Growing up in Los Angeles, I was denied the up close and personal introduction to Nascar Racing that many of my fellow photogs probably enjoyed in their youth.
The closest I can get to a shared experience that relates to the racing mania of my fellow blogging photographers were the black and white "Speed Racer" cartoons of my youth.
That changed last Thursday night.
Sent with a reporter to the California Speedway in Fontana, our goal was to do a package on the race this weekend.
Yeah, baby! I got to sink my teeth into a story that was two rungs above "sweet" on the ladder of plum assignments.
I've never been to the California Speedway and before Thursday, I thought I'd seen every impressive sight to be seen in the Southern California news market. The scale of this raceway was mind blowing and "wow" was the reaction from me when I looked out at the track.
The activity for the evening was centered around a Nascar appreciation night and took place mainly in the parking lot outside of the track. "The Richard Petty Experience" was set up to sell rides around the track for charity.
We were crunched for time and the reporter taking a ride in one of the cars naturally became the center piece of the story. We snagged a couple of interviews while in line waiting for the reporter's turn. I shot b-roll of cars zipping past and there was no shortage of roaring engine nat sound.
It had taken us a while to get ther through the traffic and negotiating our way onto the Speedway property was a little dicey. Short version? We weren't crashing, but we were slightly pressed for time when it came down to setting up the liveshot and cutting the piece. No time for a break, but we managed to cut a piece and did a liveshot.
The cars had stopped making runs while we were cutting, but at least the lights were still on during the liveshot.
By the time we were wrapped, the lights were shutting down and if there had been any possibility of me getting a ride around the track, it faded with the lights.
I was a little disappointed, but I don't have to regret missing an opportunity or two. In the course of my career, I've rode shotgun with a camera in quite a few cars, boats, and planes. My job is full of these types of fantasy adventures.
If I didn't make it around the track on this story, there's a good chance I'll have the opportunity again someday.
Besides, the real thrill I had in mind wasn't to ride as a passenger around the speedway. Heck, it wasn't even to slip behind the wheel and gun it around myself.
From the minute I saw the track, the only thought bouncing off the walls inside my head? Wouldn't it be cool if they let me open this baby up? Just once around and please, somebody get a picture of me letting out a big ol' "Dukes of Hazzard" yell.
That would have been a dream come true.
Yeah, Go Speed Racer. Go Speed Racer, Go.