Carolina PCA at Lowes MotorSpeedway

Carolina PCA at
Lowes MotorSpeedway

I spent the first day of the month completely taken with something I’ve never done before. The Carolinas PCA had a Drivers Ed event at Lowe’s MotorSpeedway and I was lucky enough to get to tag along. I’d never been to the famed NASCAR Speedway before even though it’s only 30 miles away from me. I was pretty excited and since the track obviously has massive straight-aways I was expecting some impressive display of power and speed.

I got to the track a little early while everyone was still setting up. I usually make a wrong turn or two when going somewhere new, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I drove along the outside of the venue trying to figure out how to actually get in the place. I finally came across a security guard who told me I was where I needed to be. “Just drive through the tunnel and go to the left”. So that’s how they get in there, they have a little tunnel you drive through.

I popped up in the middle of the Speedway with the grandstands and oval surrounding me in every direction. Putting on the brakes I stopped and stared in amazement. It was a mammoth site to behold. It felt like I had just rolled into the Roman Coliseum. I’ve been in football stadiums, arenas and other “grand” places but this was truly awe inspiring.

Realizing I was just sitting there and probably in everyone’s way I found a parking spot and tried to get over looking so out of place. The drivers were already setting up and getting close to getting onto the track. From the events I’d already been to, this pretty much is a serve yourself kind of affair. Pick a place where you want to look from and feel free to wander around. Really the only barricades were those used to funnel the cars into the staging area. It kept them from going the wrong way and getting onto the track incorrectly. As I found out, as long as you weren’t on the track, you could pretty much go wherever you wanted to.

I know I looked like a tourist as I walked with a stare of wonderment and spinning in circles trying to take it all in. I don’t know why, but it seemed so much bigger than I would have thought. The banking of the turns was so high, such a steep angle. The straights were long and fluid. The grandstand just seemed to keep going up in the air around the track.

I ended up over in the pit area (the pit area, the winners circle was right behind me), as this is where the cars would actually drive onto the track from. Engines were starting to get fired up so I grabbed my camera gear from the car and came wandering back, still looking awestruck I’m sure.

It was a beautiful day with plenty of sun, but the temperature was staying in the 80’s. There was a slight breeze which felt great as it kicked up from time to time. Gentle, but just enough to keep you from overheating.

I went back to pit lane where they had a small part of the fence open so you could see right out onto the track. It really was amusing to me to be standing there in same places the pit crews work and just mere feet away was the famed winner’s circle.

Engines began to rumble and echo as the first group rolled onto the track. I noticed the came out then disappeared to the left, but not through the big sweeping turn of the track but down lower well away from there. I was confused but then realized as they appeared again in the infield that they had made a road course in the center of the speedway. They would twist and turn through their center course then work back to the track, hit the straightaway, flow through that huge sweeping banked turn and then down the other straight where I was, then brake hard to make the left to put them back onto the road coarse.

The first group came exploding by, hitting full speed on that straight-away then braking for the turn. The sound of the engines pounded against me, they weren’t holding back.

For the first couple laps I forgot to take pictures, I was so wrapped in watching them. The turn at the end of the track seemed so far away as 4 or 5 cars sped along the embankment, all of them fitting across that wide turn.

I did manage to start taking photos and as the day progressed I wandered all over the field. I went to the infield to get pictures of the cars coming right at me. The flag guys waved me toward them and pointed for me to stand with them, right near the barrier. One pointed off to the side indicting it was a good spot to shoot from. It was and I felt the cars sped past about 10 feet away.

I finally made it to the far end of the track. The bank was impressive and steep. The cars sailed by hugging it. I was right there at the fence, the cars just zooming by a few feet away. They were going flat and even with just those few cars it was loud. I can’t image the sound of 40 cars, with their 700hp engines all racing past there. I’m sure on race day, the track is an overwhelming spectacle.

I stayed until the end, 8pm. I just kept taking pictures and moving from one part of the track to another. There was a sense of freedom to be able to get so close and to be so much a part of what’s going on.

I ended up shooting around 1,200 pictures of the event. And right as the last group hit the track the sun was just starting to set. A very impressive spectacle to be sure.

I used my new Sigma 1.4x teleconverter and it worked flawlessly. I could zoom right in on the cars and grab spectacular details. I had no problem with shutter speed. I was using 1/500 sec and it was plenty. I could have easily gone over 1/2000, but I didn’t want things that stop action. I wanted a little sense of motion.

I posted 90 pictures to the gallery, less than 1% of what I took. There is a ton to look at and you can see the gallery here: Carolina PCA at Lowes MotorSpeedway

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