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.

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