Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sato Takes Indy 500 Win - We Head to France

2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato
What a month of May this has been. I turned 60 the last day of May and as my fiance likes to say, "The Month of Jay" concluded with another highly entertaining Indy 500 race which was won in the last few laps by hard charging Takuma Sato. Taku became the first Japanese driver to win Indy and he did it with a Honda engine behind him that was stronger (and lasted longer) than all the rest. The Chevy powered teams were just no match for Honda this year at IMS and it was a joy to watch Takuma get his first 500 win after a near miss in 2011 when he crashed trying to pass Dario Franchitti on the last lap. This year, there was no denying the man whose motto is stitched onto his caps: "No Attack, No Chance" and I'm sure his fans in the far east were partying in the streets after their hero took the checkered flag. And that after the buzz all month had been about Fernando Alonso skipping the Monaco Grand Prix to race at Indy! It was amazing to see how happy Sato and his Andretti Autosport team was in Victory Lane as he chugged the milk and then poured it on himself. He bore a smile that just wouldn't quit.

Fernando Alonso  clearly enjoyed Indy
As for me, I was happy too since I have provided Indy 500 photos for Autosport Japan magazine featuring Takuma the last several years and began thinking excitedly that this could generate a nice payday for me, or maybe even a cover shot! How crazy it seems to think that this Hoosier with a yen for Indycars and racing could get a cover photo in a magazine in the land of the rising sun! For now, we'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I provided a month's worth of coverage in photos for my friends in France who credentialed me at Vision Sport Agency (VSA). I also managed to get photos used through VSA in French and German publications after Sato's win. As if that international exposure wasn't enough, next week my fiance and I head to France where I will get the chance to shoot my first 24 Hours of LeMans race and I will have credentials to do it. One bucket list item after another seems to have been ticked off the last few weeks and I'm sure I will be feeling the immense distance between little Salem Speedway and the famed Circuit de la Sarthe once I am there.

Sato is a hard charger and calculating racer
I knew heading into May that my schedule would be packed with activity and the month seemed to fly by as I worked my teaching job and went to the Speedway every day I could, often doing both on the same day. Everything came together on race day as I got tremendous cooperation from the IMS staff on the access I wanted, including a Victory Lane pass for race day, all month long. I think that bodes well for the future for VSA at Indy and I hope they continue to use me as their Indianapolis representative. Trust me when I say I understand how fortunate I am to be doing these things but I also know that opportunities like this aren't just handed out. I know my work is good and it's an incredible feeling to have it get recognized in the form of a trusted assignment.

Which leads me to LeMans: ever since I met the guys from VSA at the 2016 Indy 500, I have hoped and planned to go and shoot the race. I only found out this past Saturday that credentials had been approved for me and that was after submitting about two dozen PDF's of publication proofs for the event organizers to review. Twice. Once we set plans in motion to go last summer, I never backed off, buying plane tickets last November and booking rooms and other travel connections "as if" I would be working. We decided long ago that we were going even if it was just as spectators so I just did the legwork and left the rest up to others. Getting that LeMans confirmation on the Saturday morning of Indy 500 weekend was a sure sign of good things to come.

Scott Dixon led from the start but his race ended spectacularly
And there were other signs of good fortune as well. I had asked a trusted photographer friend for advice on how to raise the profile of VSA with the IMS staff the previous week and had emailed information to the IMS photo director with no real hope of a reply. But lo and behold, come race morning I got the vest I needed to shoot outside by the wall and my name did not get crossed off the Victory Lane list. To top it off, I got to the winner's trophy shoot on Monday and found a chair reserved for "Alley" in the front row which was totally unexpected. Another race day sign involved a photo of my Mom at the track (who passed away in July 2015) I had decided to take with me in one of my lens pouches. Unbeknownst to me, it fell out on my way to the Penthouse roof. High on the Penthouse walkway, I hear a woman holler "Number 38! Hey!" which was the vest number I had been given, and she handed me the photo which she had seen me drop. I could hardly believe it but I knew I was going to have a great day shooting once that happened. And I did. Not only that, the predicted thunderstorms held off until well after the race was over which made for a nearly perfect day on the job.

I have a lot to be grateful for right now and it starts with my fiance Julie. When I decided to change careers in 2009, I told her I wouldn't be able to do it without her and now it's surreal to look back and see all that has happened since I decided to become a teacher and really concentrate on my motorsports photography. There's another list of people I'm grateful for in my life too but I'll save that for the next post. But if I've said "thank you" to you lately, you know who you are. I couldn't have done this without you either. Next stop, Paris, then Tours and LeMans. See you there!

To see a few of my photos from the 500, then click here to follow this link. If you want to see more, then please click here to visit the Vision Sport Agency website. And then tell all your friends!

Honda personnel at Indy had their hands full with blown engines but Taku's went the whole 500 miles
Michael's Andretti Autosport team fielded six (6) cars including the winner
Fernando Alonso proved to be quick and Indy fans loved him