A local photographer rubs shoulders with the best of the race on the pit lane | News, Sports, Jobs

Photos courtesy Michael Waltrip’s pit crew rushes to refuel, change tires and make adjustments to Napa Auto Parts’ #15 Chevy in a photo taken by Kathleen Asheton, who was a track photographer. Ashton now has a home in Alcona County.

ALPENA — From the mid-1990s to 2005, Alcona County resident Kathleen Asheton held a job that many sports enthusiasts would sell their souls for.

She was a pit photographer covering NASCAR races across the country and captured images of some of the sport’s legendary drivers and their cars’ memorable paint schemes.

The story of how she landed the gig is one of luck, determination and adventure.

Asheton said she became a fan of the sport through a friend. While attending her first race at Michigan International Speedway, she inadvertently entered the garage and began taking pictures, unaware that the area was not open to fans.

She took photos of some of NASCAR’s most famous faces, then walked out to her car, but when she tried to return, security at the gate she had entered earlier denied her access. The experience motivated her to do what it took to become a familiar face behind the scenes on the tour.

Dale Earnhardt poses next to his car in a photo taken by Kathleen Asheton when she was a photographer covering NASCAR.

“It all started as a fan and I went to the Michigan race and waltzed right into the garage and started taking pictures of Rusty (Wallace) and the guys,” she said. declared. “That was the day I decided to get degrees so I could do it all the time.”

Asheton said she went to other race tracks such as Pocono, Daytona and Talladega and others, and continued to pursue her dream by doing whatever it took to get on the pitroad.

She said drivers and pit crews got to know her over time and she was eventually approached by photo editor for publication Winston Cup Scene who asked her for some of her photo work. The publishers were impressed and soon she received the credentials she craved.

Asheton said Rusty Wallace was his favorite driver and was able to take photos of him and many other Hall of Fame drivers. There was one driver, however, who was slow to get into the viewfinder and capture his image.

That pilot was the legendary Dale Earnhardt.

Rusty Wallace, left, chats with Kevin Harvick in a photo taken by Kathleen Asheton. Harvick replaced Dale Earnhardt in the Chevrolet GM Goodwrench after Earnhardt was killed in a shipwreck in 2001.

Asheton said she had formed a relationship with members of The Intiminator crew and that Dale Sr. would often say hello to her and recognize her when passing.

Little did she know that Earnhardt was going to make sure to take a once-in-a-lifetime photo.

One day, while reporters and photographers were doing business near the car starting with pole position, it remained next to the famous black No. 3 Chevrolet. Unexpectedly, Earnhardt arrived and allowed Asheton to take his picture.

“All of a sudden this body jumped over the wall and it was Dale,” she said. “I went and stood by the car and posed just for me. All the other photographers started running but he jumped in his car and drove off. Dale was a bit elusive but he got to know me from me hanging out. It was a big deal for anyone to have Dale Earnhardt’s eye.

In 2001, Earnhardt was killed on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Asheton said she was in Daytona for Speedweeks, but was not on the pitroad on race day. Instead, she was at home when the sinking happened and she quickly knew the outcome was not going to be good.

Michael Waltrip, left, visits Dale Earnhardt Jr. during a race timeout.

“When Kenny Schrader pulled over and walked over to Dale’s car and started asking for help, I knew it,” he said. “It was a huge loss that I never got over.”

While on the racetrack, Asheton was able to capture action shots of racing pit crews to quickly get their driver’s car back on the track, and more intimate shots of the drivers. She clicked photos of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, Bill Elliott and many more.

She said that in 2005 she quit her job as a photographer because her mother fell ill and needed help. However, she still enjoys taking pictures, especially at rock concerts, parades, and other events.

Dale Earnhardt’s crew walk beside their car as Earnhardt sits in the driver’s seat waiting to race.

Bill Elliott, left, plays with his son Chase as Jeff Gordon looks on. Today, Chase Elliott is a NASCAR driver and has 17 career wins.


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