Most people know me as the Scotia Speedworld & Maritime Pro Stock Tour staff photographer, some even know I’m a long time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series fan as well. I even have a race used tire from Jeff Gordon’s #24 car hanging above my home office desk. As a regular contributor to the Wheels section of the Chronicle Herald, when I found out I was attended the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bad Boy 300 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire I called the Herald to see if they had any need for a photographer to cover the race for them. And thus began my dream assignment…
After a relatively short 11 hour drive on Friday, my friends and I arrived at the rental trailer in the adult RV lot and settled in for a good night’s sleep before a long day shooting the Camping World Truck Series race and finding my way around the track.
Saturday morning, I picked up my freshly pressed media credentials at the infield media center, sat through a photographer safety meeting and started exploring the track.
Not surprisingly, the feel in the infield and pit area is not all that different from what you would experience at a local Pro Stock race at Scotia Speedworld. Whether big name NASCAR racers like Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick or local drivers like 2016 Champion Cole Butcher or 5-Time Pro Stock Tour champ John Flemming, everyone is incredibly friendly and loves talking about their cars, teams and racing in general. It is just a little bit more frantic with more than double the number of race cars, over a dozen team members on even the smallest crew and over 10 times the number of fans in the stands at NHMS.
While walking through the pits and getting my bearings, I happened across defending Camping World Truck Series Champion Matt Crafton, who has attended Riverside International Speedway for the last two IWK 250 races and who immediately looked at me and said “Hey! I know you!” we shook hands and chatted briefly before he headed off to start the UNOH 175 truck race. Matt currently sits only 16 points behind series championship leader William Byron and is in good shape to win another truck championship this year.
By the time I returned to the RV on Saturday evening, I had walked nearly 16km and was exhausted. Still I spent the next hour loading and sorting through about 1400 photos from the day. After a great BBQ meal and a few drinks with friends it was time to crash before heading out again on Sunday Morning for the Bad Boy Off Road 300 Sprint Cup Series race.
One of my first experiences on Sunday was trying *very* hard not to be a fan boy in the backstage area of the driver intro stage. When drivers like Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick walk by you and smile, it’s honestly a little surreal after watching them on TV race every Sunday for years. Then as I headed to the pit area to find a perch for the start of the race, I approached the pit stall of rookie Chase Elliot who now drives the #24 car vacated last year by retiring Jeff Gordon only to stop a mere arms length from 4-Time Champion Jeff Gordon himself as he climbed the ladder to the top of the pit box. As I took a few photos, I was jostled by another photographer and ended up bumping into someone beside me. When I turned to apologize, it was none other than Hall of Famer and utter NASCAR legend, “Gentleman” Bill Elliot, driver Chase Elliot’s dad. I apologized and we shook and I ended up gushing about being a huge fan and only embarrassed myself slightly. 😉
The race was incredible. I spent most of it in turn 4 at the end of pit road and did end up wandering around a little to get some photos of things other than cars going fast and turning left. With lots of green flag pit stops and several exchanges for the lead, Kevin Harvick ended up passing Matt Kenseth on lap 295 of 300 to take the win and off I went to join Harvick and about 150 other photographers, sponsors, fans and family in the Sunoco Victory Lane.
In victory lane, Harvick and his son, added his name to the next group of 8 drivers to compete for the 2016 championship while his wife and team mates all watched as he was presented with the giant New England lobster as a trophy for his win. When asked what he planned to do with it, he replied “Eat it, of course!!”
After the festivities wound down I started back toward the track media center to turn in my photographer vest all the while taking in the spectacular vista that is NHMS. I nodded and said hello to #48 crew chief Chad Knaus in the garage area as he waited with their car to go through the laser scanning system NASCAR uses to check measurements on the cars in Post Race Inspection and even got to shake hands with Mr. France himself as he headed back to the NASCAR Sprint Cup VIP area.
Yes, this was certainly a dream assignment. I cannot thank Todd Gillis of the Herald enough for helping me make this happen.
If you love stock car racing and have never experienced a NASCAR race in person, it’s something you should add to your bucket list. Just like here at home, the ticket prices are very reasonable for a great family day out, considering the size and spectacle of a Sprint Cup race. Tickets for NHMS range from about $80 to $200 US for the Sprint Cup race while here are home, the CAT 250, which is the biggest race of the season at Scotia Speedworld, is only $35 for grandstand tickets and only a little more for access to the pits to mingle with the drivers and crew. So even if you can’t afford to visit the US to attend a race, there is lots of fantastic racing action right here in Atlantic Canada that is very affordable for virtually every family.
I hope to see you next year at one of the local race tracks supporting short track stock car racing and local drivers and businesses who sponsor them.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go float on cloud 9 a little bit longer. In the meantime, enjoy a few of my favorite images. 😉