Indianapolis 500 – Conway Wreck 5-30-10

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 ( 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.

Yet Another Flying Race Car

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.

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  1. Wow. Incredible shots. I would have to say that this crash probably gives us a pretty good idea of what Tony Renna’s must’ve looked like when he lost his life in that practice accident a few years ago in the same turn. Mike Conway is a VERY lucky man!

  2. Clint Campbell says:

    Scott, excellnt work! I will be share this page with my social media friends.

  3. David Louer says:

    Scott: Remarkable pictures.Shows how far the car designers have come so that drivers survive these horific accidents. Thankfully Mike Conway did suffer more severe injuries and he will return to racing. Thank you for making these available.

  4. rick hill says:

    You are the Man–Great shots

  5. I can say this. The fencing was replaced in large sections in 1993 before NASCAR came to Indy. With this kind of accident there is always going to be damage to the fencing. When Kenny Brack or Davy Hamilton crashed at Texas in separate events there was damage. That is honestly the risk that the spectator must also assume when attending one of these. If you ever have been close to this fencing, you realize just how stout it is. What ended up happening was Conways left front tire wrapped around the post on the outside of the track and whipped off the car. With the violence of the impact I am glad that Mike is going to race again one day. You have to realize that the speedway does a ton of maintenance throughout the year and that these fences are “newer” so to speak.

  6. Shirley Rakoczy Przywara says:

    All I can say is OMG — if the driver and any other drivers or spectators in harms way came out of this without injury, their Guardian Angels had to be working OVERTIME! Amazing sequence of photos.

  7. Jim Fischer says:

    2010 was my 50 race and I thought I had seen it all. My seat is high up in turn three and I saw it from start to finish. It reminded of Swede Savages crash. However, he was killed and Conway will race again. What a tribute to today’s engineering in auto racing.

  8. john peterson says:

    what a shot

  9. Eddie Sachs said in ’64, “if you can’t win, be spectacular”…. sadly he was.
    I’m pleased Mike Conway will return to treat us to his exciting driving skills. I hope you’ll someday photograph his victory at Indy.
    Returning home yearly, I’ve been to 48 of these wonderful racing events and attended qualifications throughout childhood. The safety advances since the roadster days have saved many over the recent years. Photographs such as yours will help to advance that safety.
    It is amazing what the eye can see through a view-finder, later to be confirmed by photo-print. I quit taking photos after developing my captures of Gordon Smiley’s accident from the stands in 1982. I remember the weak knees and upset afterward all to well.
    Great shots by a dedicated professional Scott….

  10. Cedric T. Australia says:

    I did see the crash on the 6pm news here in Brisbane Australia.
    Sometimes speed is a good thing, I think it helped these guys live.
    We dont have the Champ cars here in Aust no more, Theres a few of us that do miss the guys coming Down Under to race here too.
    Im going up north to Townsville next month to work at the V8 car races here, I’ll be in pit lane.
    Hope everyone involed in the crash are OK there.
    We dont like crashes, but we know its a part of Motorsport & we dont know when it might happen.
    Great pics too.

  11. Remarkable shots! It was like watching slo-mo of a high-speed cheese grater! Thank God Conway wasn’t seriously injured…or worse.

  12. Sherry Uber says:

    Remarkable photos – just shows how well the race cars are put together, this could have been really ulgy!!! The injuries that Conway received were not good, but you know he is still alive and will drive again.

  13. Brandon Berghmans says:

    WOW nice shootin Tex…… !!

    Gad all involved are OK.

  14. Brandon Berghmans says:

    And your first race assignment……..COOL

    That’s where my good luck went……… it’s hangin with you… lol

    Excellent work too….

  15. Cory McGovern says:

    Mr. Richardson, This site is incredibly awesome. The photos on here are amazing. Just wanted to drop by and say how awesome I think this site is. I’ve just now realized I’ve spent about an hour just looking at some of the pictures on here. I can’t wait to see the ones from tonights soccer game (Aug 31). And i look forward to checking out all the other sporting event pictures on here.

    Excellent work,

  16. Mike Paluda says:

    Not a race fan, but these are some great photos with great detail. Noticed most of the fans were clueless and watching in other directions as car went by.

    • mike huffman says:

      The cars are traveling over 200 mph and this was mid-pack so that explains somewhat the appreance of clueless fans.

  17. As the old saying goes, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”


  1. […] Just as there is an element of luck involved in surviving a crash of this magnitude, so is there an element of luck for a photographer to be in the right place at the right time. That is when skill comes into play. Richardson’s full sequence of photos is stunning and far more telling than the video. You can find the whole sequence at his website. […]

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