06
Dec

After a long season coming for the NHRA tour it came down to the final race at the most historic track on the NHRA circuit in Pomona, CA. On top of the high number of professional cars it is always a great event to cover for the fact that the champions will be crowned in all classes. This is a long blog but I assure you its a good one!

Lets jump right in with some shots from Thursday and its lone pro qualifying session.

Below, crew chief Rob Flynn hangs out in the pit area prior to the first qualifying session of the last race of the season.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 320iso, f5, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

Below, Header flames and heat waves pour from the engine of the car driven by NHRA top fuel dragster driver T.J. Zizzo as he loses traction and smokes the tires right off the starting line during qualifying at the Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

On top of Pomona being the last race of the season it also would be the final career event for long time NHRA starter Rick Stewart, below.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Here is a cool shot of top fuel driver Terry McMillen (below) as he races off the starting line during qualifying. It probably wasn’t the way they wanted to but I gotta thank McMillen for providing me so many explosive photo ops this season!

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 1000iso, f5, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, championship top fuel contender Antron Brown hangs out the window of his Toyota Sequoia tow vehicle following his first qualifying pass.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 1000iso, f4, 1/1000th, Manual

To see more of my favorite images of Antron as well as the rest of the Toyota Racing drivers please check out my blog on the Toyota website.

Thats all for a short day at the track, lets fast forward to Friday.

With all my clients being in the nitro categories I could easily sleep in each day and roll into the track in the middle of pro stock and still get all my work done but I love shooting some of the sportsman classes such as the Top Alcohol cars. They’re plenty fast and occasionally can lead to some pretty spectacular pictures.

Today would be one such day as NHRA top alcohol funny car driver Brian Smith would have his parachutes fail to deploy following a 255mph qualifying pass, below….

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 500iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

… of all the tracks to not have parachutes Pomona would easily be one of the worst tracks to have this occur since the track is so short. Usually when I shoot a car going into the sand trap all I can see is dirt and dust but with Smith as he went into the sand he made a hard left turn and stayed in front of the dust as he crashed hard.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 500iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

After flipping over and hitting the catch net, the car would slowly roll over.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 500iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 500iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

The NHRA safety safari were quickly on the scene and Smith would emerge unhurt from the scary high speed crash.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 500iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

Below, later during the pro qualifying session it would be top fuel dragster driver Mike Ashley (left) nearly colliding with Pat Dakin as he crossed into his lane during qualifying at the Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 400iso, f7.1, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Below, I shot with a wide angle lens to incorporate some nice clouds above top fuel dragster driver Spencer Massey as he slows in the shutdown area with his parachutes out.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/3200th, Manual

In the below photo of Del Worshams car being towed back to the pits I got down low on the ground and shot up to make the background a pretty cloud filled sky. Had I been standing my background would have looked horrible with clutter everywhere thus ruining the pic.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Below, a fireball comes from the engine compartment of funny car driver Melanie Troxel during her second qualifying pass of the weekend.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 640iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

Not to be outdown, however, was funny car driver John Force, below, who would blow an engine sending parts and pieces into the air as he slid his car sideways while racing alongside Tony Pedregon.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 640iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, NHRA top alcohol funny car driver Jordan Pawlick (left) crosses the center line taking out the timing blocks during qualifying at the Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

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

Under some moody dark skies, NHRA top alcohol funny car driver Paul Gill slows to a stop with his parachutes following a qualifying pass, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

Time for som Saturday images.

Below, pro stock motorcycle rider Matt Smith leads a parade of riders up the return road during the first pro session of the day.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 1250iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Here is a close up shot of pro stock motorcycle rider Chip Ellis (below) as he heads back to the pits following the third pro qualifying session.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1250iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Below, the funny car of Tony Pedregon is towed back to the pits past a puddle of water following a qualifying pass.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Weather on this day was pretty cold and overcast with a threat of rain. Top fuel driver Dom Lagana did his best effort to warm up the track with a decent sized fireball in the lights, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 800iso, f6.3, 1/2500th, Manual

Canadian racer Todd Paton (below) slows in the shutdown area following a qualifying pass.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Below, top fuel driver Keith Murt has fire coming from his headers in the shutdown area after a run.

Nikon D3s, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 1000iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

For the second pro session of the day I headed to the starting line to take advantage of an impromptu night session brought on by several delays due to oildowns and rain.

Below, the funny car of Alexis DeJoria sits in the staging lanes prior to the final qualifying session.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f4, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

In the below shot of NHRA funny car driver Todd Lesenko I caught another photographers flash from across the track.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/160th, Manual

Same story with this shot of Cory Lee launching off ths starting line, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/320th, Manual

After that shot the rain began to fall thus ending qualifying. Time for a busy race day where the champions would be crowned!

In the below shot of funny car driver Matt Hagan, you can see him sneaking a peek at that championship trophy during pre race introductions. If you remember last years race, Hagan was also in the running for the championship but lost and provided me with an awesome dejection shot.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 250iso, f5, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, top fuel driver Spencer Massey takes off his safety gear following his first round win to keep his championship hopes alive.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f7.1, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Below, funny car driver Jack Beckman is pushed around the corner off the track by a quad after coming to a stop on the track during round one of eliminations.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

During round two of funny car eliminations Melanie Troxel would come to a stop on the track after losing to Cruz Pedregon. A quad would get behind her car and push her off the track like it does hundreds of times during a race weekend but this time something unexpected and incredibly scary happened.

Apparently the clutch on her car became melted in position so she was unable to put the car in neutral. SHe had the fuel shut off on the car so it shouldn’t have mattered but somehow there was enough fuel still within the engine that the quad pushing it actually brought the engine back to life with nothing Troxel could do. I was shooting Cruz Pedregon climbing from his car when I heard the engine start back up and instinct led me to grab my camera on my shoulder with my 70-200mm and I quickly started shooting as he runaway car powered towards some advertising signs….

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Her car easily plowed through the banners and next it knocked down a giant inflatable Full Throttle energy drink can

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

In the below shot you can see she was going semi fast to have both parachutes be able to fully blossom as she disappeared out of my view.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

With the car hidden behind signage all we could hear was the engine still revving as well as some impact sounds. Nobody knew what to expect as we ran behind the signage towards her crashed car but were relieved to see Troxel climb out of her car and quickly in the hands of the NHRA safety safari…

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

… where she was led away to be checked out.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Troxel was unhurt in the incident but the same could not be said for her In-N-Out sponsored car… or the trailer of a sportsman racer that was parked in the path of her runaway car.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Here is video of the incident that shows one of the scariest things I have witnessed in my 20+ years covering NHRA.

Below, pro stock motorcycle rider Eddie Krawiec celebrates after clinching the second championship of his NHRA career.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

In the semi finals of top fuel it would be the biggest race of the careers of both Del Worsham and Spencer Massey as the winner of the race would be the 2011 top fuel champion. I was nervous as hell for this round and I was just taking pics of it. I can’t imagine the nerves of the two drivers actually in the cars!

Below, in a ridiculously close race it would be Del Worsham barely nipping Massey to claim his first championship after 21 years of racing.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/2000th, Manual

In the below shot of Massey in the shutdown area you can see his reaction to narrowly miss becoming a champion.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/2000th, Manual

As Worsham pulled off the track I was expecting him to be going crazy celebrating but as his car made the turn off and came to a stop in front of me he showed no emotion.

Then fellow driver Tony Schumacher (below) went up to Worsham to shake his hand and congratulate him on being the new champ.

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

As it turned out Worsham thought he lost the race and didn’t know he had actually won. In the below photo you can see his eyes all big upon realizing he was the champ.

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

Below, as he climbed from his car to celebrate Del raised his arms and was yelling, “I didn’t know I won!”

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

In the below photo Worsham hoists the championship trophy in a moment I am sure he has dreamed about the last 20 years. It was really cool to be there documenting a friend celebrating the biggest highlight of his driving career.

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

A few minutes after that it came down to the semi finals of funny car where Matt Hagan could clinch his first championship if he could defeat Cruz Pedregon.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 400iso, f6.3, 1/2500th, Manual

Hagan would beat Pedregon and when he came to a stop he climbed from his car and ran with his arms in the air (below) as he celebrated the moment that had slipped through his hands the previous year.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

The two new champions with their trophies were then driven up to the starting line in front of the cheering crowd, below. You can see the genuine happiness in both their smiles.

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

Below, 2011 funny car champion Matt Hagan celebrates with his trophy on the podium.

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

Shortly followed by Del Worsham on the stage with his top fuel champion trophy, below.

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

With all the championship stuff decided we were down to the final rounds of the 2011 season.

While waiting for the finals to start I had some fun with two of my best friends on the NHRA circuit, Gary Nastase (left) and Will Lester (center). I had some good times with those two this season!

Photo by Teresa Long

Ok time for our final winners of 2011

Pro stock motorcycle winner Andrew Hines

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Pro stock winner Greg Stanfield

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f6.3, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Funny car winner Matt Hagan

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f5, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Top fuel dragster winner Del Worsham

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f3.5, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Below, top fuel runner up Tony Schumacher walks away from his car after finishing out the season with zero wins. If you had told me at the beginning of the season Schumacher would go winless I would have bet my car that he would win. Very crazy season for sure. I will go on the record now that he will win multiple races next year. Guaranteed!

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/160th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Below, fans leave the grandstands following the race.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, the four winners of the Auto Club Finals pose on the stage as sparks fly.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f3.2, 1/160th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

To see ALL my images from the weekend CLICK HERE

The day after the race I attended my first NHRA awards banquet. It was a fun evening for everyone to get dressed up and have fun.

Below is a picture of my beautiful date Kendra and I all dressed up.

I have a 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!


 
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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!