Friday, October 11, 2019

19 Down - One to Go

My game face on race day
This has been the busiest year of my life as a motorsports photographer by far, but the end of my season is just around the corner. Next weekend I will make my last long drive of the season for the ARCA Menards Series when I hit the road for Kansas Speedway just west of Kansas City. That will be the 19th ARCA race I will have worked this year for the series since starting the season at Daytona in February. When you factor in my lung cancer surgery later in February, I am still amazed that I only missed one of the series' 20 races all year! Add in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indy 500 in May, and the Iowa Indycar race in July, I worked a total of 22 races with 21 of them in the span of six months (April through October). The work and all the walking at the racetracks have been instrumental in my recovery this year so I am grateful for the chance to work all these events.

Youngster Chandler Smith got his 5th ARCA win in only 10 starts this season
This past weekend was a "home" race of sorts, since I only had to drive to Clermont on the west side of Indianapolis for the Herr's 200 ARCA race. It was a beautiful day and evening until a rain shower cut the race 33 laps short and one of the young firebrands of the series, Chandler Smith, made a pass for the lead shortly before the rains hit to snag his 5th win of the year. This kid is barely 16 and he's kicking butt on short tracks across the circuit so I am excited to see what he does as he gets a little older. I felt bad for another youngster Saturday night though, as Ty Gibbs was on his way to a second straight dominant win until he got hip checked into the wall by Joe Graf, Jr. who made a desperate move for the lead on new tires when Ty was just nursing his until a final pit stop could be made. Joe's lead didn't last long as Christian Eckes came to the front and stayed there until Smith got past him in the nick of time. Second was still a great result for Christian as he took over the series points lead from teammate Michael Self and grabbed the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge trophy as well. So now it all comes down to Kansas in about 10 days to see which one comes out on top.

Michael Self could be the 2019 series champion
Last weekend's ARCA race event actually started on Friday evening for me as we did a studio photo shoot with both Michael and Christian to prepare photos for whichever one wins the season title. We had lighting and a backdrop set up at the hotel where the Venturini team was staying and got a lot of great photos of each guy with the championship trophy and other candids of the two of them together enjoying the moment. I don't get to work with studio quality lighting very often so I thoroughly enjoyed it. Afterwards I realized there were a few other things I would like to have tried but couldn't, so those went into my notes on Evernote for next time.

Ty Gibbs (18) was dominant at Lucas Oil Raceway
On Saturday at Lucas Oil Raceway, we got to meet with the NASCAR person who will be overseeing the photo operations for next season so it was very exciting to hear about the plans and expectations for 2020 when NASCAR has full control over the series. The week before the Lucas Oil Raceway event was a big one for news about the ARCA Menards Series. NASCAR and ARCA announced the extension of the ARCA brand over the current K and N East and West Series so next year they will be known as ARCA East and ARCA West. Multiple championships are going to be available for teams and drivers who will now have a unified platform of car specifications with marketing support regardless of which part of the United States they come from. The full 20 race ARCA schedule just came out yesterday (read all about it here), and I am really looking forward to 2020. There will be 20 races on 20 different tracks, with two road courses including one of my favorites - Mid Ohio! I've already identified ARCA races I can work next season to go along with my Indy 500 and LeMans commitments. I'd like to think that my work for the series as Chief Photographer since 2015 would speak for itself but you never know what decision makers are thinking in a transitional situation like this, so I am just glad to have the chance to be considered. They did use one of my photos with the press release for the 2020 schedule, so I am proud of that contribution. Photographer assignments for next season's ARCA races are likely to be decided by Thanksgiving so stay tuned! I can't wait to see how it all plays out.

Christian Eckes has fought back to take the season championship lead
Once the season is over, I will have more time to reflect on how this year has gone and do a "Best Of" photo compilation which I think will be fun. No matter what happens going forward, I have loved every minute working with the folks at ARCA. I have to thank ARCA officials Ron Drager, Mark Gundrum, George Mergen, Tom Legeman and a person I consider a friend and mentor, Doc Hunter, for putting their trust and faith in me to do the job. I hope I've made them proud. Since 2013, I've worked more than 80 races for the series as a photographer and the experience has been invaluable to my growth as a photographer. As the drivers always say, "I can't thank them enough" for the opportunity and no matter what else happens, I know I gave my best. Here's a few more from Lucas Oil Raceway. For full photo galleries go to the ARCA Menards Series website here which includes photos from colleagues Rich Corbett, JD Scott and Mike Alley. Or you can check my Google page here. See you in Kansas!

Ty Gibbs was on his way to a second straight dominating win when he got taken out.
The Bashams (Mike, left) and Darrell (right - blue firesuit) have been ARCA mainstays
Chandler Smith has been amazing to watch this season!
This young guy got to sit in Travis Braden's car - I want to do that!
Hailie Deegan was the big attraction during the pre-race autograph session.

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