Thursday, May 1, 2014

It's Finally May! Let The Madness Begin

Ken Schrader (#52) leads the field at Salem on April 27, 2014
After shooting last Sunday's race at the rough and rugged half mile of Salem Speedway for ARCA, May has finally arrived and it is off to the big tracks for the next few weeks. So if you ask the question "Where in the world is Jay?" ala Where's Waldo, the answer now will be Talladega and Indianapolis, as I head south this weekend to shoot ARCA and NASCAR for Associated Press and then back home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend for the very non-traditional opening of the track with the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis for Last weekend started a string of weekends where I will be shooting racing and my birthday wraps up this month so it's no wonder that people who know me refer to this as "The Month of Jay". I like that!

Schrader's damaged car after the race
This was my 16th straight ARCA race at Salem and the series always puts on a good show. The race is a big deal for local fans and I always enjoy shooting there. It looked like Ken Schrader had it in the bag until about 10 laps to go when he ran into the back of a lapped car which was fighting to stay on the lead lap. Schrader damaged his right front fender and on the final restart blew the right front tire which sent him into the wall in Turn 1 after taking the green. Some people were upset that ARCA did not throw the yellow but Kenny kept running slowly and finished the race out of the racing line, so I think it was a good call to let the eventual winner Grant Enfinger fight it out with Spencer Gallagher. Since ARCA will run as many green-white-checkers as are necessary to finish under green, I don't see how Enfinger's popular win can be disappointing to anyone, but then racers are an opinionated lot, so I am not surprised that there was some grumbling.

Schrader congratulated winner Grant Enfinger with style
I think I've been to more races at Salem now than at any track besides Indy so it has become a home away from home. It's especially nice since I have friends who head up Salem's track safety crew and we have a bit of a reunion each time I make the trek down I-65. I am also looking forward to shooting ARCA this weekend at Talladega for AP. The big bonus for me comes this June and July when I will do five (5) races as the main photographer for the ARCA series:  Pocono (for the first time), Michigan, Winchester, Chicagoland and Lucas Oil Raceway. As a result, I will get to see ARCA race on all kinds of circuits this year while providing photos for the series' websites and social media presence. So I'll probably have some other road trip stories to tell this summer on the way to Indiana-ville.

Tomorrow I head south on I-65 again, but this time just a bit further south:  Talladega! It will be my first event with the Birmingham/Montgomery AP gang since local AP chief photographer Dave Martin died this past New Year's Eve while shooting a college football bowl game. I expect another reunion of sorts is likely with many people I met through working with Dave. I learned a lot from him and he always took care of me at Dega, so I am anxious to see everyone again and make some f-ing pictures, as "Mullet" would say. I'm sure there will be some sort of tribute to him this weekend, and I am glad to have the chance to be a part of whatever happens. My biggest regret in working for Dave is that I don't have a single picture of he and I together, so I hope we make sure and take a group picture with everyone shooting for AP this weekend. Life is short and we never know when our last time together will be.

I've had some amazing weekends at Dega, going back to my first spring race in 2011 when tornadoes and severe weather wracked the area on the Friday night preceding the weekend. I was camping in an area outside the track that year and was getting calls from friends and family back home in Indy to see if I was OK as they heard reports of the Alabama weather. Similar weather strafed the Birmingham area this past week and I know several of my AP friends were out in harm's way getting pictures of the storms and their aftermath. Last year's race weekend was also effected by bad weather with lengthy rain delays both Saturday and Sunday, when I spent successive 10+ hour days hiking up and down the main grandstands either shooting or taking cover from the elements. The forecast is much better for this weekend so I am excited to see how the ARCA, Nationwide and Sprint Cup races will play out. I'm thinking the over-under on how many minutes it will take before I hear a fan holler "Junior!" once I'm at the track is two. That may be conservative.

After Dega comes Indy the next weekend and the "Month of Jay" will be in full swing. Come on out to the track if you're around. I'll be out there somewhere. Your best bet to find me is on Twitter @alleygroup. Until then, here's a few race action pix from Salem. If you want to see more pix, then go to ARCA's website. Why not buy a few while you're there? It will help out a future star in stock car racing.

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