Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Stay Calm: Plan for France

Me: dressed and ready
Another month in 2020 has gone by and the ARCA Menards Series has now run two races this season without my contributions as a photographer. Of course the series doesn't need me - I know there are lots of talented photographers around who can do the work. While it's not really surprising, it is disappointing. I love the work, I think I did a pretty good job and I was really hoping that my work as Chief Photographer for the series over the last five years would lead to more and bigger opportunities under NASCAR ownership this year. So far this year that hasn't happened but I remain hopeful that as the series starts to race in the Midwest, perhaps then I will get some opportunities.

Ron Drager and Jim France shake on the ARCA sale
When NASCAR announced at Talladega in 2018 that it would be acquiring ARCA, I suspected there would be plenty of changes. I've been listed on the ARCA website as Chief Photographer for the last couple of years but that will probably be changing too since it does not appear that I will be serving the series in that role. I was never a full time staff member anyway - my profession is teaching after all - and I know how changes naturally follow business acquisitions. The fact that this acquisition involved two racing series doesn't change the usual process of evaluating operations for duplication of services and seeking economies of scale to save money and create efficiencies. On top of that, inevitably new people get involved who have their own philosophies and often have their own people in mind that they plan to use.

I took this photo at LeMans in 2017 just before the start
All of that is just the nature of big business these days where oftentimes growth is achieved through acquisition. Having worked in real estate and utilities for 30 years prior to becoming a teacher, I understand how the acquisition process goes, which is why I can't get too upset about the prospect of not getting any, or maybe only getting a few, ARCA assignments for this season. As the saying goes, this could be one door closing so another one can open. "Endings come before beginnings", as I've also heard, so maybe this run had to end so that something new could begin. Life is all about change anyway and how we react to it. Many times in my adult life when something has ended, that ending has created space for something new to enter so that's why I'm at peace with the changes in my photography career. Beyond that, I already know I will be working two of the biggest races in the world this year - the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of LeMans - not exactly consolation prizes! So those two races are my primary targets now as well as finding other opportunities as a photographer. I am excited about the new Canon photographer matching service in which I've been approved to participate. I also expect I will work the 8-hour sports car race this October that is coming to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While I may not have as many events on my calendar this year, I have some big ones!

The biggest issue right now that could effect my plans for this year is filling all the news reports: the coronavirus. A lot of the coverage seems to  me to be nothing more than click bait and hyped mass hysteria, especially on social media. When you've been through a cancer diagnosis and had part of a lung removed like I experienced last year, why worry about a bug when there are so many plans to make and so much life to be lived? I'm not going to worry or be scared, and I'm not changing anything I do except perhaps being a little more diligent about washing my hands. I leave for my trip to France and Greece in less than 3 months now and I'm confident this whole virus scare will be resolved by then. I have continued to make plans and reservations for flights, hotels and train travel. As I wrote in my last blog post, I am acting "as if" everything will work out. I am trying to trust the universe and I am not going to let the fear mongers win. In some ways, today's atmosphere doesn't seem that much different than after 9-11 when people were panicking about terrorism and it kept some from living their normal lives. It makes sense to take some reasonable precautions in today's world, but paralysis due to fear is out of the question. At least for me it is, but then maybe I'm being naive or just in denial.

"Doc", Rich and I at Salem in 2018
As for the ARCA Menards Series, I know it will continue and thrive under NASCAR ownership. I met a lot of great people during my time working with the series and made some great friends in the process. I am grateful for the help and support I always got from Doc Hunter and his dear wife JoAnn who passed away in December. I was fortunate to have other photographers like Rich Corbett to work with so we could expand the photo coverage for the series. The ARCA marketing staff with whom I worked closest are some of the best in the business as far as I'm concerned and I already miss Mark Gundrum asking me: "Did you have a big day?" I often wondered if Charlie Krall wrote until his fingers bled and I was glad he appreciated the work Rich and I did for the website so his stories could be released in a timely fashion. Casey Wagner jumped into Victory Lane responsibilities with aplomb and I always enjoyed his sense of humor. I can't forget George Mergen who first gave me the chance to do multiple races in 2014 and then subsequently moved on to greener pastures in his career that involved far less travel! Tom Legeman and Don Radebaugh are two other men from marketing with whom I worked closely and were always supportive but are now in different roles elsewhere in motorsports. I have to say thanks to Mike Hewer too, for calling me on the pre-race radio check even when he didn't need to! Thanks also to Grayling Call for the technical education and for approving my timesheets so I could get paid. Of course the man at the top was Ron Drager who deserves a special thanks:  Ron had the hardest job of all - keeping everyone together during the transition period when there were still a lot of unknowns.

In the flagstand at Pocono
There are so many other great people at ARCA I worked with whom I will miss dearly but it would be impossible to name them all: Rocky, Denise, Stu, Bobby T., the list goes on and on. Working more than 80 ARCA races as I did since 2013 has been fun and exciting, but it's the people I will miss the most. I can't begin to tell you how many drivers, team owners and public relations people I've spoken to over the years when they needed photos. I will definitely miss those interactions, the selfies in the flagstand, the lunches with other officials, and so many other moments. But I have my memories.

And most importantly, I got photos because that's what I do. Call me if you need some the next time you're headed to a race.

No comments: