Friday, September 2, 2016

ARCA Dirt Double at DuQuoin Next

Justin Haley became the youngest winner ever at Springfield
It's been a crazy couple of weeks since I last wrote, as our house got hit in a storm last weekend and we had now power for nearly three days. Luckily the damage was minimal and we were just inconvenienced, but it meant that I didn't have a chance to write about the Springfield, Illinois ARCA race on the dirt mile at the Illinois State Fairgrounds where I had worked the previous weekend. The ARCA series had another first time winner in 17 year old Justin Haley which meant that eight (8) different drivers have gotten their first ARCA wins already this season. This weekend we go to southern Illinois to another dirt mile so perhaps that string will continue as the entry list is stacked with local drivers and lots of experience on the DuQuoin racetrack.

Experienced dirt racer Chase Briscoe leads the season points
This is the second straight year that I have done the ARCA "dirt double" in August and although I have trashed a couple of shirts with Illinois clay in the process of shooting these races, I absolutely love seeing these stock cars on dirt. It's too bad more people don't get out to watch these guys race as they put on a helluva show and the racing is as good as you will see at any level of stock car racing, and many times it's better in my opinion, as there are so many young and hungry talented drivers fighting their way up the racing ladder. I would think that the television people at American Sports Network would be happy with the races they are showing as there has been lots of action and exciting finishes in every one this year. Springfield was no different as rookie and season points leader Chase Briscoe led a ton of laps, local driver Ryan Unzicker challenged for the win, and then Justin Haley found his way to the front with less than 10 laps to go to win in a green-white-checker finish.

Sunday ended up being a gorgeous day to race
My excitement for the weekend actually started on my drive over to Springfield on Saturday morning, as a wrong way driver on I-74 westbound near the Indiana state line got my attention early in the morning. Thankfully that idiot didn't hurt anyone and I had somewhere to go when I saw those headlights coming towards me in the fast line as I pulled out to pass an 18 wheeler. I ducked back behind the truck and honked at the oblivious driver before calling 911 to report them. Needless to say, on a sunny Saturday morning, that encounter set my nerves on edge so I really concentrated on driving the rest of the trip. As I got within an hour of Springfield, I learned that a downpour had forced the cancellation of the USAC Silver Crown race which I was going over to shoot on Saturday so that was disappointing. However, it gave me time in Springfield to get a haircut, go see the movie "Suicide Squad" and hang out at the hotel the rest of the day and get ready to work ARCA's race on Sunday.

Tough logistics for ARCA's teams made for a long day
With a scheduled 9:00 practice session, we had to be at the Fairgrounds before 6 to get things going but despite what dawned as a beautiful weather day, the teams were in for a tough day as they could not bring their haulers into the track infield as it was a swamp from all the rain in Springfield prior to that day. They had to roll, push or pull all their cars, gear and equipment inside to set up for the day so we ended up having a single one hour practice session to set the starting lineup. Before you knew it, it was race time and 100 laps on the mile dirt went pretty fast once they got rolling. Rich Corbett and Doc Hunter were there working with me at Springfield so we were able to cover a lot of ground and provide a lot of variety in our photos for the series. It's always more fun working with other photographers too and I think Doc will be back again this weekend at DuQuoin while Rich is in his home area of Oswego, New York at the annual supermodified race event.

Chase Briscoe will look to add a series title to his resume over the next few weeks
DuQuoin marks the beginning of a very busy stretch run for the ARCA series. After this weekend comes the 100th ARCA race at Salem Speedway on September 10th and then Chicagoland September 15th, followed by Kentucky Speedway September 23rd. We get a break before the season finale at Kansas Speedway October 14th, but 4 races over the next three weeks will be exciting. It will be fun to see if anyone can mount a late challenge on Chase Briscoe for the season championship, but I will have fun no matter how it turns out. It's hard to beat being at a racetrack doing what you love under any circumstance and I am grateful for the opportunity. Today, in fact, I noticed on the ARCA website that I have been listed as its "Chief Photographer" so I am very happy to get that recognition as part of the staff that puts together this series. So until next time, please follow this link to see a few of my photos from Springfield.

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