Story of a Race

When I first became a feature producer, my coordinating producer, Neil “Sully” Sullivan, pitched me on a different kind of highlight video. He had this singular vision: race day as seen from the POV of the fans, crews, drivers, track workers, etc; the day hurtles towards the race, helped along by a relentless track from Icelandic band Sigur Rós. To Neil, it became a sort of obsession, as he found a way to bring it up in almost any conversation with me—it was his white whale. And like Moby Dick, it seemed to always be just off the horizon, on the cusp of being caught, but just outside of his reach. To shoot all of the footage would take quite a commitment, and the clearance rights to use the Sigur Rós track were too expensive at the time.

Neil left Speed before the project could be realized, and he thought it was dead. It never fully left my mind, however, and it nagged at me, like a small pebble in my shoe that I couldn’t shake out. I pitched the idea again to my new CP, and he was on board. So well before dawn broke one cold October morning last fall, I went out to Charlotte Motor Speedway with a shooter, and we proceeded to fling ourselves around the track from sunup to sundown. It was the first race I had ever been at for work, and it was chaotic to try to get everything we needed; an impossible task, in fact—I knew by the end of it that I would need to supplement it with other footage. I was exhausted by the time we left, and I wasn’t even the one shooting.

This past Wednesday, 2 years later, Neil’s idea finally made the air. It was our last show before the Daytona 500, so it was used to build anticipation for the start of the season. I’m toying with the idea of doing a sequel at the end of the year, with highlights from this season, as this was a truncated version of Neil’s full vision. Still, it actually happened—Moby Dick was felled. (It nearly didn’t happen: Sigur Rós’s label waited 2 minutes before our deadline to grant approval to use their song. We wanted to pay them a good amount for their music, and they almost missed it. I hate the music industry sometimes.)

It’s called the “Story of a Race.” Hope you enjoy it!

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Author: Justin Blake Burnett

I'm a mediocre to slightly above average husband, a reader of cereal boxes, and a lover of Swiss Cake rolls. I'm also a feature producer for Fox Sports. I technically do sports stories, but the subject matter is usually all over the place, like me. I do other things, but they're not as interesting.

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