Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Bayne Takes Pocono ARCA 200 in First Series Start

Sprint Cup regular Trevor Bayne was a happy winner
Trevor Bayne made his first trip to Pocono Raceway last weekend and so did I. We both ended up in Victory Lane: Trevor as the pole and race winner in his first ever ARCA start, and me as the ARCA photographer documenting the occasion. When I took his headshot photo on Friday, I told him I was shooting Daytona in 2011 when he became the youngest Daytona 500 winner ever, and now here we both were crossing paths again more than four years later at a different two-and-a-half mile racetrack. I told some of my ARCA friends that I was beginning to think that I am some kind of a first time charm for some of the these ARCA newcomers since this is now the third race where I've been shooting for the series and a driver has won in their first ever ARCA start. In 2013, Austin Theriault did it at Michigan. Brandon Jones did it at Winchester last year, and now Bayne in 2015. Now we go to Michigan so I wonder who might be the lucky charm recipient this time!

ARCA vet Frank Kimmel chases Bayne at the start
Bayne was pulling double duty at Pocono and was using the ARCA event to gain experience for his first Sprint Cup start on the track known as the Tricky Triangle, unique among modern oval tracks for its lengthy front straightaway, its distinctive triangular shape and three differently banked corners. He piloted the Cunningham Motorsports #22 normally driven by Kyle Weatherman and did a masterful job of showing everyone else the fast way around. The ARCA regulars gave it their all and some were apparently trying too hard as Michael Lira hit the wall in the last minutes of Friday's only practice session, and then Kyle Benjamin and Matt Tifft spun and hit the Turn 3 wall during qualifying Saturday morning. All three were able to start the 80 lap, 200 mile race in backup cars and no one was hurt, but there were some bruised egos and lots of bent sheet metal. Needless to say there were some tired ARCA crews when all was said and done as the Benjamin and Tifft accidents happened barely two hours before the scheduled 1:00 pm starting time.

A lonely scene in the garage area with Michael Lira's crew working
I started off the race in the flagstand and was able to play with my new GoPro camera at a racetrack for the first time. I used it around the garage area on Friday and from the flagstand and in the pits during the race on Saturday. Since this was my first time at Pocono, I had to learn my way around on Friday and found that walking takes too much time to get from place to place. I joked with the ARCA folks about loading a golf cart in one of the series haulers, but even if we had one, I doubt I would have gotten to use it. That's OK as I racked up some pretty good step counts on my pedometer app both Friday (16,00) and Saturday (13,500). I actually drove my car outside the Tunnel Turn Friday at the start of practice to shoot in Turn 2, then I went back inside and parked, then walked up into Turn 3 to shoot cars at speed before finishing the two hour practice in the ARCA garage area getting people and scenic shots. It was a weekend of firsts for a lot of reasons. Here is one of my first Go Pro track videos, taken from the flagstand at the start of the race:

I also logged some serious miles on my RSX-s this road trip as I went through Akron to visit my Mom on both ends of the drive to tally 1,434 road miles for the round trip. I love to drive and going through Pennsylvania on Interstate 80 gave me the chance to see a whole lot of new towns that end in the suffix "-ville." Some of the best names I saw were "Barkeyville", "Broadheadsville" and "Limestoneville". I never saw another car with Indiana license plates the whole time I was in the Keystone State which told me I was quite a ways from home. I think our road crews in Indiana could learn something from their counterparts in Pennsylvania, as the twisting, hilly I-80 was in beautiful shape. Coming back into Indiana on Monday, I was quickly reminded of the contrast as our interstates are in terrible shape by comparison to the smooth stretch of highway I experienced on I-80. It was quite an enjoyable drive overall, and I managed to avoid most of the serious rainstorms that were rolling through the Hoosier state on my way home Monday.

Venturini Motorsports driver Kyle Benjamin had a rough weekend
The weekend was quite memorable for a number of reasons and reminded me once again how fortunate I am to be working with ARCA and its teams this season. There are some really nice people involved in this series and even though they compete like crazy on the racetrack, there is still a sense of camaraderie in the paddock that I think is rare in modern day racing. For example, I had a very nice conversation with last year's ARCA champ Mason Mitchell on Saturday morning before qualifying. A similar situation occurred with Tommy Venturini who had come in to the ARCA trailer Friday evening as I was wrapping up my editing for the day. Perhaps my biggest takeaway will be how supportive everyone is, and my weekend was by no means perfect as I had technical snafus during and after the race on Saturday that I had to overcome. In the end, I have to say it was a challenging and rewarding race weekend and this week I get to go to Michigan and do it all over again. Hope you can come out and join us. If you can't then be sure to check the ARCA website for news and more of my photos. Until next time, here's a sample gallery of my work from Pocono.

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