10 Spot / NHRA Indy Friday

Ask any NHRA driver what the race they most want to win is and I bet 95% of the drivers would say the US Nationals in Indianapolis. The “Big Go” as it is commonly referred to brings out the largest pro fields of the year. That plus the fact I hadn’t been at a drag race for over a month had me quite anxious to get to Indy!

Following a late night the previous night covering the Broncos against the Cardinals in an NFL matchup it was a 4:30am wakeup call for my 6am flight. Assuming there were no delays I would land in Indy around 2:30pm giving me plenty of time to get to the track for the 5pm pro qualifying session.

The only good thing about such an early flight is the potential of seeing an amazing sunrise from the air.

That normally doesn’t happen or when it does its on the other side of the plane or my window is dirty and scratched.

Today it would work out perfectly for me resulting in the below shot of the sun rising through the mountains and glistening off the surface of Saguaro Lake.

Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

On final approach to Indianapolis we would fly over Lucas Oil Raceway, the site of the US Nationals. Thankfully I had my camera with me and was able to snap the below frame of the place I would soon be at.

Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 400iso, f4, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Every national event outside of Indianapolis has four qualifying sessions. Here at the Big Go we have five. One on Friday, two on Saturday and Sunday with eliminations on Monday.

With threatening weather coming towards Indianapolis from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac, this session would be incredibly important. If rain were to wash out qualifying on Saturday and Sunday then the fields would be determined by this one session.

In pro stock the quickest driver after the one session would be the hottest driver in the class right now, Erica Enders. She would run a 6.624 at 208.84 mph.

Nikon D800, 600mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

Jon Capps would have a bit of a fire in his Drink Hard Racing sponsored funny car.

Nikon D800, 600mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

The quickest funny car pass on the day would go to “Fast Jack” Beckman (left) who would lay down a great 4.051 at 302.62 mph alongside teammate Johnny Gray.

Nikon D800, 600mm, 1000iso, f4, 1/1000th, Manual

The action would heat up in top fuel where a huge field of 27 drivers would be vying for 16 spots.

Below, Luigi Novelli lights up the night sky in his dragster.

Nikon D800, 600mm, 2500iso, f4, 1/1000th, Manual

Next to donate to the pile of scrap metal in the pits would be Pat Dakin who would have a big explosion while racing alongside Ike Maier. The flames were so bright that it blew out the exposure of the car.

Nikon D800, 600mm, 2500iso, f4, 1/1000th, Manual

Here is what the exposure looked like in the shutdown area without the bright track lights or flaming engine.

Nikon D800, 600mm, 2500iso, f4, 1/1000th, Manual

During the cleanup of the Pat Dakin oildown I would head up to the starting line to try my hand at some shooting there.

I wasn’t planning on shooting night qualifying on the starting line so I left my flash in the car. Normally thats not an issue as the tracks lights are plenty bright to go sans flash. At this track the positioning of the giant Musco lights is backlit and doesn’t look good without flash.

Luckily I am a crafty guy and would just hope to catch the flashes from other photographers…. basically the photography version of stealing free wifi from a neighbors open wifi network.

In this shot of Khalid Albalooshi I would catch a flash from the same side of the track as me. It produced a nice look.

Nikon D4, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

Now in this shot of T.J. Zizzo I would once again catch someones flash but this time it would be from the other side of the track which resulted in the below photo. I love it.

Nikon D4, 70-200mm, 3200iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

Seven time top fuel dragster champion Tony Schumacher recently got NHRA approval for a cool looking canopy over the roll cage of his car. It adds a futuristic look to the fuel cars which I love. Plus lets face it. A 20 year old top fuel car doesnt look much different at all from todays design. Im ready for a change!

For Schumachers burnout I would catch someones flash on my side of the track.

Nikon D4, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f4, 1/400th, Manual

For his launch alongside Steve Torrence I would catch someones flash from across the track.

Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f4, 1/160th, Manual

Schumacher would take the top qualifying position with a 3.814 seconds at 324.67 mph.

That wraps up day one of the US Nationals. Hopefully the weather takes it easy on us tomorrow so I can have a day two!

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