Friday, May 20, 2016

Pagenaud Rules Grand Prix of Indianapolis

Simon Pagenaud claimed the pole and race
On the coldest race day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since the 1992 Indy 500, Team Penske ace Simon Pagenaud continued his winning ways in 2016 with a dominant win on the IMS road course last Saturday in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. It was not surprising since he also started on pole position and seemed to have the field covered in almost every track session. Teammate Helio Castroneves took second while James Hinchcliffe prevented an all-Chevy podium by taking third with his Honda powered machine. The Verizon Indycar Series put on a good show for the fans who turned out over the three day event as there was plenty of track action to follow from Thursday morning through Saturday evening. The Mazda Road to Indy support series were on the card and the Indy Lights series ran two full races, so fans got a lot of racing for their dollar if they came out to IMS for even part of one day.

The weekend started off beautifully
I was there all three days shooting for while covering the Indycar and Indy Lights series. In typical Indiana Spring fashion, our weather was ultra changeable with everything from rain showers to bright sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80's to Saturday's overcast, windy and cold conditions. It made no difference whatsoever for what I had to do, however, as I still had to make some pictures and get them transferred for the website to use. To do that, I covered a lot of ground and loved every second of it, as I was on a mission to add variety to the photos I was delivering. On Thursday's practice day, I walked over 27,000 steps around IMS. I followed that up on Friday's qualifying day with more than 18,000 steps and another 18,000 plus on Saturday's race day. My Thursday numbers were a personal all time best according to my pedometer app and equated to more that 16 miles hoofing it around the Speedway to find those photos! I was glad that Sunday was an off day as the Speedway got converted to oval track configuration!

Pagenaud winning pole was no surprise
Once the race was over Saturday evening, I was not the last to leave the photo "cave" in the media center but it was close. What I call the cave is the second floor area where photographers work with the main room lights turned off so it is dark and we can all see our computer monitors better. May has become somewhat of a singular pursuit for me since I am not working with any photographer colleagues at Indy yet nor is there a photo editor on site for me to report to. I love being in that cave when everyone has finished shooting as you hear other photogs discuss what they got (or missed) and what they may have encountered during the day while trying to get photos they needed.

John Menard's reaction in Victory Lane was priceless
I got rebuffed once during the Grand Prix when I tried to get above the F1 garages which had suddenly become off limits to photographers. Something like that seems to happen every year at IMS as the rules seem to change willy nilly about who can go where on the property, so we just have to adjust. That happened to me late in Saturday's race so I had to find another place to shoot the finish. I finally decided to give up on that and just get ready for the checkered flag to get a shot and then be close enough for the winning driver's reaction as they exited their car. That turned out to be a great decision as I was right in the middle of all the celebrations in pit lane as team owner Roger Penske, primary sponsor John Menard, and even competitor Scott Dixon came around to offer congratulations. It was an awesome feeling to be in the midst of that and hear all the conversations that were going on at the time, so I would make the same decision again if I get the chance.

Now we move on to the big show - the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. I have been to every Indy 500 since 1976 as a spectator or photographer so this is my 41st consecutive race and 43rd 500 overall. Since I started shooting at Indy for UPI in 1984, I have seen and photographed a lot at Indy but I still get goosebumps every year.  I expect this year's race to be even more intense as the drivers vie for the title of Indy champion for the 100th time. It used to be called an "International Sweepstakes" and I know media interest in this race worldwide is higher than it has been in years, so I am grateful for the chance to be a contributor. I will even have a couple of colleagues on race day this year as I'm told there are two photographers from France coming over, so that will be something fun and different as well. It still looks like a Chevy will win this year if you ask me, but I hope it's a fast, safe month for all concerned. Let's go racing, ladies and gentlemen. See you at the track!

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