"THERE ARE no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs," the late Ansel Adams, one of the world's most celebrated photographers, once said. Adams didn't attend any NASCAR races as far as we know, but we're certain he'd appreciate the powerful images that fill this issue. With the NASCAR fan in mind, our Year in Pictures issue offers a visual ride through 2004. It includes photographs from every Nextel Cup race--from Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s thrilling win at the Daytona 500 through the 10-race Chase for the Championship and its denouement at Homestead. With NASCAR introducing a new format this year, it seemed the best way to cover the evolution of the season would be to do so visually, as if we were making a film of the year.
The role of Martin Scorsese for this enterprise was filled by photo editor Jeff Weig, who looked at more than 60,000 images during the season. Weig estimates that for every Nextel Cup race, he and assistant photo editor Kari Stein went through at least 1,500 pictures. Other features in the issue lent themselves to the visual as well. Photographers Bob Donnan and Travis Bell offered a sneak peak behind the scenes at the making of the film 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story (page 76), which airs on ESPN on Dec. 11.
If, as Adams said, there are no rules for photography, what was Weig looking for? "Something that I'd never seen," he says. Weig's favorite image in the issue is George Tiedemann's overhead view (pages 48-49) of Ryan Newman from the Dover race in September. "George shot it from an enclosed suite over the track that very few people had been allowed access to," says Weig of the photo. "It gives you the feeling of the cars passing beneath you. It's an incredible rush." As are the nearly 150 other photographs in this issue.