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Prudent Posturing in Primm does not Pay Off

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It is Saturday, September 12, 2009, 2:30 PM, raceday for the SCORE Terrible’s 300.  Trophy Truck driver Robbie Pierce has just gone wheels up and I am getting jacked by a BLM Ranger again.

This adventure starts two days earlier with a drive to Las Vegas.  The Primm area is rapidly being shut down to racing and the three sanctioning bodies that hold races there have been forced to use a single race course.  While this makes it a bit easier to shoot since I don’t have to scout new locations it also gets boring fast for all involved.

The 2009 Score Terrible’s 300 would be using the same racecourse as the BITD Terrible’s Town 250.  Having shot the 250 earlier in the year I had a decent of idea of where I wanted to shoot on race day.  The event began on Friday morning with Tech and Contingency at the fabulous Buffalo Bill’s Casino in Primm, Nevada.

Various factors are taking their toll on entries, the tech area was a virtual ghost town most of the day.  Just a couple of years ago entries for this race were in the hundreds but now it is under 100.  I spent a few hours there gathering some basic shots.

Roger Norman's Trophy Truck in line at Tech.

Roger Norman's Trophy Truck in line at Tech.

Nikon D700, 16mmFE, ISO200, f5, /5000th.

Mike Lawrence's Class 10 buggy.

Mike Lawrence's Class 10 buggy.

Nikon D700, 16mmFE, ISO200, f5, 1/1000th.

Despite the troubling times, two new Trophy Trucks were present.  Steve Sourapas, The Beerman, had taken delivery of his new Geiser Brothers truck at the race and the Voss Team showed off a new Jimco truck.

The Beerman's new Geiser.

The Beerman's new Geiser.

Nikon D700, 24-85mm, ISO200, f9, 1/250th, SB900 off camera.

A new Jimco for Voss.

A new Jimco for Voss.

Nikon D700, 24-85mm, ISO200, f16, 1/250th, SB900 off camera.

Sweet cooler wagon.

Sweet cooler wagon.

Nikon D700, 16mmFE, ISO200, f5, 1/1250th.

Just days before the race Mark Post withdrew, freeing up his star driver Rob MacCachren to drive a Jimco truck for Robbie Pierce at Mastercraft.

MacCachren's new ride

MacCachren's new ride

Nikon D700, 16mmFE, ISO200, f5, 1/2000th.

The Jimco TTs have been around for a few years and they always seemed capable of respectable speeds, but to date one had never been piloted by a top tier driver.  Those in attendance were anxious to see what the truck was capable of in the hands and feet of one of the greatest off road racers of all time and on raceday MacCachren would not disappoint.

The folks at PCI Race Radios also organized a relief drop at their trailer for victims of the recent Baja Hurricane and the racers brought much needed supplies for the people of Baja.

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Nikon D700, 24-85mm, ISO200, f11, 1/250th, SB900 off camera.

After a few hours at tech I went North to Jean to scout a few possible shoot locations for the following day.

Reading the fine priont on the closure sign.

Me reading the fine priont on the closure sign.

Olympus 1030, ISO80, f5, 1/320th.  Photo by Jen Jocewicz.

There were a few decent locations near our limited parking areas but the best spots were a good four to five miles on foot.  I could drive in to the location well before sunup but I would be stuck there until well after dark and only have shots from one area.  If I drove in I could also leave early but risk getting pinched by the BLM for sneaking out to the course.  The other option was to walk in but going that distance with my full kit of 50 pounds while it’s over 100 degrees would not be fun.  None of the options were appealing and I decided to mull them over at the hotel pool with a few Mai Tais.

My impression of a bouy

My impression of a bouy

Olympus 1030, ISO320, f4.7, 1/60th.  Photo by Jen Jocewicz.

Click to view the race map

My raceday began at 4 AM, I wanted to be on course by 5:00 and had a short drive down to Jean from Vegas.  I first went to Beer Bottle Pass to see if I could talk my way past the BLM to go down to the southern section of the course.  Predictably there were no  BLM reps to be found at the checkpoint so instead of going in on course I took the long way around to Pit 1 via Knight Ranch Rd.  Once there I setup all my gear and started the 1.5 mile walk to race mile 33.

It was still dark as I setoff on my walk and the skies behind the mountains began to light up shortly after, revealing some nice clouds.  While I hate being up that early in the morning, I get to see some amazing sun rises and sunsets in the middle of nowhere.  At several points along the way I stopped for photos.

The sun starts to rise on Jean, NV.

The sun starts to rise on Jean, NV.

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO1600, f2.8, 1/100th.

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Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO800, f2.8, 1/1250th.

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Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO800, f4.5, 1/2000th.

The area featured some nice whoops and an either or line with a nice dropoff.  I walked the area getting a feel for where I wanted to be and I settled on setting up on a small rise between the two lines.  I could shoot the cars coming out of the corner with long glass then switch to a wider setup as they got closer.  I could also shoot either line the drivers chose.

Mike Lawrence

Mike Lawrence

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO500, f7.1, 1/500th.

Rick St John on the smoother right line.

Rick St John on the smoother right line.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISO500, f7.1, 1/500th.

Jose Gonzalez takes the drop off line.

Jose Gonzalez takes the drop off line.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISO500, f4.5, 1/800th.

A few of the drivers came into the corner too hot which yielded some nice results.

Jose Lynch is late choosing his line.

Jose Lynch is late choosing his line.

Nikon D700, 70-200, ISO500, f7.1, 1/500th.

Clyde Stacy slams into a whoop.

Clyde Stacy slams into a whoop.

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO500, f5.6, 1/800th.

The sun rising behind me combined with a low angle gave me some nice light inside the cockpits of the cars and allowed me to get some uncommon shots of the drivers eyes.

Jose Lynch

Jose Lynch

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISO500, f8, 1/800th.

Scott Gailey

Scott Gailey

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO500, f5.6, 1/800th.

Samuel Araiza

Samuel Araiza

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f8, 1/800th.

Videographer Bob Bowers with Dirtworks flies overhead

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My shooting at a chopper flies overhead.

My shooting as a chopper flies overhead.

Olympus 1030, ISO800, f9, 1/400th.  Photo bny Jen Jocewicz.

With some cool shots in the bag I walked up course to get more of a side angle in the whoops section.  I also wanted to take advantage of the great clouds that were forming in the morning skies.

Bekki Wik

Bekki Wik

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f4, 1/640th.

John Holmes

John Holmes

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f4, 1/640th.

TANGENT ALERT! John Holmes (truck 759 above) is the driver that ran over my D2x at the 2008 Primm 300 giving me one of my favorite shots of the year.  He managed to hit it with both the front and rear tires, but I place no blame with the racer.  I had the remote in a small dip that the faster classes where jumping over.  I zoned out for a few minutes and by the time I realized he was coming and that he would probably hit the camera it was too late to go out and grab it.  The camera was setup as a remote with a pocket wizard and in a Think Tank remote bag.

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Nikon D2x, 10.5mmFE, ISO200, f3.5, 1/2000th.

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The rear tire hits the camera. I am in the upper left corner.

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Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f6.3, 1/800th.

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Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f7.1, 1/800th.

Goodyear tiretracks on my lens

Goodyear tiretracks on my lens

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f2.8, 1/800th.

Back to the story, a few drivers hugged the outside line looking for a smoother line giving me a cool wide shot of the cars and skies.

Ken Frazier

Ken Frazier

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f4, 1/640th.

With the majority of the field through my position I was ready to hike back to the truck but before leaving I noticed the dust hanging over the racecourse looked great.

Dust hangs over the Jean Dry Lake

Dust hangs over the Jean Dry Lake

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f2.8, 1/2000th.

Once back at the truck I drove to Pit 2.

General view of Pit 2.

General view of Pit 2.

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f2.8, 1/1250th.

Again I could get a couple different shots in the same area.  First was a long straight with small whoops.  I shot vertical to show the length of the section and moved the focus between the car and the dirt.

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Focus on the dirt

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f11, 1/500th.

Focus on the car.

Focus on the car.

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f11, 1/500th.

Then a side shot as the cars passed me.

Mikey Childress

Mikey Childress

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f16, 1/320th.

At the other end of Pit 2 the drivers had a road crossing followed by large whoops.

The background was full of pit gear and easy ups but by shooting tight I could get ride of most of it.

A shitty cluttered background.

A shitty cluttered background shot wide.

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f13, 1/640th.

A much cleaner background shot tight.

A much cleaner background shot tight.

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISo200, f13, 1/640th.

After the race leader passed I went to my final location at Race Mile 42 which had a nice silty sweeper.  Before the corner the drivers are wide open on a short pavement section on Haul Rd and I hoped to catch someone locking up a tire under braking but I had no such luck and otherwise the photos on the pavement were boring and poorly lit.

A boring shot in bad light on the pavement.

A boring shot in bad light on the pavement.

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f11, 1/800th.

For the siltbed I used a Neutral Density filter so I could shoot at a 2.8 aperture with a very shallow depth of field.

Jesus Glez in the siltbed.

Jesus Glez in the siltbed.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISO200, f2.8, 1/800th.

Eric Duran

Eric Duran

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISo200, f2.8, 1/640th.

Shooting up close if fun and yields nice results but there is also an element of danger and you must be on your toes at all times.  Luke McMillin and Brad Wilson drag raced down the pavement section with Wilson entering the corner first, but McMillin dove underneath for a pass in the turn.  Kelly St. Claire from Cow Race Photo was shooting on the inside of the corner as they passed.

Kelly St Claire avoids Luke McMillin

Kelly St Claire avoids Luke McMillin

Nikon D700, 70-200, ISO200, f2.8, 1/640th.

I hung around for the leader to pass on their final lap then packed up and drove to Jean for a rare lunch break and to transmit some photos from the morning race.  The race is run in two parts, and it’s actually two races.  The morning had all of the limited classes and the afternoon would feature the unlimited cars and trucks of Class 1 and Trophy Truck.

After the break I went down Beer Bottle Pass again and got clearance at the checkpoint to shoot down on the southern section of the course.  I setup at race mile 16 in a hard 90 degree left.

First I would shoot the racers coming at me with the long glass.

Damen Jeffries

Damen Jeffries

Nikon D700, 70-200mm,  ISO200, f2.8, 1/640th.

Then I would shoot them from the inside of the corner.

Rick Thomas

Rick Thomas

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f10, 1/500th.

After a few cars I moved to the exit of the corner to get a different angle.

Dale Lenk

Dale Lenk

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f7.1, 1/400th.

Craig Potts

Craig Potts

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f10, 1/400th.

Both of these locations get pretty sketchy at times when the dust hangs but today I was pretty lucky.  One of the scarier moments of shooting off road is where the dust hangs and you can only see a few inches but you can hear the roar of an 800 horse power race motor coming at you.

Not long after Richard Boyle passed I heard over the radio that  car was on fire at race mile 28 just down the road from my location.

Richard Boyle

Richard Boyle

Nikon D300, 15-55mm, ISO200, f10, 1/400th.

Richard Boyle's car burns in the distance.

Richard Boyle's car burns in the distance.

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f11, 1/800th.

On the way back out I heard that Robbie Pierce had rolled at race mile 56, as I approached the road crossing I spotted the truck off to the left and jumped out for some photos.

Robbie Pierce goes wheels up.

Robbie Pierce and co driver Joey Westhoff try to jack their truck back on its wheels.

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f5.6, 1/400th.

Robbie Pierce's Trophy Truck goes wheels up.

Robbie Pierce's Trophy Truck goes wheels up.

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f5.6, 1/500th.

Choppers flocked to the area upon hearing the radio call as well.  Jimmy Cook from Sinister Films, films the wreckage.

Jimmy Cook

Jimmy Cook

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISO200, f2.8, 1/400th.

Just after leaving the road crossing I was stopped by the BLM and issued a ticket even though I had permission to be there.  This is typical when shooting Primm and a major frustration to those of us trying to do our jobs while obeying the rules.

Pulled over by the BLM.

Pulled over by the BLM.

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISo200, f5, 1/500th.

Parts of the 70 mile course had rain during the previous 45 minutes and it looked like rain was fast approaching my area so I grabbed all my raingear before walking to my spot.  Of course having the gear ensured that no rain would fall.  While shooting in the rain is miserable I love the results and since its so rare to get rain during a desert race you get really unique shots when it does happen.

I went back to the road crossing at Pit 2 as the unlimiteds would be hitting it hard and getting some good airtime.  First I shot them as they hit the road jump and following whoops.

Marc Ewing

Marc Ewing

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f4.5,  1/1000th.

Pat Dean

Pat Dean

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f4, 1/800th.

Mark McMillin

Mark McMillin

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f4.5, 1/800th.

I would then use the cool skies and shoot them wide as they passed.

George Pondella

George Pondella

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f5.6, 1/500th.

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f9, 1/500th.

When the racers where not stacked up coming at me I also shot them out at race mile 39 as they left cool dust trails across the valley.

Brian Parkhouse

Brian Parkhouse

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f5.6, 1/800th.

Due to my BLM delays I missed the front runners on Lap Two so I hung around a little longer to shoot them on Lap Three.

Robby Gordon

Robby Gordon

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f10, 1/800th.

My final spot would be race mile 42 again.  I wanted to wait for the closing laps to give the high horsepower guys more time to chew up the siltbed.  On my arrival the area looked like a media convention.

Goon Convention

Goon Convention

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISO200, f2.8, 1/500th.

I still wanted the tire smoke under braking shot and not wanting the same shot as 25 other people at the exit of the corner I went up to the entry.

Rob MacCachren

Rob MacCachren

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f8, 1/1000th.

I was quickly rewarded as Harley Letner came in hot and smoked his left front tire under braking.  Off road tires use a very hard compound and the smoke was minimal compared to soft road racing slicks but I still like the shot.

Harley Letner

Harley Letner

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO200, f8, 1/1000th.

After getting the pavement shot I would switched cameras to get them in the siltbed.  I used the ND filter again as I was really enjoying the shallow depth of field after reviewing the morning shots.

Pat Dean

Pat Dean

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISO200, f2.8, 1/500th.

The light was falling fast and low in the sky giving a cool golden side light.

Rob MacCachren

Rob MacCachren

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISO200, f2.8, 1/500th.

About this time I had a dilemma.  Robby Gordon was first on course physically and running strong but Rob MacCachren was ahead on the clock while running about 5 minutes back on course but pushing hard and making up time.  If I left the area after Gordon passed I could make it to the finish just in time to get a victory shot.  If I waited for MacCachren I would miss the shot of Gordon.  MacCachren was making up seconds per mile and my gut told me he would take the win so I waited for him to pass then drove at a brisk pace back to Primm and the finishline.  As I pulled off the freeway I heard that Gordon had crossed the line over the radio with MacCachren a couple minutes out.  I actually missed both coming across the line but I did make it time for the MacCachren celebration shot after he finished first on the clock.

Rob MacCachren (right) John Vance (left) and the Rockstar girls.

Rob MacCachren (right) John Vance (left) and the Rockstar girls.

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f7.1, 1/250th, SB900.

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Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f7.1, 1/250th, SB900.

I was also able to get some good shots of Gordon but he was not celebrating second place.

Robby Gordon signs autographs for fans at the finish.

Robby Gordon signs autographs for fans at the finish.

Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f4, 1/250th, SB900.

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Nikon D300, 17-55mm, ISO200, f4, 1/250th, SB900.

At 6:30 PM I packed up after a long day on course and drove back to Vegas to edit and transmit photos from the afternoon race.

The next day SCORE announced that MacCachren received several speeding penalties in the limited area and that Gordon was actually the winner on corrected time.

Thanks to Ion Earth for the use of the race tracker and all the fans, teams, crews and staff for a fun day.

My race by the numbers

Race Mileage  69.0

Laps  4

Miles Driven  1036

Time spent in the truck  24:19

Days on the road  5

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See more SCORE Primm 300 photos here.

Up next, Shooting the Shooters at the USPSA Handgun Nationals.

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