Sunday, July 28, 2013

Brickyard Superweekend Main Event Time!

Jimmy Johnson wears favorite role well
Day four of the 2013 Superweekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is upon us and it's time for the main event:  the Brickyard 400. It is the 20th edition of NASCAR's pilgrimage to Indy and while the bloom seems to be off the rose for many race fans who used to swarm the speedway in the race's early years, Sprint Cup drivers still regard this race as one of the biggest on it's schedule. No one has ever won five races at Indianapolis, either in Indycars or stock cars, and today both Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson have a chance to become the first five-time winner at Indy. If he can keep their fenders clean and stay out front, Johnson probably has the best chance to do it today. His front row start next to surprise pole winner and Hoosier Ryan Newman gives him a great opportunity to arc into Turn 1 at the drop of the green flag and run in the coveted clean air which is so essential for speed on Indy's flat, smooth, narrow surface. 

GrandAm Rolex Series brings more racing to the Brickyard weekend
I am in the IMS media center this morning waiting for today's photo meeting and it's the first chance I've had to write all weekend. That's not a bad thing as one of the chief complaints about the Brickyard weekend in years past has been the lack of track activity. That has certainly not been an issue since the Superweekend concept was created in 2012 with the addition of the Rolex GrandAm and Continental Tire sports car series to the weekend schedule. My three days here so far have involved non-stop shooting, editing and uploading for Interestingly, even with near perfect weather this weekend, the crowds still are not turning out for this weekend, so at least no one can use the conditions as an excuse not to come to the track. I noticed Indy braintrust Mark Miles sitting by himself in a golf cart yesterday in the infield off of Turn 5 during the Nationwide race just watching. I wondered what he was thinking about as the Speedway management contemplates the future of this great facility and this weekend...

Working at IMS is always a challenge and this weekend has been no different. It is a huge property and to get from one area to another involves lots of walking with few direct routes. I feel badly for photogs who have never shot here before and discover that there's no easy way to get from here to there, and that shooting from preferred locations is often restricted. I spoke with some video shooters yesterday who were lamenting the lack of "hot" passes which severely hindered their access which did not make their boss very happy at all. Having shot at Indy since 1984, I know the restrictions and how to work around most of them, but at least for this race, I do have a hot pass and have been able to go pretty much everywhere I want. That is quite a luxury and I am thankful to have that freedom which shooting for provides.

Today is the "big show" and unfortunately the Sprint Cup cars are not well suited to racing here, unless you are out in front and have big horsepower to pass on Indy's long straightaways. I have not missed a Brickyard and don't intend to in the future, and the rumors about putting lights at IMS and moving the race to a Saturday night are quite interesting. Along with that, the concept of a lengthy endurance race into the night also begins to enter the picture which I would love to see at Indy. With GrandAm and the American LeMans Series merging to become United Sportscar Racing in 2014, the endurance racing landscape in the USA is certainly changing so it will be very interesting to see how that all shakes out since the number of events will be limited as it stands now. All that aside, today's 160 lap stock car race could very well make history of its own and it will be a busy one (again) for me I am sure. Next weekend I am off to Mid Ohio Sportscar Course to shoot the Indycar weekend for so if you need to find me, come on out to the track!

Jimmy Johnson navigates Turn 1 during Sprint Cup practice.

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