It’s been so long since my coverage of the Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 – the last Indy race of the 2007 season – and honestly, I can’t remember much. I met the new Team Ethanol Driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay and worked with him throughout the weekend. Sweet guy. I also met PJ Chesson at the ethanol pump promotion. He’s one of those mischievous troublemakers, you know, the ones that are fun to be around. Acted like he was chugging E85 fuel from the pump. I have a pic of that somewhere… it should be in one of the albums.
The track was set up for various levels of access for the media. I didn’t count on getting anything special because, of course, I was a track rookie. And at first, I did just have the basic access. But, that didn’t last long. ; ) The Chicagoland head photog, Steve Snoddy, decided to take me under his wing. He hooked me up with all kinds of cool access. The best part was getting to go to the drop gates.
So what are the drop gates you ask? Okay, there’s always a fence that surrounds the track and getting close to that fence is restricted for anyone without special permission. Along this restricted fence there are window-like gates that you can open. Then you get to stick your head and your camera through the gates to try and snap pics of cars racing below you at speeds of 200, 210+. Good luck! You’re literally bending over the track, hovering with your cam dangling just about 10 ft above the cars that are whizzing past. Each time the IndyCars raced by, you were blasted by a huge gust of rubber tire debris. At one point, there was a wreck on the track about 50 ft in front of the drop gate I was shooting at… you could feel the liquids from the cars raining down on you along with a cloud of rubber tire pellets. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pics of that crash, because, literally seconds before it happened, another photog suggested I turn and shoot the cars from the back. The minute I turned around… BAM! I tried to whip around and snap some shots, but the other photog with me dragged me away from the fence… after he got the shot that is! I wanted to pout about that one for a little bit… but I didn’t. I did get a shot of another wreck, though it wasn’t nearly as bad as the first one. The whole experience was absolutely exhilarating!
I had tons of little pellets embedded in my hair by the time I was through. The first race I got to shoot from the drop gates was actually the ARCA race. During Indy race weekends, there are usually a lot of other smaller races going on at the track as part of the festivities. My pics from the ARCA race aren’t great. I was getting used to the new angle and technique of shooting at the drop gates, and the sun was just reflecting off the cars too brightly.
During the actual Indy race, I was all over the place. At the pits, at the drop gates, at the turns and victory lane. Dario Franchitti won the race, a win that also gave him the 2007 Indy Series Championship Title.
All in all I think I did well enough shooting wise. Steve Snoddy said I’d be one of his official Indy photogs for next year… wouldn’t that be sweet??!
While in Joliet, I did manage to sneak away to downtown Chicago. During my first getaway, I met up with Dustin for an evening of lots of random fun (met him last time my last Chi-town trip… he’s a fellow couchsurfer and now great friend!). First, we met up with his friend Raphael… who was… a complete riot. The best way to describe him would be a “sophisticated tough guy,” if there ever was such a thing. But, I did overhear him say to a group of fellow boxers: “I’d like to fancy myself as a tough guy.” Fancy… tough guy. Do you see my amusement in this? This witty knuckle-head was full of funny one-liners. Some intended… others not so much. ; ) He had me laughing ridiculously all night.
The three of us then met up with Dustin’s boxer friends at a local pizza pub. They were quite welcoming and were a particularly interesting bunch. It was tons of fun just kicking it with them and chowing down on some pizza.
Next, Dustin, Raphael, one of the boxers (who’s name escapes me) and I headed to Kingston Mines for some good ‘ol soul-searching blues. We rocked out and danced to the music and it was so fun! Oh yea, Raphael got us in practically for free because he knew one of the bartender’s boyfriends. That bartender was awesome by the way! One minute she’s serving up drinks, the next she’s stepping in for one of the drummers, taking charge of the music and setting a mood of soul. There was also a group of dancers at the bar. They were all dressed up and would take the dance floor by storm, twirling and jigging. They were fun to watch!
After that we (sans unknown boxer guy) headed to the back deck at Raphael’s to enjoy in the cool, end-of-summer, twighlight. I managed to snag the hammock and I swayed with the light breeze in a sweet, drowsy bliss. Underneath the stars. The smell of fresh flowers and plants…
I can’t remember what time it was when I finally tore myself off that hammock and headed back to my hotel.
After the race wrapped up that Sunday, I headed to downtown Chicago to meet up with Dustin and Ira (one of the guys I surfed with during my last visit to Chicago). Dustin, Ira and I ate at the little bistro in Centennial Park. Then, the plan was for Dustin and I to go check out the infamous Art Institute of Chicago. Instead, we spent the remainder of my time in Chi-town tracking down my rental car. It had been towed. Yeah, no fun. BUT, Dustin and I did wander through the mucky lower city streets where Batman was filmed… because, you guessed it, it’s very Gotham City like. What can I say… it was a great adventure!