This past November I had the opportunity to help out photographer and friend Mark Rebilas at the NHRA Finals at the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, CA. Surprisingly this would be the first time that I’d shoot anything that wasn’t on dirt, so I was excited to shoot something new and different. My biggest challenge would be never having even been to a drag racing event, getting used to the schedule of how things are run. Little did I know my biggest challenge would be getting used to a Top Fuel car going by me at 200+ mph only 6 feet from me.

I’ve had plenty of fast vehicles fly by me at close distances, Trophy Trucks, Pro 4’s, Jordan and Chris on their mountain bikes, but there is something about 10,000 horsepower 6 feet from you that can’t be replicated. Its hard to put it in words, but the first time a Funny Car went by me I thought someone hit me in the chest with a sledgehammer, while at the same time reached into my brain and shook it around. Mark was looking forward to me losing my 10,000 horsepower virginity so he got a kick out of it.

Another great experience I had was in the pits when one of the Top Fuel teams were working on their car. Because of the fuel they use all the crew members have to wear gas masks so they don’t breath in too much of the nitrous in the air. You’ll see crew members 20 feet from the car wearing the mask but the hardcore fans will stand right next to their gates and watch them work. I got a pretty good wiff myself shooting some of the fans and had to walk away before I started to cry. It felt like I was in a riot and just got hit with the pepper spray.

They were prepared, I wasn’t.

One of the first things I noticed was that things run very smoothly. As soon as two cars made their pass down the drag strip the next two were already in line warming up their tires for their runs. If there was an accident or any type of liquid got spilt on the track after a run a crew would be on it right away to get things cleaned up.

Overall I had a good time shooting NHRA. It was challenging taking me out of my comfort zone of offroad but after a few runs I was very comfortable in shooting it. Its always good to push yourself and try new things, otherwise you’ll get stuck doing the same thing all the time. Here are some shots from the weekend that I liked the best, one even ended up in USA Today! Thanks again to Mark for bringing me along. Enjoy!

Here John Force heats up his tires before a qualifying run, my goal was to get a nice silhouette shot of the sun and the tire smoke.

A good place for feature shots is in the hot pits right before the drivers go out on the track. This is funny car driver Gary Densham moments before he went out on his qualifying run.

For some of the qualifying runs on Saturday I got up in the stands to shoot. From up in the seats you can get both cars while also getting the crowd in the shot.

The Pro Stock Motorcycle class reaches speeds close to 200 mph as they hit the 1/4 mile.

Since this was the final weekend of the season championships were being decided, it was a good opportunity to get the teams celebrating after the run.

LE Tonglet secures the championship in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.

John Force clinches the Funny Car championship as his team celebrates.

Whenever a championship is clinched, NHRA immediately does the trophy ceremony which is nice.

Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon makes his way to the podium.

My favorite time to shoot was definitely when the sun was going down, because you could start seeing the flames shooting out the exhaust from the Top Fuel and Funny Cars. It adds a lot to the images and gives you a better feel for how much horsepower they have.

And finally here are a few more of my favorite shots from the weekend, hope you enjoyed them!

Smoking the tires getting ready for their run.

In these two photos you can see the heat waves the cars put off, as well as see how much torque the engines put out by looking at the tires grabbing the pavement.