20
Oct

After the previous weekend where 100 degree temps ruled the weekend in Dallas it was off to the green hills of Pennsylvania for the tours annual stop near Reading for what would be a record setting weekend at Maple Grove Raceway… Oh did I mention the weather was over 50 degrees cooler?!

Lets begin this blog with some shots from around the pits on Friday.

Below, top fuel dragster driver Larry Dixon signs autographs for the fans in hit Al-Anabi Racing pit area.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f6.3, 1/1000th, Manual

To see more photos of Larry Dixon as well as the other Toyota Racing drivers please click the below link to check out my Toyota Racing blog.

In a last second decision in the days leading up to the race R2B2 Racing decided to put Leah Pruett behind the wheel of the teams nitro funny car. In the below shot you can see her adjusting her gas mask prior to warming up the car Friday morning.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/200th, Aperture Priority

In attendance at the weekends race was NHRA pro stock legend Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, below. He even had his trademark cigar in his mouth!

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f3.2, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Below, longtime photographer and family friend Dave DeAngelis throws up the peace sign as he sits strapped into his top alcohol dragster back in the staging lanes.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Even nicer than the low temperatures were the great clouds in the sky over Maple Grove Raceway. When I get bored (which is quite often) I tend to resort to shooting wide and incuding the clouds in my shots for an extra element that can help make photos less boring and redundant.

Below, Jim Head launches off the starting line in his Toyota funny car during qualifying.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5, 1/1000th, Manual

In the below frame of pro stock driver Jason Line I threw a flash on my camera and exposed the shot dark to make the clouds look more ominous and used the flash to properly expose Line.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

NHRA has certainly had some weak crowds this season but here at Maple Grove that was certainly not the case. The stands (below) were packed!

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2500iso, f3.5, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

The second qualifying session Friday afternoon looked promising as the sun was periodically breaking through the clouds which made the sky light up.

Below, I laid on the ground in the staging lanes to shoot this low angle shot of the funny car of Cruz Pedregon as it waited in the lanes.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Along with Leah Pruett, another rookie funny car driver would be attempting to make their first race. His name was Blake Alexander who does a burnout in the below photo.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Below, under a beautiful sky, funny car driver Leah Pruett does a burnout during round two of pro qualifying.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

In Reading funny car points leader Matt Hagan would debut a new paint job on his Diehard car. It photographed very well, below.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 1000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

As it got darker the header flames started showing up really well in the photos as evident by the below shot as top fuel dragster driver Doug Kalitta blasts off the starting line.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Top fuel dragster driver Morgan Lucas (below) launches off the starting line under a sky that looks straight out of a painting.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

The one bad thing I gotta say about this track is their lights were some of the darkest lights I have seen at a professional dragstrip. With that in mind I decided to use that as a great excuse to mess around with some artsy looking blur shots.

Below, top fuel dragster driver Rod Fuller does a burnout in his car.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/13th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Top fuel dragster driver Brandon Bernstein, below, launches off the starting line in his Copart rail.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/13th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

In the below photo you can see what appears to be the ghost of crew chief John Stewart as driver Shawn Langdon streaks past in the background. This type of look is accomplished by shooting a very slow shutter speed which allows more light into the shot. The trade off for allowing more light in this way is that it blurs whatever you’re following (especially if you aren’t good at panning a camera). The reason Stewart isn’t blurred is due to my flash firing and lighting him up, thus freezing him in the shot.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/13th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Lets move on to Saturday where I would spend the day top end shooting parachute shots.

In the below photo you get a great view of how scenic the surrounding areas around the track were. You can even see the leaves on the trees beginning to change as winter approaches.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 1000iso, f4, 1/1250th, Manual

During round three of qualifying in top fuel things got interesting….

Below, first up in the crazy session would be in top fuel when Terry McMillen (right) whose injector scoop would break and fall down to the side while racing alongside Spencer Massey.

Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f5, 1/1000th, Manual

While shooting it through my camera I noticed the scoop fall off to the side but I just assumed he had blown an engine and knocked it over but then quickly realized that he now had a stuck throttle as he was way into the shutdown area and the car was still under full power hauling ass!

McMillen is no rookie and instead of panicking he would shut off the fuel to the engine which would lean out the engine below….

Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f5, 1/1000th, Manual

….and finally finish with a big explosion and fireball, below.

Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f5, 1/1000th, Manual

In the next pair of top fuelers it would be Bruce Litton (right) who would have his parachute open and instantly fall off the back of the car as he raced alongside Rod Fuller. Litton would get his second parachute out and safely come to a stop.

Nikon D700, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f5, 1/1000th, Manual

A few pairs later is when things really got crazy as Brandon Bernstein (below) would blow a tire in the lights alongside Doug Kalitta…

Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

… the tire flying off his car at 300mph would knock out most of his rear wing (which provides several thousand pounds of downforce) sending his Copart dragster sideways and heading towards Kalitta….

Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

…the safety advancements on todays dragsters really helped save Bernstein because as soon as the rear wing was damaged it triggered his parachute which quickly stabilized the car and prevented it from spinning all the way around….

Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

…after missing the rear of Kalittas car by less than five feet Bernstein would continue directly towards me….

Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

… this would be one of my last shots before I finally had enough and bailed from my shooting position and into a ball on the ground.

Nikon D700, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

Bernstein would be fine in the incident and would actually repair the car and return Sunday for round one.

Here is a cool video showing the tire blowing as well as me and fellow photographer Gary Nastase hitting the deck. CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Below, funny car driver Jim Head (left) races alongside Mike Neff during qualifying.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 1600iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Manual

By shooting wide in the below frame of Matt Hagan I was able to include the pretty trees in my shot as he slowed in the shutdown area via his two parachutes.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f4, 1/1250th, Manual

The body from the car of funny car driver Cruz Pedregon is taken back to the pits following a flat tire during the final session, below. I just love how red tow truck and body pop against the deep green scenery.

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

In the below frame top alcohol funny car driver Todd Veney slows in the shutdown area following round one of eliminations. (I told you I would include you in my blog Todd!)

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 640iso, f5, 1/16000th, Manual

Below, top fuel dragster driver Antron Brown (far lane) does his burnout behind the car of Bruce Litton during first round of eliminations.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 640iso, f4, 1/16000th, Manual

Monster header flames come from the funny car of Leah Pruett (below) as she smokes the tires in the first round of eliminations.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 500iso, f4, 1/2000th, Manual

An amish looking family (I’m told they may be called Mennonites) watches the race from their land across the street from Maple Grove Raceway, below. In the area around the track there are many traditional amish families who you can sometimes see riding in horse drawn buggies that can instantly create a traffic jam… not because everyone slows down to see them, but because those buggies are so slow compared to all the cars they’re blocking!

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 500iso, f4, 1/1250th, Manual

Below, top fuel driver Larry Dixon works on his rear tire between eliminations rounds.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/125th, Aperture Priority

After losing in round two, the car of funny car driver John Force is loaded up into the hauler, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/160th, Aperture Priority

In the middle of eliminations the rains would come and wash out the remainder of racing action for the day.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

I am running late for a flight to Talladega for a weekend of NASCAR so now is a good time to bring this blog to a close.

To see all my images from the weekend CLICK HERE


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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!