Saturday, May 20, 2017

ARCA, Alonso and Alabama

ARCA raced at Salem for the 101st time on April 30th
Since the last I had the chance to write, I've been kind of busy! You may wonder what the heck ARCA, Alonso and Alabama have in common and why I used these in my title. On the last weekend in April, I made two trips to Salem Speedway in southern Indiana for the 101st ARCA race at the old high banks. Then Wednesday May 3rd I went out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to cover the first test session for two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso on the IMS oval since the news came out that he was skipping Monaco to run the 101st Indy 500 instead.

ARCA teams turned out in force for Talladega 
Then the first weekend in May I did a banzai trip to Talladega, Alabama, driving through torrential rain Thursday night, to shoot the ARCA, NASCAR Xfinity and Monster Energy Cup races, before returning home to Indy at 2:45 a.m. Monday morning so I wouldn't miss any work that day. The Alabama weather was miserable on Friday when we were supposed to have run the ARCA race as it was cold and rainy, although we did get on track for 30 minutes of practice. as a result, the race got postponed to Saturday afternoon once all of the NASCAR track activities were completed so I ended up shooting the Xfinity Series race for AP and the ARCA race for ARCA that afternoon. The night before we had gone to a Mexican restaurant on Cinco de Mayo, which probably wasn't the best decision, but we had fun and I was ready to just relax Saturday night.

Four wide at Talladega is the new normal
I was still dealing with a credential snafu that night for the Cup race and I wasn't sure it would get worked out at all, but I went to sleep trying to trust the process and hope for the best. The next morning I not only got into the track with the right credential to shoot for AP, I got assigned to the Turn 1 tower so I had a great view of the pack racing which made for some interesting photos. Even though I didn't sell any pictures to AP from the Cup race, I left via the "secret exit" as soon as I turned in my photo vest and was happy with the work I had done as I headed back to Indianapolis Sunday evening. The common thread is racing of course, and I nearly set a mileage record for the week!

Will Power won on the road course at Indy again
Fast forward a week and I've done another race - this time a little closer to home - at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Indycar ran on the road course in its Indycar Grand Prix to kick off May track activities at IMS. Now that the Indycar GP is over, practice has started for the 101st Indy 500 and Alonso has gotten some real track time under his belt, and he has really seemed to enjoy it. He has adapted well to solo and pack running since his limited number of laps to pass his rookie test on May 3rd. Fernando has also seemed to enjoy the close contact with fans and I have been surprised that photographers and fans alike have allowed relatively easy access to him, even in the pits. He ran as high as 4th quick on Fast Friday so he may yet be a real threat to win the 500 next weekend, but there's a host of Indycar regulars who stand between Fernando and the Borg Warner trophy.

Will Power was unstoppable on Indy's road course
Although it is a bit disappointing that there are only 33 cars entered for this year's 500, the quality of the field is high and three crashes during practice (veteran Josef Newgarden, youngster Spencer Pigot and rookie Zach Veach) is about normal for the first week at Indy. I have had a blast shooting for Vision Sport Agency (VSA) and adapting to their more sophisticated techniques in Adobe Lightroom for processing daily images. It has also forced me to be more critical of my own work so I am trying to do hard edits each day as I cull through my photos looking for the 4- and 5-star images.  It's nice to see the results of my work immediately on the internet and I hope it generates more interest for the series and for VSA's involvement both now and in the future, especially here at Indy since this is my home race.

Penske, Ganassi and Andretti drivers made the Indycar GP podium
Will Power won the Indycar GP again this year leading 61 of 85 laps to get his second win at Indy, albeit not on the oval in the big race. Michael Andretti has six cars entered this year for the 500, including Alonso's so on sheer numbers alone, an Andretti driver has the best chance of winning this year at 18.18%. Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi both have four cars entered so they will certainly have much to say about who wins this year's race. In any event they will have to fend of the Andretti phalanx of cars which may get an additional technology boost with the involvement of the McLaren braintrusts from Formula One. Since I'm a numbers guy (I teach Algebra after all) the odds of an Andretti, Penske or Ganassi entry winning the 500 stand at 42.42%. That's a number I would bet on. So as the late Sid Collins used to say, "Stay tuned for the Greatest Spectacle in racing." I will do my part to bring it to you in photos so be sure to check the Vision Sport Agency website on a regular basis.

Fernando Alonso seemed quite comfortable on his first laps on Indy's oval 
Spencer Pigot found the wall in practice but is expected to be ready for qualifying