Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Season Review: My 2016 Winding Road

Shooting from the flagstand is always a thrill
My 2016 racing season has indeed been a long and winding road. All but one racing trip involved driving my Civic Si all over kingdom come, but it was nice to start off the season with a plane flight and a visit to a new (old) racing venue. I was fortunate to have the chance to work as a photographer at 18 race events which included 27 major series races. That doesn't count CRA, street stocks or other series racing on the same weekend that I didn't have to cover! As a result, my online photo galleries are growing by leaps and bounds and I have racked up some serious miles on the road along with lots of great memories while working with many great people.

My return to Phoenix was about 12 years in the making
Most of my photo work this year involved shooting for the ARCA Racing Series as its chief photographer where I did 14 out of the 20 races on the Series' calendar. The first race I went to this year was just for fun, and involved a banzai plane trip to Phoenix where I met my brother and his son for the return of Indycar racing to the historic mile oval in the Arizona desert. It was a great trip, leaving Friday evening and getting home late Sunday night after watching the Verizon Indycar and Indy Lights series race. Of course I had to shoot some pictures, and I ran into photographers I know who cover the series who asked me why they hadn't seen me at the photo meeting. It was one time where I was happy just to say I was spectating so the pressure was off.

Not many people get to shoot from the roof of Stand E
The Phoenix trip was the first weekend in April and then things really picked up after he next weekend I was shooting at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway for ARCA. Two weeks later I was at Salem Speedway for ARCA again, and then the next weekend I shot at Talladega - first for ARCA and then the NASCAR Xfinity and Sprint Cup races for Associated Press. I drove  home immediately after the Sprint Cup race and got in at 2:00 Monday morning. I made it to work that day on about five hours sleep! After a week off, I got to stay home and shoot the Grand Prix of Indianapolis for motorsport,com with the Indycar and Indy Lights series featured as part of the buildup for the 100th Indianapolis 500 and the Indy Lights Freedom 100.  That took care of the month of May in a big way with three successive weekends of activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

The Verizon Indycar Series on the Iowa bullring was spectacular
The weekend after the 500, we went to Warsaw, Indiana to dedicate the grave marker for Mom and then my summer break from teaching started with a two day event at Michigan for the ARCA Series. The day after Michigan, we drove to Cincinnati and hopped on Allegiant for a week's vacation at Sunset Beach, North Carolina. June wrapped up with ARCA's two day event at Winchester Speedway so I was able to commute from home. Two weeks later, I drove to Iowa Speedway to shoot for ARCA again and my brother came in for the weekend so we stayed to shoot the Indycar and Indy Lights races also. It was the first time I was able to get credentials as Alleygroup Associates so that was pretty cool. I also stopped in Le Clare, Iowa at the Antique Archeaology store made famous by the American Pickers television show and got my picture taken with one of the show's stars, Mike Wolfe, who was very gracious and just happened to be there that day.

There's no place else like Berlin where pit lane is in the infield!
Two weeks later, the end of July had arrived and it was back home in Indianapolis for ARCA at Lucas Oil Raceway which turned into an 18 hour day but I loved it all as the flat short track delivered its usual measure of excitement and the champion in the making, Chase Briscoe, snagged another win. School had already started for me by then so that made for a challenging schedule with teaching during the week and racing on every other weekend. Two more weeks went by and I was off to Marne, Michigan to shoot ARCA again at Berlin Raceway which has the most unique pit road of any track I have ever been to, with the teams pitting in the infield during the race, and no back stretch wall to keep cars in the park! The month of August took ARCA to the first of two mile dirt tracks at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois and then Labor Day weekend arrived with another ARCA race on a mile dirt track at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in the first ever night race for the series there. If August was busy, then September was insane!

It was great seeing Chase Briscoe take season honors for ARCA
Six days after DuQuoin was the 100th ARCA race at Salem Speedway which brought a historic sweep of both 2016 Salem races by youngster Christopher Bell. Then five days later, we trekked to Chicagoland Speedway for the first of three straight ARCA races on mile-and-a-half  intermediate tracks, all of which were televised and brought out strong fields of cars and close racing. From Chicagoland, eight days later we were off to Kentucky Speedway and the completion of a stretch run of four races in 19 days would be completed. That left only one more race to go in the ARCA season following Kentucky, and a month later we went to Kansas Speedway where Chase Briscoe merely needed to start the race to secure his first ARCA season championship. But Chase wasn't satisfied to back into the season title and he grabbed his sixth win of the ARCA season to complete his stranglehold on the championship.

The "Big One" came right to me
The week after Kansas, I was southbound on Interstate 65 once again to Talladega Superspeedway, this time wrapping up my 2016 season by shooting the  NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Sprint Cup races for Associated Press. On another banzai road trip, I left Indy about 4:00 p.m. Friday, shot races Saturday and Sunday, and got home Monday morning at around 2:30 a.m. It was well worth it as I got an APTopix out of the truck race on Saturday and continued to build relationships with my friends and colleagues down south. I haven't figured out how many miles I drove in 2016 to shoot races but it's probably close to 15,000 with two trips to Talladega, another to Kansas, one to Iowa, two into Michigan and various shorter trips around the midwest. Next year is looking quite similar but I am adding two 24 hour sports car races to the mix for 2017: the Rolex 24 at Daytona and my first Le Mans. Thankfully I am flying to those events, so stay tuned for more as I start counting down the days to be back at a racetrack again. I can hardly wait. See you at a track somewhere near you.

My only other Rolex race was in 2014 so it will be good to return in 2017