Photographer Michael C Johnson tells the full story of how he caught the massive Scott Dixon/Jay Howard crash in this year’s Indianapolis 500…
This was my 36th Indianapolis 500. I have shot from every corner, and the end of the front straight, but never have I had an experience like this year.
I decided since the Vice President, Mike Pence, was attending, and that photographers were not allowed on the roof of the Turn 2 suites, I would shoot from the top of the Turn 2 grandstands. I might be able to get a unique shot of the VP watching the start of the race.
The race had settled into a rhythm and I noticed that the snake-pit stage had flames shooting out that I could see from Turn 2. I would have actually have missed this entire sequence if I had focused on trying to get the fire shot a couple of laps later...
As chance would have it, I got the fire shot I wanted and was actually waiting on Scott Dixon to come through Turn 1 and the south short chute, as I wanted a close shot of him coming into Turn 2.
I was using a Canon 100-400mm lens and caught Jay Howard sliding toward the wall in the viewfinder. Dixon was coming into Turn 1, so I focused on Dixon to see if he could miss Howard and before I knew it, the entire sequence had happened.
When the car became airborne I knew that this could be really big. The entire time I just kept telling myself, “I hope this is in focus, I hope this is in focus!”
I took 105 images in the entire sequence.
Immediately after the accident I wanted to make sure that both drivers had exited their cars. Once I saw everyone was OK, I made my way out of the Turn 2 grandstands and walked as fast as I could to the media center.
When I downloaded the images I knew that it was indeed the experience of a lifetime in all my years of shooting at Indy...