This entry is one in a continuing series which discusses the images from the IndyCar.com photo gallery. This entry reviews the story behind a photo taken at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 16, 2011.
At each IZOD IndyCar event, it is not unusual for us to shoot photos of celebrities. On some occasions, the celebrities are there are to promote their latest television show, movie or album. Other times, it may be a local celebrity or sports star who is there to cross-promote another event in the area. Some examples this season include Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey Player Vincent Lecavalier, who exchanged jerseys with Alex Tagliani at St. Petersburg, 2003 American Idol Winner Ruben Studdard who sang the National Anthem at Barber, and Chef/TV Host Gordon Ramsay who was the Grand Marshall at Long Beach.
During IndyCar Qualifying at Long Beach, I went out to an area we refer to as the “peninsula.” From this area, you can see the cars after they exit turn 9, work through turn 10, and take the final hairpin corner as they head down the main straight. As I walked towards the hairpin, I noticed a photographer was on one knee shooting through one of the photo holes. Some people have to lean over a little to shoot through the photo holes, but I have never seen a photographer so tall that they had to get down on one knee to shoot.
As I got a closer, I realized who it was. It was retired Major League Baseball pitcher Randy Johnson whose nickname is “The Big Unit.” For those of you not familiar with Randy, he was in the Major Leagues for 22 seasons. He was a 10 time all-star and a 5 time Cy Young award winner (awarded to the top pitcher in his League). During his career, he threw 2 no-hitters including a perfect game, and he was co-winner of the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 2001. Also, he stands 6 feet 10 inches, thus the need to get down on a knee to shoot through the photo hole.
I had the opportunity to talk to Randy during a break in qualifying. He wasn’t there to promote anything; he was simply there to be one of us – a credentialed event photographer. Randy took photo journalism classes while he was at USC, and since his retirement from baseball after the 2009 season, he re-discovered his passion for photography. I learned this was his first time to shoot an IndyCar event, but he has shot a NASCAR race and an NHRA event. We talked a little about his minor league days with the Indianapolis Indians, and he said while he was with the Indians he attended an Indy 500 practice session.
Randy, if you happen to read this, we are glad you joined us at Long Beach, and we hope you enjoyed the weekend. Leave a message below if you’re interested in sharing some of the photos you shot over Long Beach weekend with our fans on IndyCar.com.