Monday, November 16, 2020

Winter Doldrums or Brief Hiatus?

Acura Leaves Team Penske Next Season
ow all the major North American racing series have wrapped up their seasons and the 12 Hours of Sebring just concluded the wackiest year in memory for major motorsports series in America. Sadly I couldn't shoot at Sebring this month but next March is a possibility since it fits into my teaching calendar better. I have photographer friends who were in Florida for Sebring so I just enjoyed their photos and the television coverage of this year's delayed IMSA sports car classic. Ironically, Sebring was the last major United States race of 2020 and was one of the first races postponed this year by the coronavirus. It was great to see long-time Penske Indycar driver Helio Castroneves finally win a season championship, even though it was in sports cars. He'll be back in Indycar next year with Meyer Shank Racing for six races including the Indy 500 to go after that elusive fourth 500 win which would elevate Helio to legendary status along with AJ Foyt, Al Unser, Sr. and Rick Mears.

Mazda finally won an endurance race 
I am working on scheduling race assignments for next year which might include the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona at the end of January. That would be an awesome start for 2021 and it would be my fourth Rolex since 2014. Given how virus cases are spiking across the country right now, I must say I'm a little skeptical that the Rolex will be held without restrictions on fans, media or both. Shooting at Daytona would mean a short hiatus for me from racing which I would dearly love, but like seemingly everything else these days, planning must remain flexible so I won't be booking any flights or hotel rooms anytime soon. Watching Mazda win at Sebring over the weekend was satisfying since the marque has consistently had beautiful machines since joining the prototype ranks in 2014, which was ironically the first year I shot the Rolex 24. Even though I'm personally a Honda/Acura guy, I've had several of my Mazda prototype photos used in Autosport Japan magazine so they hold a special place in my heart.

Will Tony Kanaan return to the 500  in 2021?
I have three main goals for my 2021 racing photography. First, shoot the Indy 500 again. To do so, I need a team or media assignment and I will be in hot pursuit of that the next few months. Second, I must get back to the 24 Hours of LeMans, preferably as a credentialed photographer, but that will take some work. Absent credentials, if travel to Europe is allowed, then I will go as a spectator anyway as I know plenty of places where I can still get photos of this epic event. On top of that, I have friends in France now that I'm dying to see again. Third, I'd like to continue my relationship with the ARCA Menards Series in support of their marketing efforts and hope to do more than the one race I got to shoot this year

LeMans is calling with echoes of 2017

I have other photography goals for next year, including doing more assignments for Speedway Illustrated magazine and promoter Track Enterprises that I hope will involve dirt track races in USAC or other open wheel series. Of the seven races I shot this year, four were on dirt tracks and I loved them. They took me back to when I first started shooting races but more importantly, they reminded me of how my love of racing was originally sparked by my Grandpa Jay Shue at the fairgrounds track in Warsaw, Indiana before I was even in kindergarten.

My other photography goals involve branching out into other ventures. I've already put some of those into place by contributing stock photos to Adobe Stock, setting up a retail store on my Alleygroup website, and creating artistic content for sale on the website Fine Art America. Along with my photo work, I have a non-fiction book that I've been working on especially hard during this pandemic that I should have more announcements about very soon. If you are a regular reader of this blog and would like to among the first to get those announcements, I am starting to build an email list so please let me know if you'd like to be added to the list. Until next time, please visit the store on my website and order some unique photo products - just in time for Christmas! Thanks!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Fast and Furious Finish

Sometimes when you least expect it, things just seem to work out. I had been going through racing withdrawals most of this year due to my lack of photography work and I was especially missing the ARCA Menards Series in which I had been so integrally involved over the last five years. Then I got an email at the beginning of last week inviting me to come to Kansas Speedway where the ARCA season championship will be decided. Historically two photographers have been needed at Kansas to cover two celebrations in case the race winner is different than the championship winner. Of course, I said yes.

Carson Hocevar led over 300 laps in winning the 400
So in the span of a few weeks, I've gone from having no races to work in October to having two jam-packed weekends, the first of which I just completed after spending three days at Winchester Speedway as part of the Winchester 400 weekend. Carson Hocevar, who I know from shooting ARCA races, was dominant in the 400 and won the 400 for the first time. I hadn't been to Winchester at all since the last time ARCA raced there in 2017, so it was nice to be able to spend a significant amount of track time there this past weekend. Raceday itself was absolutely gorgeous and a large and enthusiastic crowd was on hand. Fall colors were evident in abundance and the campgrounds on-site were completely full.  

The pace lap included a colorful salute to America under beautiful skies

Working with driver Travis Braden was fun

I had two jobs last weekend and had plenty of opportunities to make photos. My first responsibility was to gather shots on Friday for Travis Braden to use on social media and for his promotional activities, including his merchandising. My second assignment was to cover the ARCA CRA super late model competitors in the 400 for Speedway Illustrated magazine. The races I have done this year (and so far there have only been five) have each involved submitting photos to the magazine for their consideration. Nothing has been published yet from those but you never know what priorities a magazine has when it's time to go to print. All told, I am glad to get these races added to the ones I've been fortunate to do this year. The pandemic has impacted everyone's schedules so the fact I've only done a few races is understandable. A total of seven races for 2020 pales in comparison to what I've worked the last few years, but in this year of pandemic upheaval and massive cancellations or schedule changes, I'll take it. For the first time maybe ever, I'll do more races at dirt tracks than at paved tracks this season. Those dirt track events have been a pleasant and refreshing return to my racing roots.

Now, this week I will drive to Kansas City on Thursday, shoot the ARCA race on Friday, drive home to Indy on Saturday, and then drive to Springfield, Illinois on Sunday to shoot the USAC Silver Crown event on the mile dirt track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The trip to Kansas is about 1,000 miles round trip and then I'll put in another 425 miles or so to Springfield and back, so not only am I getting a chance to shoot more, I'm getting some serious drive time. And that's after three commutes to Winchester this past weekend totaling about 430 miles. I love to drive so the mileage is no problem.

These last two weekends of my season are the reason I titled this blog post "Fast and Furious Finish" since that's how my racing season will wrap up. Unless of course, someone wants to hire me for the 12 Hours of Sebring which got postponed from March to November this year! Sebring has been a bucket list race for me for years and I'd love to have a chance to work for IMSA, Associated Press, or one of the sports car teams. That would also help me prepare for LeMans next year. Maybe I could even add Daytona and a return to Sebring next March if all goes well! 

I'm ready. Let's do it! So until I get back from Springfield, you probably won't hear from me on this platform but I hope you follow me on Twitter @alleygroup. Until next time, here are a few photos from the Winchester 400 weekend. Contact me if you see something you like!

Monday, October 5, 2020

What Happened to 2020?

Empty grandstands are symbolic of the racing year
n many ways for me, 2020 has been a lost year. I'm sure I am not alone in feeling that way. Back in February, I had big plans for this year but they all got quashed when the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown hit Indiana on Friday, March 13th. It's the first year I can remember since 1976 when I didn't attend or work an Indycar race. I went from working 21 racing events as a photographer last year to only four so far this with just two more on my radar. The silver lining in all of this has been I am still healthy. I've also probably prolonged the life of my Civic Si by a couple years after so little driving this year!

Chad Bryant (left) and Ron Drager confer in 2019
Watching from the sidelines and seeing what the various racing series have done this year to get their seasons completed has been amazing. The ARCA Menards Series, where I was chief photographer the last five years, has managed to complete 19 races with only one to go now. It's not the same 20 races that were on the original ARCA schedule, but they are getting it done with just the finale in Kansas remaining. While I was not fortunate enough to be assigned to shoot any ARCA races this season, which of course was disappointing, I still have friends in the series and follow the race results closely. It's still a thrill seeing my photos still being used on the series' website or on Instagram. I know they used quite a few in their media guides this year and I downloaded those for my portfolio whenever I saw that. I always know which photos are mine even when they don't have photo credits! Kudos to Ron Drager and all the ARCA staff for managing the season the way they have.

The NTT Indycar Series likewise has only one race to go and the pandemic restrictions on media kept me from shooting any of the races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year. Missing the Indy 500 was heartbreaking, especially after Takuma Sato won since I have been a regular contributor to Autosport Japan magazine since 2013. I don't know who I will be shooting for next season, so I have my work cut out for me this off-season to find another media outlet to work for in 2021. I have several friends who were able to shoot Indycar races this season and I have been living vicariously through their photos. They have done some outstanding work under some really trying conditions. I hope to be out there with them all next May.
As for the NASCAR Cup Series, they raced at Talladega yesterday and I couldn't help but think about all the times I've made the eight hour, 500 mile trek to Alabama since 2011 to shoot for either ARCA or Associated Press (and sometimes both). I'm pretty sure I would have "made some freaking pictures" yesterday, as the late AP Bureau Chief Dave Martin used to say. The "Big One" where Kurt Busch got airborne happened near the start-finish line and the melee would have come right to me if I had been positioned across the track in my usual photo hole. Unfortunately for me and many of my Alabama friends, none of us got the chance to shoot this weekend due to similar restrictions that I encountered in Indy, so I will set my sights on next Spring and hope that things have opened up by then and I can return to Dega where they say "It's More Than A Race."

Ayrton Senna, USGP Detroit 1984
It still amazes me that racing was able to resume during the pandemic and there hasn't been a catastrophic outbreak similar to what seems to be happening in college and pro football. Restricting photographers at races never made much sense to me since we can still get photos and socially distance simply by using a longer lens, but I understand the need to be cautious and limit "outsiders" who might not be a part of the usual "bubble" of participants. Formula One has probably done the most extreme job of this in racing from what I have seen and has put on great races in new venues while changing its schedule seemingly at the drop of a hat.

All that being said, every series has had to be flexible. Therein lies the lesson for me in all of this: I need to be flexible too. I understand why all the restrictions were put in place but I didn't like them because they put a major crimp in my plans for this year. On the other hand, since I might be more at risk than many people,  I have to say those restrictions were a hidden blessing for me and kept me from being potentially exposed and having to go through what my father endured before he passed away from the effects of Covid-19 this past June. You might say that racing saved my life this year, but in a dramatically different way than in years past. 

As the late Steve McQueen so famously said in the movie LeMans, "Racing is life; anything that happens before or after is just waiting." 

 And so I wait.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

All Eyes on 2021


Kody Swanson was quickest in Silver Crown at LOR
My last blog post was looking ahead to the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 and deferring to friends who got to shoot the race. Afterward, I saw lots of amazing photos from my photographer friends who were allowed to cover the race on August 23rd. Unfortunately, I was not at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that weekend but I was able to watch and listen to the race. Most importantly I got the opportunity to shoot two USAC Silver Crown races as bookends on the weekend. I was really happy to see Takuma Sato win his second Indy 500 and I know my friends at Autosport Japan magazine were too. When Taku won in 2017, they used a lot of my photos so this year I could have perhaps had another nice payday with his win. It was not meant to be, however, so we move on and that's what I've done.

Kody Swanson set quick time in Pro 2000 also

 As it turned out, I got to see lots of great racing over the weekend after all, on two very different kinds of race tracks. They got my creative juices flowing and with my family having the ability to finally have a memorial service honoring my late Father on Saturday, the whole weekend brought a sense of closure and peace about all the loss I've dealt with this year personally and professionally. Added to the two other recent races I shot at Terre Haute at The Action Track, the two around Indy 500 weekend brought my total for the year up to four races photographed. That's a far cry from what I worked in 2019, but it's still way better than nothing. The first event of the weekend was Friday night August 21st at the paved 5/8ths mile oval at Lucas Oil Raceway and featured the USAC Silver Crown cars and the Road to Indy F2000 and Pro 2000 series. Sunday the Silver Crown series moved to the venerable one-mile dirt track at the Indiana State Fairgrounds for the Hoosier 100, a legendary open wheel race which at one point had been canceled by the State. I've been shooting races at both these tracks since I started in motorsports photography in the 1980s. It's still a thrill to stand next to the guardrail as the Silver Crown beasts roar past me just inches away and fling dirt all over me and my camera gear. That never gets old.
Kyle Larson set fast time and took the win

I have to give a big shout-out to my friends at Track Enterprises, the promoter of both events, who I had gotten to know during the years I served as Chief Photographer for the ARCA Menards Series. They made it possible for me to shoot both these events. I was joined by my former ARCA colleague Rich Corbett at the Hoosier 100 who got some spectacular shots of two accidents on the backstretch. Both events gave me the chance to shoot night racing, to work more on my flash photography, and try some experimental photos that I might not normally get to do when I am concentrating on editorial and documentation style photos. Ironically, the Hoosier 100 was the first time that former NASCAR driver Kyle Larson had raced in Indianapolis since his now infamous utterance of a racial slur during a virtual race earlier this year. I am not condoning his use of racially derogatory language in any way. Seeing him sling that Silver Crown car around on the dirt was a sight to behold. I know Kyle has applied to be reinstated by NASCAR and I hope there is a thorough vetting of his application. As a motorsports photographer, having Kyle race on the Indy mile was newsworthy so I made sure I got photos.

Back to racing at the Fairgrounds again!
Being able to get back to racing of some sort was a real Godsend for me. This has frankly been a shitty year for me in many ways and it has affected my outlook on life and my relationships with people around me. Call it grieving or depression or whatever, it sucked and these races, along with my Dad's service, and some counseling help through my EAP at work, have helped me turn the corner on a year of emotional turmoil. Being in a high-risk group during the Covid-19 pandemic has added a layer of anxiety that just won't seem to go away but if you really know me then you know how important my photography work, especially in motorsports, is to me. If you think it's fun hobby that I dabble in then you really don't know me at all. I'm still in good shape physically, I have proven what I can do for more than 30 years, and I will travel. I just need an assignment and I will be there.
Pro 2000 at LOR reflections

This blog post title refers to what's next for me. I don't have any idea. I'm still going to be teaching full time as I have a few more things to accomplish in that field before I am ready to retire. Rest assured I will be taking photos, whether it's increasing my stock photo offerings, boosting my social media presence, ramping up my sites with Canon and Adobe, or contributing to Google Maps. I expect to be looking for new opportunities in motorsports and will be back shooting the Indy 500 next year for some media outlet. I also plan to return to LeMans but it is not clear what MPS Agency plans to do in 2021. The help and assistance of my friends in France at MPS will never be forgotten and I look forward to seeing all of them again next June. As crazy as this year has been, I am certain that next year will be exactly the opposite. When I said, I had turned the corner, that last statement says it all. See you at a racetrack somewhere soon. When you see me, be sure and say hi. I'll take your picture.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

7 Days to the Indy 500


7 days to the Indy 500. I took this photo of Brian Herta in 2006 so I am declaring my support for his son Colton to win the 500 next Sunday.

I am incredibly disappointed about not getting media credentials to photograph the race, or even being able to attend, and that disappointment has added a foul edge to my life recently. As a result, I have decided to stop my daily countdown to the 500 after this post. I am going to try and let that disappointment go and support my photographer friends and colleagues who were lucky enough to be chosen to document the event. In addition, I will not be posting any more of my Indy 500 photography, which dates back to 1984, until this year’s 500 is over in order to defer to those who are out at the track working this race. .As the late Dave Martin at AP used to say, “Go make some freaking pictures.”

My close friends and family know why I say this most recent disappointment has tainted my life, but people who only casually know me may not understand why missing the 500 is such a big deal. For context, I would suggest the last 18 months of my life needs to be considered as a backdrop for this most recent punch in the gut. In February 2019, I had lung cancer surgery to remove part of my right lung; I had found out earlier in the year that I also had emphysema. As such, all of this year during the pandemic I have had to live with the knowledge that I am in a high-risk group and consequences could be dire if I were to contract the coronavirus. So try to imagine living under the cloud of constant anxiety every time you go out in public.

At the same time I was dealing with lung cancer recovery last year, my fiance was preparing for her own surgery after finding out she had breast cancer. So we were both trying to recover from major surgeries most ofl last year. Earlier this year, my fiance’s brother died of lung cancer. While he was struggling and ultimately succumbing to his cancer, my 85 year old father was in a rehab facility in Indy for a variety of illnesses. The last time I was able to see him in person was February 29, 2020. Meanwhile, a trip we had planned for France and Greece, and a return trip for me to shoot the 24 Hours of LeMans race, was scuttled and the Indy 500 was postponed because of Covid-19. On May 12th, we learned that my Dad had contracted the virus. The last time I talked with my father was on my birthday, May 31st and then he died June 10th as a result. In that last conversation he told me that 19 people in his facility had died from the virus, so watching him fight the virus on top of his other infirmities added stress all year long.

Within the last two weeks, I learned I would not be able to go to the rescheduled LeMans in September, nor would I get credentials for the 500. My string of consecutive Indy 500 races started in 1976 and was unbroken prior to this year, so missing out has just been the straw that broke the camel’s back. So if I’m curt or snap at you, then know in advance that I’m sorry. Try as I might to control my emotions, they burst through sometimes. If I am more of a jerk than normal, it’s because my nerves are raw. Living in a constant state of anxiety can only be done for so long before something has to give.

Being forced to miss The Race is no joke. Did I also mention that my work as Chief Photographer for the ARCA Menards Series totally evaporated this year as well? Loss after loss after loss these last 18 months has exacted a toll on me that’s left me feeling exhausted, constantly angry and nearly broken spiritually. But I am getting help and am grateful for the people in my life who can prop me up and point me in the direction I need to go. If I hadn’t been able to go out and ride my bicycle this spring and summer - and I’ve been riding the wheels off of my Trek  this year - I hate to think where I would be mentally.

I write this now not to make excuses for popping off but to explain the precarious state of mind I’ve been living with. The sarcastic joke in our family is that the “Shue Grit” combined with the Alley stubbornness is a double whammy.  I was raised to figure things out myself so it’s hard to ask for help. I do not normally show much emotion and I don’t get too close to very many people. Moving from town to town frequently as a Methodist’s minister's kid is partly responsible. My training as an athlete is behind some of that too - you can’t let people know when you’re upset or that you’re nervous; you have to keep your cool to perform when the pressure’s on. If you know me, then you know the things I am passionate about and motorsports photography is at the top of a fairly short list.

Like a bad country music song, when the things you love are stripped away one by one, what is left? I’m still trying to figure that out but I guarantee you I will. Once I do, I’ll be able to play that song in reverse and get back most of what I’ve lost and come out the other side a better and stronger person.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Finally: A Race to Photograph

USAC Sprint Cars - Terre Haute Action Track
USAC Sprint Cars at Terre Haute
fter what has seemed like an eternity, I finally got a race to photograph this week and I feel better already.

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on every kind of event and motorsports has by no means been exempt. My entire year's plans went up in smoke when the pandemic quarantine was initiated back in March and until Wednesday night July 29th, I had not been to a race since the ARCA Menards Series finale at Kansas Speedway last October 18th. That's 285 days without a race car photo. For someone like me who thrives on the excitement and creative joy of shooting races, that is a record-setting duration to do without. Thanks to the fine folks at racing promoter Track Enterprises and the help of Speedway Illustrated magazine, I made it to the Terre Haute Action Track for Round 4 of the USAC Indiana Sprint Week Wednesday night so I no longer suffer from a dearth of 2020 racing photos. At least I got something, but I have to say I felt a little rusty and out of sorts.
The view from outside Turn 3 at Terre Haute

Last year I worked a total of 21 race events and for Terre Haute to be my first of 2020 at the end of July is almost unbelievable. Terre Haute is less than a 200 mile round trip from my home in Indianapolis, and it turned out to be my very first trip to the Action Track, although I have known of its existence for decades. I'm not sure why I had never been there before but I'm so glad I finally got to shoot a race there. It's a nice little fairgrounds track which is a true oval since there are two looping corners connected by two straightaways in its half-mile length. The clay smelled fabulous and I didn't mind getting pelted by some flying bits of mud when I was shooting on the outside during hot laps.

Ve rapido!
It's been awhile since I've shot a dirt sprint car race and I will never cease to be amazed by how those drivers throw those non-winged sprinters into the turns. They say you have to know how to turn right to go left on dirt and some of these guys were flicking their machines sideways at the start-finish line and flying into turn one completely sideways! The sound those USAC sprint cars make was music to my ears, as the drivers blipped the throttle to help set the car into its slide and then drove through the corners mainly with the gas peddle. I love seeing the drivers work in the cockpit too since they are sawing at the wheel seemingly all the way around the track on the very edge of being out of control. Perhaps most amazing was the fact that there were 42 cars entered and there was not a single flip or wall contact all evening.

A unique push vehicle!
So where did my feeling rusty come into play? As with anything else, practice and repetition are necessary to hone any skill and shooting motorsports is no different. I had a hard time getting my camera and my Canon app on my phone to communicate so I was unable to send out photos to social media until the evening was almost over. I managed to get two photos downloaded and posted, but it was a good exercise to remind me of the steps that are needed for the technology to work properly. I also struggled getting my flash set up to work the way I wanted it to since the lighting during the feature was not very good. Shooting night racing in those conditions has always been a challenge and I never invested in a big Norman flash unit, so I needed the practice. I got it figured out as the night wore on so by the time race winner Justin Grant climbed on top of his car in victory lane, I was in good shape. Shooting during the daylight hours was like riding a bicycle. I was back in the groove almost immediately and happy to have the opportunity.

Beautiful Indiana clay in Vigo County
Before I went to Terre Haute, I had posted on social media that I was going back to my roots at a dirt track, and there were multiple times I thought of my grandfather and the little dirt track he helped get constructed at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds in Warsaw, Indiana. My Grandpa Jay Shue, my namesake, was on the County Fair Board and started taking me to the races when I was four years old, so the feeling I get now when I feel the clay on my face is the same I got when I was a toddler. I have come home again.

I have no idea what the rest of 2020 will entail for me in racing photography, but I am available for assignments! This year has already been the least busy one of my life as far as motorsports assignments are concerned. My staple has been the ARCA Menards Series the last five season but it's clear that the decision-makers there do not plan to use me for any races this year. It doesn't look like I will be among the few photographers who are fortunate enough to get media passes for the Indy 500 in three weeks. To top it all off, my dream of going back to LeMans in September was recently scuttled when my French friends learned they would be limited on credentials too, never mind the fact that flights from America to France are still highly restricted. People say the only constant in life is change and this year has sure served up a bunch!

My personal mantra for 2020 has been "Go Beyond" which I chose long before the Covid-19 pandemic reared its ugly head and that's exactly what I plan to do. Lots of other photographers have had to re-invent themselves so I am working hard to craft some breakout plans in new areas for the rest of this year and concentrate on new opportunities for the future. Maybe I'll see you at a racetrack or maybe I won't, but you can be damn sure I will be taking pictures. See you soon. Wear that mask! Most importantly, whatever you are doing be safe.

To see more photos from this race event, please check out this Google photo gallery.  

Winner Justin Grant
C. J. Leary on the rail in Turn 1

And they're on it!
Getting down and dirty!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Racing COVID-19

Dawn at Indy in 2019
arch 13, 2020 was a Friday when they shut down the school where I teach. At that point, the whole world changed as Indiana went into a lockdown quarantine for the coronavirus COVID-19. Now nearly four months later, my son has lost his maternal grandmother (my ex-wife's mother)  and paternal grandfather (my father) to the coronavirus and the world is still in the grips of the worst pandemic in my lifetime. Social unrest over unfair treatment of minorities and police brutality against African-Americans has only added to the anxiety that many people are feeling over the state of society. Even my hometown of Indianapolis experienced rioting and destruction of property, which is highly unusual for this sleepy Midwestern capitol city.

In the grand scheme of things, the erasure of my 2020 racing schedule is a small matter, but I had big plans for this year which all got scuttled with the global shutdown. The Indycar Grand Prix which normally kicks off the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) is being run this weekend with NASCAR's Xfinity Series on the IMS road course but fans will not be allowed and media restrictions are in place so I will be unable to photograph the race. The Indy 500 which is normally the centerpiece of May and spring in Indianapolis has been postponed to August 23rd and fans will be limited to 50% of capacity. Media status for the 500 is unknown but I hope the fact that I will represent a French media company and the defending 500 champion is French will mean something. At least I know I will have seats for the race if all else fails.

By this time last season, I had been to Daytona, had lung cancer surgery, then went to Salem, Talladega, Nashville, Charlotte, Toledo, Pocono, Michigan, Madison, Gateway and Chicagoland to shoot races for the ARCA Menards Series in addition to the Indycar Grand Prix and Indy 500. This year I haven't even taken a single race car photo or been to any tracks because of the coronavirus. I don't know if I will even get any ARCA assignments at all this season after working 19 of 20 races on the ARCA schedule last year. The only good things about that situation are I haven't hardly put any miles on my car this year and I've only put gas in her twice since the lockdown in March.

I should also have been to LeMans, Paris and Marseille in France and Athens, Greece this month if my original plans had held up. I made plane reservations the first weekend in March for that trip which was planned to take more than three weeks in June. Barely a week later the global shutdown hit so I had to cancel those flights. I still hope I can make it to LeMans this Septemeber on its rescheduled date but the remaining trip for my Lilly Endowment project will just have to wait until June 2021. The airlines have been helpful by giving credits for the flights I reserved that are good for up to two years. Even LeMans has announced it will reduce the number of fans allowed at the race and I still have no idea if I will get a photo credential for my second LeMans or not.

Life is full of uncertainty normally anyway, but it feels like it's all piling on now. With my school year set to resume next week, I don't know what to expect so perhaps the best advice I could give to myself  is to just live today. Another good thing about the coronavirus shutdown is I have finally been able to get my manuscript 90% complete of a story I have been working on for most of my adult life but never had time to really focus on before now. I will have much more to announce on that score soon, as I intend to pursue self-publishing of the book. When that will happen, I don't really know, but it will happen come hell or high water. Or Coronavirus pandemic.

Stay tuned race fans. And stay safe - wear a mask.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

WTH? No Indy 500 Memorial Day Weekend?

Happier days lie ahead
My, my. How quickly things change. Two weeks ago when I last wrote, I was feeling pretty good about getting through this coronavirus pandemic and planning for Europe. In the last few days, the 24 Hours of LeMans has been postponed to September and today the Indy 500 was postponed to August. My plans just went kablooey and now I have plane flights, lodging and train reservations to change or cancel. I suppose I was like a lot of other people in the United States who treated this virus as no big deal, but recent events have turned out to be anything but that. It has turned into the biggest deal of my lifetime and I have paid attention to the warnings and the "shelter in place" editc here in Indiana.

Technically, this is my Spring Break week from teaching and our building is shut down until at least May 16th since my school is in a facility owned by Ivy Tech. When school does resume the week after next, we will be teaching remotely utilizing online curriculum. That will be a major shift for our Excel Center staff and students, but that's probably the easy part of this situation. My fiancee works in health care and I hear her every day working on procedures and discussing preparations for the expected onslaught of COVID-19 patients in Central Indiana. I am thankful that right now she does not have direct patient contact but everything in her world is in such a state of flux that it's hard to know what tomorrow holds, let alone next week or the week after.

I had said in my last post here that I was not that concerned about some flu-like bug but I have changed my tune as the numbers of infected and dead continue to mount. What does all of this have to do with racing? That is normally what I write about here and my plans for 2020 have been totally upended by this virus. I am in a high risk group so my plans have become the least of my concerns. Over the last 48 hours, I have only gone out of the house to take a walk, to work in the yard, and today to ride my bicycle. It is just so strange not being able to plan anything for the weeks and months ahead. None of that matters if I get sick. Not only did I have part of my right lung removed in March 2019 because of lung cancer, I was diagnosed with emphysema which puts me squarely in the high risk category. I wasn't concerned two weeks ago when I said the virus wasn't going to keep me from living my life, but that is not the case anymore.

Thanks Helio!
The good news in all of this involves the time I suddenly have had to organize at home among other things. I've been working on a book project for quite some time and I've been able to do more writing on it this week than in the previous six months put together, so that's a real blessing. I've also had time to use the Google Scan app on my phone and scan a huge number of photos that I shot on film which had never been digitized before. That makes me very happy and came with an unexpected side benefit of posting photos on social media: I got a digital autograph on one of my scanned photos from Helio Castroneves! I hadn't even requested it, but there it was in my Twitter notifications. So for now, I will leave you with a few more of those old photos that I've recently digitized. You're seeing them here before I can get them posted on my website but stay tuned for more. Here's hoping we can get back to racing soon.

Al Unser Jr.'s team celebrates winning the Indy 500 pit stop competition in 1989
Sports car racing on the streets of Columbus, Ohio 1985
The late Scott Brayton was always quick at Indy
Lewis Hamilton
Emerson Fittipaldi on the streets of the Motor City in 1989