22
May

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

During the Monday rain delayed NHRA Heartland Nationals I would witness one of the rarest crashes that can happen as top alcohol dragster driver Steve Collier would ride out the dreaded blowover, the first at an NHRA event in 11 years!  Continue on to see my full sequence from start to finish….

While waiting in the Heartland Raceway Park staging lanes Monday morning for the 10am resumption of rain delayed NHRA top fuel eliminations I was complaining with some of my crew member friends after we realized they were going to instead run the second round of top alcohol dragster before the nitro categories. That meant I had about 15-20 minutes to kill before I would be able to shoot my top fuel clients being suited up and getting into their cars. I had yet to shoot a session at the top end of the track but I wanted to check photo conditions to make sure that heatwaves hadn’t started building up over the recently resealed track. Why does that matter you may ask? Well, when a track is repaved or resealed it makes the track surface really dark (almost black) and when you are shooting with a 600mm lens from nearly a quarter mile past the finish line it literally only takes a few minutes of direct sunlight to create a gauntlet of heatwaves off the track that make photos look out of focus, thereby making the photo position un-shootable.

Six minutes after my last photo of Erica Enders-Stevens hanging out on the starting line I was parked at the top end of the track as the first pair of alcohol dragsters did their burnouts. Shot that race and the photos looked decent but the sun was poking in and out of the clouds so I wanted to give it a few more pairs of cars to see how the photos would look. Up next would be Steve Collier vs Monroe Guest.

Guest would red light and shut off so my camera would be aimed on Collier as he his front end began to come up after he briefly got off the throttle following tire shake.  You can see by the heatwaves that at this point he is still in the throttle. As long as the wheelie bar is doing its job you almost don’t need to lift because once you hit the wheelie bar it will unload the chassis and you’ll lose traction. At that point your worry would be the hard landing…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Unfortunately what Collier couldn’t have possibly known was that the earlier tire-shake he had suffered broke the wheelie bar of his car….

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Collier is off the throttle here but you can see air has gotten beneath the body panels of the car as the car continues skyward….

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

The body panels shred off the car as it is now past 45 degrees. Also note the sparks coming off the broken wheelie bar which is still trying to do its job…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

The last blowover I shot was almost 20 years ago, back when they had multiple pieces comprising the cars body so it was odd seeing a one piece body flying off…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Collier is completely vertical here as he crosses the half track speed block at 219 mph…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

I can’t imagine what is going through his head here as the flip happens in slow motion…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

As with every dragster blowover in history, the gyration of the spinning tires would begin to pirouette the car…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

As they always say, what goes up must come down….

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Brace for impact time….

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Here is the final photo of the chassis in good condition…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

It was great that the car would come down wheels down but unfortunately the front end would hit before the cushion of the big rear Goodyear tire meant that Steve would take the brunt of the impact…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Once the back wheels hit, it would bounce the rear end of the car up into the air…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

The car started to tip over after the bounce…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

And then would get into the wall…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Debris flys as the rear wing of the car takes out the finish line reflector signs on the wall….

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

The car would begin bouncing as the front end would start to come around…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

The tires would grab and the car would tip over…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Now upside down the car would slide towards me…

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

At this point the car is too close for my 600mm lens so I made the quick switch to the camera on my shoulder with a 70-200mm lens as the car would start to roll over….

Canon 1Dx, 70-200mm, 200iso, f2.8, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Canon 1Dx, 70-200mm, 200iso, f2.8, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Canon 1Dx, 70-200mm, 200iso, f2.8, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Check out the chassis flexing as it lands back on the ground…

Canon 1Dx, 70-200mm, 200iso, f2.8, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Canon 1Dx, 70-200mm, 200iso, f2.8, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Here is how the car would come to a stop. Note the fuel leaking….

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

Members of the NHRA Safety Safari were quick on the scene to tend to Steve.

Canon 1Dx mk2, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Manual

After a few minutes, NHRA would announce that he was out of the car and talking to officials before being transported to a local hospital for evaluation.

Steve Collier would break his back in two places in the incident.

He is expected to make a full recovery!

Up next is the Indianapolis 500!


 
Posted in Crash, Drag Racing, Kansas, NHRA, Racing, Sports   Leave a comment

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