it all over again at Berlin Raceway in Michigan. Give me a shout, bring your camera and come to the race. You'll be glad you did. Safe travels everyone. See you at a race!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Another Hot One in Iowa for ARCA and Indycar

Iowa ARCA winner Chase Briscoe did a nice burnout
The winners at Iowa Speedway this weekend were plenty hot after an interesting trio of races, but Mother Nature didn't punish us like she did last year as temperatures were in the 80's instead of close to 100 as they were in 2015. The heat in the ARCA race Saturday night came from Chase Briscoe who captured his second straight ARCA win in fine style. As I told him and his team in Victory Lane afterwards, now I expect the floodgates to open for many more wins. We'll see if he can make it three straight next weekend in Indy at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Iowa podium: Veach (left), winner Felix Serralles and series leader Ed Jones
After a rain shower Sunday morning which washed out the Indy Lights qualifying, the heat in its 100 lapper came from the top drivers lamenting the lack of respect from backmarkers who they felt got in the way and effected the outcome of the race. Felix Serralles passed Zack Veach on the last lap to win as a teammate of Serralles managed to find his way into leader Veach's path which cost him momentum and the win. All of the Lights podium drivers bemoaned the driving tactics of several colleagues. I know we witnessed a lot of blocking that went unchecked most of the race so I don't blame them for being irate.

Josef Newgarden is one tough cookie
The Iowa Corn 300 Indycar race on Sunday followed Indy Lights and Josef Newgarden had the hot hand throughout and dominating a win which he later described as like driving in a "video game." After Simon Pagenaud won the pole Saturday to claim the 500th pole position for Penske Racing, I would have picked Simon as the likely winner but Josef started second next to Pagenaud, jumped into the lead on Lap 1 and rarely looked back. Joey was so hot he set an Indycar record by leading 282 of 300 laps, a feat which is almost ridiculous considering how competitive the Verizon Indycar Series has become in recent years. Joey continues to be impressive driving with wrist and collarbone fractures incurred during his Texas crash a few weeks ago. He is in the championship hunt and was truly excited in Victory Lane, gushing about how good his car had been throughout the race. Shooting the race, you could see he had command of the event and could drive anywhere he wanted on the tight Iowa oval. I know my brother was excited about it as he bought a couple of bottles of Fuzzy's vodka to take back to Tucson with him. We even saw Fuzzy himself in Victory Lane, and team owner Ed Carpenter couldn't have been happier if he had won the race himself. I just hope he can keep Josef around for the future, as his stock must surely be rising in the eyes of the big team owners like Penske, Andretti and Ganassi.

Brother Steve (right) and I in Victory Lane at Iowa
Iowa was a big weekend for me for many reasons. Last year, it was the first race I worked after my mother's death and her funeral was only four days before the 2015 ARCA race, so having a road trip and a race to work was good therapy for me when I really needed it. This year, my brother Steve came up after handling some business in the Kansas City area for his consulting firm, so we met up and worked the race weekend together before going our separate ways again Sunday night after Indycar was done. It was a blast hanging out with him and exploring the track more this year. He had never been to Iowa Speedway before and I had only been once, and that was last year when I was not able to stay for Indycar. My brother and I have decided we are going to meet for at least one race each year outside of the Indy 500 and we are already ahead of that this year since we met at Phoenix in April and now at Iowa. At Phoenix we were just spectators so Iowa was a chance for him to see things from the inside again and experience the funny (often downright silly) things that can happen in the photographer's room at a major race. Everyone is serious about their work but the running commentary that comes with it is often anything but serious.

Iowa winner Josef Newgarden had the field covered
It was also good for him to experience the days as I do at the track since they are often long, hot and hectic. Saturday we were at the track before 7:00 a.m. and left at 11:00 pm after the ARCA race, and I still had editing to complete! Sunday was a little shorter and we had an interruption for "moisture" in the morning so we didn't log quite as many steps on our pedometers! I was able to connect with a lot of people I know from social media but had never met in person as well as introduce old friends to Steve so he could feel like part of the track media community too. As anyone who's done this work for any length of time knows, that community is relatively small and you run into a lot of the same people at various race tracks along the way. One thing still bothered me after the weekend though, as I hit the highway for Indy at 9:00 pm Sunday knowing I wouldn't get home until around 3:00 the next morning: I can't call Mom after a race when I am on the road. Mom was a huge race fan and supported my passion for racing so it was nice to share that again this weekend with my brother.

My next race for ARCA is practically in my backyard since the series comes to Indianapolis for a 200 lap event at Lucas Oil Raceway on the westside of town July 22nd. The CRA Super Series has a 100 lap race that evening as well. It's also Brickyard 400 weekend in Indy so there should be a good crowd and lots of excitement. Best of all, I don't have a long drive and I get to sleep in my own bed! It will probably be another hot one so come on out and join us. Look me up in the ARCA marketing trailer if you do! Until next time, here's a selection of photos from all three races I covered at Iowa last weekend. If you want to see more, then go to or!