Wednesday, April 13, 2016

ARCA Winner Josh Williams Overjoyed at Nashville

Josh Williams with the spoils of victory
This past weekend was a weekend of firsts. It was my first race of the season as a working photographer and I could definitely feel the rust crackling off as Saturday wore on. By the time the night was over, I felt I was in the groove and was reminded again how great it is to experience the raw emotion in racing as I have been blessed to do. It was a long chilly day beginning with an officials meeting at 7:30 local time and ending back at the hotel after midnight. In between, the competitors for the The Music City 200 in the ARCA Racing Series practiced twice, qualified and raced on Nashville's historic half mile Fairgrounds Speedway oval at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. It was the 25th ARCA race at this track but the winner Josh Williams got his first one after several seasons of hard work. As I said on Twitter after the race, rarely will you see a happier driver and team after a race win, and some of his family members were literally in tears afterwards. It was a sight to see and I am glad I got to be there to document the event for the ARCA series as its "official photographer". If this race is any indication of what's to come this season, then 2016 will be one for the record books. For those of you who follow ARCA, you know that after last year's run of consecutive first time race winners, that is saying a lot.

Winner's tears from Mom
 It was great seeing and working with all my friends at ARCA again, and some of them might have been a little rusty too since it was their first race since Daytona at the end of February. For ARCA's second race (and first short track event) of 2016, a stout field of cars turned out with 17 drivers entering their first event of the season. Of those, there were seven (7) drivers who were competing in their first ARCA race ever - anywhere! So naturally, on a weekend of firsts, veteran Josh Williams got his first win in the series after several close calls the last couple of years. As the race was nearing its end, I made sure I was near their pit box as I anticipated quite a celebration and I got it. As it turned out, their pit location also put me in position to get a decent checkered flag shot, so I grabbed that and turned my attention to the crew members who had leaped out onto the pit  lane to congratulate each other. Josh's parents celebrated from on top of their war wagon while he did a decent burnout before climbing out to claim his new acoustic guitar memento and do interviews with ARCA's new television partner, American Sports Network. It was fun to be in the middle of all of that taking photos; it reinforces why I love to do what I do at the racetrack.
Autograph sessions bring ARCA drivers and fans together

I had a "first" of my own as I got through my first working race weekend tobacco free. A long drive in my car from Indy on Friday, a very long day at the race track Saturday, and the return drive home Sunday without smoking - that's never happened before! Going to Phoenix for the Indycar race last weekend was more of a pleasure trip and although I took some photos, it was not the same as working a race for ARCA as the series has some very specific preferences on what they want covered and how the image files get catalogued. The kicker (as usual) early in the season is the driver headshots which are supposed to be done before practice begins. In this case that meant 17 different drivers had to pay me a visit before they would be allowed to run in practice, and with many of them also involved in car preparation, getting them corralled is always the challenge. Plus there are other things I need to shoot while waiting for the new drivers to arrive. Thank God for radios and the fact it was a short track so I was never far from the "office" where the headshots needed to be taken. Many times, that is my first chance to meet and talk to a lot of these new drivers. I love to chat with them and find out about them - where they are from, what other kind of racing they've done, etc. I also tell them I might be a good luck charm as lots of other guys who I photographed won the very first ARCA race they entered, so they might be the next one to do it!

Josh was all smiles before the race and ecstatic after winning
I had another first on the weekend as I was breaking in a new camera which was just incredible. It's the first new body I have acquired in several years and it lived up to its billing, even if I did not quite know how to use all of its capabilities. I will learn all of that, just like I have learned everything else I know about photography - by doing it - but the things I sought the most from the camera were as true as advertised. The firing speed and low light capability were simply wonderful to utilize so I am really excited for some more night racing this ARCA season when I can really put it to good use. Next stop for me on the ARCA tour this year is Salem Speedway in southern Indiana, my second home track of sorts, so if you want to see the future of big time stock car racing, then come on out and join us.

Look me up if you do! I'll take your picture. Here's a few I took for ARCA Saturday. For more, go to

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