We Were There

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on our visit to Michigan International Speedway to see the rookie, Danica Patrick, race July 30-31, 2005.

We Were There


It had been around 30 years since I held a press pass for a major auto race. As Photograph of the Year for Sports Car magazine in 1974, I had photo access to about any Grand Prix, SCCA, NHRA and local motorcycle races I wanted to go to. I shot at the first Long Beach Grand Prix (going up in a helicopter to shoot the start of the race) and covered everything from the Watkins Glen Grand Prix, the 24 hours at Daytona and the 12 hours at Sebring. to Bridgehampton, Mid-Ohio, Road America, Road Atlanta, Garnett, Riverside, Laguna Seca and Sears Point, just to name a few of the tracks. And then there was SCCA's premiere rally, the Flaming Fall, in rural Missouri each year and even a few gymkhanas now and then. So, driving into the pits at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan brought back a lot of memories.

When they weren't checking out the photos they had just taken on the laptops, I spent some time in the media center talking with some of the old-timers about those days. I used to shot 20 rolls of 36 exposure film and I'd have to wait for a week until I got the proof sheets back to see if I got anything useable.

My standbys were Nikons, one with a 500 mirror lens, another with an 80-200 zoom and the third with a 55. I had a 250 shot magazine I would put on a tripod and place it in corners around the track where they wouldn't allow an actual photograph during the race. I'd wired-up a garage door opener to set off a frame on the motordrive and just hoped the timing was right for an in-focus shot, considering it was a fixed f8 and I couldn't be there to adjust the focus.

But today, all of those cameras were back on the West Coast. All I had was my Nikon F with a 43-86 Nikor zoom. I had brought it along for scenic pictures on my 7,000 summer jaunt through the Midwest with no thought I would be photographing Indy cars on a race track.

It just so happened that I was staying with friends in Farmington Hills, a suburb of Detroit, when the local newspaper ran a story that Danica Patrick would be racing that weekend at MIS. Following my divorce, I had custody of my daughter and started her racing go-karts at 8 years old. She raced until she was 18, finishing fourth in class in California, racing at Riverside, Laguna Seca and Sears Point, among others. Starting at 16, her only competitors were adult men. Around that time, surfing and wind surfing had become the bigger joys.

Currently, we have been running a series on this web site about Danica and had gathered a list of over 250 women in racing. It's all about supporting our daughters in competing in what they want to compete in, regardless of whether it's a "boys/mans" arena or not. (See If You'd Only Let Me Play) It's my belief that if we start our daughters in activities at the age we would start our sons, that many of them would outshine their male counterparts. By not supporting them, we're actually holding them back from the future that they could enjoy.

But I digress. I spent two days at the track, shot a bunch of pictures, and got to ask Danica a couple of questions, one of which the answer appeared in the Detroit Free Press and was being scheduled to appear on the local ABC TV station.

Detroit Free Press

When she met with reporters on Saturday, she was asked what advice she'd give to young girls.

"If you're out there and you're competing against the guys and you think, 'Well, I'm competing against the guys', you've all of a sudden put yourself in a different place," she said. "You have to just think, 'I'm going out to beat everyone, to write the best story, to (make) the best surgical incision ever', or whatever it may be. You have to go into it with the mind frame that you're no different than anyone, and that might be what's helped me along the way. I know that I'm a girl." Complete questions & answers.

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Related Issues: DanicaInterview, Photo Gallery, We Were There, Women Racing Directory, Women in Racing, Women Racers, More Women in Racing, Notable Women

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