A Pilot’s inside look at IndyCar

By Brennan Crowder | September 16, 2019 11:45am
Beacon photographer Brennan Crowder spent the weekend of Aug. 30 through Sep. 1 at the Grand Prix of Portland, getting an inside look of life in the IndyCar racing world.
Media Credit: Brennan Crowder / The Beacon

Only four miles from The Bluff lies Portland International Raceway, home to cars, screaming engines and high-octane fuel. PIR hosted the Grand Prix of Portland on Sept. 1, which is the penultimate race in the NTT IndyCar series.

IndyCar is a single-seat, open-wheel racing series that 22 drivers race wheel-to-wheel around superspeedways (like NASCAR ovals), road courses (like PIR) and temporary street circuits (where they pencil in a racetrack on city streets) throughout the U.S. and Canada. 

The cars stand a mere 40 inches off the ground, weigh about 1,600 pounds, and make an ear-splitting 700 horsepower from 2.2 liter V6 turbocharged engines made by either Honda or Chevrolet. The cars are so loud that they could clearly be heard from campus over the weekend.

As a photographer for The Beacon, I have the opportunity to shoot some pretty amazing events. Shooting the Grand Prix of Portland was the coolest photo opportunity I have ever had. I was granted trackside access to cover the race, the only thing standing between myself and an IndyCar doing 200 miles per hour down the front straightaway was a few inches of concrete, sometimes less than that.

I was also invited to photograph the garage of Colton Herta, a 19-year-old rookie driving for Harding Steinbrenner Racing. I shadowed him for most of the weekend, taking pictures in the pit lane as he went fastest in practice and qualified first. I was also one of the few photographers that granted access to a “Race Mode” endorsement, which gave me exclusive access to the pitlane during the race. 

At first, it was intimidating to think about not only being the youngest photographer on the grid by far but also having to push elbows and jockey for shots with professional photographers that work for NBCSN, IndyCar itself, OregonLive and ESPN among others. That said, it was inspiring to know that I was able to compete at the same level with far less experience and far inferior equipment.

I’ve said enough, I think it’s time for my photos to tell the rest of the story.

Brennan Crowder is a photographer at The Beacon. He can be reached at crowder22@up.edu