“There was certainly an element of danger…”

Getty Images photographer Chris Trotman has shot hundreds of NASCAR races, but he never witnessed a scene like this.

“Sports photography is all about being in the right place at the right time and being ready with your camera — you never know what incredible moment you’re going to be able to capture.”

The day he took this photo, which features prominently in the Getty Images 2015 Year In Focus book, Trotman had been covering the pit stops of the race leaders at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway. When he heard that 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski’s car was pulling in, he got into position at the front of the pit stop.

“Brad’s car came hurtling into his pit box, his brakes locked up and he barreled into his pit crew,” Trotman said. “The front left wheel crewman had to jump up in the air to avoid having his legs taken out and, rather elegantly, landed on the hood of the car. The wheel he was carrying bounced off the hood of the car and ended up 75 yards down the pit road.”

The jackman’s fall wasn’t as graceful.

“He was clipped by the car and his legs and car jack went flying in the air,” he said. “He was lucky that the 25 pound metal jack didn’t land on his head.”

After the collision, Keselowski immediately reversed the car and his crew got back on their feet and finished the pit stop. He then screeched off, apologizing to his crew over the radio and ended up finishing second in the race behind Matt Kenseth.

“Fortunately everyone was okay,” Trotman said. “The crew guys are usually ex-athletes and are extremely fit with incredible reflexes.

“There was certainly an element of danger and people were shocked and horrified when tire smoke appeared and the crew went flying,” he said. “But that was quickly replaced with excitement at having witnessed an incredible moment and being fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”

Trotman knew he had captured a really unique moment and had a great sequence of pictures, but he knew from his 20 years as a professional sports photographer that there could always be a better moment coming.  He dropped off his card with his editors and went straight back onto the track to get ready for the next shot.

“You always have to be ready,” he said. “The unexpected could happen in the blink of an eye.”

 

See all best sport photography from 2015. Explore our Year In Focus, available on iBooks.