IndyCar at Road America shot in Super 8 is charmingly incomplete

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2019 IndyCar Grand Prix at Road America Nick Shirrell

Assuming you choose to tune in, modern film techniques will rarely give you cause for FOMO. In fact, you’ll catch more motorsport drama on your couch in the A/C than you will peering through concrete barriers trackside, sweating in the summer sun.

Nick Shirrell’s 7-minute, 18-second video of modern IndyCar shot with a 1968 Canon 1218 Super 8 film camera is an ode to the thrills of capturing motorsport drama when you’ve only got one film camera, a pair of eyes, and a track-side spot. 

Shirrell’s retro-style video reminds us how much we miss when we’re actually at the track; and that’s the video’s charm—because, every once in a while, you catch something. You see the cold-tire wiggle that turns into a wild spin. You anticipate the pass that clinches first. You snap the smile on the winning driver’s face. 

There aren’t any burnished graphics, fish-eyed drone shots, or soaring helicopter views in Shirrell’s video of the recent IndyCar Grand Prix at Road America. Instead, there are jerky pans and shaky zooms, animated graphics and tinny audio, flashes and flares and bubbles of color. No network’s army of video production minions has your back when you glance down to check your phone, but that makes each captured moment feel earned by the sweat of your sunburnt, trackside brow.

Shirrell’s video doesn’t simply recall our desire to have it all—nostalgia for an aesthetic nearly fifty years past and cutting-edge IndyCar competition. The video also reminds us of the simple romance of motorsports—for both drivers and spectators. 

“They race for the pure joy of driving and the added zest of competition—driving because they like it,” the commentator says.

Shirrell has a camera, a pair of eyes, and two feet right beside the swarming, howling stream of cars. At the end of the day, what more do you really need? 

His own racing experience gives him an even better angle. Shirrell races a Mercedes-Benz 190E with three other Purdue buddies in the ChampCar Endurance Racing Series. The four-driver team of “For the Sake of Racing” recently bolted a massive spoiler to a Mercedes 190E and lugged the contraption around Indianapolis. “While it wasn’t our best performance, the emotions were running high when we saw our own Mercedes—our own race car—cross the brickyard with the checkered flags flying overhead,” a recent post from the team’s blog reads. 

You won’t see any slow-motion sparks or wobbly tire walls in Shirrell’s video. LEDs don’t pulse and gravel doesn’t flare in molasses-slow sprays. The commentator doesn’t announce replays. No onboard camera shows us how Scott Dixon scrambled to correct that almost-stall and certain spin on turn five.

And somehow, out of the two-hour race and 36-car grid, Shirrell caught that spin. He was there, he saw it, and despite risked sunburns and mildly abused eardrums, that’s the kind of story any motorsport fan wants to take home from a race.

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