The Gloves come off as NHRA invades Hotlanta

Another weekend, another NHRA race, this time at Atlanta Dragway, one of the few remaining NHRA tracks I had not yet been to. Luckily for me the track was like all the other ones where it was a straight line with a starting line and a finish line so I was pretty confident I would be able to figure it out…

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With rain in the forecast all weekend my fingers would be crossed for us to get this race in.

Below, top fuel points leader Del Worsham checks the throttle settings in his car prior to the first qualifying session.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

In the first session for the pro mod cars Pat Musi (below) would lose control and crash heavily after getting on the brakes too hard when the parachutes failed to deploy.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 320iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

Musi went out of control right as he passed me. I tried shooting the accident but the smoke from his sliding tires ruined any chance of getting shots.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 320iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 320iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 320iso, f6.3, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Musi would climb from the car but he ended up being transferred to a local hospital where it was discovered that he had a fractured vertebraeĀ in his back. Get well soon Pat.

One of the front runners for Rookie of the Year is pro stock motorcycle rider Gerald Savoie. Savoie is an alligator farmer who lives in Louisiana. Check out that sweet paint job on his bike.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

After a rain delay put us behind schedule it would eventually lead to a night time qualifying session.

I ended up catching another photographers flash in the below photo which added a cool look to an already cool shot of Tony Pedregon in his badass Nitro Fish painted funny car.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

It was pretty overcast all day so I figured no chance in hell of any type of cool sunset. I ended up being wrong as the sky lit up a nice pink color. There was only two problems.

Problem one was that the sky lit up all nice during a 20 minute oil down which meant there was no action I could really incorporate into the shot.

Problem two was the sunset was directly down the track so the only angle to get the car and the sunset in the shot was to be behind the starting line like in the below shot of the funny car of Jim Head as it sits behind the waterbox.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

The shot of Jim Head gave me a great idea (or so I thought) if I knelt down and held camera down to the water I could maybe get a cool looking reflection shot.

Here is the test shot to see how it would look.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f3.2, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Now all I needed was a car in the shot.

Here is a look backwards as the crew for Jim Head wait for the signal to start the engine.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f3.2, 1/200th, Aperture Priority

Once the signal was given to start the cars I hung out back by the water off the side of the track and held out the camera down to the water as he pulled his car past, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f3.2, 1/125th, Aperture Priority

After I had to duck my head to avoid getting the exhaust to my face I realized I was in a spot I probably shouldn’t be in.

Here is the best shot I was able to get during this whole attempt.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f3.2, 1/250th, Aperture Priority

Seconds after I got up to head back to a safe area a really angry NHRA official would come up to me to pull my credential.

Uh oh!

Luckily for me he was either in a generous mood or my apology was pretty good (probably a little of both) but after a stern ass chewing I was back on my merry way to shoot the rest of the session.

I really wish the reflection shot had come out better since now I don’t have any excuse about not knowing the rules of where I can’t be and will no longer be able to try that shot again.

Ok back to the night session.

Below, funny car driver Cruz Pedregon (near) does his burnout alongside Brian Thiel.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f3.2, 1/200th, Manual

15 time funny car champion John Force, below, rockets off the starting line on his way to the top qualifying spot. It would be the 128th time Force has sat on the pole tying him with pro stock legend Warren Johnson for the most of all time.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/320th, Manual

Below, header flames pour from the dragster of Steve Torrence as he launches off the starting line.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/250th, Manual

Catching other photographers flashes can ruin shots but it also can add a really cool look to your shot. I really dig the below frame of top fuel driver Spencer Massey on his way to the top qualifying position.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Manual

Here are some images from Saturday.

Longtime top fuel dragster driver Fred Farndon slows to a stop with his parachutes out beneath a postcard like sky during round three of qualifying.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Top fuel champion Larry Dixon (below) sits strapped into his Al-Anabi dragster prior to his third qualifying run. This shot was taken by simply holding the camera with a wide angle lens up over the cockpit.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f4, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Below, NHRA top fuel drivers Steve Torrence (near) and Spencer Massey do side by side burnouts.

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

Just prior to a rain storm making its way through the area I shot the below frame of Cruz Pedregons car sitting in the staging lanes under some very unhappy clouds.

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

Speaking of unhappy here is a shot of pro mod driver Danny Rowe taking the solo walk of shame instead of riding with his crew back to the pits after he failed to qualify for the event.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

While we are on the topic of failing to qualify we have top fuel driver Steve Torrence who would fail to qualify in a blaze of glory as he lit it up big time at half track, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Below, heat waves pour from the cars of Doug Kalitta (left) and Brandon Bernstein during the final qualifying session.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

One of the more interesting moments of the weekend would come courtesy of funny car driver Brian Thiel who would have engine problems on his final run the left him outside the field for race day. After he climbed from his car he went crazy and started throwing everything he had.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Below, funny car driver Jim Head (left) races alongside Jack Beckman during their final qualifying run.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f6.3, 1/1250th, Manual

The car of John Force (below) is towed back up the return road following his pass.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f4, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

As Force drove his scooter up the return road my buddy Gary who was shooting next to me yelled at his name and Force looked up and threw up a number one. Sweet.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f4, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

In most cases I would pack up and leave after the pro session but the light was so nice I hung out for a bit to shoot some top sportsman cars, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

By underexposing the below shot by a few stops it only picked up the highlights off the top of the cars which made for a moody looking shot.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

On to raceday.

For the first round I decided to shoot from atop of th elast grandstands which were just past the finish line and would give me a good angle to shoot some side by side shots.

Below is a wide angle view of a pair of funny cars doing their burnout in the first round.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

In the first round of top fuel driver Shawn Langdon would be up against the hottest driver in the class right now, Del Worsham. I doubt many people thought Langdon would have much of a shot but much to everyones surprise (especially Del’s) Langdon would take him out, below.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 400iso, f6.3, 1/1600th, Manual

A young fan plays with some hot wheels in the grandstands. I used to do the same exact thing…. then I turned 30.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

In the below frame I have the parachute from Tony Schumachers car in front of Larry Dixon as they slow down in the shutdown area. Don’t know why but I kind of liked this shot.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f6.3, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Below, under some awesome clouds I went wide with a fisheye to shoot this shot of Cruz Pedregon as he does a burnout in his funny car in the semi finals.

Nikon D3s, 16mm, 100iso, f11, 1/250th, Manual

From the other side of the track the clouds looked just as cool in the below frame of top fuel driver Antron Brown does his burnout.

Nikon D3s, 16mm, 100iso, f11, 1/250th, Manual

If you are downwind from the cars after just a few minutes shooting on the starting line your face will get covered with little specks of rubber from the burnout smoke. Not really the best look for me I would say…

Photo by Steve Limentani

On to the final rounds.

In pro stock motorcycle the big winner would be current champion L.E. Tonglet who would pick up his first victory of the season.

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

In pro stock the winner would be Jason Line for the third time of the season.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

In the funny car final Jack Beckman would defeat Mike Neff to pick up his second win of the season.

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

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/500th, Manual

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/500th, Manual

And we finish with top fuel where the self described “brother man” Antron Brown would pick up his second victory of the season.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

As Antron pulled off the track a safety safari member would run alongside spraying out a small header fire, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/640th, Manual

Antron is the easiest driver on tour to shoot as he always is happy and smiling (especially after a win).

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f4, 1/800th, Manual

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

And that brings this blog to an end. Next up is NHRA in Topeka followed by the Indianapolis 500!

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One Response to “The Gloves come off as NHRA invades Hotlanta”

  1. Erica says:

    Love the pun-tastic blog titles, dude.

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