Rain not Wrecks dominate ADRL weekend in Dallas

For the last few years I have been hearing nonstop buzz from my friends in the drag racing world how I had to go shoot an American Drag Racing League (ADRL) because it was wild and crazy racing with cars all over the track and amazing access. Those two things together had me salivating to shoot a race.

The closest the series comes to the west coast is Dallas, TX so when I was offered the chance to cover it for Drag Illustrated I quickly said yes and here we go off to Dallas!

Obviously with all the crashes and wild rides everyone was telling me about the first place I headed when I got to the track for qualifying on Friday was the top end.

With ADRL they only run 1/8th mile so I ended up setting up at the 1/4 mile mark which had me far enough down in the shutdown area that I wouldn’t miss a thing.

Below, the track reflects in the visor of a pro extreme motorcycle rider as he slows down in the shutdown area following a run.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Its probably time for Pro Nitrous driver Pat Stoken to get off the throttle as he gets way crossed up and out of the groove during qualifying, below.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 640iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Below, Check out the altitude on the hood scoop of Pro Nitrous driver Bob Rahaim after he experienced a nitrous explosion right off the starting line during his qualifying run.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 640iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Below is a photo of my buddy Angie Smith hanging out on her bike as she waits her crew to come pick her up following a qualifying pass.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

The weather forecast for the day was partly cloudy and a chance of rain. It was pretty windy so the clouds were moving across the sky which made it a pain in the ass to keep up with my exposures. It was a perfect chance to use the aperture priority feature on my Nikon D700.

In the below photo of extreme ten five driver Steve Benoit racing downtrack was in the sunlight while the starting line was in the shade which made for a nice dark background.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 500iso, f6.3, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Similar type effect in the below photo of extreme ten five driver Chris Shortridge except the car wasnt lit by the sun so it appears pretty dark as he does a burnout.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 250iso, f6.3, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

One thing I was noticing with the nitrous cars is as they raced through the finish line you could sometimes see flames coming from the exhaust pipes which made for cool pics like the below shot of Pro Nitrous driver Dan Stevenson.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 800iso, f4, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

The top class in the ADRL is widely said to be the pro extreme class where cars have monster supercharged or turbocharged engines and the cars are always on the edge of destruction.

Below, pro extreme driver John Stanley suffers an explosion right as he crosses the finish line. BTW, this is one of those dumb luck shots where the only way anyone could get this shot is if they were shooting and the explosion just happened to happen during the fraction of a second. I like getting lucky!

Nikon D700, 600mm, 800iso, f4, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Pro exteme driver Tommy D’Aprile gets his car on two wheels as he goes out of the groove just off the starting line, below.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 1250iso, f4, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

After the two rounds of qualifying there was a quick break before moving into the Battle for the Belts which essentially is an eight car field in each class of the top eight in points who race for the championship. I love the format and it forces the drivers to perform when it counts in a winner takes the championship format.

Below is a view of the starting lights more commonly known as the “Christmas Tree” as darkness falls on the Texas Motorplex.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

So thus far there had really been nothing wild or crazy but I figured if there was any time for all hell to break loose it would happen during the Battle for the Belts when the drivers would be giving it all to try and win the championship. So with that in mind I headed back down to the top end to wait for some action.

Only one problem….

The track was the darkest pro level drag strip I had ever been to.

Below is a view at 12800 iso (which is ridiculously high) as a pair of extreme ten five drivers prepared to race.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 12800iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

The below frame of extreme pro stock driver Pete Bemer is kind of cool simply because of the headlights illuminating the track in front of him as he raced down track.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 12800iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

Without headlights on the photos were pretty much useless. At least with nitro cars their header flames would light up the cars a bit. With these guys on this dark track I made one last attempt to get a good exposure so I could stay top end. I cranked the iso on my Nikon D700 up to an unprecedented ISO levels.

Below is how the image looked at 25600 iso as extreme pro stock driver Gary Goforth raced downtrack.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 25600iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

While the exposure was close to useable the horrific noise easily visible in the photos finally forced me to head to the starting line to shoot.

Usually on the starting line the light is brighter so its easier to shoot available light pics. Of course that would not be the case here and the track was super dark at the starting line as well.

I’m sure the obvious thing you are thinking here is,”Use a flash idiot!”  While that would have been the next step to acceptable photos I had left my flash at home (I very rarely ever use flash because I prefer the natural look to my shots)

In the below photo of pro nitrous driver Shannon Jenkins (near) racing alongside Stan Allen I shot a semi slow shutter speed to suck in light, it also helped blur out the grandstands a bit that were rather empty due to all the high school football (which is big in Texas) and more importantly the Texas Rangers playing in nearby Arlington for a spot in the World Series.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/200th, Manual

While the shot was acceptable I still wasn’t happy so when I noticed a photographer had placed a flash on the wall aimed at the track I set up to steal their flash (not literally!) by hanging the motordrive as the next car left the starting line. Theoretically by shooting a burst of images at a semi slow shutter speed the odds would be good that the flash would fire during one of my shots which would light the car for me.

Below, pro nitrous driver Jim Halsey is lit by the random photographers flash in my first attempt. Nice!

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/50th, Manual

For a few pairs I ventured to the island between the two lanes to see if there were any pics to be had from the spot.

In the below photo from Joe McHugh you get a better idea of where I am talking about.

Photo by Joe McHugh

Below, pro extreme driver Joshua Hernandez launches off the starting line.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/250th, Manual

Anyone who has ever shot junior dragsters know that its the most boring class in all of drag racing. Little kids going 50-70 mph gets very boring quick. By slowing down the shutter speed quite a bit I was able to make the car of K.J. Nowling look like its actually semi fast.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/15th, Manual

In the below frame I stood on another photographers little step ladder who wasn’t using it to shoot pro extreme driver Jimmy Blackmon as he did his burnout.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/30th, Manual

My buddy Roger Richards noticed I didn’t have a flash and offered to let me use one of his extra ones. I happily said yes and set up to shoot some slow shutter speed stuff with flash.

Below, extreme pro stock driver Brian Gahm launches off the starting line during the Battle for the Belt.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f3.2, 1/30th, Manual

I was surprised to see header flames at the race as they poured from the extreme ten five car of Todd Moyer as he spooled up his turbo charged car prior to launching off the starting line.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f3.2, 1/30th, Manual

Below, pro nitrous driver Rickie Smith launches off the starting line.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f3.2, 1/30th, Manual

Longtime racer Shannon Jenkins (below) does his burnout.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f3.2, 1/30th, Manual

That wrapped up an average day of shooting.

Saturday morning I headed out to the track for what was supposed to be a 9am first round of eliminations with the plan of shooting driver portraits in the staging lanes. However the weather had other plans and it rained off and on all damn day.

Since there was no on track action to shoot I headed into the pit area with my 1600watt Alien Bee strobe as well as my softbox to do some half assed driver portraits.

Helping me out I had Wes Buck holding the softbox as well as Jason Sharp providing some fill light with his canon flash set on slave mode.

Pro extreme driver Todd Tutterow

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/250th, Manual

Pro extreme driver  Alex Hossler

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/250th, Manual

Pro nitrous driver Stan Allen

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/250th, Manual

Extreme pro stock driver John Montecalvo poses with his ADRL championship belt, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/250th, Manual

Technician Brandon Switzer

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/250th, Manual

pro extreme driver Tommy D’Aprile

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f13, 1/250th, Manual

That wraps up a somewhat disappointing but ultimately fun weekend in Texas. I will absolutely shoot more ADRL race sin the future!

CLICK HERE to see all my photos from the race weekend.

2 Responses to “Rain not Wrecks dominate ADRL weekend in Dallas”

  1. Joe Mc says:

    Awesome stuff as usual. It was great to talk to ya and I hope you come back to Texas soon. The slow shutter pan blurrs are great as well as the portraits. BTW I had 2 SB800’s in my bag………………………..

  2. Jason Gynn says:

    Awesome stuff mate. Definately hoping to see more ADRL stuff in the future. Todd Moyer’s car is an animal! Im a big fan of 2-step shots and with pipes shooting flames out of both sides, that’s just awesome!

    Aussie crew Pac Performance (www.pacperformance.com.au), owners of the worlds fastest rotary vehicle are looking to head over to the states in 2011 to race at the Pan American Nationals at Atco and then Summer Slam at English town. Going to be a big deal in the Sport Compact world and I’m making the trip over to cover both events for the mags I work for.

    Would be cool to see you cover these events. Maybe sus it out next year and see if you can get someone to contract you to cover it??

    Anyway mate, keep up the good work!

    Jason

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