Blind Boys and Bug-Eyed Idiots

With all the news these days about NASCAR’s “boys having at it”, namely Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya mixing it up at Richmond and then the spectacularly entertaining Kyle Busch vs. Kevin Harvick dust-up at Darlington, my mind drifts back to some of the more humorous NASCAR scuffles down through the years.

Since the 1960’s I’ve missed only a handful of Daytona 500’s, one of which was the 1979 event which featured the famous last lap crash and subsequent rumble between the Alison brothers and Cale Yarborough. After listening to that race on the radio, I vowed to never skip another Daytona 500 and, in fact, I’ve only missed one since then. It’s sentiments like these that NASCAR banks on to bring fans to the racetrack, and so while they punish the fighters on the one hand, they are actually quite thrilled with the free PR that goes along with any on-track run-ins.

I find it amusing how these fights unfold and what it tells you about the drivers and there senses of humor, or lack there-of.

A few years ago after Sterling Marlin and Greg Biffle crossed paths during a race at Watkins Glen, a radio reporter caught up Marlin in the garage and asked him what happened. I still remember Sterling’s amusing reply: “I got wrecked by a bug-eyed idiot!”, reported Sterling.

Similarly, after a Kyle Petty-Bobby Hillin Jr., encounter during the 1993 Daytona 500 resulted in a pit road confrontation (see photo above), some asked Kyle Petty what happened. “Don’t know”, said Kyle, “Go ask the ‘blind boy’ in the 90 car”. Inferring the Hillin, who drove the #90 Ford T-bird at the time, was having trouble seeing his way around the speedway. It is also interesting to note that Bobby elected to keep his helmet in place, while Kyle entered the fray unprotected.

I’ve also noticed that some driver/fighters prefer strapped-in, stationary targets, as when Michael Waltrip poked Lake Speed through the window net as he sat in his race car or who can forget the Jimmy Spencer’s through-the-window punch at Kurt Busch after a Michigan run-in.

Other drivers take aim at moving targets, as when Robby Gordon nailed Michael Waltirp’s car with his helmet as it passed by him after he climbed from his wrecked race car at New Hampshire.

More recently, The Kyle Busch-Kevin Harvick Darlington bout was telling in that Harvick was eventually willing to climb from his mount and stalk back to confront Busch before he climbed from his car. Kyle, however, wanted no part of that and drove off, although he had to shove Kevin’s driverless car out of the way to do so. No matter who you sided with in that incident, you have to admit that the sight of the #29 Budweiser Chevy rolling nose first into the pit wall was fairly amusing once we determined that no one had bee injured as a result.

So, while the racing is good, and all want to know who wins each weekend, the periferal action keeps us coming back for more and also makes for good photos!


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Fall Foliage and Fast Cars

2010 VIR Grand-Am October testing - Images by Brian Cleary

I’ve been carrying cameras to the racetrack for more than 30 years and will be the first to tell you that yes, there are worse ways to make a living. But after all these years I’ll also be the first to admit that sometimes the cars and tracks and photos all start to look the same. That’s why an occasional assignment like my recent trip to Virginia International Raceway to photograph the Grand-Am Rolex Series test session makes fro a pleasant diversion from the usual grind.

That’s because a trip to VIR in the fall means colorful backgrounds in the form of fall foliage as the local leaves change color. It’s a rare opportunity to incorporate beautiful scenery into the photos of fast cars that I taking.

Time break out the slightly shorter lenses and back off the action a little to include the multi-colored trees lining the straightaway, shoot the cars as they pass by the bright red barnyard-style building in the background and be sure to get shots of the cars racing under the old Oak Tree where it hangs out over the racetrack. I got an extra bonus at this test, we also had a mix of fog and rain at various times over the two days we were there, which allowed for an even greater variety of photos.

So remember on your next trip to the track to avoid the tunnel vision syndrome which encourages you zoom in tight on the cars and take a step back. Look carefully at your backgrounds and surroundings and work them into the photos when the opportunity presents itself.


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Cale, Baby!

Pretty much all the interests in my life were handed down to me from my father, including my loves of auto racing and photography, both of which play a big role in my ability to make a living. When we relocated from Massachusetts to Daytona Beach , Florida in 1964, my dad immediately started taking me to all the races at the speedway. Over the next few years, we each developed our own favorite drivers. I became a huge Fred Lorenzen fan, the first driver to give me an autograph, while my dad evolved into a fan of the hard-charging Timmonsville, SC driver and curent NASACR Hall of Fame nominee Cale Yarborough, or “Cale Baby” as he called him. I had to admit his driver was not a bad choice.

Together we watched Cale win his first Daytona 500 in 1968 with the Wood Brothers, sandwiched between a pair of Firecracker 400 Daytona summer victories. We watched as he and Junior Johnson dominated the Winston Cup series in the 70’s and witnessed a total of 8 wins by Cale at Daytona through 1983. Yarborough, in fact, won the 1983 Daytona 500 after crashing his primary car on a 200 mph qualifying lap. It was the final Daytona 500 of my dad’s life, as he passed away in 1983. I continued to carry a soft spot in my heart for Cale over the remaining few years of his career as he kept on winning races in his hard charging style right up to his retirement. When the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2011 is announced on Wednesday, it would do itself proud to include Cale Yarborough, “Cale Baby!”

You can view a selection of Cale Yarborough photos on at:

Cale Yarborough Photos on


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Motorsports Flashback: Tony Stewart Wins Disney Indy 200

Disney Indy 200, January 1998 - Images by Brian Cleary

It's January 1998 and a young Tony Stewart has just raced to victory in the Disney Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway in Florida.

Relive the day in a new photo gallery posted on at:

Whether you’re a writer, editor or publisher searching for editorial stock, a webmaster in need of visual content, a scale modeler in search of reasonilbly priced reference prints or simply a race fan browsing the web for photos of the glory days of yesteryear, check out the thousands of photos at is the online photo archive of Florida based freelance photographer Brian Cleary and features galleries of NASCAR, Indy Car and Sports car racing photos from the 1980's through today.


Brian Cleary/


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Bobby Allison: Leader of the "Alabama Gang"

This is the first installment of my impressions of some of the newest nominees for NASCAR's Hall of Fame. As a kid growing up in the 60's and 70's , these are people who I viewed as a young NASCAR fan and, later, as a photojournalist covering the sport.

As I grew up following NASCAR in Daytona Beach, Florida in the 1960's I had no shortage of heros in the sport. There was Cale Yrborough, who was always a fovorite of my dad, there was Richard Petty, who almost everyone loved (I remember watching the grandstands empty at one late '60's Daytona 500 after Petty had blown his engine mid-way through the event), and then there was Bobby Allison, who I kind of viewed as a hard-working everyman. It was hard for me to root agaiinst Allison. I remember going to church with my family at St. Paul's Catholic Church in Daytona the morning of the 500 and seeing Bobby with his wife and kids attending mass before heading out to the speedway. That always left a bif impression on me. While he lost some fans through his famous fued with Richard Petty, I was always impressed in his determination to stand up for what he felt was right against event the biggest names int he sport.

As a young photographer I watched him work patiently, yet sternly with his young son as Davey prpared for his first ARCA race at Daytona (driving one of Bobby's old AMC Martadors, no less).

Later I watched Davey visit Bobby in victory lane after his father won races and, conversely, Bobby visit Davey after any of Davey's wins. You can't hide or fae genuine mutual respect between a father and son and I belive that tells a lot about a man.

One of the few Daytona 500's I missed since the mid-60's was the 1988 race when Bobby outraced Davey to victory lane and I've always felt badly about missing that race.

In my view, Bobby Allison is a man who belongs in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on many levels.

To view my ever-growing archive of Bobby Allison editorial stock photography, be sure to visit :

Bobby Allison photography on


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