Friday, September 30, 2016

ARCA Season Winding Down: Chase Briscoe Likely Champ

Chase Briscoe grabbed season win #5 at Chicagoland
With four ARCA races to cover in September for the series, keeping up with me on the road this month has been a challenge. The month began Labor Day weekend at the Magic Mile dirt track at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. Less than a week later, I was at Salem Speedway in southern Indiana for the 100th ARCA race on the legendary old high banked half mile. Christopher Bell won there and swept both 2016 races at Salem in the process. Fice days after Salem, I was at Chicagoland Speedway where Chase Briscoe added another win to his season total and padded his ARCA series points lead. All chase has to do now at Kansas is start the race and he will be the 2016 champion. It's been great working with him and the people at Cunningham Motorsports this year and you have to believe Chase will be moving up next year. When that happens, I'll be one of his biggest fans.

Austin Cindric had a nice burnout after his Kentucky win
Finally, September was almost over then last weekend when I was at Kentucky Speedway for the penultimate ARCA race for the season. Austin Cindric got his first ever ARCA win at Kentucky and Victory Lane was chaotic afterwards with TV people and others getting in our way. Now that Kentucky is over, that leaves only one more ARCA race for 2016 at Kansas in mid-October. Whew! And the miles just keep adding up!

Most of these trips are relatively straightforward with easy drives from Indianapolis where I live. Since most ARCA races are run on Fridays or Saturdays, getting there works well with my teaching schedule since we have staff days most Fridays. The Chicagoland event was an exception as I had to drive to Joliet, Illinois on Wednesday night, work the race on Thursday where I got back to the hotel after midnight, and then drove straight back to Noblesville the next morning to be at school by 9:00 a.m. That drive was anything but straightforward but it was also one of the most fun drives I've done for a race trip as I decided to zig zag my way back south to avoid the Chicago area traffic and go on mostly two lane roads where I thought traffic would be light so early in the morning. It was truly a long and winding road as I took Interstate 80 from Joliet east to I-57 South, then Illinois State Roads 17 and 1 to US 24 and US 41; then Indiana State Road 28 to I-65, then Indiana 47 to 38, ending up in Noblesville after seeing several small towns along the way I never knew existed. Have you ever been to Fickle, Indiana? I never had either until that trip!

Austin Cindric won Kentucky and could win at Kansas
With Kansas still two weeks away, I have been looking back over 2016 and the events I've covered for Associated Press, ARCA and and counting my blessings. I still have one ARCA race and Talladega for AP this year, yet I am already deep in planning for 2017 as I will shoot the Rolex Daytona 24 Hours in January to kick things off. While next year's ARCA schedule has not been finalized, I expect I will be doing close to the same number of races (14) for the series as I did this year and in 2015. Then there's Indianapolis in May but the crown jewel of my 2017 season will surely be the 24 Hours of LeMans in June. It will be my first trip to Europe and my first LeMans race but hopefully not my last as I have gotten to know other photographers who shoot there every year so while I will be a LeMans "rookie", I won't be totally a fish out of water! At least at the racetrack that is - not so sure about the rest, as we also plan to go to Venice and Rome after LeMans so it should be the trip of a lifetime.

This hole in the wall at Salem Speedway turned out to be a creative opportunity
Once I get past October, I will have more time to reflect on what a great year this has been as it hasn't really sunk in yet. By the time all is said and done, I will have done 18 major race weekends, which have included ARCA, CRA, Indy Lights, Indycar and all of the major NASCAR series. I've made some new friends and learned some new tricks in Adobe Lightroom. I've done some of what I think is my best work this year as I've challenged myself at every race to try and doing something different than the time before. That's not been easy but I've had the chance to work with lots of great people again this year so even though the miles on the road are a drag sometimes and the days at the track can be quite long, the end result is absolutely worth it. As the winners always seem to say in Victory Lane, "I can't thank everyone enough..." for the opportunities.

Please check out my Google photo galleries.  You can see my gallery from the most recent ARCA race at Kentucky by clicking on this link. In the meantime, enjoy these for the time being and watch for my blue Civic Si in the left lane on a highway near you heading to a race somewhere. Follow me!

ARCA pit action at Chicagoland was hectic as usual
Afternoon rain showers at Salem Speedway left a beautiful evening sky for the start of the 100th ARCA race there
Close intense racing is a hallmark of ARCA competition these days, especially  in the top five

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