Thursday, May 30, 2019

If It's Thursday, This Must Be Indianapolis

Simon Pagenaud won his first Indy 500
What a week it has been! If I didn't have my Google calendar handy on my Pixel 3 phone, I'm not sure I would know what day it was or where I was.  After bouncing from Toledo, to Indy, to Charlotte and back to Indy over the last two Sundays and the week in between leading up to Memorial Day, I need to pinch myself to be sure I'm not dreaming. And now I'm headed to Pocono Raceway to cover another ARCA race! The numbers are in as well, and reflect my travels. Three races in 8 days in three different cities. I drove over 1800 miles to get to those races. I shot over 7000 images between the three races. At Charlotte Motor Speedway last Thursday, I walked over 16,000 steps shooting the ARCA race and then at the Indy 500 on Sunday I logged nearly 18,000 steps. I get a little tired just thinking about it! I've never had a week like this past one ever before on my motorsports photography journey.

The start of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 had been threatened by rain for days
In many ways it has been a magical week, capped off by some suitably magical weather on Sunday at the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. The trip to Charlotte was a first for me and it was hot and humid for ARCA's 100 lap event that was won by Ty Majeski with a late pass for the lead. Then it was back to Indy, where the weather forecasts prior to last weekend had been dire, with predictions of strong storms for all day race day. I saw people on social media start asking on Thursday about what the Speedway would do if the 500 got rained out. I quit looking at the forecasts after a while and just decided that whatever would be, would be, as I had to be out there anyway, so I would hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Race morning at about 5:00 a.m., I was parked in the outside media lot on Georgetown Road with thunder and lightning in the distance to the north so I checked the weather radar in order to decide when to go inside as I wanted to get my traditional sunrise over the Pagoda photos. It looked to me like the whole weather system was drifting north of the track but there were a few sprinkles on my car windshield so I decided to pack up and go in the track in case things got worse. While my sunrise shots didn't involve much sunlight, I felt pretty good about the day ahead and the fact that the "Tony Hulman weather" was going to prevail. I had already had enough bad weather at three ARCA races this season, and this was the biggest race of all so having a dry day was essential.

My first Charlotte trip was last week too
Hallelujah was a good word for Sunday at Indy and I know I was relieved when the race got to lap 101 to make it an official race, as I had headed over to the pit area around lap 90 to be there in case the race was stopped early. I spent the rest of the race trying to get pit stop action or passing on the frontstretch and I headed to Victory Lane just before the late red flag for the big wreck in Turn 3 and grabbed a spot near the photographer's riser that I thought would give me an angle for the winner.  The fact that Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won the 500 and I was shooting for French media company MPS Agency (see my Indy 500 race photos here) meant my photos were going to be in demand. I didn't get a Victory Lane pass this year which sure would have made my job easier, but if it were easy then everyone could do it, right? I still got pictures (I always get pictures) and I learned a few more things about my craft and race planning that will come in handy in the future. My French colleagues were happy with my work so that was all that mattered in the end. Click here to see my photo gallery from Simon's memorable first Indy 500 win.  I didn't leave the Speedway until 7:00 p.m. Sunday and I still had more photo editing to do when I got home so it was a very long but satisfying day at the track and I knew I'd be going back in the morning for the traditional photo shoot involving the winner and the Borg Warner trophy.

The pre-race festivities at Indy are hard to beat
As long as I've been shooting the 500, I still get chills before the start of the race and the folks at IMS have done a great job carrying on various traditions with fantastic replacements for people like the late Jim Neighbors who always sang "Back Home Again in Indiana". The flyover this year was absolutely epic with a squadron of Blackhawk helicopters first flying over from south to north and then a pair of jets circling the track after approaching from the north. When that F16 hit the afterburner and rocketed straight up into the clouds, anyone with a pulse was cheering that sight as it was simply spectacular. The race itself was fast and sometimes furious, especially in the pits, as lots of guys seemed to make mistakes or had misfortunes in pit lane with spins or mechanical malfunctions. If Alexander Rossi hadn't had his fueling issue, he probably would have won, but with Indy you just never know. That's why I always tell people to get a ticket and get out there to experience it in person. You can't rely just on the television coverage - you need to be there to see the sights, smell the ethanol exhaust and witness the excitement shared by 300,000 of your closest friends! I've been to a lot of races all over the world and the only race to rival the 500 in terms of tradition and pageantry is the 24 Hours of LeMans in my opinion.

Ty Majeski won his first ARCA Menards Series race last Week at Charlotte
Now I am getting ready to wrap up my teaching year and I go to Pocono today to work Friday's ARCA race. May has been crazy busy but June isn't going to provide much relief since I have ARCA races at Michigan International Speedway, Madison (Wisconsin) and Chicagoland Speedway the next three weeks after Pocono. On top of that I have to finish my cemetery photo project for the Indiana Arts Commission to complete the grant I was awarded last summer. I hate the fact that I lost some time on that project this winter due to my cancer surgery and recovery, but I am near the finish line and just need to complete my photo book deliverable and send a final report to the State. I couldn't be happier about the way things are turning out this year in so many ways. I write this blog to share my journey with the universe so that maybe someone else can see there way to finding success while pursuing their passions no matter what. Godspeed everyone. See you at a race somewhere soon. In the meantime, here's some photos from last week's ARCA race at Charlotte and the 103rd Indy 500 for your enjoyment (I hope!)

The 500 featured a spectacular duel between Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi
Michael Self had dominated at Charlotte but faded after late wall contact
Pagenaud gave Roger Penske his 18th Indy 500 win
My week had started with a rain shortened ARCA race at Toledo Speedway

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