Sunday, June 6, 2010

Briscoe Sweeps Texas Pole & Race Win: Final Thoughts on May In Indy

What a difference a week makes for Penske Racing's Ryan Briscoe. As you can guess from this picture during practice at Indianapolis, things weren't going well, then he crashed out of the 500 and probably couldn't wait for the month of May to be over. Now six days later, he takes pole position at Texas Motor Speedway and leads the most laps to get a win and perhaps turn his season around. His Penske teammates didn't fare so well at Texas, as Helio got taken out by Mario Moraes and Will Power had a variety of problems. Briscoe got past a suddenly competitive Danica Patrick late in the race to capture the win. Danica is another driver who couldn't wait to get out of Indy, along with the rest of her Andretti Autosport teammates. Marco Andretti followed up his string Indy finish with another good run at Texas and Tony Kanaan was his usual self on the high banks as he prepares for his first crack at Eldora this week in Tony Stewart's "Prelude To A Dream" late model dirt event. Ryan Hunter-Reay's Indy tangle with Mike Conway has been repeated a million times on television and become a YouTube staple this week but pit problems at Texas spoiled his day in what could be his last race for the season. A year ago this weekend, I was in Texas with my brother and his son shooting the race but unfortunately could not make it this year. The Texas oval has been renowned for close racing and photo finishes but last year was the race where that all disappeared for the IRL and they realized that aero changes were needed for the oval tracks. Since then, the IZOD Indycar Series oval races have been nail biters with edge of your seat passing and dueling. When they go to Iowa in two weeks, I would expect more of the same, although I will be at Mid Ohio shooting the Rolex Grand Am series event. Congratulations to Briscoe and kudos to Andretti Autosport for getting its act together.

With May in the rear view mirror, the heat of summer racing season is now fully in swing. Even with the abbreviated schedule at IMS, there was plenty to do and my vantage point for race day in Turn 3 turned out to be incredible with lots of side by side racing and Mike Conway's amazing accident on the last lap. I was very fortunate to get pictures of the incident as it was behind me and I first heard the contact and then turned and started shooting. This is one reason why I never listen to a scanner or a radio during a race: I need to hear the cars and sounds of the event, since anything unusual means something bad is typically happening and I have to be ready. Whenever I tell people about the Indy 500, I tell them it is a total sensory experience, and the feeling of the race and sounds of the competition are just as important as the visual element for this photographer. Here is part of my sequence from Conway's crash: 11 frames with my Canon 7D means this took just less than 1.5 seconds. A blink of the eye with very little margin for error. Conway and Hunter-Reay are both extremely lucky to be alive and I am grateful that these images are spectacular without involving any driver being seriously injured.

The other part of my Indy 500 weekend that I have not written about yet was the annual "Night Before The 500" event at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Clermont a few short miles west of the Speedway. The USAC National Midget Series ran a 50 lap feature and the show had the F2000 and Star Mazda series as support races. The midget feature was won by Tanner Swanson over Bryan Clauson in a heated battle that was punctuated by an early red flag for a scary three car incident where Daniel Bedford got launched out of the park on the backstretch. Luckily he was not injured but the event settled down from there and Swanson was a surprise winner. The F2000 event began the racing for the evening but the real star of the night turned out to be Conor Daly, son of former F1 and Indy 500 driver and current television racing analyst Derek Daly. Conor led every lap of the 125 Star Mazda event which was stopped a couple of laps early to get the midget race underway. When Conor got to Victory Lane, it seemed like he brought half the City of Noblesville out of the stands with him to celebrate. Conor looks like the real deal and was never seriously challenged in the Star Mazda event. It's clear he is going places in racing and has won three Star Mazda races already this on the "Road to Indy". This slide show is a mix of F2000, Star Mazda and USAC Midget action from that night.

You never know where you're going to find me with my cameras, and you know I'll have something to say. By the way - my Indy 500 Rookie of the Year pick Simona de Silvestro was extremely lucky at Texas last night. What took the safety crews so long to get fire retardant on her car? The IRL better look at that and make sure they are ready to go for Iowa. While I can't make the trek to Rusty Wallace's nice little oval, I'll have sports car action from beautiful Mid Ohio to bring you before you know it.

No comments: