Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Christian Eckes Tops Nashville Cats; It's Pagenaud at Indy

Christian Eckes won the rain delayed Music City 200
Now that the merry month of May is here, life is about to really get crazy -  as if everything else this year wasn't already nuts! We had an extended stay in Nashville the first weekend of May for the Music City 200 ARCA Menards Series race as the weather Saturday only cooperated long enough to get a practice session in so a Saturday night race became a Sunday afternoon race. None of that mattered to youngster Christian Eckes who got his first win of the season for Venturini Motorsports and really had the field covered for more than half the race. The last fourth of the race, I kept checking his front wheels to see if I could detect glowing brake rotors from overusing the brakes, but I never saw it! I love those kinds of photos on short tracks but Christian had his Toyota on cruise control. He did an impressive little burnout in the tight confines of the narrow front stretch at Fairgrounds Speedway before going to Victory Lane.

Mother Nature hit 2 weekends in a row
Shooting night races is a special challenge so it is always nicer to shoot day races for the simple reason that the light is just better, but the delay to Sunday afternoon meant getting home much later than I had originally planned. I just about set a record with my post-race editing and for sure set another personal best on the drive home to Indy, so it wasn't too late after all and I felt great knowing I had done some good work. So Nashville kicked off May with a bang; now comes the craziness. Over the rest of the month, my schedule is as follows: I worked this past Friday at the Indycar Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and then shot my niece's Sweet 16 party on Saturday instead of the Grand Prix. This coming Friday night, I will be driving to Toledo, Ohio for a two-day ARCA showat one of ARCA's "home" tracks, then the following Wednesday I will drive to Charlotte, North Carolina for an ARCA race the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, and driving back to Indy on Friday so I can shoot the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, the day before Memorial Day. The Indy winner's photo shoot is on Memorial Day morning then the following Thursday, I drive to Pocono for another ARCA race, which in this case is on my birthday May 31st. Oh and I forgot to mention working Indy 500 practice each weekday afternoon this week when I will race from my school in Noblesville to IMS after work each day to photograph Happy Hour. I figured out that for the month of May as a whole, I am either traveling to or at a racetrack 17 days. Never mind the fact that I still have to manage my teaching job and close out the school year while all of the above is going on!

Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud prevailed in the Indycar Grand Prix
Trust me, I am not complaining, especially since I am just now 12 weeks past my lung cancer surgery. I feel like I've been given a new lease on life and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to shoot the Indy 500 again for my friends in France at MPS Agency in addition to my ARCA series work. The ARCA race at Nashville was another perfect segue for my recovery since it's only a half-mile track and it's not quite a five hour drive from home, neither of which is too daunting. And lately when I am at a racetrack, I start to feel like a spinner at a Grateful Dead show as the joy wells up inside me while doing what I love. I hope the people I work with can see that and I really hope it comes through in my photos. If any of you out there have an opinion on that, then I'd love to hear it.

I like road racing but the 500 is a special race
I was not able to work the Grand Prix on Saturday and it's the first one I've missed since they started this event at IMS a few years ago. The race has become a Penske playground and the rain near the end added some drama, but I was not disappointed to miss it since I got to photograph my niece's Sweet 16 party. She asked me months ago to be her photographer before she even had a date for the party and I was not about to back out after the year she's had. It was so much fun seeing her enter womanhood ceremoniously and I was thrilled to be able to document the event for her. I know she will remember it for a lifetime and for me, it was a chance to put family over racing in the month of May which has rarely happened for me. I would make the same decision in a heartbeat. But please don't schedule anything over the Indy 500 - I can't imagine missing that! Be forewarned!

This week they start going the "correct" way on the track
So now practice for the 500 begins and I will be hustling out there as much as possible after work this week and then working late to upload photos to the MPS Agency website. Friday evening I travel to Toledo, Ohio to work that ARCA Menards Series race for the first time and will be there through Sunday evening. I am looking forward to another short track race with my ARCA friends and the experience of working a new racetrack is always fun as well. At IMS last Friday I logged nearly 19,000 steps walking around the Indy road course so that exercise helps with my physical recovery and increases my stamina. I am going to need it for the next several weeks as I will be working races somewhere every week through the end of June. This promises to be the busiest stretch of my career as a motorsports photographer and I can't wait to get into it. Not only that, I still have my Hoosier Cemeteries photo book to complete in June to wrap up my Indiana Arts Commission grant so there's no rest for the weary. Or is that no rest for the wicked? Either way, I am going to have some creative fun and hope you find me at a racetrack down the road to tell me how I'm doing. Thanks for reading! Until next time, here's a few more photos from Nashville and the Indycar GP.

The Nashville ARCA winner gets a guitar trophy every year which has become quite coveted
Rookie Felix Rosenqvist put his Ganassi machine on the pole for the Indycar Grand Prix
ARCA points leader Michael Self's day was ruined by another driver's mistake
Will Power was the odds-on favorite to win another GP but couldn't get it done this time.
The old Petty STP colors were out in full force at Nashville with the King's grandson Thad Moffitt at the wheel

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