Shooting trackside during any professional drag race event can be nerve racking, not to mention potentially dangerous. I always wear two layers of ear protection, ear plugs, and some over the ear headphone style muffs. I am always quick on my feet knowing well that I could be decapitated at any moment, like if the car jumps the wall or losses a wing. As Mike Garrett said “Oh, the perils of the job.”
Yet, there was always a wall of photographers and videographers at all times lining the K-rails of the track all the way to 225 fee. This is the cutoff to where members of the media can stand.
These guys are the masters of their craft and they follow drag racing all over the nation. I was very honored to be able to shoot with them.
Drag race photographers invented photo stance way before us Speedhunters were around.
I really like that the fans can see all the action from the stands. It also gave them a good vantage point for some nice photographs, especially for the amateur Speedhunters out there.
I nearly lost my lunch when this top fuel rail launched off the line. It steered in my direction for a split second before the driver corrected and went down the rest of the track perfectly straight.
Shooting wheelies took some getting use to. I figured the best way to do it would be to focus on where the car will be at the apex of the wheelie. Then I just blast away right before the lights turn green.
Shooting burnouts has its challenges too. Sometimes I walk all the way down the 225 feet mark expecting them to do a burnout halfway down the track, only to watch them do a standing burnout from the burnout box.
It’s not much of an issue if I miss one run, considering how fast they move things along. Surprisingly with 500 competitors there was very little downtime. When there was a break I would head back to the pits just to hear cars starting up and to make their passes again.
The retro funny cars were definitely the coolest dragsters there. They reminded me of the newer and much faster funny cars I shot in Pomona at the Winter Nationals.
Check out that smoke just pouring out of the cockpit. That is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
When you are standing this close to the top fuel cars as they pass by, it’s like getting socked in the face with a mini tornado. My sun hat blew off on many occasions, but luckily not into the crowd because I came prepared with a nifty neck strap.
I’ve learned to turn away and close my eyes when the funny cars did their burnouts. That raw nitro made me feel like making an emergency trip to the little boys room.
Photo nerd warning: Getting tack sharp pan blurs when shooting on the 1/4 mile can be very hard. It is a game of numbers and the lower you set your shutter speed, the harder it is to produce a usable shot.
I tried not to go below 1/125th of a second. but as the day progressed It got slower and slower till I was shooting on BULB.
As I walked through the pits I noticed this GT bicycle at the Torco booth sporting some authentic Mooneyes wheel covers. How awesome is that?
This sign was probably meant to scare away any kids, (including me) that wanted ice cream.
Even though I don’t personally know many people in the drag scene, I feel like I fit in the community. A touch of speed, some tire smoke in my face and some vroom vroom action is good enough of a connection for me.
Larry Dixon Sr. and Larry Dixon Jr. were the father and son March Meet Grand Marshals. Dixon Sr. won a championship in the Comp Eliminator class in the ’68 March Meet.
Larry seemed to be a fan of a certain feisty celebrity mouse.
I bet it got a little stuffy in the cockpit of those funny cars with the ambient temperature reaching a sweltering 85 degrees. Of course all that heavy gear the drivers have to wear is necessary in the name of safety.
Fires are a very real hazard when it comes to drag racing. Those motors are on the verge of blowing up at any given moment. At least with these open cockpit cars, the drivers can bail very easily.
With so many competitors at the event, every run counts. I can only imagine what goes through the mind of these drivers moments before the launch.
Well that’s it for my coverage on March Meet 2012. Make sure you check out the desktop section later this week for exclusive photos from March Meet.
Truly epic, this has inspired me to go check out gator nationals this weekend. I see drag racing in a better light !
@Audi: I figure you're trolling, but just in-case you are actually ignorant: Firstly, Drag Racing was around long before Drifting. Secondly, Drag Racers are trying to go as fast as they can, without breaking traction, whereas Drifters are purposefully breaking rear wheel traction. In case you are judging your perception on the Burnout shots above, they are to warm the tyres before a proper run. How is this in any way like Drifting?
I usually shoot at 1/60th for panning shots but considering the fact that these aren't normal race cars, it's understandable that you shot at 1/125th. I should try photographing drag events.