A very long, hot somewhat routine day of shooting the Indianapolis 500 for the Greenfield Daily Reporter newspaper turned ugly very quickly. After a 198 laps of the constant repetition of cars going by, the unthinkable happened instantly right in front of my eyes. I still don’t know what caused me to react and start shooting the car flying by in front of my eyes; somehow I managed to quickly compose and then follow the action as Mike Conway’s #24 car disintegrated right before me. Once the accident was over, my first thoughts were of the driver; I thought there was absolutely no way that he had survived the wreck. I was both hyper and a bit sick to my stomach for the first hour or so after the accident. Needless to say, I, as everyone else, was greatly relieved to hear that he did not suffer life-threatening injuries.
A few hours after the accident I walked back to gasoline alley and into Conway’s garage area. I came across one extremely shell-shocked crew member standing dejectedly over what was left of the car, all in pieces and piled into boxes and 5 gallon buckets. It was he who informed me that Conway had suffered only a broken leg (..it was later disclosed that he also had a compression fracture in his back). I was greatly relieved, but will always remember the look on the crew members face in the garage.
Getting the sequence of shots was a combination of luck and skill. Even as I drove into the track that morning, I had not decided from which turn I was going to shoot. My choices were either at the south short chute between turns 1 and 2 or up in turn 3. As fate would have it, I decided to stay up in turn 3 since that was where I was parked and also the lower fence would make shooting much easier on my back than having to stoop down to shoot through the protective fence in the photographers area at the south chute.
The day had become very monotonous as the cars droned by lap after lap with the only excitement coming occasionally when there would be a pass coming out of turn 3. Around lap 175 I vowed to myself that I would be extremely alert and ready should anything happen. There was to be no chimping, no looking at the crowd, no eating, no drinking , etc., etc….just watching the cars come off of turn 3 and keeping the camera up to my eye. Then the unthinkable occurred:
Added 6-2-2010: I had one person leave a comment asking whether or not I had shots of the fence after the accident. At the time I really didn’t even think about photographing the fence, but in looking back through my photos, I actually do have a couple of shots that show the fence (or lack thereof!). The first one is pretty clear in that you can see a lot of lower part of the fence has been ripped away, but the main cables are intact. In the second shot (not really a very good picture in and of itself) the fence is a bit out of focus because it is way in the background, but you can tell that there is a large part of the fence missing.
6-7-2010: Also if anyone’s interested, I dug up some shots I took at Talladega in the spring of 2009 when Carl Edwards did his flying act into the fence at the end of the race. The shots aren’t quite as good as Indy as I was attending just as a fan and was shooting from the stands just past start/finish line and had a lot of fan interference. You can see the photos here.