Las Vegas (crew)
Turns out 160 miles per hour is fast. Who knew?
I\’m not a NASCAR fan. Nothing against fast cars, but I didn\’t grow up with it — so it never really crept its way into my consciousness. Sure, I could probably pick a driver or two out of a lineup if I had to, thanks to ESPN. I\’m not sure I was prepared for what 160+ mph would look like, sound like or feel like.
Now, it\’s my understanding that actual NASCAR races hit 200+ mph, but at the Richard Petty Driving Experience, they wisely keep their students and riders sitting shotgun around 160. Nevertheless, this was the closest I\’ve ever gotten to speeds like this.
We had the awesome opportunity to film Samantha as she rode along with a driver. These shoots are generally shot with one camera, but we always bring a smaller HDV camera along, just in case there is an opportunity for a second camera to set up shop. This was one of those opportunities.
The awesome crew at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was kind enough to allow me to cross the track (before the cars started moving, obviously) to film from the grandstand\’s point of view. Since I\’m not terribly familiar with racing and I don\’t watch it on television, I had no idea that there were small \”windows\” in the fences for photographers and film crews to aim their camera out of. This way, there\’s nothing obstructing the lens\’ view of the action. I was introduced to these gates and was told that I could aim our small camera out of them to get some footage of the cars coming straight on, or around a corner or from whatever angle I chose.
Had I thought about this \”window to the track\” thing before running like a child on Christmas morning, camera in hand, I may have thought better of it. After all, once you open this gate and stick your arm/head/hands/expensive camera equipment out of it, there\’s very little keeping it/them from the speed and potentially hazardous debris – should something go wrong (which I\’m sure it wouldn\’t).
I found myself thinking — as I gazed through the viewfinder looking for a good angle — that if something unthinkable DID happen, there\’s precisely zero chance of my getting out of the way. You\’d think that this realization would keep me from leaning out of the gate or removing the camera from the very edge of the track, but you\’d be wrong.
What happened next is difficult to describe, but I\’ll try my best: You see the car coming, and you think it doesn\’t appear to be going THAT fast. Then it passes, and you wonder why it didn\’t make a sound. Then a half-second passes, and your hat flies off your head, your shirt feels like it\’s about to be torn off, and there\’s a deafening roar penetrating your eardrum. I just hope the footage is usable, because I can\’t imagine I held the camera very still. Not on the first few laps, anyway.
After all was said and done, it was one of the coolest experiences of my life, and not just my TV life. I\’m not certain it was enough to make me tune in to watch all 500 miles at Daytona, but it was definitely enough to get my adrenaline pumping.