As photographers covered the NASCAR Cup Series’ Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum, their bags were opened and camera equipment was stolen.
Thieves took Nikon equipment from National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Photographer of the Year Will Lester, a staff photographer for the Southern California News Group. He lost a new Nikkor Z 100-400 mm lens, valued at $2,800.
Veteran California motorsports photographer Sal Sigala lost a Nikon D500 and a Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens, with a combined value of more than $5,000.
Lester showed his frustration with social media posts:
“It appears the LA Coliseum is not being as cooperative as they should be. They are currently not allowing LAPD to personally view security footage from Sunday.
“The LA Coliseum press box security cameras showed nothing suspicious per a coliseum sportsman. Six cameras and not one of them has footage from one of the most heavily trafficked areas in the press box, the area from where are gear was stolen.”
According to Sigala, the press box is not easy to get to.
“There’s a little bridge — forty-feet long, right next to the stairway to the VIP section — that’s how you get to the press box,” Sigala said. “They had security there Saturday, but they left during the pre-race on Sunday.”
Photographers and other members of the working media share the room. They positioned the working media against the front windows of the box, while photographers used tables behind them to set up their laptops.
“Both of our bags were out of sight and zipped up,” said Sigala. “They contained extra lenses we may use in covering the event. The bags were on the floor.”
Lester immediately reported the theft to NASCAR’s Matt Humphrey after the race. Sigala talked to Humphrey the next day. LAPD detectives interviewed the photographers.
“We were told that the Coliseum was under the control of the University of Southern California,” Sigala said. “They wouldn’t cooperate with LAPD.”
Three entities co-own the L.A. Coliseum: the State of California’s Sixth District Agricultural Association, Los Angeles County, and the City of Los Angeles. The USC Trojans sports teams play on the field.
“We were told that camera gear was stolen from photographers covering both the soccer and football games at the Coliseum,” Sigala said. “I don’t blame NASCAR in no shape or form. They were led to believe that security was to be provided by the Coliseum.”
Photographers have asked for the public to be on the lookout for the following pieces of equipment:
- Lester’s Nikkor Z 100-400 zoom lens, with serial number 2001783
- Sigala’s Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f 2.8E FL ED VR lens, with serial number 274097
- Sigala’s Nikon D500, with serial number 3007167
This year marks the Outside Groove Director of Photography’s 51st year of covering auto racing. Adaskaveg got his start working for track photographer Lloyd Burnham at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970. Since then, he’s been a columnist, writer, and photographer, in racing and in mainstream media, for several outlets, including the Journal Inquirer, Boston Herald, Stock Car Racing, and Speedway Illustrated. Among Adaskaveg’s many awards are the 1992 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Ace Lane Photographer of the Year and the 2019 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) George Cunningham Writer of the Year.