There’s a first time for everything. And July 2018 brought me my first opportunity to cover a NASCAR race.
Now I’ve covered auto racing before. I shot a few races at the Rockford Speedway. I shot even more races at the Byron Dragway.
Heck. I’ve even shot go-kart racing.
But it wasn’t until moving to Florida that I was in a market where I would get to over NASCAR. My paper really only covers two big race weekends. The Daytona 500 is the obvious one. One of my coworkers shot that. I was given the Coke Zero 400 – a night race in July.
I really know nothing about racing. I’m fortunate to have several coworkers who could fill me in on the details. I was accompanied by my coworker, Bill Mitchell. Bill has been covering races at Daytona since the Flinstones were racing. He knows everything there is to know.
Bill set me up with a racing headset and a scanner to monitor the race broadcast. The headset also protected my ears from the roar of those monstrous engines.
We drove out to Daytona early in the week to pick up our credentials. That was when I got my first glimpse of the track. It’s hard to describe the scale of that facility.
When we went back on Friday to cover the Xfinity series Firecracker 250, that was the first time I set foot on the property. It was good to get a feel for the place before the main event. It gave me a chance to try out different shooting positions. Not to mention to get a feel for how long it would take to get from one side of the track to the other.
Bill then took me to the other side to see the shooting positions from the stands. There are many, many escalators. And many photographers with the same idea!
The view from up top is pretty spectacular. So naturally I took another selfie!
Bill and I decided that I’d start in the stands and he’d start on pit road. Then we’d swap midway through.
I had plenty of laps to work on panning shots. They’re pretty hard to nail with super telephoto lenses and subjects that are moving around 200mph.
I was shooting with a 200-400 lens which has a good bit of reach. But even still, I was wishing I had more lens. There were several crashes that were totally out of my view or out of the reach of my lens.
When Bill and I switched positions, I shot a lot more with shorter glass like a 70-200 or 24-70.
I even had a crash happen right in front of me. The watched the whole incident through my viewfinder.
I also liked looking for the odd frames away from the racing. For whatever reason, I found this frame to be humorous.
After a mad scramble to edit and transmit a few frames for print, we headed back home.
The next day, we returned to cover the Coke Zero 400. We had a different plan of attack this time. My pass didn’t let me be in the pit area this race. I was going to stay up top while Bill split his efforts from up top and down below. I also had to move some images midway through the race to make sure we weren’t pushing deadline.
Of course we got there early enough to walk around a little bit more.
My starting perch was above turn four. I took a few panoramas before the race began.
It was a beautiful view as the cars were rolling and the sun was setting.
I had no idea that the driver signs on pit road were illuminated.
I missed a few major wrecks while I was filing images early. However as the race winded down, drivers got very aggressive and it was like bumper cars out on the track.
As the race ended, I rushed back to the media room to work up some more images. By the time I met back up with Bill, the place was a ghost town and I was exhausted.
Not bad for my first time shooting NASCAR. Maybe next year I’ll be back for the 500.