Working with Tony Kanaan

Recently I have had one incredible opportunity to work with professional Indy Car driver Tony Kanaan for two stops along the 2013 IZOD Indy Car Series. I was brought on by James Sullivan, owner of Team SH Racing to be the team’s photographer back in April right before the Long Beach Grand Prix. I flew out to California and got to start a new relationship with the KV Racing/Team SH Racing team and their driver Tony Kanaan. My main objective while shooting for them is to capture a day in and day out about life at the track. From the team working in the garage, TK’s millions of interviews, and the action on the track, it was an extremely fun yet exhausting 3 days in the beautiful weather of Southern California. Aside from the 3500 photos I shot there was in one particular that I went a little out of my realm. Having recently been inspired by an article on Mamiya Leaf about a Motorsports photographer who created these CGI like racing shots with his medium format digital camera. I was able to walk away with this image of the #11 car which I was extremely psyched about.

 

 

Tony Kanaan Long Beach Grand Prix 2013

Tony Kanaan Long Beach Grand Prix 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weekend was one I would never forget but what was in store after this is something that is a once in a lifetime opportunity and one I am truly honored to have been apart of.

2 weeks after the Long Beach Grand Prix I received a text from my contact Eric at SH. He asked me if I would be able to come out to Indy for qualifying weekend as well as the Indy 500. Without any hesitation, I replied with a yes and planned for what was to be an incredible two weekends. Qualifying weekend rolled around and I headed out Friday morning to start my first weekend at the track. Following TK around and covering whats going on in the garage is a very fast paced job, constantly on the go, running back and forth to this and that, and to anyone who has been to IMS knows it is not very easy to get around on foot. The overall size is just outrageous. So Friday and Saturday went by and on Sunday I was given a very special chance to shoot not 1 but 2 Indy Cars for a promotional shot for N.O. XPLODE with the #11 and #22 car. They closed of part of the garage paddock and allowed me 10 minutes to shoot 8 different angles of the cars at the fueling station. Pretty sweet to have had that chance to be on stage to shoot 2 amazing cars. While I was shooting this I also managed to grab angles of TK’s car that I wanted to use for an image I had been planning since Friday morning. I snapped the angles and as soon as this shoot was done I was able to head back to Chicago. I finished up what was needed for the team and got to work and yet another image that I have recently added to my portfolio. Big thanks to my buddy Richard Thompson for guidance on this image, he definitely helped get it where I wanted it and his advice really helped a ton. Check out his work at www.rvt3.net!

 

 

2013 Indy 500 Champion: Tony Kanaan

2013 Indy 500 Champion: Tony Kanaan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I instantly got a bunch of prints done of this shot for members of the team and TK to give to them the following weekend.

Race weekend rolled around and my step dad and I packed up our car and headed out super early Friday morning. We got to the track and the atmosphere was just incredible. Nothing like I had ever seen before, this was the holy grail of racing. This was the Indy 500 and I was going to be covering it with one of the best drivers in the sport. The weekend was just as hectic if not more crazy then the previous one, a lot needed to be covered and the crowds of people made navigating not any easier. I showed the team members the prints and they loved them, I was waiting to give TK his copy but we decided that we would do it post race in front of everyone at the team’s trailer. Saturday night had everyone anxious for the race and we left the track with a good feeling about the next day

Now it is race day and we arrived at the track at 5:30am so we could beat the traffic getting into the track. over 400,000 people attended the race and it was a very anxious day. Everyone was getting ready for the race so we got done what we needed to and then it was time to grid. Being on the grid at IMS is pretty incredible. When ¬†you are there you see the massive amounts of people that are there to witness one of the greatest races. I snapped a tons of pictures for all the sponsors and got to experience Indy at its fullest. As the track went hot we were asked to leave the field. Since I was brought on so late I was not cleared to get a hot pit pass to shoot the race so the team was able to get stepdad and myself tickets on the front straight, they told me to just enjoy and watch. Little did we know that a few hours later we would all be celebrating in victory lane…

As the race went on it was a back and forth battle between everyone. It was the most recorded lap changes in Indy 500 history, it was truly and incredible and clean race. With 5 laps to go when the race restart happened was about to happen I turned to my stepdad and said we have to get to victory circle. It was too close to call so we ran and heard TK had taken the lead in the restart and with 3 laps to go Dario hit the wall bringing out the safety car and TK sealed his Indy 500 win!! I was right by victory lane when I saw one of the team members who pulled me through the barricade and into the mayhem that was unfolding. I tried to grab as much as I could while pushing my way through the people. Everyone was so happy it was just awesome to see that kind of excitement. Tony had just won the Indy 500 and I was there to document this experience for them. It was just one awesome experience that I will never forget. After everything was over it started to rain and we headed back to the hospitality trailer where everyone was celebrating and waiting for Tk to arrive.. and so was I because I was supposed to show him a print in front of everyone..

Sulli pulled me aside and told me that he needed me to stay an extra day to shoot the victory photos the next morning.. My stepdad needed to get back home so he took the car and I was stranded in Indy.. haha. Once everyone cleared out and we packed up the trailer, I was able to personally give TK his gift and congratulate him on his victory. He told me he really liked the image and that he had saw I posted it online! Pretty sweet to hear that from the Indy 500 Champion!! I stayed the extra night and got a flight back home the next day once all the pictures were done. We got to the track early next morning and I was able to get all the pictures needed from the victory photos and wrapped up at IMS and the mayhem of the Indy 500. I said goodbye to everyone and headed to the airport, I got there super early and got a bunch of work done and sent off to the team and got on my extremely short flight home and knocked out the work and then had some fun with some of my favorite images to date!

 

2013 Indy 500 Champion: Tony Kanaan

2013 Indy 500 Champion: Tony Kanaan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony Kanaan 2013 Indy 500 Champion

Tony Kanaan 2013 Indy 500 Champion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is an experience I will never forget and an incredible opportunity to be a part of such an awesome team! I want to thank them a ton for allowing me to be a part of it! Big thanks to James Sullivan, Eric Labao, Jimmy Vasser, Kevin Kalkhoven for bringing me aboard and thanks to David Byrd ,and Rick Darnell for getting me in touch with them, I seriously can’t thank you enough.

Hope you have enjoyed this story about my experience getting to be the official photographer for the #11 Indy car driven by Tony Kanaan. So far it has been pretty awesome! Great team to work with and well deserved victory at the Indy 500! Be on the lookout for more from KV Racing and Team SH Racing in the future!

-Matt