Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Salem Speedway Done; Talladega Superspeedway Next

Christopher Bell won for Venturini Motorsports in his first ARCA race
Now that the Rolex 24 Hours, my first two ARCA races and a handful of NASCAR races are in the books, it's time to get serious about racing and motorsports photography! Up until a few weeks ago, all I could do was watch from my couch and follow my friends at the races on social media. I have to admit it was driving me a little crazy. What has made it worse some days was Facebook: the "memories" it pulls up and suggests that I share, such as the memories of the first couple of Daytona 500's I had the chance to shoot for Associated Press in 2011 and 2012.  I drove down by myself both times and in 2012 had to drive back home to Indianapolis without seeing the 500 due to the race's first rain postponement ever. Then in 2013, an ice storm in Indy cancelled my flight south and I missed the whole weekend.

Pole winner Chase Briscoe was quick all day but had problems late
But that has not been the case in April as I did a banzai trip to Phoenix for the Indycar weekend as a spectator, then shot the ARCA race at Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway in early April. Last weekend I shot ARCA racing again at Salem Speedway and now I am preparing to hit the road tomorrow for a trifecta with ARCA and NASCAR at Talladega. I haven't been to Talladega in two years so I am anxious to get back and see all of my Alabama friends, plus it will be the first time I have shot the ARCA race there as the official photographer for the series. It will be fun and exhausting; then I have to be back at work Monday morning to teach Algebra! I will be posting some big numbers in terms of photos taken, steps tracked on my pedometer and miles driven on the road after this weekend, I am sure. And be sure to check the ARCA Racing Series websites for more of my photos.

After Talladega, I have an off week and then preparations for the 100th Indy 500 begin the second weekend in May with the Angie's List Grand Prix. In rapid succession will be a week of Indy 500 practice, qualifying weekend, Carb Day and the 500 itself over the following two weeks when I will be shooting for once again. Before all that though, I have to tell you about Salem.

Salem Speedway is one tough half mile
If you have never been to Salem Speedway in southern Indiana, then you need to get off your butt and get out there. It is a fast, rugged, historic track that has now held 99 ARCA races. The 100th ARCA event at Salem is this September so make a point to be there. I have been going to Salem off and on for nearly 30 years, and since 2006 I have only missed one of the ARCA races there. This year's race was met with the best weather for the spring race in memory, as skies were crystal blue all day Sunday. It made for a great spectacle and wonderful scenes with intense racing among a cadre of young talent that any series would be hard pressed to match. I've said it over and over again but it bears repeating: if you want to see the future stars of stock car racing, then you need to get to an ARCA race. Up and coming talent Christopher Bell won in his first ever ARCA start; this has become the new normal ARCA as new kids come in, saddle up and go win their first time out. Another youngster Justin Haley hounded Bell and finished second while another newcomer Dalton Sargeant snagged third in his first ever ARCA race. Lord knows what we will see at Talladega Friday and that is part of the reason why I enjoy working for the series so much.

It was a gorgeous day for racing at Salem 
I have some great memories of working down south at places like Talladega and Daytona. I've had good luck shooting and always managed to get something memorable so I expect this weekend to be no different. As ARCA's photographer, I will have more freedom to roam than I will the rest of the weekend shooting for AP, and I plan to take advantage of it. While I couldn't afford the trip south or the time off from the teaching job I have now for either the Rolex 24 Hours or the Daytona 500, until this month I've had to be content with couch racing and following my photographer friends on Facebook and Twitter who have been able to be out shooting racing. That is a thing of the past, however, with my fourth race weekend out of five weekends in the month of April about to get underway. On top of that, I am still tobacco free since my last cigarette January 31st and I expect to stay that way. By Sunday, the Month of Jay will commence and the heavy lifting begins at Indianapolis so if you're looking for me, you need to just check Twitter @alleygroup or the racing calendar. Get out to the racetrack; I'll take your picture. Godspeed and safe travels everyone.

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