IMS Photo Recalls: 1972 A Rookie On Staff

Published On June 29, 2011 » 1638 Views» By admin » Blogs, IMS Photo Digitization Project

After years of “chasing race cars” as a fan, I finally got my chance to be close to the action. In 1972, I was hired to be part of the IMS Photo Staff. Wow, was I proud of that 1st Silver Badge (yes, I still have it and all the credentials I’ve earned). I was to be a weekend shooter on staff and my 1st assignment was inside turn 3 shooting side action shots.

My camera was not top of the line and I only had a 200mm and a 55 mm lens but I was ready to go and I thought I was up for the challenge. My first weekend was spent in the turn 3 area and with film, you had to wait for film to be developed so there was about a 2 or 3 day lag between shooting and seeing the results. Qualifying weekend, I was assigned to turn 2 and there for the rest of Practice and Qualifications.

Jim Hurtubise in 1972

Jim Hurtubise ready to race in 1972

On race day, I show up bright and early and to my surprise, I am assigned to shoot the Garage Area all day. I didn’t understand until I was shown my results from my month’s shots. Not quite stellar. While I was disappointed to not have a “Prime Location” to shoot, I knew that it was still better than the alternative so I worked the garages all day. I was allowed to shoot the start from the pit area but my choice for a position there turned out to be a risky venture.

'72 Pace Car

1972 Pace Car

Due to the Pace car incident in 1971, in 1972 the Pace Car driver, 1960 Indianapolis 500 winner Jim Rathmann was directed to turn in at the Chute between the Pits and the Garages rather than going to the end of the pits. Of course MY selected position was in the middle of the entrance to that area.

As I was shooting the cars going by for the start, I suddenly felt a jerk on my shoulder as someone yanked me backwards with great abandon. I was lifted off my feet and spun to the rear of my original position, completely ruining my “Start of the Race Shot”. My initial thought was to come up swinging until I realized that the Pace car turned into where I was standing.

Start of the 1972 Indy 500

Start of the 1972 race

As I gathered my thoughts, the person responsible for my missed shot asked if I was OK. It was a bearded James Garner, the actor who had saved me from being a hood ornament for the Oldsmobile Pace Car. A thankful but rather embarrassed “Rookie”, I went back into the Garage Area to collect my thoughts and continue my assignment.

James Garner in 1972

James Garner

An inauspicious beginning to my long career here at IMS. I was happy to be brought back for a 2nd year and I improved on my equipment and technique and had great assignments in years to come.

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6 comments
Marine products-
Marine products-

When someone writes an post he/she retains the image of a user in his/her mind that how a user can be aware of it. So that's why this paragraph is great. Thanks!

Jeff Downer Indianapolis
Jeff Downer Indianapolis

1972 was my first Indianapolis 500 as a spectator. I was a big Hurtubise fan and was thrilled he parked the roadster and put that old Coyote in the field. Thanks for that picture and the memories.

Col. [ret.] Mike Brawley
Col. [ret.] Mike Brawley

Great story Ron. Obviously, you have come a long way. It has been great getting to know you over the last few years.

DJ Blythe
DJ Blythe

Shinin' Times Ron! I was the Rookie Stringer 1 month out of the Navy, 'working' for Chuck Robinson, the Rookie Staffer at the AP in 1972. I remembered pitying you with your 4x5 Speed Graphic, but those boat anchors made beautiful photographs! I was "Put" in Turn 2 by Chuck, next to Slim's Fire Truck & across from the large green observer's stand where the suites would be built in 73. My Hero & Mentor was Tom Dick, Staff Stringer with the Star, when he was able to play hooky from Allison’s. We didn't make any money, but we sure had a lot of fun going broke! If I could put in a print with my old Army Campaign Hat you might even remember me, but better still would be the photo you shot of me ‘enjoying’, (roasting), thru NASCAR practice from ‘Pit-Out’ with my "Stop-Go" paddle sign, & IMS Old-School Sun Helmet. Those 25 years on the IMS Fire Dept. were really what I did best. You Sir, are the Master Photographer at IMS!

Scott Gauger
Scott Gauger

And the rest is history! Ron was the man that told me how to shoot a proper race photo at speed in turn 1 at Indy!! Some folks say hey great photo! Thanks RON!!!