Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Eyes of the Indy 500

It has been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. If that is true, then what do we see when we look into the eyes of competitors at the Indy 500? Intensity is one characteristic shared by all drivers and looking in their eyes tells a story for each one. These eyes belong to AJ Foyt, who while he has not been a driver for a number of years, no one would argue that he is any less intense as a car owner. Just ask AJ Foyt IV! He doesn't appear to be getting a lot of sleep and with the battle for sponsorships and trying to get two cars into the 500, I can imagine sleep may be hard to come by.

In the traditional stick & ball sports, they say that the legs are the first to go. With drivers, that doesn't much matter as they will get behind the wheel with broken bones in their legs, feet, back and arms if they still can grip the steering wheel. But if their eyes go, that's another deal entirely, since it all starts there. Hand-eye coordination is of paramount importance for drivers so when the brain can no longer process the signals from the eyes as quickly as in their youth, that's when drivers know the gig is about up. For Indycar drivers blasting through a blind corner at over a football field per second, quick reactions mean everything: their lives depend on them.

I have wanted to do a photo feature on driver's eyes for quite some time, and thanks to the access I have shooting for American Motor Journal, I have made a conscious effort to get eye contact with drivers this May whenever possible. That in itself can be a challenge since so often the first thing they do upon exiting their cars (after putting on a sponsor's hat) is put on the big Hollywood sunglasses. Every time I see inside a driver's helmet or make eye contact through the lens on pit road, I wonder how things must look from their vantage point. I have heard many say that everything slows down and that speed is relative once you get used to it. The "getting used to it" at 220+ mph is what amazes me! These are men and women with special skills and a fearlessness that is almost unfathomable. Why else would they strap themselves in with a broken back, like Buddy Lazier did to with the 1996 Indy 500, and then risk everything every corner of every lap just to finish first? Vitor Meira and Will Power are the latest examples of drivers who overcame serious crash injuries to race again, and you can see in their eyes that nothing else matters but going fast to get to the checkers ahead of everyone else. God bless them all this weekend and as is often heard in the prayers before a race begins - "godspeed."

No comments: