Daytona, Florida – Daytona 500

I just returned from a trip to Florida.  You know its a tough winter everywhere when even in February..Florida is cold!  This past Sunday the 14th was the Daytona 500….NASCAR’s first race os the season and the biggest race of the year.  I have posted before I am a casual fan, but there is no sporting event that I have ever attended that can top this race!!!  200,000 people…tough to beat!  I have been to this race I think 4 of the last 6 years?  No matter how many times I attend…I truly love it!

Its a full day indeed.  I went this year with my father-in-law George (his first time!) and we arrived at Daytona around 6:15 AM.  Had breakfast and walked to the track at around 8 AM for some shopping!  We shopped for an hour and had passes for the Fan Zone.   For the Fan Zone you get to walk around the stages near pit row and listen to drivers speak, music playing, eat food, watch car inspections, walk through pit row and onto the field.  The big draw is to walk on the track and sign the starting line and walls before the race.   As the cars are brought out….you cant get right next to pit row, behind a rope.  Only a few feet from the starting lineup!   After the cars are inspected they are rolled out one by one.  So I stood and took pics of each car coming out for about 2 hours.  My father-in-law was a trooper and stood next to me the whole time.  I had my big lens – Nikon 70-200 VR on a monopod and snapped away!

The pic above is from the lineup which includes Tony Stewart’s car….race ready.   If the crowds are not too heavy around the cars, close up shots are possible.  I saw Dale Jr’s car rolled out and could barley get close!  So we hit the stands for the race at about 12:30 and grabbed some lunch and our seats.

As our seats were first row right by the fence you see in the pic above…I wanted to grab a shot from above as the race started.  I walked up the aisle and took the shot above (turn 4) as lap 1 was just about to start!   Mark Martin is in the lead and Dale Jr. is is in second!  The shot above is at 200mm focal length.    I took a few more shots throughout the race and they were just ok.   This was the biggest lens I have ever taken to a race and made some conclusions about shooting races.  1) Use a bigger lens  2) Get pit passes  3) Practice beforehand if possible

Any fan that wants great shots like you see in Sports Illustrated…from the stands..its impossible.  I can assume a 400mm or 600mm lens is necessary to get those cool shots.  Added to that your photo location has to be from the pits.  How to get there…hmmm…maybe you have to be a professional.  So lesson learned as I tried to push my photography limits this day.  If anyone is a race fan and knows how to get such a photo pass…please let me know!   I’ll get into the race details in a future post next week.  A fun day and I can’t wait to get back again.  As I have a long post..I’ll skip the photo settings for the day.  Have fun and let the race begin!