13
Apr

Race three on the 2011 NHRA tour took us to nearly everyones favorite stop on the 300 mph traveling roadshow, Las Vegas! I like Vegas more because its a nice track to shoot at and most importantly its close to Phoenix so I am able to drive my own car instead of some lame economy rental car. After this weekend I am guessing this track will now be one of Antron Browns favorite tracks as well. On to the strip!

Due to a crazy busy schedule as of late this blog comes to you slightly later than usual so lets jump right in.

On tap for Friday was two professional qualifying sessions. For the first session I decided to shoot it on the starting line.

In this below shot of pro stock driver V. Gaines I was walking through the staging lanes and noticed his sun glasses with the bright yellow lenses nearly glowing in the car. With everything else in the car being really dark it produced a cool look that I just had to shoot. Hell I was in such a hurry to nail this shot upon seeing it that I pulled the biggest of all rookie moves as I tried shooting the photo before I took my lens cap off! There are actually witnesses to this!

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 1000iso, f5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

NHRA funny car driver Gary Densham shows his game face as he mills around the staging lanes prior to strapping into his car, below.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 2500iso, f5, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Don’t let the snow capped mountains fool you for the below photo of funny car driver Cruz Pedregon being towed towards the starting line, this day was very warm (in the 90’s). The normal temps this time of year in Vegas is supposed to be in the mid 70s.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Check out the altitude of the foam timing blocks (below) after being mowed down by funny car driver Jim Head in the opening qualifying session. Pretty impressive stuff.

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

The light on the starting line in Vegas is pretty backlit for the first qualifying session which can make it difficult to get cool looking photos but as I always like to say, theres no such thing as bad light. If you can be even semi creative you can come up with something.

Below, by underexposing my shot I was able to make a nice dark background as NHRA funny car driver Jeff Arend did his burnout. The dark background plus the white smoke and bright yellow car made for a nice looking frame.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 250iso, f6.3, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Having fun with longtime NHRA photographer Richard Shute of Auto Imagery. Check out the website of his company by clicking here.

Photo by Will Lester

Multi time NHRA top fuel dragster champion Larry Dixon displays a Japan Disaster Relief sticker on the rear wing of his dragster. To do your part and help with this terrible tragedy from the earthquake/tsunami please click here.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f3.2, 1/1000th, Manual

This weekend would mark the debut of Antron Browns new sponsor Aarons, which will serve as his primary sponsor for a few races this season. I’m not gonna lie, the car looked great (and no I’m not saying that because he’s a client). Below, Antron is towed towards the starting line prior to making his first run in the newly painted ride.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5, 1/1600th, Manual

To see more photos of Antron Brown and the rest of the Toyota Racing drivers please click the below banner to see my photo blog I do every race for Toyota.

If one of the guys in the below photo was a serial killer which one do you think it would be?….

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 200iso, f4, 1/1600th, Manual

For the second qualifying session of the day I would try my luck out on the roof of the track. Unlike NASCAR where nearly all the tracks have different configurations, NHRA tracks are all the same. With that in mind I always look for shots that are unique to each track so I don’t get the same boring shots every race.

Below you can see me on the roof as I ponder life.

Photo by Jason Zindroski

Below, NHRA funny car driver Paul Lee (top) races alongside Tim Wilkerson during qualifying for the Summitracing.com Nationals at The Strip in Las Vegas.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm with 1.4 convertor, 200iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, NHRA funny car driver Johnny Gray plows through the centerline timing blocks during qualifying for the Summitracing.com Nationals.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

As the sun dipped lower in the sky it made for much nicer light on the cars.

Below, top fuel dragster driver Morgan Lucas does his burnout.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

NHRA top fuel dragster driver Mike Strasburg (top) races alongside Spencer Massey during qualifying, below.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm with 1.4 convertor, 200iso, f5, 1/1250th, Manual

The rear tires leave the ground as top alcohol dragster driver Shawn Cowie pops the chutes following a qualifying pass. Cowie would win the race but would be the victim of a bad car accident a few days later after another driver failed to stop and hit Cowie who was on his motorcycle, putting him in the hospital in critical condition. As of the writing of this blog Cowie is much better and hopefully he will be behind the wheel of his dragster soon.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

As the sun got lower the track would be covered in shade which you can see in the below frame of NHRA pro mod driver Khalid Balooshi as he slows to a stop with his parachutes following his run. Balooshi would go on to win back to back races.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f4.5, 1/1250th, Manual

With nearly the entire track being in the shade now it made the track appear cold and blue (below) which worked great in the below shot as pro mod driver Troy Coughlin (left) raced through a pocket of light alongside Rickie Smith.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f4, 1/1250th, Manual

Here are a few shots from Saturday.

Below, NHRA pro stock driver Allen Johnson appears to be towed through an empty desert following his third round qualifying pass.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Manual

After making his third qualifying pass, top fuel pilot Antron Brown (below) is given a friendly push off the track by an NHRA safety safari worker.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f7.1, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, as Larry Dixon climbed from his car following a qualifying pass I crotched down low alongside his car to try and have some fun with the reflections off the glossy paint job. Not the coolest shot in the world but its not too bad.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

One of the more eventful runs of the weekend would come courtesy of funny car driver Brian Thiel, below. Right off the line Thiel would have an explosion that sent flames pouring from the engine compartment.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f7.1, 1/1600th, Manual

The fire quickly went out but after passing me in the shutdown area the car would light up once again….

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f7.1, 1/1600th, Manual

…. and just when I was about to get my money shot a safety safari worker jumped over the wall into my shot. FML.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f7.1, 1/1600th, Manual

Thiel would be fine and hopped from his car (below) as safety personnel converged on the scene.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f7.1, 1/1600th, Manual

2011 has not been a good year for funny car driver Melanie Troxel. Below, Troxel (right) goes sideways after smoking the tires alongside Jeff Diehl in the final qualifying session. The aborted run would make it three straight races in which Troxel has failed to qualify in funny car this year.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f7.1, 1/1600th, Manual

Ok on to Sunday.

During the first round of funny car eliminations Johnny Gray (below) would experience a small fire after winning his race. The fire quickly went out and Gray would end up making it all the way to the final round.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

Current top fuel dragster points leader Del Worsham is the picture of concentration as he sits strapped into his Al-Anabi dragster, below. Worsham would lose in the semi finals but still left the race as the points leader.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

Below, I shot this rear three quarter launch shot of top fuel dragster driver Brandon Bernstein to incorporate the big grandstands into my shot. The stands look far more crowded in this photo than they did in reality!

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/250th, Manual

One good way to make non packed grandstands look good is to shoot a slow shutter speed and blur the crowd. That was the method I used in the below shot of top fuel dragster driver Larry Dixon as he raced down track.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f7.1, 1/250th, Manual

A crew member does his best to keep up as funny car driver Jeff Arend does a burnout during the second round of eliminations, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f6.3, 1/800th, Manual

Below, for some reason I just felt the need to ruin the shot my good buddy Will Lester was shooting back in the staging lanes.

Photo by Will Lester

Later in the day I would get some puffy white clouds for my background as pro stock driver Greg Stanfield did his burnout during the semi finals, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f4.5, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, NHRA funny car driver Robert Hight launches off the starting line in the semi finals. Hight would go on to win the race, his second win in just three races so far this season. #winning.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f5, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

After failing to qualify at the season opening Winternationals it put pro stock driver Mike Edwards in a bad position. He did his best to dig out of that situation by taking the win over rookie driver Vincent Nobile in the finals, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f6.3, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, Mike Edwards happily hoists his wally into the sky as the creepy track mascot dances around in the background.

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

Below, NHRA funny car driver Robert Hight (left) slows to a stop in the uphill shutdown area after defeating Johnny Gray to win the Summitracing.com Nationals at The Strip in Las Vegas.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f6.3, 1/1600th, Manual

And the weekend would come to an end with the top fuel dragster final round where Antron Brown happily emerged from his dragster to celebrate with the trophy, below.

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

After the final rounds it was up to the starting line to shoot the winners circle.

Below, the three pro category winners, pro stock winner Mike Edwards (left), funny car winner Robert Hight (center) and top fuel dragster winner Antron Brown celebrate following the Summitracing.com Nationals at The Strip in Las Vegas.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

After the main celebration ceremony I had a few minutes to shoot some individual shots of the nitro winners.

Robert Hight

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Antron Brown

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Autumn Hight, the daughter of funny car winner Robert Hight shows the world how to celebrate with the trophy. That thing probably weights half as much as she does!

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 200iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Manual

That wraps up another fun filled weekend at the drag races. I will be missing the next NHRA race in Charlotte but will be back on the tour following that one.

I recently started a 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!






 
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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!