Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Creed Caps Off ARCA Championship with Kansas Win

Season champ Sheldon Creed celebrated in style at Kansas
Sheldon Creed only needed to start in practice last Friday to clinch the ARCA Racing Series driver's championship but he outdid himself by winning the Kansas 150 with a damaged race car after taking a hit from a backmarker midway through the race. It was the last race of the 2018 ARCA season and my last race for the year as well. It was a fun day with a lot of hard work and Creed's win was a fitting end to a fantastic season for him and his MDM Motorsports team. He had already won the season competition for pole positions after the previous race at Salem Speedway and finished tied with teammate Zane Smith for most wins on the season with four after adding Kansas. Seldom will you see a more deserving champion as Sheldon was a model of consistency all year long - he notched 16 Top 5 and 18 Top 10 finishes out of 20 races so he was a threat to win at every race this season. For my part as a photographer, Sheldon was great to work with and always cooperated with whatever kind of photo we were trying to get for the series.

Sheldon Creed's damaged car was still fast!
It's often a letdown to get to the end of my racing season and I sometimes got into a funk for awhile as I digest the last few months of work at various racetracks. But I always swing out of it when I start planning for the next season and that helps carry me through the winter months. I will again be photographing the annual ARCA awards banquet in Indianapolis this December so that's the next chance I will have to see everyone in the series. I hope by then the 2019 season has been finalized so I can nail down my travel plans as I have committed to work every race next year with the possible exception of a couple in June when I might be in Europe. This year my season started at Daytona in January with the Rolex 24 Hours race for Associated Press, then I shot three ARCA races before Indycar got things going in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when I shot for the French media company MPS Agency. Following a break in June when we got to vacation in Charleston, South Carolina for a week, I picked back up with ARCA for seven more races - which turned out to be nine race events when two weekends were rained out and postponed! So from January through October I covered a lot of miles, mostly in my Civic Si, and I feel like I cemented my role within the ARCA series at least for 2019. I sure hope so as the series officials know how much I love the work.

I love shooting the start of races from the flagstand!
My Kansas "weekend" was actually just 48 hours long - a true whirlwind trip. I was on the road from home about 4:15 pm Thursday afternoon and I managed to get through downtown and out of Indy before the evening rush hour hit. I made it to our hotel adjacent to Kansas Speedway seven and a half hours later after driving 507 miles. I was out the door early Friday morning and at the track by 7:30 am hoping to get some sunrise photos like 2018 but it was overcast so I had no luck with that idea. After a full day at the track with practice, qualifying and the Kansas 150 race where I recorded over 20,000 steps for the day, I was back at the hotel after midnight to wrap up a 17 hour day. I grabbed about 6 hours of sleep, ate breakfast at the hotel and was on the road in time Saturday to make it home by 4:00 pm that afternoon to finish my "48 Hours of Kansas" and log a total of 1023 miles at the wheel.People think I'm crazy to spend 16 hours driving for a day of race photography and they may be right, but I don't care. I'll do it every time I get the chance! I love to drive and I like flying even more so I'm hoping I get to do lots of both next year.

Drew Herring claimed a surprising pole position
The race itself was a slam bang affair with more laps run under yellow than green. We were teasing the ARCA pace car driver after the race that he won the most laps led prize but it wasn't funny for quite a few of the racers who crashed out at one time or another while fighting for position. The pole winner was a surprise in Drew Herring who hadn't raced in ARCA in almost a decade but who managed to show up his younger teammate Riley Herbst with some stout laps during group qualifying. Herring ended up 8th after getting caught up in someone else's wreck and Herbst held on for fourth. Harrison Burton took another MDM car to the front and grabbed a second place finish. Last year's race winner Michael Self had a hiccup as the cars rolled off the grid and had to start from the back of the field but stormed through to take third. Creed waited until the very end of qualifying to run and ended up starting second; he ran afoul of Kevin Hinckle during the race and sustained left side damage but was impressive in winning despite that. Chase Purdy put a third MDM machine in the Top 5 ahead of Natalie Decker but the happiest people at the finish were probably Zack Ralston and Eric Caudell who finished 9th and 11th respectively. These low budget teams, along with Con Nicolopoulos, have rarely seen the checkered flag at the end of races this year so it was fantastic to see these little teams put together solid finishes in the last race of the season. That should give them a boost this off-season.

Sheldon Creed did an impressive burnout
Now that the off-season is here, everyone will be busy getting ready for 2019 as the ARCA series enters its transitional year with NASCAR ownership. Following the awards banquet in December, ARCA has a test scheduled in January and the first race follows in February at the home of NASCAR, Daytona. My flight is already booked for the race so now that the engines have gone quiet for awhile, I will carry on with my primary business of teaching math to my adult students and start seriously planning for an even bigger year in 2019. See you all soon!

A deserving champion: Sheldon Creed and MDM Motorsports
The ARCA fields just keep getting more competitive every race it seems
Harrison Burton had another competitive race for MDM
My Racer of the Year award goes to Brad Smith and the Hylton Motorsports team for all they've been through
Drew Herring (left), Todd Gilliland and Riley Herbst (right) before the race

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