Thursday, August 31, 2017

Springfield & Road America Down: 5 More to Go

Austin Theriualt got the Road America win over Riley Herbst (left) and PJ Jones
Over the eight day period from August 18th to the 27th, I drove over 1,300 miles in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. I've also seen lots of laps on two very different types of racetracks and photographed a wide variety of race cars during that time. I've gotten filthy dirty in sweltering heat and humidity as well as dealing with pouring rain. My pedometer app steps count for the two race weekends was not quite a record but I think I should get extra credit for the hills at Road America! I got 38,772 steps in over the three day race weekend there after racking up 15,781 the week before at the flat Springfield mile. So if you want to be a racing photography, then you better be prepared for all kinds of conditions! In the midst of all that, I've worked four days at my regular job as an Algebra teacher, worked on a grant application that is due the end of this month and had work done on my car for a damaged strut. If you want to know when things will slow down, try me at the end of September as this coming Sunday I am back on the road again for another ARCA race - back on the dirt again!

The mile dirt tracks are a unique feature of the ARCA schedule
As I've written before, the ARCA Racing Series is incredibly diverse and this eight day stretch is a great example of that, from the one mile flat dirt track at Springfield, Illinois last weekend to the four mile scenic road course at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin with its extreme elevation changes and mixture of corners. This coming weekend, ARCA is back on the mile dirt again at DuQuoin, Illinois to enter the home stretch of the 2017 season.

Sheldon Creed (center) won the Trans Am race and Justin Haley (right); both have ARCA ties
One of the greatest things about working as a racing photographer is the opportunity to be around all these young kids who want to make it big as drivers. I feel like I know them all when they come up through ARCA. For instance, at Road America Sunday, two youngsters with ARCA ties were on the podium in the Trans Am race. Sheldon Creed won the main Trans Am race; he ran a lot last season with ARCA and had just raced for Mason Mitchell Motorsports at Springfield. On the podium with Sheldon was Justin Haley in third who won at Springfield last year and has raced in ARCA quite a bit. The best part of it all was the fact that Sheldon said he had never driven in the rain before, so he is learning the hard way!

Austin Theriault was a quick learner on the road course
The winner in the ARCA race at Road America did so in similar fashion, although thankfully the weather had cleared by the time the green flag dropped on our 25 lap event. Season points leader Austin Theriault said he had never driven on a road course before last weekend, yet he was able to come from fifth on a last lap restart to win as the leaders spun each other out in front of him, not once but twice, on that final lap. I had no idea what was going on as I had accidentally grabbed the wrong connecting cable for my headphones so I could only hear my radio when I jumped in my car to change locations. I did that a lot this race as even on a four mile road course, 25 laps doesn't leave much time to get different angles.

The view on the Road America frontstretch is amazing
I started the race on the flagstand and left once the green flag flew. I drove over to Turn 14 and stayed about five laps. Then I drove down to the area above Canada Corner and headed down the long flight of stairs to shoot that location for a few more laps, in the midst of which came a full course caution so I had to wait that out. With about 4 laps to go I drove back into the paddock and went out on pit lane to position myself for a checkered flag shot. Then the craziness ensued on the last restart and I headed to Victory Lane. I started off wearing my full rain suit and kept shedding layers of clothes as the race went on until I was down to the basic ARCA uniform of white shirt and black pants as the threat of rain had subsided and I was getting warmed up with all the moving around I did. But it's all good as I hate standing in one place for photos during a race and even working with two other photographers, I still like to move around.

Jeremy Clements got a popular win after late race crashes among the Xfinity leaders
Did I mention I also got to see the NASCAR Xfinity Series cars run too? Their Sunday morning qualifying session got cancelled due to the wet (but drying) conditions and I left before their race was even one-fourth complete, but I got to shoot a few photos in locations I wanted to check out on Saturday during a practice session. The difference in equipment between ARCA and Xfinity cars was noticeable as the ARCA engines have a rev limiter and it sounded like the Xfinity guys were able to really wind their engines out as there was none of the pop-pop-pop sound you often hear with an ARCA car at the end of a long straightaway. And Road America has a couple of very long straights that require some beefy horsepower to turn fast laps. It had been 31 years since my only other visit to Road America and I really got to see the whole track this time since I was working whereas in 1986 I was a spectator and didn't have time to really explore much. It really makes me want to go back now for the Indycar or IMSA sportscar weekends as I'm sure the place is buzzing for those series races as the track is tailor made for high speed, high downforce machines.

I think I might have set a record coming home to Indy from Elkhart Lake as I made it in five hours with one stop for gas. I got through Chicago easily since it was Sunday afternoon whereas on the way up last Thursday night it took me over an hour to get through the heart of the Windy City on I-94. I love those kinds of drives, except for the idiot who wanted to play games on I-65 with me by passing me and then slowing down on three separate occasions. I finally lost him when he got trapped behind a semi and I was home free. When you drive long distance as much as I do, you see some crazy stuff so I was very glad to roll into my driveway about 9 o'clock Sunday evening after three very busy days at the "National Park of Speed" as Road America likes to call itself. Now I get to go get dirty again this Monday and my white shirt still hasn't come clean from Springfield! Oh well. See you at DuQuoin. Or Salem, Chicagoland, Kentucky or Kansas. I'll be at them all.
Austin Theriault was gifted a win at Road America
Brennan Poole is another driver with an ARCA background who is now in the Xfinity Series
The Trans Am race was held in extremely wet conditions; Sheldon Creed was first to the checkers
Austin Cindric (99) seemed to be the class of the ARCA field but got punted from the lead on the last lap

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