The Adventures of Shooting NASCAR
With only six races left in the NASCAR season, the picture for the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup is coming a little clearer into view. Jeff Gordon looks like he’s got a tenuous grasp on the first spot with two wins in a row, but we all know racing is unpredictable and anything could happen. This past race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte and the race before it at Talladega Super Speedway provide a perfect example of the challenges not only for the drivers from week to week, but also for photographers.
Every track we go to has different rules on where we can, and cannot shoot. At all tracks, we are allowed to shoot from inside the pit areas of each team, as well as having spots marked for the Victory Lane Celebration. However, at Talladega, we can shoot racing from a spot inside of turns 1 and 2, as well as from one spot at the apex of turns 3 and 4, as well as my favorite position, shooting from the roof of the grandstands. Lowe’s on the other hand, allows us to walk the full length between all four turns, on the roof, as well as from outside the track in special cages where part of the fence has been removed so we can have a clear view down at the cars. It’s a little dangerous, and there have been many times where cars have come scraping along the wall causing us to duck out of the way, but with a little experience it’s the best seat in the house.
While shooting on the ground in a small cage with 43 cars heading towards you at almost 200mph is quite a unique experience, especially once they pass and you get covered in rubber, smoke and rocks (that can cut you!), for some reason I prefer sitting on the roof of whatever track I go to. I’m not exactly sure why, but being up top above the track, where you can see the entire 2.66 tri-oval of Talladega, or the 1.5 mile Lowe’s oval is exciting. Once you get up on the roof the entire scene becomes surreal, almost like you’re watching remote control cars. Of course it’s the best place to look for the inevitable ‘Single or Multi-car Incidents’ that sometimes happen around the track, but as a photographer, everything becomes very graphical, with strong curves and lines that work well in still photos.
Of course with 36 races in a season, (Martinsville next week I’ll have shot my 17th race of the season) it’s important to mix things up, and even more important, when traveling with a rotating crew of 5-6 photographers and 2 editors, it’s very important to keep everyone happy and working together. What better way to do this (especially for me as a New Orleanian) is with food! We’ve been very fortunate this year to have access to the motor coach that our esteemed leader Rusty Jarrett has been driving to select races, as well as having a grill and a place to store groceries. Nothing promotes togetherness like eating fresh grilled steaks and chicken while the rest of the media is chowing down on bologna sandwiches.
Photographers get to go many places 99.9% of the fans do not get to see, last weekend we had the rare opportunity of having a driver join us for dinner. Scott Speed, a Formula 1 driver, and the newest addition to the Red Bull team (running in the ARCA series) came over with the Red Bull PR staff after his first run at ‘Dega. Scott’s one of the nicest and down to earth athletes I’ve met in a while. After talking at good length about everything from his home in Austria and the latest news in the cycling world and a good meal of steaks, chicken, salad, shrimp cocktail (yeah, we eat well), we took a group photo.
Next week is Martinsville, the half mile ‘paperclip’ where the Chase for the Cup will continue. I’ll be sending dispatches from there, and most of the 6 remaining races, but really I’m just looking forward to grilling at the track again!