Archive | January, 2017

The Rat Race Behind the Race Installment 2: Photographer Jay Alley

24 Jan

Sunset over Chicagoland

Sunset over Chicagoland

Amongst my many “first loves” such as Blues, Motorsport and of course, Mrs. GForce, would be photography. I learned some of the very basic basics back in the late 1970’s from a professional shooter and learned of the three “C’s”: Color, Composition and Clarity. These three things have guided me to the point that I no longer suck as a photog; I just merely stink! Which leads me the point where I would like to mention the social medium platform Twitter (@gforcepaul for those of you playing along at home). It is on there that I began to follow a true professional photographer of motorsport. We chatted a bit back and forth on Twitter but Jay Alley and I never really had a schedule that would allow us to actually meet in person. I was guided however, to the website http://www.alleygroup.net. This is where Jay and his AlleyGroup Associates toil at what quite obviously to me is a true labor of love. For instance, a fun fact I learned is that Jay is also associated with ARCA racing ( http://www.arcaracing.com ) as chief photographer for the series. So, except for the header shot above that I took at Chicago Land Speedway a good 9 or so years ago, all photos appearing here are the credit of Jay Alley. In fact, the bulk of this installment of “The Rat Race Behind the Race” has been produced by Jay so I certainly want to thank him for that! Meanwhile, let’s get this party started, shall we Mr. Alley?

 

photo-by-jay-alley

13 Questions with Jay Alley; and responses in italics
1. Whom all do you professionally shoot for?
I have been the chief photographer for the ARCA Racing Series the last three seasons. I have also shot for Associated Press at race events at Talladega, Daytona and Atlanta. During May, I shoot for motorsport.com at Indianapolis for the Grand Prix and the 500. In 2017 I will also be shooting for motorsport.com at the Rolex 24 Hours and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

2. How old were you when you first got the photography bug?
I didn’t really get serious about photography until I had graduated from the University of Chicago so I was about 24 when I realized I had to get closer to the action at the Indy 500 and began to pursue the dream of being a professional photographer.

indy-500-early-race-by-jay-alley

3. What was your first camera; tell us about it.
I have a photo my parents took of me holding a Brownie camera when I was about 3 years old, so my interest started very early. My first really good 35 mm camera was a Canon A1 35 film camera which I bought new in 1983 at HPS Hoosier Photo in downtown Indy along with a used motor drive. It shot 5 frames per second and my son has that camera now.

4. Speak to your hobby as a high school sports referee. How is that parent monitoring thing going for you? Is it really like herding cats?
When I decided to change careers in 2009 and go back to school so I could get a teaching license, I knew there would be lean times so I got my basketball and soccer referee licenses to generate other income to help make ends meet. I have chosen to stick with mostly club and church leagues so the parents haven’t been too bad – except in soccer where I have had to tell a few to get out of my ear or get their own license and get on the pitch themselves. My first love is basketball so that’s what I concentrate on now and I gave up soccer last year as my racing schedule in spring and fall took most of my weekend time.

heidfeld-wreck-jay-alley

heidfeld-wreck-jay-alley

5. What is your actual day job?
As I said, I made a career change in 2009 to become a teacher. My teaching license has two endorsements, one in Social Studies and the other in Mathematics. I have been teaching Algebra and Economics in an adult high school called the Excel Center for the last two school years. I have basically been a full time teacher since 2010, first as a substitute when I was pursuing my initial license in May 2012. The Excel Centers are part of Goodwill Industries Educational Initiative and we are helping people by providing a second chance for their Indiana high school diploma.

6. Describe the competition between photogs to get that all important money shot.
I would call it a friendly competition as I think everyone understands we all have a job to do and our editors expect certain pictures to be delivered. Sometimes the competition does come out when trying to secure a preferred location to shoot so an “exclusive” angle can be obtained, but even then I have rarely had anyone deny me a rotation in a shooting spot. If I don’t get there first, then I have to just be more creative to get the shots I need. Then there’s the competition to be first during and after events, so the editing room can be kind of crazy when everyone is processing images to get them out to editors as fast as possible. First seems to be best nowadays.

indy-500-post-race-by-jay-alley

indy-500-post-race-by-jay-alley

7. Except for Marshall Pruett, what makes racing photogs so skinny? What track requires the most walking in a day?
Marshall is truly living the dream as a staffer for RACER Magazine so don’t go picking on him! I have never been fortunate enough to have a scooter or golf cart at a race track, so I always have to hoof it wherever I need to go. My all-time high for steps on a race day was over 23,000 at an ARCA race last summer. Combine the walking with the summer heat and lack of decent track food, those could contribute to an enforced diet of sorts. Road courses like Mid Ohio require a lot of walking and this year ARCA goes back to Road America so I know I will get a ton of steps there. The intermediate tracks (1.5 miles) like Chicagoland usually involve the most walking as there’s no direct way to get from one place inside the track to the outside, and I might walk the entire outside fence to find a spot where the angle of the sun and cars is just right. Good shoes are essential!

8. When is “crew call” on a typical race day?
For our ARCA officials meetings, we usually have to be at the track by 7:00 in the morning, even for a night race, so it is not unusual to be at the track until 1:00 the next morning after editing and filing has finally done, so 18 hour workdays are typical. At someplace like Indianapolis, I usually go in before the public gates open which means I am up by 4:00 a.m. and in the media center by 5:30 or so.

indy-400-race-action-by-jay-alley

indy-400-race-action-by-jay-alley

9. Have you ever been stuck in traffic on race morning?
That is my worst nightmare and I do actually have nightmares about missing the start of a race because I can’t get into the track or am stuck in traffic en route. Thankfully that has never actually happened but Indianapolis used to be the worst race morning to contend with as the credential gate on Georgetown Road would get jammed up with people without credentials who thought they could get in early. One year, several of us photographers had to get out of our stopped cars and beg State Troopers to get us moving before the public gates opened and we barely made it. No matter what track is involved, I always allow extra time to get inside and get parked; until then I am anxious as hell and that has paid off more than once.

10. Describe the daily photog meetings, are they required
I wish I had a dollar for all the photo meetings I’ve attended! Most tracks now require photographers to go through a safety briefing to get a photo vest that identifies us as media members, so usually someone from the sanctioning body (NASCAR, Indycar, etc.,) will run the meetings along with someone from the track staff. Safety requirements change sometimes, so we hear about areas that are acceptable for shooting and those which are off limits. There’s also the threat of credential revocation if you don’t follow the track or series photo rules, so even though I’ve probably heard the spiel a thousand times, the meetings are still important for the smooth and safe operation of a race event. We are quite often in dangerous trackside or pit positions so safety briefings like these meetings are absolutely necessary. I also appreciate the chance to meet series or track officials in person and put names with faces.

talladega-by-jay-alley

talladega-by-jay-alley

11. What music is on your playing device?
I love guitar oriented music so I have a lot of old school blues and rock on my iPod. Artists like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Deep Purple, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joe Bonnamassa, or Eric Gales feature prominently. However, I also like a lot of more recent music by bands like Evanescence, Skillet, Breaking Benjamin and Avenged Sevenfold. Hard and loud with some melody usually works for me. I will also admit to enjoying “The Voice” competition the last couple of years but I can’t stand country!

12. I was surprised to learn that your mother is a Sagamore of the Wabash recipient. When did she receive it and what were the circumstances behind her being selected.
Thank you so much for asking about her. My Mom, Reene Alley, God rest her soul, was honored with her Sagamore of the Wabash in June 1989 by Governor Evan Bayh. People outside of Indiana may not know that the Sagamore is the highest civilian honor that Indiana’s Governor can bestow so it was a big deal for our family, which has been in Indiana since the 1820’s, for Mom to receive that award. Mom was recognized as a trailblazer and significant contributor in education in Indiana as one of the first women to teach chemistry, physics and higher level mathematics in Indiana. She also held administrative positions such as principal at a time when very few women were being hired for those. She went back to school at Purdue in her 30’s to get her Masters in Mathematics and to Indiana University in her 40’s to get her Doctorate of Education in School Administration, so when I decided to go back to school at age 52, she had already blazed a path for me to follow. She finished her career as a professor at Akron University and Youngstown State University teaching doctoral students who wanted to be principals. Mom was also a huge race fan and loved going in to the 500 with us before the crack of dawn to experience the whole atmosphere. She passed away July 5, 2015 and I miss being able to call her when I am on the road.

photo-by-jay-alley

photo-by-jay-alley

13. What compelled you to shoot motorsport as opposed to say, shooting school kids pictures?
Anyone who is involved in racing would I’m sure tell you it gets in your blood. I always tell people I came by it naturally as I was born the day after Sam Hanks won the Indy 500 in 1957. My Mom’s dad, my Grandpa Jay (after whom I was named), barnstormed with Eddie Rickenbacker in the 1920’s so he loved racing and helped get a quarter-mile dirt track at the Kosciousko County Fairgrounds in Warsaw, Indiana built after World War II. He used to take me in the pits when I was no more than 4 years old and I have vivid memories of hanging on the board fence watching sprint cars or late models race there, and the sights, sounds and smells are what got me hooked. When my Dad took me to my first Indy 500 in 1970 for my 13th birthday, there was no turning back. Now, I still get a thrill from the physical aspects of racing that you can feel and experience through all of my senses. If my memory is bad sometimes, I tell people I have spent too much time in the sun breathing exhaust fumes at racetracks. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.

Jay on the wrong side of the camera

Jay on the wrong side of the camera

 

So there, in a nutshell is another individual, working away to bring you motorsports as an art form.  I actually do enjoy shooting but I seldom get action  shots. I look more for the artsy fartzy approach to my shots and as a result I stage the shot and do not go after pans and stop action stuff. That remains way to complicated for my tired old brain! Funny in that Jay and I finally met many months after we started to engage on Twitter. It was in the garage area as I was escorting my fresh, out of school IT Intern, Mr. Brett Wehmiller. Jay was very approachable and once he mentioned blues music it was on like donkey kong! Nice guy to say the least so next time you are roaming around the circuit De Le Mans pour La 24 heures du Mans, look Jay up. He got the gem of all gem assignments and will be there this June. I remain a jealous man!

Jay Alley, GForcePaul and Brett

Jay Alley, GForcePaul and Brett

 

As always, thanks for stopping by and we will talk to you next time!

GForcePaul

 

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Homologated Results from the NAIAS 2017 show

17 Jan
capture1

Credit IndyCar

While it looks like there is nothing to see here that is in a definitive design state, comments made by Mr. Jay Frye at the NAIAS 2017 lead one to believe that finally there is a distinct vision of where the IndyCar series is headed. This includes a statement as to where IndyCar wants to be in 5 years. And what a long wait it has been for that to finally manifest itself! Make no mistake; this off season is like no other that I can recall in 30 years of following this sport closely. For once there was the schedule wrapped up and it was actually posted to multiple media outlets shortly after the conclusion of the 2016 season. This has to be the earliest that the schedule was communicated to the fan base sine the infamous split back in the 90’s! With the release of the television broadcast schedule I am very pleased to see not only date equity in the schedule but broadcast slot equity as well. Now that has to help tremendously with the task of rebuilding the sport’s interest and as the 800 pound gorilla known as NASCAR sees falling numbers, this can only benefit IndyCar. Now if we can just get those elusive additional manufacturers in place……

http://www.indycar.com/~/media/IndyCar/News/Other/2017/01/01-12-New-2018-Car-Concept-Sketches-HIRES

As last week began to unwind, more news came out of the NAIAS that made me rather sad and at the same time made me realize that speed growth (i.e. new track records) are not in the immediate future. After reading the comments and thought process behind this as espoused by Mr. Frye, I again agree with his logic of measured growth and a slower operational tempo. Will the racing still be fabulous? Most certainly! Will the speed records fall like shattered glass? No, not so much. The details as brought to you by Motorsport.com:

http://www.motorsport.com/indycar/news/indy-500-focus-will-be-on-racing-not-outright-speed-865309/

 

Honestly, I am good with this. As one that has hiked darn near every square inch of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I have seen cars go by a speed, under speed and no speed at all. I have to agree with Mr. Frye that the quality of the racing product is more important at this time then the overall speed of the product. The focus on downforce being generated from the floor surfaces of the car as opposed to being generated by the pieces of body work will definitely make passing easier. This was my only complaint from races during last season; cars could gain on the guy ahead, it was just too difficult to complete a pass due to all the turbulence. These drawings presented at the auto show indicate that being held back by dirty air may become a thing of the past. My take on all of it? I think these cars have an Indy Lights pedigree and I am working up a froth just thinking about the appearance of the final race car.

Finally, of note:

I caught this little gem last week pushed out to the twitterverse I believe by IndyCarPR so dust off thoise resumes. While I am in IT, I just do not have that strong enough background in Project Management. Also, at the age of 62, I think I will keep my current day job.

http://indianapolismotorspeedway.teamworkonline.com/teamwork/r.cfm?i=107700

As always, thanks for stopping by and of course, we will talk to you next time!

 

GForcePaul

The rat race behind the race:

10 Jan

Installment 1

IndyCar Mechanic Grant Bentrud

When I first trotted out those words, I would imagine that they were taken incorrectly or at least, out of context. You see, I wrote them on December 22, 2016 in a twitter post beamed at @IndyCar, @tonydizinno, @IMS and @IndyCarPR. They are four of my favorite follows on Twitter as that social media platform is where I go to get current motorsport news and links. I mean, red hot, while it happens current news from all sorts of motorsport. That makes things a whole lot easier when I finally flip on the TV to take in the current weekend’s televised racing event because I am ‘up to speed’ and ready to sit back and crack open a cold one. So, what exactly was my intent with that tweet? What would put into context the rat race behind the race? Allow me to digress.

 

grant-and-gforcepaul

Grant and Gforcepaul

In a previous life, I came across an opportunity to become involved in the televised production of live events for the fledgling Indy Racing League. This should give you an idea of just how long ago that was. Being that up close and personal with the sounds and smell of speed allowed me to draw some conclusions about just how hard this endeavor really is. Believe me, it has many moving parts and synchronization is a highly soft after goal. But what I did take away from the experience was the appreciation of the various interests and talents involved in the weekly circus called racing.

 

It wasn’t until I had been out of the racing production involvement for a while that I came across a fellow blues music lover. We met one evening at an open stage night in some dive bar on the west side of Indy and I enjoyed his harmonica playing.  For the purposes of this article, we will refer to this musical instrument as a harp. (Bear with me a moment as this will all tie together shortly and I can see that your eyes are already glazing over a bit). Anyway, this gent and I started a conversation about what each other did for a living and I said I.T. work and such. He mentioned he was a mechanic and I asked if he worked at a dealership. Without skipping a beat he said Honda. After some conversing on this topic we parted ways after doing a quick set.

98-car

Contemplating speed

Later on last spring I made a trip to the hallowed grounds of IMS to take in early loading in for the IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis and cruised through the garage area. Lo and behold, there toiling away was this “Honda Mechanic” working on a non-descript car that I determined to be the 98 car! Believe me, we had done several open mic nights and sets of blues since that first meeting so it was quite a surprise seeing him performing his day job. We engaged a bit and neither of us had any idea that he would be involved in the most memorable Indianapolis 500 finish in its 100th running. Everybody knows how that ended so I have no need opine here. I do, however, want you to get to know a little more about the guy they call Grant Bentrud. So, without further ado, a quick “A Baker’s Dozen Probing Questions and BS With:”

 

A Baker’s Dozen Probing Questions and BS With: Grant Bentrud

  1. What’s on your music playing device?
    Tony Joe White, Waylon Jennings, Shelby Lynne, Roy Buchanan, The Allman Brothers, Climax Blues Band, Mountain, Jessie Winchester, J.J. Cale, mostly artists that started in the sixties and seventies, they seem to mix country, rock, soul and blues into their sound.

 

  1. When did you first turn a wrench?
    When I was 12 my best friend’s dad got us involved in SCCA, he ran a Elva Mk VII in sports D class, we crewed for him at Road America, Donnybrook which is called Brainered International Raceway now. My dad got his first snowmobile when I was 7 and I did alot of wrenching on those when I was teenager.

 

  1. How do you rally the troops when the shoe wads it up in turn 3?

We got a great group of guy’s, we don’t think twice about getting our hustle on to get the car back on the track, it’s what we do, we’re proud of it!

Headed off to work

NAPA 90

4. Tell us a story about who it was that helped you the most to get to this position?

The Archer Brothers in Duluth Minnesota gave me my first job on a professional team, we ran in SCCA Trans Am and World Challenge. They were great, we would start every morning with a meeting in the conference room and they wanted everyone’s input, made us feel like we contributed more than just turning wrenches.

5. You have a very interesting off season hobby, don’t you?

My son and I race vintage snowmobiles on an ice oval track up in Michigan, it’s a 5 race series in January and February, it’s a blast!

winter-hobby

Warming up at 10 below?

 

6.  Do you have any siblings? What is the meanest thing you did to them as a kid?
I have 3 sisters and 1 brother. My brother, being the youngest probably got the brunt of meanness, but he was a sturdy kid and I think he handled everything that us older kids gave him pretty well.

Speeding into turn 1 with a severe push

Speeding into turn 1 with a severe push

 

7.   What is your favorite track to race an Indy car at?

There’s no place like Indy! It’s in a league of its own, but after that I would say the classic road racing tracks like Road America and the Glen, Sonoma to name a few, they’re made for racing and have an amazing history of cars and drivers and I just feel at home in places like that

7.  I know that in addition to blowing a harp, you also strum a little guitar. Anybody else in the paddock that you have jammed with? Who are they?

Aleshin plays guitar, I’ve asked him to come to jam night and he seemed interested, but no I haven’t had the chance to jam with anyone else in the series.

mechanics

9.  At what point in the race did you feel your team had the 2016 Indianapolis 500 win wrapped up and in the bag?

Well up until the last few seconds it seemed Munoz had a chance to catch us, we were coasting and he was full throttle! So it was a big relief when it was obvious that he couldn’t catch Rossi.

10  Who is the funniest guy or gal in the paddock?

Hmmm I don’t know of anyone getting offers from SNL

11.  In an earlier conversation you mentioned that you enjoyed sports car wrenching. Why?

Well my first several years in racing was with tube framed cars and I really enjoyed the fabrication that was needed, with the carbon fiber Indy cars I don’t get to do a lot of fabrication.

12.  Blues, Rock or R n B music. Which one rates highest on your list?

The bluesy sound of the Allman Brothers playing Stormy Monday is number 1.

13.  I hear that you are a Veteran. How was that experience?

It was such an honor to swear in and have the opportunity to serve my country, even though it was over 30 years ago I’m still honored to have that experience. I’m still in touch with some of the guys I served with.

speed

Shew! I had no idea that wrenching for a race team had so many moving parts! It is also very fortunate for us that these man and women that toil so diligently pay some kind of serious attention to detail. Early on during the month of May in 2016 I had a chance to share with Grant that while I enjoy and appreciate the skills of say, a team strategist, a huge helping of my appreciation is heaped on the wrenches. You see, while a strategist may help win a race, the wrenches actually KEEP THE DRIVER ALIVE. Ponder that thought the next time you visit a race track of your choice. And remember, if you watch racing you are just a viewer. If you GO to a race track, you really are a fan. So the next time you are at the track, tip your hat to the guy or gal with grease under their fingers; they are helping keep someone alive!

 

 

As always, thanks for stopping by and we will talk to you next time!

 

GForcePaul

Starting to get the “itch”

7 Jan

Wheldon Way

I am finishing up the final touches on the first installment of The Rat Race Behind The Race and cannot wait to share it with you! Look for this post to hit on Tuesday, January 10, 2017 and feature one of the many hard working wrenches in the IndyCar paddock. We will address such hard hitting topics as “how did you get here” and my favorite topic, “whats on your music playing device”.

In the mean time, here is a small snippet of action from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as cars draft and dodge and search for that elusive extra 10th of a second. This is from May 19, 2016 and shows the frantic pace of activity we enjoyed the entire month of May at the 100th running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Thanks for stopping by and of course, we will talk to you next time!

GForcePaul

What Will 2017 Bring?

1 Jan

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and good bye to 2016.

credit-marshall-pruett

Rossi Wins a Stunner!

 

A new year brings hope and renewed energy, as well as new dreams. It seems like only yesterday that this surprise of the century happened right in my own backyard.

We plan so many new things for this little spot in the blogosphere, including a new series about those that support racing events at tracks around the country. Did you ever wonder what being a team mechanic involves? What is a day at the track like for a professional photographer? How does all of that information from pit road make it to your television screen? Stay tuned because we will be exploring “The Rat Race Behind The Race“. Plan on Wideopen Wheel doing the digging out of facts and information that will shed light on these pressing questions in 2017. The first installment will feature “A Baker’s Dozen Questions and BS With:” and highlight someone in this picture (credit Marshall Pruett).

To get those IndyCar juices flowing again (St Pete race is only 10 weeks away!), hit this link to start revving up.

 

Stay tuned and, as always, thanks for stopping by and we will see you next time!

 

GForcePaul