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.

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