Shooting NASCAR at Bristol

I was fortunate enough to Team Up with Richard Petty Motor Sports, Nature Blast and to shoot a NASCAR race in Bristol. It was one of the coolest things I’ve been able to shoot. It was a long week of meetings and shoots, here’s a breakdown of the experience.

The week started with phone meetings between all the businesses, explaining how everything would go and how we would all work together. I had lots of questions about shooting, locations, and what I’d be allowed to cover and not cover etc… NASCAR has a ton of regulations, so it can be very restrictive as to what you can and can not shoot. The track also has restrictions. NASCAR owns everything and has numerous sponsors, so talking with Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) was a big help.

Basically shooting the cars on the track is not allowed because FOX Sports bought the rights to the race.


FOX’s 3 man crews on Pit Road.

Each car has sponsors and each of those companies has rights as well. There are sponsors for the pit crew, sponsors for uniform the driver wears etc..etc… Bristol Motor Speedway also owns the rights and land at the track so once again there are rights and restrictions. Basically if you want to shoot you have to pay a lot of money.

I was working with the sponsors of the car so I had a little leeway of what I could shoot. After two days of meetings (Mon. and Tue.) we had a plan.

The goal was to shoot a variety of promos for instagram and other social media outlets, to try and get excitement about the race and the car sponsorship. I’d also be taking video and stills at the race to push out to the teams social media channels. We started the first promo on Monday, at that point the sponsorship still hadn’t been officially announced so we had to make a very generic promo. I ended up making a quick 15 second promo telling people to get ready to start their engines. It was a hint at what was to come, but didn’t give any information. I was rushed and had very little time so I used a few templates from Digital Juice and modified them to meet my needs. You can see it on my instagram page here.

Tuesday we got a 2d flat image of what the car was going to look like, and we had to create a spot announcing the car.


Flat 2D rendering.

They wanted it to look 3-D. I had meetings all day so I worked on the concept with Matt Twitchell. Once I got him the idea, image and music he created our second promo introducing the car. The concept was fast music, with twitchy fast text. A theme we carried through out the week. We used Video Copliots Twitch plugin to create the text. And smoke elements from Digital Juice to add to the 3D effect. You can watch that promo here.

Wednesday came, and me and a PR person headed out to the first shoot. We drove an hour to the Richard Petty Museum to film 3 promos with the KIng himself Richard Petty.


The Legen Richard Petty and me.

We were scheduled to have 20 minutes with Richard, and we were only there for 30 minutes total. That included 5 minutes of introductions, 5 minutes of set up, 15 minutes for 3 promos, and 5 minutes to tear down.

Knowing the quick time frame I knew that the set up time and gear had to be at an absolute minimum, so I brought 1 light (a Lowel 750 watt Rifa), my tripod and I shot it with the Sony FS700.


My basic set up, Lowel Rifa and Sony FS700.

I also threw up a GoPro to capture the entire shoot for a Behind the Scenes/highlight video we talked about.


GoPro shot.

It was cool meeting Richard Petty, he’s a living legend. I had his race track when I was kid. He was extremely nice and friendly. We had to rewrite some of the promos when we were there because we couldn’t get them recorded in the time frame we needed (15 second spots). Once we rewrote the promos I shot them really quickly.

Knowing we had 3 promos to shoot, I knew I wanted 3 locations. When we were at the museum there was only one place where the cars were not right beside each other and would allow for enough space.


This was the only car that had space beside it.

I picked that spot for two of the promos. I decided to shoot one on each side of the car to try and give a little variety.


To vary locations I put him on the other side of the car.

For the third one I simply turned the light and camera around to face another row of cars and a trophy case. It literally took about a minute to switch between each setup and that was great because we had very limited time.


The third location.

Richard was pretty funny, he stumbled on one line and we had to do about 20 takes of the first promo. I knew time was getting tight so I had him say one line at a time, and I went in for close ups and various angles to help cover the cuts.

It was a very simple and very quick shoot, and it was awesome meeting Richard. I would have loved to have more time, and have had more lights and possibly move some cars around, but with only 20 minutes I had to rush.

The Museum looked pretty cool, I wish I had time to look around. If you are ever near the area check it out. I managed to buy a quick souvenir, when I saw this shirt I had to buy it.


STP Shirt.

After we finished the shoot we had to drive a few hours to the Richard Petty Motorsports Garage outside of Charlotte. They were wrapping the car and we wanted to get a time-lapse of it. This was also pretty awesome. I met with Petty’s people, and once again was given some restrictions on what could be shot. Basically I couldn’t shoot any of the other cars in the garage, the engine, or anything inside the car.

I set up three time-lapse cameras. A canon 7D with a remote timer, and 2 GoPros.


Canon 7D and Intervalometer TC-80N3 for the time-lapse.

When we got there they already had the front and back hood wrapped, so I was only able to get a time-lapse of the side of the car being wrapped. It was very cool to see that being done. Depending on the car they either wrap or paint them, if they have a sponsor for the whole year they do paint. The process took about 2 hours for one side. I only recorded the one side.  They have two cars for the race, incase there is an accident. The other car was already wrapped so I got some footage of that as well.


Me shooting extra footage

I shot it in 4K with the Sony A7s and the Atomos Shogun.


Sony A7s and Atomos Shogun for 4K.

Once I was done shooting we got a tour of the facility and I was blown away. First, the place is absolutely spotless, I was thinking it was a garage and it would be a little dirty but these guys are true professionals, it was incredibly organized and clean.

The second thing that I was amazed by, was the technology. They had computers, analytics, research departments, testing areas, fabrication areas etc… It was very impressive.

I got back to the office wednesday night and started capturing the days footage. Thursday I edited two of the promos of Richard, Mike another guy I work with had edited one while we were at the shoot. I also edited the time-lapse car wrapping promo, you can watch that here. I used Twitch for the text, and I modified it a bit from the earlier version. I added Video Copilots Optical Flares to the text layer, to give the text more umphh and a cooler look.

Friday we had some more meetings and I worked with the social media team on a plan of action for the race. We also got our gear to wear. All the teams dress in the sponsored gear. I absolutely love the Petty racing jacket I got.


An awesome perk.

I got up Saturday moring at 4 am and we drove to Bristol (about 4 or 5 hours). I checked into the condo, a nice place right across from the track.

THe View from my condo.

The View from the condo.

We then went to the track to get our Hot Passes. We had to fill out some release forms, show our ID’s and register.


Signing my life away 🙂


My Hot Pass.

My Hot Pass.

Once we had the Hot Passes we went to the track to see the practice. I got some shots, and got the lay of the land.

The rest of the day was meeting all the sponsors, getting tours, taking pictures, doing meet and greets, business meetings and a little fun.

We got to meet with the Monster X-Treme Sports Exhibition team, and they let me inside the gates to film their show. Here’s a video clip I shot of it on my iPhone.


The X-treme sports guys, fun stuff.


It was pretty cool, motorcycle and four wheelers jumping. I got some cool shots, at one point I ran under the jump to get a shot of them flying over top of me.

We got back to the condo around 10:30 and I started dumping the footage, recharging batteries and making a day 1 highlight video to be released that night. I went to bed around 2am. I set my alarm for 5am so I could set up a time-lapse of the sunrise coming up over the track.


GoPro Timelapse, I forgot the tripod mount, so I used gaffers tape to mount it.

I was planning on doing a “It’s Race Day ” promo with the time-lapse. But the weather was bad, with fog and rain, and the time-lapse didn’t turn out.

We headed to track, and I shot a meet and greet with Richard Petty.

Richard Petty and I.

Richard Petty and I.

Then we went to meet the driver Sam Hornish Jr. I shot a quick promo with him, and took pictures.

Sam Hornish Jr.

Sam Hornish Jr.

We saw the car getting it’s last minute changes before it was taken for inspection. After inspection we went to pit road to see Sam get in the car and get ready for the race.

Me on Pit road, ready to start the race.

Me on Pit road, ready to start the race.

I got to sit in the Crew Chiefs area for the race, it was crazy to see how they run the race, the technology and the interaction between the driver and crew. Sadly it started raining and the race was delayed.

We went back you our base camp and waited. While we waited I started pulling footage and editing Sam’s Promo.

Base Camp.

Base Camp.

Latter that night the weather cleared and we went back to the race. This time we went to a suite and watched the race from there.

View from the Suite after the rain delay.

View from the Suite after the rain delay.

It was a cool few days at the track. It was fun to try and capture the cars going close to 200 miles per hour and keep them in focus. When I talked with everyone earlier in the week they recommended I only bring a small amount of gear, and no big lenses. So I had a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8, a Canon 100mm f2.8, and a Canon 17-55mm f2.8. I really wanted the 300mm but they thought it would be too much. After being at the race I would have been fine with it, everyone had one.

To capture the cars I had my shutter speed at 1,000th. I was usually between 5.6 and 11. I had to bump my ISO to 1,600. It worked, but I really wished I had my 300. I couldn’t get close enough with the lenses I had.


My first shot at trying to capture the car at 150mph, I really needed a longer lens.

It was fine though, because that wasn’t my main job. When it got dark it was pretty hard to get a good image from the suite, it was way too grainy.

One of my most important pieces of gear were my ear plugs. NASCAR races are incredibly loud, you can’t here anything. We used our phones and texted when we had to communicate, it was useless trying to talk.

Another cool thing they gave us was Fan Vision. It was a set of headphones and a little monitor. We could hear the driver and team talking throughout the whole race, and we could watch it on our monitors. It was pretty cool technology.

Fan Vision, you could listen to the drivers and watch the race.

Fan Vision, you could listen to the drivers and watch the race.

The race went on, and there were a few more delays. It finished under caution, which was a bit disappointing. There were a few wrecks which were exciting for the fans, but bad for the teams. Our car started in 39th and finished 19th. Not bad.

After the race, we rushed back to the condo as a huge storm came through with 50 mph winds. I started downloading the footage, and I went to bed around 1:30am, completely exhausted.

I woke up at 6am and started packing my gear. We drove home and I edited the day two wrap up video in the car on the way home. It was a pain in the ass, but I made it work. When I got back, I made a highlight video, went through all the pics and sent them to the various sponsors and people, and went home to go to bed after midnight.

It was a long week, but it was very cool. I’ll never forget it and hopefully I’ll get to shoot more races soon.

You can see a gallery of some more pics here.

No Comments Yet.

leave a comment