11
Aug

Race two of the three races on the Western Swing brought us to one of my favorite tracks on the NHRA circuit, Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA. I usually have pretty good luck at this track so I was hoping to continue the streak this weekend.

As with all my blogs lately I am over a week behind on getting these posted. Will try and do better in future posts. Lets jump right in…

Sonoma marked the debut race for a new team called Scrappers Racing. With a name like that you expect a beat up car to be rolled out of the trailer. Not so with this team. The dragster had to be one of the best looking cars I have seen. Everything on that car was immaculate and a good throwback to the days when teams were all about cool paint jobs.

Below, top fuel driver Mike Salinas does a burnout in the first qualifying session.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

I like the shadow of the rear wing in the below frame of top fuel driver Morgan Lucas as he does his burnout past me during the first session.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

My favorite thing about shooting at Sonoma is the track has great afternoon light which helps make for cooler photos.

Below, the sun shines right into the helmet of pro stock motorcycle rider Matt Guidera as he slows to a stop in the shutdown area following his second qualifying pass.

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

Funny car driver Brian Thiel (below) slows to a stop in his brand new William Rast sponsored funny car. What a great looking car.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 640iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

Below, sunlight bathes the face of funny car driver Jeff Arend as he coasts through the shutdown area following his qualifying pass. Unfortunately Arend would be the odd man out and qualify 17th in the 16 car field.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 640iso, f6.3, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Below, NHRA funny car driver Jack Beckman (right) races alongside Tim Wilkerson during qualifying for the Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 1600iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Manual

I was debating staying top end for the night session but during an oil down I jumped into the rental car and hauled ass back to the starting line since the sunset looked like it might make for some cool background for photos.

In the below shot you get a close up view of a blow torch being used on the track to get rid of excess rubber which gets built up throughout the day.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

Morgan Lucas (below) shoots up some nice header flames as he launches off the starting line during the second qualifying session.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/250th, Manual

The pastel colored sky in the below frame of Shawn Langdon was the exact reason I hauled ass up to the starting line a few minutes earlier. Where I was at top end it would have been impossible to get that background in my shots. The one thing I have learned in my first year of doing the full season is that any chance you get to get produce something unique you have to go for it. A full season with the same boring shots week in week out would be enough to make me wanna jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/250th, Manual

To see plenty more cool pics of Morgan Lucas, Shawn Langdon and the rest of the Toyota Racing drivers be sure to click on the below banner to check out my photo blog I do every race for Toyota.

Below, my buddy Jose gets a healthy dosage of nitromethane fumes. Man up Jose!

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

By holding the camera high over my head (hail mary is what we call it in “the biz”) I got the below shot of an NHRA safety safari member holding up the blow torch towards the sky. The look on his face scares the hell outta me as it looks like he is debating lighting me on fire… put the torch down buddy, its gonna be ok!

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/160th, Manual

On to Saturday.

Below, from atop the hill near the finish line I got this shot of top fuel driver Morgan Lucas just as the parachutes deploy on his dragster.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f5, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, the “got my heart racing” moment of the weekend surely had to be the near 300mph collision between the cars of Steve Chrisman (right) and the car of Troy Buff. Just past the finish line Chrisman crossed into Buffs lane and was closing on him quickly. Luckily he would get his car back into his own lane and avoid making contact.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 200iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

Time for Sunday.

Below, top fuel dragster driver Brandon Bernstein hangs out behind the stage as he awaits driver introductions prior to the event.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 500iso, f3.5, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Not really sure whats going on in the below photo of Ron Capps as he surprises Bob Tasca III from behind. This photo would be perfect for an inappropriate caption contest….

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 500iso, f3.5, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

By virtue of his number one qualifying effort in Sonoma, John Force would become the all time leader in the history of the NHRA for most number one qualifying positions. Castrol gave out foam fingers to the fans acknowledging Force on his accomplishment.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 500iso, f3.5, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Prior to climbing into his US Army dragster Tony Schumacher takes in oxygen as he stands by his tow vehicle, below. I am starting to notice more and more drivers doing this before they run. Not sure why they do it but it makes for cool photos so I’m not gonna complain.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 500iso, f3.5, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Below, funny car driver Tony Pedregon in the awesome looking STP car squares off with Tim Wilkerson in round two. Wilkerson would knock off Pedregon on his way to a runner up finish.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f3.5, 1/2500th, Manual

Not sure what is up with the below shot of a Jeff Diehl crew member wearing that goofy hard hat but if I had to guess I would say its punishment for losing a bet…

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

Below, John Force does a burnout in the second round of eliminations. Force would go out in the semi-finals.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f3.5, 1/1600th, Manual

For the second week in a row I would get a cool celebration by an NHRA sportsman racer. This time it would be in super comp with Eric Reyes picking up the wally. He climbed from his car super excited then literally ran 100ft away from his car to an empty patch of dead grass and laid down covering his head as he celebrated the victory. I love happy winners.

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

In pro stock motorcycle the winner would be 2010 champion L.E. Tonglet.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Pro stock would be the familiar face of Greg Anderson hoisting the Wally.

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

In funny car the winner would be Ron Capps who finally ended his year long winless skid.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f9, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

In the final round of top fuel it would be a big matchup between Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammates Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown. Its hard to believe that 13 races into the season and “The Sarge” was still winless but that slump would continue as Antron would pick up the win.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f7.1, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

Antron climbed from his car a very happy man as he celebrated, below.

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

Below, funny car winner Ron Capps gives me an up close view of the pewter Wally in the winners circle.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Antron salutes the fans in the crowd as he receives his trophy during the ceremony….

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

….while the 8000 horsepower engine of his dragster enjoys a well deserved cigar after smoking the competition.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/320th, Aperture Priority

Next up is the third and final race of the NHRA’s Western Swing up in Seattle.

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 California, Drag Racing, NHRA, Racing, San Francisco, Sports   | 1 Comment

One response to “Antron soars to the summit in Sonoma”

  1. Bob Pellegrini says:

    Awesome stuff Mark as usual. Thanks for the ride to the starting line from the top end!

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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!