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#GRIDLIFE - Finding your limit

4/17/19

by Rob Wilkinson

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It’s not often you find something in your life that changes everything. We remember and cherish those moments because they’re few and far between. The day I got married. The day I turned my first laps. The day I found Gridlife. They’ve all changed me, and like getting married, Gridlife has offered me a newfound perspective on the idea of family that I simply never knew existed.

It’s been two years since I started shooting for Gridlife, and in that time I’ve added more members to my family than I can count. Recently a friend of mine described Gridlife as like finding true love for the first time, and I couldn't really disagree. You can’t even define it until you get there, and only then do you understand. That’s Gridlife for everybody I’ve met. Not only is it the fastest growing racing community around, it’s a place many call home because we all share the same values: Go fast, don’t suck, help others. It's amazing how far those will get you on track.

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This isn’t your average track day, though. This isn’t your average anything. Families gather, kids play, music resonates, and drivers find out what they're made of. People push their cars to the breaking point, and sometimes themselves, just for a taste of what the limit offers. As a photographer, I’m there first and foremost to tell that story from the inside. I want to share with people what it's like to feel the energy of Gridlife, because you can. You can feel it. The air is electric every weekend. Telling that story often involves pushing myself as well.

After 15 hours of non-stop chaos on a festival Saturday, I found some peace walking the Road Atlanta paddock by myself. There's always a story to be told there at night. Music thumping in the distance, some drivers were still under their cars making repairs, toiling on into the darkness so they could go faster in the morning. One driver lost a hose clamp down his turbo plumbing, and needed a coat hanger with a magnet. Another had found a replacement bushing but it wasn't quite right, so he had to trim it down with a hand saw. That he hadn't found yet. Everyone was pushing hard to stay in the fight.

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Standing at the end of the paddock, I had pushed it all day too and was running out of steam. I could hear Killer Mike coming on stage off in the distance, and I had a choice... back up the hill on foot to catch a show I really wanted to shoot, or over the bridge and into the air conditioned media center to dump images and pack it up. I looked at the tower, and my watch, then back up that stupid hill, and swiftly made my way to the stairs so I could cross the track and hit the office in defeat. But I didn't feel defeated. I felt alive. I pushed myself harder than I ever had that day, much like many of you did out there with your hair on fire and your tires in agony, and I loved every second of it. You never know what you're capable of until you push yourself over the limit, and I found mine that day.

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This last shot here is everything I felt up until that moment, every drop of sweat and heat blister and fire ant bite. Every screaming motor and every single octane that has ever graced my nose. All the burning rubber and all the nervous moments before a driver climbs out of a mangled chassis... this image was the release from all that chaos. It all just floated away when, from half way up the stairs to cross the main straight, I saw that light poking out into pitlane. This empty little space, that just hours ago released so much power and passion onto the track, sat desolete, quiet, and bathed in light. I needed that to the end the night. I wasn't over the limit afterall. One more shot.

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