I went to a race, and an earthquake broke out

Pirelli World Challenge and IndyCar photographer David Yowe talks about his earthquake experience this past weekend at Sonoma Raceway.

I was in Northern California to photograph the Indy Car and Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma this past weekend.

The track is located amongst rolling hills which form a natural amphitheater. 

Saturday I was thinking how picturesque the track is and briefly thought about the natural forces that occurred over the millennia that shaped them (guess it was the scientist in me).

I was staying at a hotel in Vallejo and got to bed late Saturday night.

However, early Sunday morning something woke me. It took me several seconds to realize it was an Earthquake! Not sure how long it lasted, but all I could remember was saying to myself, "I hope it doesn't get worse and hope it stops soon".

Thank goodness the earthquake did stop soon, then I fell back to sleep. When I got up, everything looked okay.

Away from the epicentre

The only sign of the earthquake were a couple of small items on the floor. The first moment I realized the earthquake was more damaging was when my wife called me. She mentioned the Napa-Sonoma County was hit by a magnitude 6.1 earthquake. Then I checked online and saw a Facebook message from Motorsport.com which showed photos taken by an Indy Car driver of the damage done to his hotel room, and how it was his "scariest moment".

It wasn't until I went for breakfast that I realized the extent of the damage the earthquake caused.

On TV there were buildings collapsed, fires, and water line breaks. Checked online again, and got another Facebook message saying Sonoma Raceway is okay. I also saw many Facebook messages to friends asking "are you okay?".

The power of social media to spread the word is amazing. When I got to the Sonoma Raceway media center, the main topic of discussion was the earthquake and the recounting of what happened. There were those who experienced the earthquake with no damage, but others who were close to the epicenter recounted their experiences.

One photographer mentioned how there was no power or water at his hotel, and how water was thrown from the pool. Despite this, he took a swim to have a "bath" before heading to the track since the hotel showers didn't work. However, it didn't take long for all the photographers in the media center to get back to work and prepare themselves to cover the Indy Car and PWC races. As they say "the race must go on".

One last thing, made myself a mental note to take the painting down that was hanging over my hotel bed, just in case there was another earthquake.

David Yowe is a motorsports photographer based out of Boston. He covers the Pirelli World Challenge and IndyCar series for Motorsports.com

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Event Sonoma
Track Sonoma Raceway
Article type Commentary
Tags california, david yowe, earthquake, photographer, state of emergency