Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Next Stop: ARCA at Pocono Raceway

Recent high school grad Michael Lira was fastest in ARCA open test June 3
My summer adventure is underway and I am on the road again. This week I am headed to Pocono Raceway for the first time ever, a track I have wanted to visit for years, and now I have the chance to go and work for the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards. The 200 mile ARCA race is Saturday afternoon and it will kick off a string of racing weekends for me which involves shooting 11 of the final 12 ARCA races. I couldn't be more excited, and now that May is over and the Indy 500 is in the history books, I can get back to racing's roots working with the most diverse stock car series around. After this weekend, I go to Michigan, Chicagoland and then Winchester before a break in the ARCA schedule, and if you've never seen an ARCA race in person, then you need to go so you can say you say these future stock car stars when they were just kids.

Grant Enfinger (#23)  won at Nashville; here racing Kyle Weatherman
And the ARCA kiddie corps is leading the way this season after Grant Enfinger got off to a hot early season start. Enfinger already has three wins this season, but his last was at Nashville in April. Since then its been all the young guys racing at the front, with Kyle Weatherman winning the most recent event on the New Jersey Motorsports Park road course. At the open test June 3rd, 18 year old Michael Lira set fast time but Wetherman found the wall in the test so it will be interesting to see how one of the series' best teams, Cunningham Motorsports, bounces back to start practice on Friday. Another youngster, Trevor Bayne, will race the 22 this weekend in order to get experience at Pocono for the Sprint Cup race. You may remember Bayne as the youngest Daytona 500 winner just a few years ago, so his addition to the ARCA regulars like veterans Frank Kimmel and Tom Hessert will make things very interesting. Last season's champ Mason Mitchell will be back behind the wheel as well so I'm sure he's anxious to get a win for his own team.

ARCA vet Frank Kimmel is back in #25 this weekend; Matt Tifft returns in Ken Schrader's #52
I have wanted to go to Pocono since the 1980's when Indycar raced there and the walls were steel boiler plate, but somehow I was never able to make it happen. I've already heard stories from some of my photographer friends about snakes in Turn 1 that I need to watch out for, and I expect near-record days on my pedometer both Friday and Saturday. I've been thinking a lot about my shooting strategy for this race and I will let everyone know after the weekend if my plan was successful or not. Since I've never been there before, I expect that much of Friday will be spent just finding my way around and scouting shooting locations for the race. No mater what my plan is, I also expect that I will have to go with the flow as there will be situations I couldn't anticipate that will force my plans to change. That's part of any race weekend to a certain extent, but even more true at a track I've never been to before.

ARCA pit action is always interesting and could determine Saturday's winner
Since ARCA is racing with NASCAR this weekend, track time will be limited but the race is being televised on FoxSports 2 so it will have a good field of 32 cars at last count. The ARCA TV races bring out competitors who don't race the full season and I've heard there are quite a few drivers who haven't raced at all with ARCA yet this season. That means I will have lots of headshots to shoot Friday morning before the sole two-hour afternoon practice, and that can be a challenge rounding drivers up who are focused on getting their cars ready. The headshots are used on ARCA's website with driver profiles and on the television broadcast during starting lineups so the green screen shots must get done before they hit the track. Then they will qualify Saturday morning and race at 1:00 pm Saturday afternoon for 80 hectic laps. I need to find out what the pit window will be and see how many tires each team will have in their pit box for the race (typically either six or eight in addition to the four on the car at the start) to get a feel for what kind of pit strategies may play out so I can be in position to shoot final pit stops which often effect the outcome of ARCA's races. It's the 60th time ARCA has raced at Pocono but my first time shooting so I'm sure I will earn my rookie stripes this weekend and hope to make it back again. And again. See you at the Tricky Triangle!

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