12
Oct

The second race of the Countdown to the Championship would take me to the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, TX (30 miles outside of Dallas) for the Fall Nationals. After being completely spoiled by the cool temperatures the previous week in Charlotte I would be in for a miserable weekend with highs near 100 degrees. I guess thats why we make the big bucks!

Below, NHRA funny car driver Melanie Troxel warms up her In-N-Out Burger sponsored Toyota in the pits prior to the opening round of qualifying.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

One thing I was looking forward to on the weekend was the professional debut of Alexis DeJoria (below) in a Toyota sponsored by her dads company… oh whats it called? Oh yea… Patron Tequila! Whenever a new pro comes on the tour I always try and stock up on photos of them and Alexis would be no different.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

I’ve been around the sport of drag racing for damn near 30 years and I gotta rank her cars paint job into the top 10 of all the funny cars I have ever seen. Look below and see for yourself in this shot of her launching off the starting line.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

With the position of the sunset behind the starting line, the best way to describe the light for shooting photos at the Motorplex is that its interesting and makes you work for good shots. If you wanna be technical it would be fair to call the light here “terrible” but as I have mentioned countless times there is always a way to use even the worst light to your advantage to make for some cool shots.

In the below photo of Tim Wilkerson racing alongside Mike Neff I went the silhouette route and underexposed the shot by several stops to include the sun as well as the shadow of Wilkersons car. Sponsors wouldn’t like this shot since you cant see names and logos but its still a cool photo in my opinion.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

One easy way to get nicer light here is to shoot rear 3/4 (basically be behind the car shooting towards the finish line.)

Crew chief Dean Antonelli (below) gets some nice sunlight on his face as he pumps up funny car driver John Force prior to staging during qualifying for the Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

A small little opening in the wall just behind the starting line made for my favorite shooting position of the weekend as I was able to get down to ground level for launch shots such as the below shot of John Force blasting off the starting line.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

My favorite shot of the weekend has gotta be this one of funny car driver Matt Hagan doing a burnout, below. The sunlight piercing through the burnout smoke created a vibrant orange glow in the smoke to add to the already moody silhouetted look.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5, 1/3200th, Manual

Below, funny car driver Cruz Pedregon launches off the starting line as seen from my laid on the ground shooting position.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f4, 1/640th, Manual

Below, the glare of the setting sun reflects off the side of the top fuel dragster of Morgan Lucas as he races down track during qualifying.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Manual

As I mentioned in the earlier photo of Matt Hagan, when sunlight hits smoke it can make it glow. In the below frame you can see a crew member for top fuel driver Rod Fuller silhouetted as he stands in front of exhaust lit up from the setting sun off to camera right. It made for a rather unique shot that I haven’t seen before.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Here are a few more shots with similar shooting techniques….

David Grubnic

Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Del Worsham

Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Larry Dixon

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Manual

Everyone always associates drag racing as a sport with two drivers trying to get to the finish line first. While that is technically true, many people don’t realize the army of crew members behind the scenes who help make it all happen.

The below frame of Steve Torrence preparing to stage his car as he is surrounded by crew members all doing their part to make it all happen.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

For the first qualifying session on Saturday I headed up to the finish line grandstands to do some shooting with my new lens.

Below, while it may look like a clone stamp job in photoshop its actually the Harley Davidson pro stock bike teammates Andrew Hines racing Eddie Krawiec during the third qualifying session in Ennis.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f7.1, 1/1000th, Manual

By putting a 1.4 convertor on the 600mm lens it enabled me to shoot some way too close up pics.

Ever wondered what it looked like the instant a driver deployed the parachutes? Wonder no more as you can see that exact moment in progress as pro stock driver Erica Enders pops the chutes at the finish line, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f7.1, 1/2000th, Manual

Below, a young child doesn’t seem too happy to be at the drag races as he cries. Perhaps the kid is crying after finding out the nitro cars don’t race 1/4 mile anymore. I feel your pain kid….

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f7.1, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, Summit Racing pro stock teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line run side by side as they pop their parachutes at the finish line.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Top fuel dragster driver Morgan Lucas, below, blows a head gasket as he races down track during qualifying.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f7.1, 1/1250th, Manual

In the below photo of pro stock motorcycle rider Angie Smith I zoomed in close to isolate her eye alongside the skull and cross bones on her helmet. Makes for a pretty cool looking shot I think.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 1000iso, f3.5, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

When I get bored I start to look for random things to include in my shots.

In the below frame of pro stock driver Larry Morgan doing his burnout I shot through the open door a pro stocker behind the starting line using the door frame to frame my shot. It didn’t come out near as cool as I wanted but you always gotta try new things to keep your photos looking fresh instead of repetitive.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Below, pro stock driver Erica Enders sits in her Chevy prior to making a run in the final qualifying session.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 1250iso, f5, 1/125th, Aperture Priority

In the below photo, two of the best looking pro stockers on tour, Rodger Brogdon (near) and Greg Stanfield launch off the starting line in front of a rather packed crowd for a 100 degree day of racing.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f4, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

In this shot of Steve Torrence, below, I held the camera down inside the cockpit of his dragster to get a steering wheels view of the driver.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 800iso, f4, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Below, the crew for top fuel dragster driver Morgan Lucas fire up his 8000 horsepower engine prior to the final qualifying session.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

Sometimes when I shoot funny car drivers in the cockpits of their cars they will point at me like Ron Capps, below. Sometimes they point at me for the cool looking photo it produces but other times its to let me know they’re moving the car forward and to get out of the way. In this case Capps was just trying to be a badass in the pic.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2000iso, f4.5, 1/320th, Aperture Priority

Prior to the first round of eliminations on Sunday Bob Vandergriff Jr would put opponent Troy Buff into a head lock….. oh wait, this was just to be funny.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/2000th, Manual

…..speaking of being funny, top fuel driver Spencer Massey pretended to pour a can of Full Throttle energy drink on opponent Shawn Langdons head, below. It would be even funnier if he opened the can next time…. although I’m pretty confident Langdon may not find that near as funny as the rest of us.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/2000th, Manual

Top fuel driver Brandon Bernstein (below) defeats Steve Torrence in round one of eliminations.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 500iso, f6.3, 1/1250th, Manual

In the below photo of pro stock motorcycle rider Karen Stoffer you can see the front wheel of her bike off the grand at 1200ft down track at nearly 190mph. Im sure thats not scary at all.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 500iso, f6.3, 1/1250th, Manual

I am not sure how on earth Del Worshams car wasn’t in a big ball of fire as he blew an engine and deposited oil all over the track during eliminations, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 500iso, f6.3, 1/1600th, Manual

In the semi finals of funny car we would have an interesting matchup (below) as Jon Capps would line up against brother Ron Capps in their first ever meeting in eliminations. In a wild tire smoking affair it would be Ron picking up the win and advancing into the finals.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f4.5, 1/1000th, Manual

Time for the winners!

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Michael Phillips

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f10, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Pro Stock: Jason Line

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f11, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Funny Car: Cruz Pedregon

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f9, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Top Fuel: Bob Vandergriff Jr

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f9, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

That wraps up Dallas. Next stop on the tour is Reading, PA

Here is a link to my Facebook page for my photography. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to “like” the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing as well as my favorite photos from each event, as well as some old favorites from the last 20 years!


 
Posted in Drag Racing, NHRA, Racing, Sports, Texas   | 1 Comment

One Response to “NHRA in the Lone Star State”

  1. Travis ( Lucky ) Leach says:

    Wow ! is all I can say. Your pictures are as good if not better than I have ever seeen. Great Job.

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Check out my Facebook page devoted my photography where I routinely share my favorite photos from each shoot as well as favorite photos from the past. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to "like" the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing!