NASCAR Sprint Cup tests the new surface at Phoenix International Raceway

Phoenix International Raceway had a massive re-paving project where the entire surface was replaced, as well as some other changes to increase safety and make the fans experience much better.

I expected the NASCAR Sprint Cup cars to be primer grey and with very few markings so I anticipated mostly working the garage for good shots of the drivers, well that wasn’t exactly how everything turned out.

I saw some photos from the construction phase and was interested in how covering the upcoming race in November would be effected.

To see the rest of the story including the rest of my images, click on the more link below.

It was still very warm, close to 100 degrees with some very threatening clouds which made the lighting very flat. As expected I headed to the garage to grab driver shots.

Dale Jr. is a very popular driver and it can be difficult to get good clean shots of him during race weekends because he, like many of the drivers treat the media like paparazzi, and tend to avoid places where the media can get good shots.

The drivers are in the shadows of the garage and often times it is best to use a flash to get good bright exposures of the drivers while they are in the garage, maybe that is why they think of the media photographers as paparazzi, because our use of flash makes them feel like they are on the red carpet.

Stalking the garages looking for good driver portraits can be a real waiting game and at times makes you really feel like a paparazzi, but really media photographers are much, much different.

Some of the drivers just have those photogenic faces that make you really want to grab shots of them.

I decided to take a break from driver portraits to get some cars on track shots, seeing that the cars were in proper paint schemes for racing made me want to get more car shots but I had to include the background of empty stands and threatening clouds.

At this size these shots just don’t have the impact you get looking at a full-page spread or as a 12 x 18 inch print. Here is a crop from the image above showing the detail on the car.

I was really having fun with these wide-angle panning shots, and liking the results. Like I said, much better viewed at poster sized.

I went back into the garages for more driver portraits like this one of Kevin Harvick.

I remember at one of the races Dale Jr. was all strapped into his car and I asked one of his crew if I could grab a few shots through the window, and he said “no, he hates when photographer’s stick their cameras in the window of his car” so when I got this shot of Dale Jr. putting on his signature skeleton gloves through the windshield I knew it was not an easy shot to get.

Back out on track, Dale Jr.’s car doesn’t have the same impact as some of the others.

Somehow the panning shots of Kurt Busch’s car are just brighter, maybe it’s how the yellow matches the track-edge lines or the stands, but it just has more “pop.”

Some really tight head shots would be great for a feature story on David Regan, are there any photo editors out there that need shots like this?

What, more overview shots of the cars on track is what you want, well I got those.

It was interesting to watch Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon talk about car handling and the new track conditions during the testing.

I spent all morning shooting inside the track so I thought I would head outside the track for some cars on track shots.

It turns out that after the track surface was replaced they hadn’t replaced any of the photo-holes so everything was shot through the chain-link catch fence. Not an easy task.

Jeff Gordon’s team had these telemetry-tracking devices attached to both front wheels for all his runs on the track.

Right now Clint Bowyer is thinking, “I wonder if a big bowl of Cheerios would make me faster?”

The sides of Jimmie Johnson’s car were not painted silver, but primer grey so that made his car look somewhat less appealing on track.

I would have thought the bright purple of the Crown Royal car would make it stand out more, but the cloud cover really flattened everything out.

In the end the wide-angle panning shot were my favorite from this first day of testing.

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