Shooting from the Flag Stand in Martinsville Speedway

October 23, 2007 | By Chris Graythen | Creative

There I am (blue shirt) shooting the race from the flag stand. Photo by Rusty Jarrett.

Four races to go in the NASCAR Nextel Chase for the Cup, and it’s shaping up to be a Jeff Gordon/Jimmy Johnson battle which many predicted the first time we came to Martinsville earlier this year. Martinsville Speedway, located in Virginia, is celebrating its 60th year in operation, and is one of those tracks on the NASCAR circuit that not only provides some great racing, but also has a lot of tradition to it. There have been a lot of victories, tragedies, and hot dogs here.

This weekend, I was fortunate enough to be able to shoot the start and the finish from inside the flag stand which sits just above the track. I have been lucky enough to shoot from here before, and I’ve talked before about the holes in the fence, the roof, but really there is no place like the flag stand. It’s a completely unique shot, although a little tricky to pull off properly. The stand is only about 5ftx5ft and you’ve got 2 NASCAR officials, a still photographer and a TV cameraman in there as well. The stand sits just inside the catch fence and over the track, the cars can run right under you, and each time they go by, the force of the wind is incredible. You literally sit inside the track and all the HDTV cameras in the world can’t replicate the feeling of being there.

It’s a tight squeeze, but the best place to be for capturing pictures (that’s me in the orange vest). Standing next to me is Kim Lopez, she is NASCAR’s 1st female flagstand official.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

With 9 laps to go, I headed up into the flag stand, armed with the widest lens I could get my hands on, as the flagman, Rodney Wise would be waving the checker flag less than a foot from me. For those 9 laps, it’s got to be one of the most exciting places in all of sport. The cars roar by, the stand is shaking from the force of the wind, the green, white and checker flags combine with the cars coming 200mph right at you in a blur of color and as the checkered flag flies, it’s all over. You’ve got one shot to make the picture that will illustrate the end of the race. And once the race is over, it’s one of the coolest places to see a burnout. Ten feet below, Jimmy Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet spun the car in circles giving the TV cameraman and I a birds-eye view of his win. The new ‘Mr. Martinsville’ had taken his third straight win at the track.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

As I said before, Martinsville is a track with lots of tradition, not only on the track, but also off of it as well. And the one tradition that every rookie must endure at Martinsville is the famed hotdog. The Martinsville hot dog is simple – Bun, bright red hot dog, chili, mustard and cole slaw. Wrap in wax paper, charge $2 and you’re ready. Every rookie on his or her first trip to Martinsville has to at least try the hotdog.


Chris Graythen/Getty Images

This weekend we had 3 rookies on our crew, Editors Justin Heiman, Robert Meggers and photographer Todd Warshaw. On Friday, we all knew what that meant. $16 later and 8 hotdogs richer, we gathered for a group photo, (around the Tums trailer as well) and took part in Martinsville history.

From left, Chris Graythen, Robert Meggers, Jason Smith, Streeter Lecka, John Harrelson, Todd Warshaw, Rusty Jarrett and Justin Heiman at bottom.

This weekend we head off to Atlanta Motor Speedway, winding our way down towards Homestead, Miami for the final race, and the crowning of the NASCAR NEXTEL Champion. See you on the road!

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  • Marco Togni

    The picture you took with the finish flagh is wonderful.
    As I can see all photographers on this blog are talking about food…and everytime I read about that delicious (but not healty) American food I become so hungry! I want to come to Martinsville to try that hotdog!