NASCAR Sprint Cup Series - Toyota Save Mart 350

I wasn't planning to go up to Infineon for the Toyota Save Mart 350, but then Dale Jr called and gave me a job wrenching on his garage crew, so I had to go: Mechanic - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Obviously I'm joking about the crew job, but it was odd to see my last name on a uniform like that and I really was supposed to have the weekend off. But through a scheduling snafu I found myself shooting, not wrenching.

I went up for practice on Friday to get some headshots, singles, and other pictures that would be impossible to get on race day:

Jeff Gordon - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Said Heads - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Andy Lally - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Jeff Gordon - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Traffic at Infineon on NASCAR raceday is absurd, so getting there about 3 hours early is necessary. There's not much to shoot, so I shot the tech inspections and he Patriot Jet Team performance:

Tech Inspection - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Joey Logano - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Patriots Jet Team - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Patriots Jet Team - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

I started above turn 2 to get some overall shots, and then walked from turn to turn until I made my way back to the pits:

Joey Logano - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Joey Logano - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Joey Logano - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Jeff Gordon - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Mark Martin - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Greg Biffle - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Under caution - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

On a narrow track with lots of turns like Infineon, stock cars will trade paint. In the words of the immortal Harry Hogge in Days of Thunder:

No, no, he didn't slam you, he didn't bump you, he didn't nudge you... he *rubbed* you. And rubbin, son, is racin'.

Juan Montoya & Jamie McMurray - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

All of this rubbin' leads to trips to the garage during the race, something that costs laps in the race:

Garage work - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

FedEx Freight Toyota - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

In-race repairs are not the precise kind of work that goes into designing the cars in the first place. Usually the crew is banging sheet metal with a mallet, or duct taping parts of the body together. Once you take a car into the garage, the object is just to be running when the race finishes, not to win style points, hence Brian Vickers' Red Bull Toyota sporting tape and massive fender damage:

Brian Vickers - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Despite the presence of road course specialists and NASCAR regulars with lots of experience on road courses, Kurt Busch dominated the race, leading 76 of the 110 laps for an impressive and surprising victory:

Kurt Busch - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Kurt Busch in the Winner's Circle - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

The winner's circle after a NASCAR race is quite a scene. Busch, who is sponsored by Shell, carried the checkered flag with a Sunoco logo on it. He then drank a Coke, the traditional goblet of red wine (the race is in wine country) before spraying champagne all over himself and his crew. Then he and his crew posed for pictures wearing at least 5 sets of hats of his major sponsors. There was also a confetti blaster and squabbling photographers jockeying for position.

Kurt Busch in the Winner's Circle - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

Kurt Busch in the Winner's Circle - 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

I'll be back at Infineon next month for NHRA drag racing, one of my favorite things to shoot.