You’re watching the streets

Posted on: April 16, 2011 | Comments(15) | Flickr, Race Tracks | By: Daniel

Sunrise in Long Beach

Sunrise at Long Beach

My favorite type of track happens to be street circuits. You may disagree and I hope you let me know why. I like urban environments. I like that our drivers are racing around concrete, surrounded by walls, speeding by hotels, restaurants and parking garages. I love that street circuits are unforgiving. And I love that street circuits are usually in pretty cool locations (St. Pete, Long Beach, Sao Paolo, Toronto, Baltimore on this year’s schedule) – not to mention circuits from other Series’ like Monaco, Singapore, Macau, Surfer’s Paradise, Trois Rivieres and more. That atmosphere at these events always feels intense – it must have something to do with the heat, the concrete, the number of fans, the coming together of an event that is defined as temporary. Temporary street circuit.

Circuit Singapore Grand Prix, F1 night race, Formula 1 (

F1 in Singapore (from Flickr user YourSingapore)

I also happen to love photography from these events. Where else can you capture palm trees with high speed cars? Drivers using the curbs to bounce into a corner. The colors of the chassis’ illuminated by the reflection of the light. And the sun causing unique shadows. In theory street circuits are unconventional. Photography serves to reveal that. It’s what we’re doing this weekend at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Simona de Silvestro

Wasn't kidding about the shadows

Part of my job this weekend is to sift through hundreds of images. We look for pictures to post to, our Flickr page, INDYCAR Nation and our media site. It’s one of my favorite parts the job.

Morning practice

Cars stream through an actual street

Some of the images make me think about the photographic process. What settings did they use? Why did they chose that location? How did they get even get to that location? Photographers definitely think outside the box.

Takuma Sato with speed

Takuma Sato and the streets

The shots from above on a street circuit are cool. Everyday buildings or hotels provide perfect platforms for photographers to capture a unique vantage point. And honestly, who doesn’t love a good palm tree.

Danica Patrick with the shadows

Danica Patrick passing through palm tree shadows

So when you watch the race on Sunday (4:30pm ET on Versus) consider the different views you experience. This entire track came together this week. On Monday after the race, barriers, fences, curbs and signage will start coming down. Honda powered IndyCar’s will be replaced with Honda Accord’s and other street cars. That’s what I love about street circuits. They’re unconventional and temporary.

But we at least have the photos to show that it all came together, temporarily for the weekend.

A beautiful morning in Long Beach, California

Temporary street circuit


There are 15 comments for this post.

  1. David Williams on April 16, 2011 8:58 pm
    David Williams

    I agree with everything you’ve said, but there are still ways that only ovals can be exciting. For instance: the in-car side-camera shots of Danica battling wheel to wheel with all those cars she passed in last year’s Texas race (one headline the next morning read “Danica Goes Toe To Toe With The Big Boys”) and with Ryan Briscoe in last year’s Homestead race, weaving dangerously back and forth, tires almost touching, at 220 mph. Or the shots of a stream of cars at speed streaking past the camera (and whatever happened to the cameras that were embedded in the track so that the cars flew toward you and flashed right over the top of you?). Back when Formula 1 was still racing on real roads and real streets and not on tracks built to eliminate all risk and to make passing almost impossible, I loved to watch road course races.

  2. Elton Alwine on April 16, 2011 11:11 pm
    Elton Alwine

    Great post, Daniel. As a resident of Baltimore, I’m ecstatic that Indycar is coming To My Backyard! I think I’ve always been more of a “streets” guy, so this is just a dream. For the first time in my life I’m anticipating watching every race on the schedule, while hoping that Baltimore will make Indycar it’s home much like Long Beach has for so long, and that this city embraces this amazing event.

    Great photos too, by the way.

  3. Trixie Racer on April 17, 2011 11:00 am
    Trixie Racer

    We love Takuma… but can we just start calling him “crash” now? <3

  4. Chris Farrell on April 17, 2011 11:52 am
    Chris Farrell

    It also depends on your perspective. If you are a professional, with the kind of access that comes with a press pass, temporary street circuits are indeed great. But as an amateur, I find my hometown race at St. Petersburg very frustrating. The flat topography means you have to shoot almost everything through 2 layers of chain link fence. You can shoot from the grandstands, but seats are reserved, so wherever your ticket is, that will be your only vantage point.

    On the other hand, I have gone to both of the races at Barber Motorsports, and the layout there has resulted in some fantastic shots for me.

  5. Dan F on April 17, 2011 12:12 pm
    Dan F

    I prefer ovals.

  6. rich on April 17, 2011 12:26 pm

    Some of the best images I’ve seen from Indycar photographers. Who shot these?

  7. Dick Smith on April 17, 2011 1:06 pm
    Dick Smith

    I couldn’t disagree more. But I do readily agree that your photo’s of street racing give a totally different perspective and context to the racing. I dislike the streets for the closed in, restrictive tunnels they provide. Both ovals and road courses provide a sometime limited run off or recovery area. Street courses are like to proverbial airplane races in the blimp hanger. I purchased the best seats in the house for the first Houston street race. We got to witness the cars for 7 seconds each lap. Houston officals were beside themselves when I wouldn’t renew. If you must use the streets, at least have the decency to run FV’s.

  8. Admin on April 17, 2011 1:38 pm
    Blog Admin

    These images were taken by our talented IndyCar and LAT Photo USA team of photographers. The fun part of the job is selecting from their beautiful shots.

  9. Pat on April 17, 2011 2:24 pm

    Ovals like Chicago, Texas & Kansas

  10. NaBUru38 on April 17, 2011 3:38 pm

    I’ve probably been to more street races than to permanent road races, mostly because there are few road courses here in Uruguay and lots of street races at beautiful places. You can check pictures plus comments in Spanish here (

  11. Brian Watson on April 17, 2011 3:49 pm
    Brian Watson

    I miss Long beach. What a gret city and awesome race..

  12. Mike on April 17, 2011 7:56 pm

    No, “(y)our drivers are [NOT] racing around concrete, surrounded by walls, speeding by hotels, restaurants and parking garages.” …Street-circuit events aren’t “races.” Your drivers are driving fast around those things, but they’re not racing. And this feature article, replete with pretty pictures (a few of which should have better lighting and color), is an example of why the IndyCar Series continues to have a hard time attracting consistent fans in appreciable numbers. There is no emphasis on racing.

    Street circuit events rely on a good qualifying time. If that gets botched at all, the rest of one’s “race” has to rely on the luck of flags. The Monaco street-circuit event will forever be one the most revered “races” in the world – even though there is no racing… EVER. Why is it famous? Well, it’s populated by rich or otherwise highly privileged people. They’re not race fans; they’re EVENT fans, which is what many privileged photographers and other credentialed people are.

    As a poster hinted, most folks who even get to be AT a street-circuit “race” don’t get to see the “race.” I never see one on TV, either.

    (P.S. – I hate NASCAR. But hey, you have to admit that they’re marketing geniuses.)

  13. ales on April 18, 2011 1:22 am

    street races are awesome there is beautiful city back drops exciting atmosphere and for mr Mike uuuh mike conway passing 2 cars in the final laps of a race in long beach is int racing? reely? second NASCAR is not a marketing genius organization they only got where they are today because of the open wheel split.

    and lastly street racing is an art just like oval racing or road course racing or racing on airport circuits just as challenging just a bit different. all of these styles of racing can be just as boring at times as exciting its all racing and if you dont like it watch fat taxi cabs crash into each other like the rest of the jack danials drikin panzies.

  14. Turbo on April 20, 2011 7:51 pm

    I could not agree more – street races are beautiful things and Long Beach is the king. Every year I travel from the other side of the county to attend the Long Beach GP, and will continue to do so as long as the good citizens of Long Beach put up with it and will accept my money (and if it were ever canceled, it would be the worst thing to happen to American racing since “the split”). The race this year was incredible (who expected that ending!) , the weather was good as always, and you just can’t understand the atmosphere the whole weekend unless you’ve been there.

    Let’s face it – if you’ve seen one high-banked 1.5 mile D-oval, you’ve seen them all. Yes, there’s a place for them, but we don’t need any more on the calendar. Street races all have their own personalities. I just someone would fix Toronto so half the race wasn’t spent under yellow.

    And did I mention Long Beach rules!

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