Thursday, December 31, 2015

Good Bye 2015 - Hello 2016

Thank God this year is almost over. Lots of people create year end Top 10 lists or propose New Year's resolutions, but I plan to do neither with this post. I simply want to thank everyone I've worked with this year in motorsports. I apologize in advance if I leave out some well deserving folks who have helped me along the way in 2015 as there are so many people I'd like to recognize individually.

I have to start with all the people at the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards. George Mergen moved on near the end of the season but he was my "boss" at most of the 14 races I worked this season for the series. Next year will be different without George at the racetrack and I am indebted to him for the opportunity to support the series, its teams and drivers through my photography. I have put together a video that I is included at the end of this post which condenses the 14 race events (plus the season ending banquet) into a little more than six minutes. You may notice how the images often seem to fly by, which I did intentionally as that's how this season went as well. Mark Gundrum, Don Radebaugh, Larry Mauter, Doug Donnelly, and so many others at ARCA have had a hand in what I did for the series this year and I had an absolute blast traveling, shooting the races and getting to know the drivers, teams and their public relations people. I can't wait to get started in 2016 but my first race for the series won't be until April at Nashville.

I also am grateful to know and work with Eric Gilbert and Rainier Earhart at one of the coolest racing websites on the planet, www, The site keeps growing into a worldwide phenomenon and I am fortunate to be a contributor. I got to work the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 99th Indy 500 last May for the site and  I am really excited to do the same again in 2016 for the 100th Indy 500 at racing's hallowed ground, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I would love to do some other races for the site, most notably LeMans someday, but my ARCA commitments may make that impossible for awhile. I do have my passport ready just in case.

Even though I was only able to work a single race for Associated Press this year, at Atlanta for the NASCAR weekend at the end of February, I appreciate my friends there who have given me chances to do what I love. John Bazemore and Mike Stewart in Atlanta, Brynn Anderson - who I hope to finally meet at Talladega in 2016 - and John Raoux at Daytona, are all people I love working with. I really want to shoot another Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona someday, and get back there for the Daytona 500 like I did in 2014, but it doesn't look like that will be possible in 2016 due to limited leave time available from my real job as a teacher. Time will tell what I will be able to do for AP and I have to admit I am a little jealous of my friends there who are out shooting college football bowl games this New Year's holiday weekend. I would love the chance to do that someday too!

With 2015 in the rear view mirror, I am excited to look ahead and make plans for 2016. Hopefully my family will be able to wrap up my Mom's estate after her death this past July and I know I will be on the road a lot this year - probably just not to Akron so much anymore where she lived. I think of her all the time and I know her memory will come up often when I travel to races since I would always call her on the long road trips to pass the time and share the passion for racing that we had in common. It looks like I will be doing 16 or ARCA's 20 races for 2016, plus the month of May at Indianapolis for, so the new year promises to be very busy indeed.

Finally, I need to recognize the passing of a longtime friend and great photographer, Glenn Smith, in October this year. He helped introduce me to the folks at AP and for that I am forever in his debt. I think of him and the late Dave Martin every time I shoot a race, and ask myself, what they would do to make some pictures. I follow in their tire tracks and hope my work does their memories justice.

Until next time, please enjoy my video and turn up the volume! See you at a racetrack somewhere soon.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Best Season Ever for ARCA?

2015 ARCA Champ Grant Enfinger
What a year it has been, both for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards and for me personally. With the completion of the season ending final race at Kansas Speedway October 16th which was won by 2014 season champion Mason Mitchell, ARCA has crowned its ninth different champion in a row. This year the honors went to the driver with the most wins in 2016, Alabama's Grant Enfinger. Once I got back home to Indianapolis the day after the race, I finally had some down time to recover from a year's worth of travel and stress. The Kansas weekend itself was a whirlwind, as I left Indy Thursday afternoon, shot the event for ARCA all day Friday, and drove home Saturday, covering nearly 1100 miles over 51 hours with 16 hours driving and 18 hours at the racetrack taking most of that time. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Now that my 2015 racing season is done, it's hard to believe that it went so quickly. Last January, I had very little on my racing calendar, other than the Month of May at Indianapolis for and a couple races here and there for Associated Press. Things changed suddenly when the person ARCA had intended to use as its main series photographer ran into difficulty and had to bow out. I told ARCA's marketing people I would step back in for as many races as possible. That turned out to be 14 ARCA race weekends as I crisscrossed the Midwest from Pocono, Pennsylvania to Kansas City, Kansas and from Nashville, Tennessee to Marne, Michigan. I was able to witness and document some great racing along the way and experience a series from the inside out in a way I had never really done before, so it was clearly my best year as a motorsports photographer. I think ARCA fans would be hard pressed to find a better, more competitive year in series history than 2015 and I was happy with my work product most weekends, although I had some moments where learning was forced upon me due to circumstances at the track or with my equipment. Those moments and overcoming those challenges only served to make this an even more special year for me as a photographer.

Ryan Reed (38) and Travis Braden (01) were both first time ARCA winners in 2015
While champion Grant Enfinger won six races, the newcomers in the series were another big story. Fully half of ARCA's 2015 races were won by drivers who had never won an ARCA event before, and some of them did it in their first ever ARCA start. Other than Enfinger, only Ryan Reed and Mason Mitchel won more than 1 race; Reed did it in two out of the three he entered and Mason in two out of five. The other race winners only chalked up one apiece but there were 10 brand new winners in the series this season. I was there for most of those and I used t o tease the new drivers that I would see them in Victory Lane as their good luck charm which seemed to be true more often than not this year! In the process, I've taken a helluva lot of photos this season, probably more than 50,000 images for ARCA, covered a lot of territory with my feet at the races as well as behind the wheel getting there, and I think produced some of my best work. I am looking forward to 2016 and doing it all over again, although I hope my personal life will have settled down by then.
Grant Enfinger (23) races Will Kimmel at Kansas

My racing season actually began at the end of February this year with the NASCAR weekend at Atlanta for Associated Press. From there, my travels from Indy looked like this, in order of occurrence: Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, Salem Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Grand Prix of Indianapolis and 99th Indy 500), Pocono Raceway, Michigan International Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway, Winchester Speedway, Iowa Speedway, Lucas Oil Raceway, Berlin Raceway, Springfield Fairgrounds, DuQuoin Fairgrounds, Salem Speedway, Kentucky Speedway and Kansas Speedway. Thank goodness ARCA is a midwest-based series as Indy is about 9 hours at most from any of the tracks I went to for them this year, with Pocono as the longest drive. Altogether I went to six tracks I had never worked at before (Nashville, Pocono, Iowa, Berlin, Springfield and Kansas) but it seemed like I ran into someone I knew at every track.

"Superman" Mason Mitchell did it again
The stressful part of this season had nothing to do with the long drives to get to the races, as I love to drive. In the midst of it all, my Mom was hospitalized in June and passed away 4th of July weekend so I had extra trips to Akron, Ohio interspersed with the racing travel, and sometimes on top of it, as I visited her on the way to and from Pocono before she got ill, then drove straight from Chicagoland to Akron another weekend as she was hospitalized. My first race after her death and burial was at Iowa and I was grateful to get back to work and be with my friends at the racetrack where I could focus on the job at hand, and exercise some creativity which buoyed my spirits. That's pretty much the way the rest of the season went as well, since the long drives gave me time to clear my head and reminisce before getting down to business at the racetrack. I knew going in that Kansas was going to be a long drive, but similar in length to going to Talladega which I have done many times solo, so it was no big deal to get there late Thursday night and be at the racetrack bright and early the next morning. That's what I do. And then to see Mason Mitchell get another big win and do his Superman routine in Victory Lane as Grant Enfinger celebrated his first championship nearby was a dual thrill that I hope can be matched next season. Here's a few photos from Kansas that are just the tip of the iceberg of what I shot that weekend. I also owe a special thanks to Kevin Arburn who helped out immensely at Kansas and I hope there are more opportunities to work with him and other second shooters next year. To see all our photos from Kansas, you need to go to where you can buy images or prints for your man caves!

The weekend before going to Kansas, I had been in Akron working on Mom's house and I decided to take in a bonus race at Winchester Speedway: the JEGS ARCA CRA Winchester 400 which I had never attended before. I wasn't able to stay the whole race but it was a beautiful fall day and it was nice to be at a race where I didn't have an assignment and could shoot what I wanted and experiment. Of course I saw lots of ARCA friends and photographers I knew at the track and since its a short drive from Indy I could get home to prepare for work after being gone for several days. I was impressed by the level of preparation of the CRA teams and several big names were there to race including Chase Elliott, phenom Erik Jones, Eldora trucks winner Chris Bell and numerous others. The crowd was huge, bigger than anything I had seen at Winchester before, so I was glad to get out of there before the race ended. Rarely have I left a race before it was over, but I was happy to get the shots I wanted and get home at a reasonable hour. Here's a link to my Winchester 400 photos which I shot just for kicks:
2015 Winchester 400
. Until next time, be safe and get to a race somewhere near you!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ryan Reed Takes Delayed ARCA Crosley 150 at Kentucky

Ryan Reed (right) enjoys Victory Lane at Kentucky with Crosley CEO Bo LeMastus (left)
For the first time this season in races I've been working for ARCA, we actually got a postponement due to weather. Xfinity Series regular Ryan Reed swept to Victory Lane in the Crosley 150 at Kentucky Speedway to snag the second win of the season for Lira Motorsports The race was originally supposed to be run Friday evening September 26th but got washed out and even Saturday afternoon the 26th, Reed had to dodge more raindrops to make it to Victory Lane. A brief sprinkle around lap 40 created a caution which had all the teams wondering about strategy and whether the race would run the full distance of 100 laps. But the "moisture" didn't amount to much, the track quickly dried and the racing resumed with about 45 laps to go.

Grant Enfinger was all business at Kentucky: Fear the Finger indeed
Reed drove to the front late in the race after Xfinity Series regular Daniel Suarez led for most of the first third of the event on Kentucky's bumpy asphalt and then youngster Austin Cindric led the middle third. Cindric had tire problems twice that hurt his finish, and the second time a flat put him into the wall as the checkers flew. Reed had to fend off a stout challenge from Rookie Of The Race Travis Braden - the winner at Lucas Oil Raceway earlier this summer in his first ever ARCA start - who nearly went two for two on the season in his first ever superspeedway start. Another rookie, David Levine, had an excellent third place finish ahead of Ross Kenseth in Ken Schrader's car and season points leader Grant Enfinger. Another Xfinity Series regular, Daniel Suarez looked strong but could only muster sixth ahead of Kyle Weatherman. All Enfinger needs to do now to win his first ARCA title is to start the final race at Kansas October 16th and he will be the champ for 2016. That seems only fitting in a season where Enfinger has consistently racked up wins with six on all kinds of tracks and only Reed was able to get more than one, with Kentucky his second victory out of two starts. This year ARCA has seen an incredible number of first time winners with 10 new faces finding their way to the winner's circle. It's been great to be a part of documenting these milestones all season for ARCA and I hope I've captured some memories for all the participating teams and drivers.

Daniel Suarez (15) and Travis Braden battle at the start
I had an interesting weekend with the unexpected extra time for editing of Friday's practice and qualifying action. I still have to hustle to get through everything after the race is over, and you wouldn't believe how fast a 100 lap race can seem when you're following a strategy to shoot and move every 10 laps. I was on pace to set a record high for steps on my pedometer Friday as I had topped 22,000 before the race and then I added another 14,000 on Saturday when we finally did race, so I got my exercise! The rainy and overcast conditions did keep the temperatures at a moderate level so it was not unearthly hot as some of the other ARCA races I've worked this summer. I decided at the last minute to start the race in the flagstand to get a start shot and I'm glad I did, as there was a guest from race sponsor Crosley waving the green flag and I got a sequence of the big wreck in Turn 3 on the first lap that I couldn't have gotten from anywhere else. I don't think anyone else got the crash sequence so I hope folks will buy some from the ARCA website! Help a brother (and the series) out, you know!

Austin Cindric (99), Kyle Weatherman (22) and race winner Reed mix it up
Going to Kentucky Speedway this year was also a little bittersweet for me. I've been there many times for both Indycar and Sprint Cup racing, but this was the first time I have been back since Indycar ran there last in 2011. That was also the last time I saw Dan Wheldon alive as he lost his life just two weeks later at Las Vegas. It was good to be back and shoot a race again, although I do think it's a shame that Indycar doesn't run at Kentucky anymore since it's a perfect track for Indycars and they consistently delivered photo finishes that were a thrill to photograph. Kentucky Speedway also does a tremendous job of taking care of us photographers and I love working with them. Now if we can just get the winning drivers to climb out and face the photographers first, we will have it nailed. But we still have Kansas in a couple of weeks so maybe the PR people can work on that! See you there!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Grant Enfinger Does It Again! Wins Salem Federated 200

Grant receives his winner's trophy from Salem Speedway owner
The GMS Racing team somehow managed to put Grant Enfinger and the #23 back in Victory Lane again Saturday night at Salem Speedway and left everyone scratching their heads on how he did it. It was Grant's sixth win of the 2015 season and bumped his overall points lead up over Josh Williams with two races left to run. The series races this Friday at Kentucky Speedway and then October 16th at Kansas Speedway so there's not much time for competitors to catch "The Finger" but Lord knows they will give it their best shot. Williams, Tom Hessert and Austin Wayne Self are in a tight battle for positions two through four in the season standings, and rookie leader David Levine is not far behind in fifth. With the final two races of 2015 both slated for live television coverage, you can bet the fields will be strong and Enfinger will have his work cut out for him to seal the series title.

It was a beautiful night for ARCA racing; Ken Schrader set fast time
With only two races left, it's hard to believe how fast this season has gone by, as I have worked twelve races for the ARCA series this year as their photographer. The travel has been fun and the races quite entertaining so this past weekend at Salem was somewhat nostalgic for me. I couldn't help but think of my friend, the late Don Hamilton, a racing writer and former owner/editor of the American Motor Journal publication. It was Don who gave me the chance to get back into racing photography in a big way in 2006 after I had gone through a divorce and was exploring a variety of career options. I started going to the Salem ARCA races that fall and have only missed one since then, when I had to be at Mid Ohio for the Rolex Grand Am race. Don had many great friends in racing and had a special connection with Salem  due to close friends working on the track safety team. I've been going there long enough now to see those friends raise their boys up seemingly at the track, as they have taken roles with the track crew as well. Don and I collaborated on several articles through the years and I know he would have enjoyed the racing at Salem this past weekend. God rest your soul Don.

Richard Hauck got it wrong coming off of Turn 2 on his first hot lap
If you've never been to a race at Salem, it is one of those tracks that you really should check out. It's a half mile, high banked soup bowl with bumps galore, some aging and worn out asphalt, and two distinctly different lines through the corners. Both ends of the track are essentially hairpins which look the same but drive completely differently. The Turn 1 and 2 end can accommodate three- and sometimes four-wide racing where drivers will dive down to the bottom on entry. The other end of the track seems to be just a single line, right up against the wall, and the transitions to the straightaways at both ends are brutal, spitting unsuspecting drivers out toward the wall or into lurid loose spins if they don't unwind the wheel soon enough. And the roar of more than 30 ARCA machines inside that bowl is deafening, with vibrations that envelope you as long as the green flag flies. I love it, and I've been there more often than any other track that isn't named the Indiana Motor Speedway.

Josh Williams rim rides in Turn 3; he is 2nd in the season standings
Salem hasn't changed much through the years but it seems like the ARCA series definitely has since I started covering it regularly at Salem in 2006. The last few years have seen much cleaner racing at Salem, whereas it used to seem like you could count on seeing lots of torn up equipment at the end of every race there. Then the teams would get out the 200 mph tape, bang on the fenders and send guys back out with cars that often ended up looking like modifieds.

That seems to have changed over the last few years. Last year for instance, there was only a single caution, which is almost unheard of at Salem! I think there are several reasons for the cleaner action at Salem, not the least of which is the rise in driver talent, especially among the young guns that all seem to have driver development deals with established Sprint Cup teams. These kids are just flat good, and they know how to go fast and keep the equipment clean. I think the quality of the equipment has also improved along with the expertise of mechanics and crews, many of whom are preparing themselves for future Sprint Cup roles. This Salem race there were 12 brand new composite bodied cars with the new Ilmor 396 engines, and tires were in short supply, so everyone really had to conserve their gear to make it the full 200 laps. But it didn't effect the quality of the racing and in fact may have put a premium on race strategy this year, so from that standpoint, it should not be surprising that Grant Enfinger and his GMS racing team came out with another win.

Bo LeMastus (42) had his best short track finish of 2015 with a ninth
There's an old saying that old age and treachery wins out over youth and exuberance, but that has not been the case most of this year - with the notable exception of Grant Enfinger, and he is by no means old. He has really come into his own this year as a driver and GMS is the hot team to beat as the season winds down. I will be heading to Kentucky Thursday evening to work Friday's 150 miler and then only the finale at Kansas remains. These will be the 13th and 14th ARCA events I have photographed this year and it has really been fun to be on the inside of the action as a full season title fight has unfolded. Maybe when the last race is run, I will have more time to reflect on highlights of my personal season on the road, but right now I just have to focus on getting my gear ready and prepping to shoot race 19 of the ARCA season. What a year it has been. Hope you can make it out to Kentucky or Kansas and see for yourself how the future stars of stock car racing conduct their business. Look me up if you're at the track!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Enfinger Gets Down and Dirty to Snag ARCA Win at Du Quoin Mile

Fear The Finger, indeed!
Grant Enfinger has become the beast of 2015 on the ARCA series circuit and snagged his fifth win of the year with a last lap pass of rookie Kyle Weatherman to pad his overall points lead with only three races left on the schedule. It was veteran Frank Kimmel's 500th ARCA start so there was a lot of sentiment for him to get a win but it was Enfinger's savvy on a green-white-checker finish which got him to Victory Lane once again. The dust was flying all day at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in southwestern Illinois, and in a season where multiple first-time ARCA winners have emerged, Enfinger has proven that his Gallagher Motorsports team is the one to beat week in and week out. No one else has more than one win this season and it will take something really drastic for Enfinger to lose the season championship with only races at Salem Speedway, Kentucky and Kansas remaining.

Austin Wayne Self (98) battles Josh Williams
Even as Grant continues his winning ways, the battle for the next three positions in the standings is extremely close as Josh Williams, Tom Hessert and Austin Wayne Self are now separated by only 85 points. The 2015 hard luck winner so far has to be Kyle Weatherman though with multiple second place finishes and near-misses that have kept him out of the winner's circle so far. Weatherman has a consolation prize of the Calypso Short Track Challenge and has an amazing nine Top 10 finishes in only 12 races run, as until recently when he turned 18, he was not eligible to run on some of the big tracks where ARCA races. I feel bad for Kyle and Cunningham Motorsports as they have been so close to getting him a win this year. Teammate Tom Hessert is in much the same predicament but he has won Salem before so watch out for him next weekend! I wouldn't count Josh Williams out either as he has really come on strong lately and shown a lot of speed for his small team.

Down and Dirty
Du Quoin was ARCA's second straight mile dirt track race and I am frankly glad it was the last one for this season. As their photographer, the races at Springfield and Du Quoin are a bear to work as they are both one day shows with very condensed practice-qualify-race schedules and there's a lot I have to do. This past weekend was about as dirty as I have ever gotten at a race track as it was extremely hot and the blowing dust (especially in Turn 1) just clung to my sweat soaked arms, face and shirt. I was quite happy to hit the shower Sunday night once I got home to Indy, and I don't know if the shirt I was wearing will ever come clean! I love the challenge these races present and my roots are in dirt short track racing, so I felt right at home and was able to experiment with some different angles and techniques despite the short schedule. My pedometer step count was nearly 17,000 for the day so you know I got around the track a few times after arriving at 7:00 in the morning!

Trying a new angle - from under the guardrail
There are lots of really good racing photographers around so I feel really blessed to have the opportunity to shoot for ARCA this season. It looks like my schedule with the series will be about the same for 2016 so that is pretty exciting. When I decided to change careers in 2009 so I could have more time to work as a photographer, I didn't know what would come of that decision and working for the ARCA series has been a godsend, especially this year with everything else I've been dealing with in my personal life. I know a lot of photographers and look at lots of other people's work to continue learning but one thing I've seen more of this year, or at least been more aware of, is the appearance of a lot of images which seem over-processed to my eye.  I know everyone has their own style and I appreciate the variety that I see on Twitter and Facebook, and various motorsports websites on the internet. Maybe I'm becoming more of a purist (or just getting set in my ways with advancing age) but I like documenting races as cleanly as possible with the images coming straight from the camera with maybe a little cropping or toning down of hotspots but not much other processing. One of the greatest lessons I've learned over the years is that I have to shoot what I see and hope that others like it too. I can't shoot like someone else but I sure can learn from them. Thank God for that. Come on down to Salem next weekend and we can talk shop or tell racing lies. It will be fun! See you at the track.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Next Up: ARCA Goes For More Dirt at DuQuoin

ARCA Races on Dirt Twice Every Season
After a week away from the race track and another trip to Akron to work on my Mom's house, another doubleheader weekend awaits: a follow-up trip to Akron to deal with some legal matters on Mom's estate, then back to Indy, then off to southwest Illinois to work another ARCA race on dirt. Two weeks ago, it was the Springfield mile dirt at the Illinois State Faigrounds and now its the other Illinois Fairgrounds mile dirt at DuQuoin. I haven't been to this racetrack since the early 90's when Tony Stewart, Chuck Gurney, Johnny Parson, Jr., Ziggy Snider and that bunch were racing USAC Silver Crown so I am looking forward to shooting for ARCA on their second (and final) dirt track of the 2015 season. While I was also able to shoot Silver Crown at Springfield, I won't be able to do that particular double at DuQuoin since USAC runs Sunday and that's just too short of a turnaround after returning from Akron on Saturday.

Steve & I can't get to many races together these days
I really miss shooting dirt track racing so getting to work both Springfield and DuQuoin have helped rekindle my love for that style of motorsports. The contrast between the Silver Crown and ARCA races at Springfield wasn't as great as I had expected as most drivers in both series preferred the low line right against the guardrail. The SIlver Crown guys were faster in their lighter machines and would experiment with sliding sideways and riding the cushion on occasion but the heavier stock cars definitely liked the hard packed clay up against the rail. And man did I ever love leaning on the guardrail shooting as the racers flew by inches away from my feet! My brother made the trip with me to Springfield and he had never experienced the roar and thunderous vibration of racing so close that it shook your insides, so it was great to share that experience with him. He's back in Arizona now so this weekend's road trip to DuQuoin will be a solo trip although my son is going with me to Akron, so I will be racking up some more road miles across the Midwest this Labor Day weekend.

Kody Swanson took a 2nd Straight Springfield Silver Crown Win
It was so much fun to be there on Saturday for the Silver Crown race, even though I only really knew one of the drivers: AJ Fike, who has been full time in ARCA this year and runs a heavy Silver Crown schedule. I recognize a lot of the USAC drivers but they don't know me, so one of the first things my brother and I did when we got there was go talk to AJ. I didn't realize it at the time, but Fike has won twice at Springfield in Silver Crown and it was fun sharing the ARCA connection with my brother. Wouldn't you know it, AJ went on to win the ARCA 100-miler on Sunday after hanging on to what looked like a bucking bronco Silver Crown car on Saturday. My brother and I had a blast just hanging out taking pictures Saturday and we were able to go where we wanted with the $35 pit passes we bought. A slideshow of photos from the Silver Crown action follows this post.

The field takes the green after very little track time
The ARCA races at Springfield and DuQuoin are one day shows, with a single practice session followed by qualifying and then the race. There's lots to get done in a short period of time and a rainy mist cut short the only practice session and qualifying was cancelled altogether, so the field was set based on owner points. The track looked like a muddy mess about 2 hours before the race was supposed to start but the Fairgrounds crew got out the road graders, scraped off the top layer of mud, and once the sun came out, the track was ready to go, and ARCA was motivated to start on time since the race was being carried live on CBS Sports Network. It turned out to be a beautiful day and I hustled all over that track during the 100 lap race to get shots from a variety of angles. For just my first time at Springfield, I was really glad I had the chance to scope everything out on Saturday as it paid dividends Sunday during the ARCA race and made my job easier.

ARCA Points Leader Grant Enfinger
The ARCA season is winding down now with only four races left to crown a season champion and Grant Enfinger would appear to be the favorite to capture the series title, which would be his first. There have been ten first-time ARCA winners this season so anything can happen, especially with some dirt track "ringers" on the entry list for DuQuoin. After this weekend, only the fall race at high banked Salem Speedway, and races at intermediate tracks Kentucky Speedway and Kansas Speedway will settle the points for the year. By that time, I will have been ARCA's photographer for 14 out of 20 races on the schedule this season and I love that I continue to learn every time out. Shooting the series has given me the chance to experiment with some things and get to know the teams and drivers, which has been very rewarding. It looks like I will get the chance to do much the same schedule in 2016. I will also be shooting the season ending championship awards banquet for the third year in a row in Indianapolis in December as well.

If you read my blog regularly, then you know I write about my journey as a motorsports photographer, and this year has been one wild ride, especially the last two months. When you mix in my Mom's death at the beginning of July, the tragic death of Indycar driver Justin Wilson last weekend which brought up all kinds of feelings of grief and loss related to my Mom's death, and the stress of starting a new teaching job at the beginning of August, I have been feeling emotionally spent lately. Driving a UHaul back from Mom's this past Sunday was especially hard as I knew there wouldn't be many more trips back to Akron, and I felt like I was hauling her life along with me in the items I was bringing back to Indy. It's all part of the transition to whatever is next and I knew I was being taken care of on the road as I saw 7 gorgeous hawks along US 30 West, all perched on fence posts facing the highway, and then an eagle flew over me on I-70 back in Indiana about 50 miles from home. The universe speaks to me in these ways and you can call me crazy if you want, but we are all connected in the spirit world and these sightings were not coincidental.

But I keep going because that's what I do. And I try to channel whatever I'm feeling through my creative efforts behind the camera, in Adobe Lightroom, through this blog and through journaling I do which is not for public consumption. Why? I can't not do it. It's who I am. If you know me, then this is no surprise but I don't let many people outside my close friends and family know me that deeply, so if you take all these things together, then my messages to the universe may begin to make a little more sense. But then again, maybe not. Just come out to the racetrack and join me so we can share the passion and talk awhile. Until then, I hope you enjoy these photos.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Indycar Loses Justin Wilson: Family Loses Father, Husband, Brother

Justin Wilson, 2014 Indianapolis 500
I had planned on writing about the great two days my brother and I had spent together at the Illinois State Fairgrounds dirt mile in Springfield, Illinois for the USAC Silver Crown and ARCA weekend, but unfortunately, life and the dark side of racing has intervened. I will get back to the story of our Springfield trip another time. After all the travel and sadness in our family since Mom's death July 5th, this weekend was one that my brother and I had planned since last year. We both really looked forward to spending time together at a racetrack and on the road. Then we heard about Justin Wilson.

The big man friends called "Badass"
As we were leaving Springfield Sunday afternoon, my brother got a text from his son in Tucson that Indycar driver Justin Wilson had been hit in the head by debris after a crash in the race at Pocono. We heard it looked bad. Sadly, barely 24 hours later, news reports confirmed the worst: that Justin had succumbed to his head injuries. As I drove away from Springfield, my brother pulled up the Indycar coverage from Pocono on his phone and we saw the video of the accident which led to Justin's death. It was truly a freak accident as Sage Karam had crashed on his own, and Justin had juked around a slowing car in front of him when a bouncing piece of debris from Karam's car hit him. I'm sure he never saw it coming. When we saw that Justin had been airlifted out of Pocono, we knew it was bad.

Justin Wilson 1978 -2015
Lots of tributes have been written since last night when Justin's death was confirmed and I can't add much to the outpouring of support that the racing community has provided but you know we are all feeling the grief. That's just what we have to do right now, and coming so closely on the heels of my Mom's passing, this feels especially painful, even though I can't say I really knew Justin as a person. But when you shoot racing as long as I have and you are up close and personal in enough situations where you hear them talk or overhear private conversations, you feel like you know them. For me, that knowledge is best captured in photos, so I will leave this blog post with a gallery of my photos in honor of Justin and all he meant to so many people.

Godspeed Justin, and God bless your family and friends. You will be sorely missed, but not forgotten.

Monday, August 10, 2015

On the Road Again: This Time to Berlin

Berlin Raceway is outside Marne, Michigan
That would be Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan, that is. But first, as Monty Python's Flying Circus used to say, "Now for something completely different".

After running seemingly non-stop since early April - racing road trips, the Month of May at Indy, wrapping up a school year teaching, more racing, multiple trips to and from Akron as Mom's illness worsened, more racing trips, Mom's death and funeral, then races at Iowa and Lucas Oil Raceway - I finally got a break the last week of July with a week's vacation before starting my new teaching job last Monday. My fiance calls me the Energizer Bunny because I go and go and go, but that week on the beach near Indiana Dunes State Park was a much needed chance to recharge my batteries and relax.

Sunsets over Chicago were spectacular our vacation week
Enjoying perfect weather, indigenous wildlife and lake views at a beachfront cottage near Indiana Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan is about as different as it could be compared to setting steps records at racetracks. And I am grateful for it all, both the chance to get away and the work that helps me resume something similar to a normal life. Going through my Mom's illness and death was (and is) the most challenging emotional event of my life so far, and at 58 I've been through some situations that could have broken me. If we were in the same room together, I'd tell you all about those, but suffice it to say that someone has been watching over me for a long, long time and I have been truly blessed. My close friends know and  understand, so perhaps one we'll have that chance to talk face to face and share some horror stories and miracles.

Travis Braden during practice at Lucas Oil Raceway
Needless to say, it's been a challenge to find time to write when what I really needed was rest and relaxation. But it's racing that brings me back to the blog and ARCA which is the bread on the vacation and school sandwich, with 200 lap night races at Lucas Oil Raceway and Berlin Raceway on the top and bottom. Very tasty, mind you, as the Lucas Oil event was right here in Indy so I didn't have to travel, and the race yielded another first time winner in Travis Braden. This ARCA season has been especially noteworthy for an abundance of first time winners, several of whom won in their first ever ARCA race. Braden was one of those first-first winners. I really enjoyed shooting that race and seeing him win, as he has won two championships in other ARCA divisions and seems like a really savvy young guy. I first met him at the Performance Racing Industry trade show here in Indy a couple of years ago, and to see him gamble on an early tire stop that paid off in a trip to Victory Lane after an exceptionally long green flag run was really cool.

Grant Enfinger (#23) dominated at Berlin
Two weeks later, it was the same thing only different at Berlin Raceway in Michigan. It was my first trip to this nice little oval outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan and I met a lot of people who have been supporting that track for years. It was great to be there working for ARCA and hearing the locals talk about their experiences. What was the same about Berlin was the long green flag runs, which really sliced up the field. What was different was a repeat winner, as Grant Enfinger won his fourth race of the season and repeated his Berlin from 2014 in utterly dominant fashion, leading all but 2 of the 200 laps. I thought the track was exceptionally racy, and it was quite unique, with no wall along the backstretch and pits that faced each other inside the infield of the track. I had never experienced either of those before, so it created some challenges in just getting around once the race started. The biggest challenge was the lighting which left much to be desired for the race which started at 8:50 pm local time. But that's one of the things I love about photography - meeting a challenge and still getting the images I need. It was a fairly hectic race for everyone behind Enfinger, and mostly clean with lots of side by side running on this little bullring. The end of the race was another story entirely as Tom Hessert got taken out by a lapped car with 10 laps to go while running second so he's probably still pissed about that. The end result was Enfinger had to withstand one final restart with two laps to go to hold off Mason Mitchell and Frank Kimmel.

In between Lucas Oil and Berlin, ARCA ran at Pocono which I had to skip to end my vacation and start the new school year, but photos from all the races are available on the main website for the series at so go check them out. Buy one or two while you're at it, but even if you don't, you need to get to a race. The dirt miles at Springfield and Duquoin, Illinois fairgrounds are up next so I hope to see you there. Until then, here's a sampling of photos I shot for ARCA at Lucas Oil and Berlin.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hometown Kid Mason Mitchell Wins ARCA 150 at Iowa Speedway

Winner Mason Mitchell found another Superman fan at Iowa
Newton, Iowa isn't far from West Des Moines but 2014 ARCA Racing Series Champion Mason Mitchell could tell you otherwise after he won at his home track Friday July 17th with a last lap pass in a race that was scheduled for 150 laps but actually went 159 under ARCA's green flag finish rule. Everyone at Iowa endured a day in a Midwest steam bath as temperatures and humidity were oppressive all day and into the evening. Once the race was finished, an exuberant but exhausted Mitchell and his team quickly ran out of gas in the Victory Lane celebration. I'll bet they got a second wind later as Mason promised they would "celebrate like animals"! It was fun to see this local product get a win at home, and he did it in style as seems to be his habit. There was no questioning his enthusiasm when he took the checkered flag. Before driver introductions, I had given Mason a fist bump to encourage him so it was cool to see him snag the win.

Except for the heat, weather was great at Iowa Speedway
It was an incredibly long, hot day at Iowa Speedway, and I know there were a lot of people who suffered under the sweltering conditions that never really relented even after the sun went down. I knew we were in for a hot one when I left the hotel in Newton for the track that morning. At 6:30 a.m., it was already 74 degrees with 90 percent humidity, and it only got worse as the day wore on. I wasn't done editing my race photos until after midnight so the hottest 18 hour day at a racetrack I have ever experienced was certainly one for the record books. I went through two changes of clothes and could have changed again, but didn't have another shirt to wear so I just had to push through the sultry atmosphere like everyone else. With my soccer and basketball officiating, I am in pretty good physical shape but I felt badly for anyone who was wilting in the heat. Lots of folks had ice bags on their heads or necks, or inside their firesuits, and by no means was I feeling fresh as a daisy as Saturday rolled around. But I made it through and set a new personal best for steps on my phone's pedometer app at 23,874 for the day.

Turn 1 action was intense all night
I had originally intended to stay for Saturday's Indycar race but with my mother's death two weeks earlier, I had to drive back to Indy on Saturday and then head for Akron to work on her estate again on Sunday, so I got a bunch of miles across the Midwest last weekend. I did get to see part of one Indycar practice session on Friday and they are quite impressive on Iowa's little oval. While not in the same class as Indycars when it comes to speed, the ARCA machines seem perfectly suited to the progressive banking on the 7/8ths mile track. Drivers could really choose their lines for whatever suited their styles. I decided to shoot in Turn 1 at the start of the ARCA race and witnessed lots of three and four wide racing going into the corner, which was very exciting. And even though the track is short in length, there was plenty of room for side by side racing which lent itself to plenty of action during the race. I hope it looked as good on FoxSports as it did in person. For my first visit to Iowa Speedway, I was thoroughly impressed and the track photo staff were very helpful and accommodating. I am looking forward to going back again!

Austin Cindric (99) challenged  ARCA regularTom Hessert
This race proved to me once again why people need to get out and see an ARCA race when the series comes around, as a lot of these young guys have tons of talent and aren't afraid to mix it up on the track. Winner Mason Mitchell is only 20, second placed Kyle Weatherman just turned 18, Austin Cindric (son of Penske Racing President Tim Cindric) finished fourth and is about the same age. Cunningham Motorsports finished 2-3-4 with veteran Tom Hessert sandwiched in third by his two youngster teammates. Weatherman has already won a race this year and nearly won Iowa. Cindric seemed poised to win as well, so the depth of young talent is on display every week. Look down the Top 10 in season points and you'll see youth being served week in and week out in this series: Austin Wayne Self, Josh Williams, Sarah Cornett-Ching, and David Levine are all potential race winners every week.

This week the series comes to my hometown of Indianapolis to race on the Lucas Oil Raceway oval which is flatter and shorter than Iowa, but can also lend itself to excellent side by side racing. Hopefully the weather will be a little less extreme than last weekend, but with the ARCA CRA Super Series running a 100 lap feature before ARCA's 200 lapper, the racing promises to be plenty extreme! You need to be there! Look me up if you make it out to Clermont Friday!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Goodbye Mom - I'll Miss Calling You

Mom at the 2014 Indy 500 - she loved going in early
If you follow my blog posts, you know I mostly write about racing and my travels from racetrack to racetrack while working as a motorsports photographer. This post only peripherally relates to racing as my Mom, Reene Ann (Shue) Alley was a huge race fan and was able to attend the 2014 Indy 500 with us despite a lengthy bout with cancer. We wondered then if that would be her last 500 as we knew her time was limited with us, so we tried to make the most of it. Mom's father, Jacob Jay Shue, my namesake, was a racer at heart and helped get a little dirt track built at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds in Warsaw, Indiana. We spent a lot of each summer in Warsaw when I was a kid. I am headed out on the road again tomorrow, to Iowa Speedway, to shoot the ARCA event, and sadly I will not be able to call Mom on the road this trip, or on any future trip, as she died 10 days ago on July 5th in hospice in Fairlawn, Ohio. We had a wonderful celebration of life service in her adopted hometown of Tallmadge, Ohio this past Saturday July 11th and we laid her to rest two days later in her hometown of Warsaw. It is still hard to believe that she is gone so I am sharing the words I spoke at her Tallmadge service to help with healing, as we were very close, along with a song and her obituary:

Thanks so much to everyone for being here today. It's wonderful to see so many of Mom's Ohio friends and colleagues join our family to honor her and celebrate her life. And what a life she lived.

I have come to believe through my own spiritual journey the last few years that there are no coincidences - that God has a plan for us that is greater than anything we can imagine. Yet who could have ever imagined the plan that He had in store for Reene Ann (Shue) Alley? That this small town girl from Winona Lake, Indiana would have lived a life so full and rich, who traveled so far, and touched so many lives? It's a long way from Kosciusko County to London, Paris, Venice and Sicily, but she did it and she did it her way.

Mom's sister Mary told a story at Mom's bedside in hospice last Sunday about Mom mailing her father, Jacob Jay Shue, a copy of her doctoral dissertation and he wasn't quite sure what to make of it. After some ribbing from Grandpa Jay's cronies at Breedings Cigar Store in downtown Warsaw, he called Mom and said "Reenie, you done good." That was high praise from Grandpa who was an entrepreneur and adventurer, but only had an 8th grade education. Grandpa has been gone for nearly 30 years now, but I'm certain he is sitting with Mom now telling her how proud he is of all that she accomplished in her life.

Mom's life revolved around family, words, travel, puzzles and numbers. And books. And more books. She lived 80 years and 95 days, but as Abraham Lincoln said, "In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." Mom made those years count and even though her last few weeks were effected by changes in her ability to speak and to be understood, her message to us was clear: Tallmadge was her home and here she would stay until the end. Losing much of her communication ability was extremely frustrating for her and she had trouble finding words just like I had trouble finding words to share with you today. But you all know her. No one would be surprised to use words about her like educator; citizen of the world; historian; a fighter and trailblazer; militantly independent; passionate about learning, gardening and wildlife; opinionated. She lived her life without limits and showed us all how to persevere.

Over the last few weeks, it has become clear to me that God's hand has been upon Mom, and His plan for her was indeed far greater than anything we could have imagined. Otherwise how does one explain the deer I saw at her bird feeders the first night I arrived back in Tallmadge a week ago Tuesday? Or the doe and two fawns I saw the next morning? Or the fact that Mom ended up in a position to get help when her first stroke hit a little more than three weeks ago? For those of you who aren't aware, she was at the Tallmadge Shipping Center sending gifts for her Great-Grandchildren when that happened. We are thankful that Jackie got her the help she needed that day. That act of kindness enabled us to share Mom's final days with her which is a blessing beyond words.

Then there were the Blue Jay feathers I found last week, one at her house by the feeders the last night she was in Akron General Hospital, and the other the next day outside her room at the Rogers Hospice Center in Fairlawn. These are not coincidental events. Finally, there was the fact that Steve, Cari and I, Mom's sister Mary, my fiance Julie and my son Max, were all able to be with Mom in her final hours, despite great distance and disparate schedules. Who could have known that God's plan would favor us so?

Mom used to say quite often, "Not bad for a little old lady," when she would talk about her travels, or something she managed to accomplish, especially after her retirement from Youngstown State University as a professor. We would joke with her the least few years that she had "99 Lives" as she overcame one physical malady, hospitalization or chemo treatment after another. She was our biggest fan, and if you were her friend, then she was your fan too. She made a new life here in Tallmadge and found great neighbors on Starr Line Drive, wonderful friends through the Tallmadge Library, the Tallmadge Historical Society, the Northern Ohio Bibliographic Society and her many other community activities, and her colleagues at the University of Akron and YSU. For all of that, we in the Alley and Shue families will be eternally grateful.

Undaunted and unbowed by her cancer, Mom was not defeated by it. She never lost hope. She didn't want us to lose hope or worry about her. She didn't quit. She just ran out of time.

When I heard that Mom had found a spiritual home here I was relieved and happy for her. I knew she was tying up lose ends in her life, and would find comfort in knowing that God's plan for her had been fulfilled. Psalms 91-4 tells us that "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler." Mom's spirit is free now and the only other thing I can say is: "You done good."

God bless you all.

One other thing I wanted to share is a song and video that my best friend of over 40 years linked me to on the day Mom died. That Sunday was a beautiful day in north central Ohio and my brother Steve, my sister Cari and I were all with Mom in her final hours. I had posted the following on Twitter at 3:35 in the afternoon in the midst of feeling great sorrow and then played the song and video in Mom's room at her bedside a short while later. At 4:15 that afternoon, she left us and was no longer in pain.

I have included her obituary at the end of this post from the July 9th Indianapolis Star so you can get to know her a little better. Please watch the video I played for her - I hope it speaks to you as it did to me that afternoon. I think Mom liked it too. Godspeed to you. Until we see each other again...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Note To Self: Nice Burnout Kid!

Winner Austin Wayne Self
For the seventh consecutive ARCA Racing Series race, a first time winner found their way to the Winner's Circle. This weekend, it was Austin Wayne Self's turn to take the checkers first in the #98 Mason Mitchell Motorsports car. Austin hip-checked last year's winner Brandon Jones in Turn 4 after a late restart to take the lead with only 6 laps left in the 200 lap event at Indiana's historic Winchester Speedway. It must have felt like payback for team owner Mitchell who lost this race last year in almost the same location and fashion to Jones. I have been egging Austin on via Twitter for a month now to do a burnout rivaling Mason's at Chicagoland last year and I have to say he did well in the tight confines of Winchester's front stretch. Adding insult to injury for Jones was the fact that ARCA series points leader Grant Enfinger stole second place right at the checkered flag!

Saturday's weather was irritating!
For the third straight weekend, weather was a factor for ARCA as Saturday's schedule was effected by a persistent misty rain. Qualifying was washed out and the teams only got a one hour practice session that didn't start until almost 6:00 in the evening. The previous two weekends, rains came after the races at Michigan and Chicagoland were finished thankfully, but our luck ran out at Winchester and Saturday's undercard events for modifieds and winged sprint cars had to be cancelled. It led to a frenetic hour of practice, for the teams and for me, as I had to get a lot of photos taken that I can normally grab over the course of multiple on track sessions. After starting the day with an 8:00 am officials meeting, I got home after 9:00 knowing the starting field would be set based on car owner points.

Sunday turned out to be a beautiful Indiana summer day
Sunday's forecast was much better and we were greeted by blue skies with temperatures quickly rising into the 70's and it turned out to be a spectacular weather day. Typical of Indiana weather, Sunday was as good as Saturday had been bad. I had one of my best photography days of the season although the bright sun overhead created its own challenges. One of the best things about working a short track race is the ability to cover the whole facility without having to cover long distances. This race day, it seemed that almost every move I made was the right one to catch key moments of action and I was right in the middle of chaos in the pits on more than one occasion. In the process, I got photos for the ARCA series that I'm sure the teams will be happy with. Race cars always look better in good lighting and I like to have my camera settings a tad on the underexposed side to help ensure a proper level of saturation to accentuate the colorful paint schemes and deep blue sky.

Michael Lira added fire to the weekend's elements
Winchester has been around as a racetrack for over 100 years, so every time I go there I am aware of documenting a part of racing history. It's only a little more than an hour from my home in Indy and ARCA has been racing there since 1957, the year I was born. Indiana has always been a hotbed for racetracks and this weekend felt like a homecoming, all comfortable and friendly. Winchester is a track which survives based largely on local support and it was heartening to see a sizable crowd turn out on Sunday to see ARCA's highly competitive series attack the ancient high banks. The track is known as the "World's Fastest Half Mile" and the surface is rough and weathered, much like Salem Speedway in southern Indiana, another "home" track for me. Even the heavy ARCA stock cars are quick at Winchester and it was no surprise to me that the race was decided with a bump and run move close to the end of the scheduled 200 laps.

Now ARCA is off for a couple of weeks until it teams up with Indycar at Iowa Speedway the third weekend of July and it will be nice to have a couple of weeks off after shooting four straight race weekends for the series (Pocono, Michigan, Chicagoland and Winchester). I'm sure I'll have something to write about between now and then. You know I'll be taking some photos! See you at the track.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Chicagoland ARCA Scott 150: My Weekend Adventure

Ryan Reed came from the back to win at Chicagoland
For the second straight week, the rains came just after ARCA completed its race - the previous weekend it happened after 20 miles at Michigan and this time it was at Chicagoland Speedway Saturday June 20th as severe weather rolled in before we could complete Victory Lane ceremonies for the Scott 150. Unfortunately the Xfinity Series, which was to follow ARCA at Chicagoland, got washed out until Sunday. Ryan Reed was pulling double duty in both races and took the his first ARCA win and the first for Lira Motorsports in a heated battle at the front of the field. Reed outlasted current ARCA season points leader Grant Enfinger, Will Kimmel, Matt Tifft and Frank Kimmel to pull into Victory Lane before the track announced that people should seek shelter. Reed had to bolt to the Xfinity garage in the midst of our Victory Lane photos due to the severe weather approaching, so I quickly finished shooting the Scott Rookie of The Race award with sixth place finisher Matt Kurzejewski and commenced one of the fastest post race editing jobs I've ever done for ARCA. For the rest of the finishing order, click here.

Tom Hessert teamed with Josh Williams at CLS
I kept an eye on the sky as I wrapped up my ARCA work that night at the track as I still needed to drive to Akron, Ohio (again) to be with my siblings who had already gotten there to help Mom who was having another scary medical episode. I left the track at 9:50 pm (eastern time) and could see on the weather radar that there was another huge cell of severe rain coming into the Chicagoland area from the northwest. I thought I had a window to outrun the worst of it as I headed east to Akron, and even as the skies were lit up all around me with spectacular lightning, I made my way east on I-80/94 and only encountered scattered rain showers which dissipated around the South Bend area. After that I was in the clear and other than one stop for gas, I rolled 389 miles eastward and got to Mom's in Akron at 4:30 Sunday morning. It was a banzai trip and I stoked up on Mountain Dew and Diet Coke to stay alert, but not surprisingly there wasn't much traffic on I-80 in the middle of the night, so it was a pretty uneventful drive once I got east of the Chicagoland weather.

The ARCA field funnels into Turn 1
The reason I've titled this post as an "adventure" is because I knew before the weekend even started that I would have to make a loop from Indy to Joliet to Akron and then back to Indy over a five day period. Starting at 7:00 a.m. Friday, I left Indy for an easy drive to Joliet and got set up to shoot for ARCA. There was no track activity until later in the afternoon, so I had a chance to catch up with friends I knew on the Chicagoland Speedway photo staff and get some preliminary shooting out of the way. My Friday ended around 10 p.m. once I finished editing for the day. The next day didn't start quite as early so I had time for breakfast at the Clarion where we were staying and then there was more down time at the track before ARCA qualifying. Even early in the day, people were talking about the weather forecast for the evening so I kept my fingers crossed and remained optimistic that we would get our race in. Over two days at the track, I logged over 33,000 steps on my phone's pedometer app, and shot from outside Turn 1, along the frontstretch outside wall, in the garages and pits, and on the roof of the main control tower atop the frontstretch grandstands.

Backlit pit action was a challenge
One of my main goals every weekend is to deliver photos to ARCA taken from a variety of angles and get something on every car and driver entered for the event. When I left Saturday night, I was sweaty and tired but generally satisfied with my work when I hit the road for Akron Saturday night, and felt like I had produced some of the best Victory Lane photos I have taken in awhile. Other than cropping and adding a touch of clarity, I still prefer to deliver images straight from the camera, so I was extremely pleased with my exposure settings and how everything looked. The late afternoon sun and shadows during the race were especially challenging but I thought the backlighting made some of my pit stop shots especially dramatic, so I felt good about meeting the lighting challenges.

Xfinity Series regular Daniel Suarez
With Chicagoland being my third straight weekend and fifth of the season overall shooting for ARCA, I think teams and drivers are getting used to seeing me around and have come to just ignore me, which is what I really want them to do when I am looking for candid photos. I find myself hiding around a corner or behind some equipment and using a long lens to get some shots so they don't even know they are being photographed. I have also really been concentrating on using only available light in the majority of situations, which automatically means I am constantly adjusting ISO, shutter speed and aperture settings, so I have to be alert all the time to  the lighting conditions around my subjects. I love that aspect of photography at the track!

I got back to Indy about 7:30 Tuesday night and am writing this Wednesday June 24th, the first day I've really had a chance to reflect on the weekend since leaving for Joliet last Friday. I am getting more and more opportunities to just have casual conversations with drivers or team members and owners. I haven't met anyone yet in the ARCA garage who isn't genuinely nice and I see every weekend how they help each other out when someone has trouble on the race track, i.e., someone has found the fence and bent a race car. I know it is like that at a lot of levels in racing, but I have a feeling that it's more prevalent in ARCA since the budgets aren't anywhere near what they are in other national series. It's all about "the show" and making sure everyone can race who wants to and I admire that communal spirit tremendously. I'm happy to be a contributor and hope some of that comes across in my photos. My fourth straight ARCA weekend is just a few days away now, and it's close to home at Winchester Speedway in east central Indiana, when ARCA headlines a two-day event which also includes Saturday features for the "King Of The Wing" sprint cars and the Top Speed Modifieds. Until next time, here's a few of my photos from Chicagoland. If you want to see more, then go to and click on the ARCA sites link or just click here. C'mon out to Winchester Saturday and Sunday! Hope to see you there.