costa's hummer

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Day at the Drags

Yesterday I had the privilege of going to my first drag race. Ken Seals is a long time aficionado and he invited me to join him at the Winternationals qualifying races in Pomona. I tell you it was a hoot.

Not only were the races great, there was lots of wonderful and slightly eccentric people watching as well. Really, it was an introduction to an entirely new world for me, a subcultural place I barely knew even existed.

As was explained to me by Greg this morning, the drags are a uniquely Californian invention. I had been to the Ferrari races at Laguna Seca but this was nothing like it. No confederate flags either, a long way from Nascar. The reigning world champion is a black dude, Antron Brown. The three Force sisters are perennial champions. The crowd was friendly, largely sober from what I could see and comprised of every shade and hue of the ethnic rainbow. Huge hispanic influence, then and now. Knowledgable fans, all inhabitants of a universe I know next to nothing about.

Mt. Baldy shone its white capped head in the distance on this beautiful winter day. Pete and Leslie had both loaned me ear protection and I came bearing a couple extra lenses in my large fanny pack so that I was ready for any photographic eventuality.

I won't ramble on too long. I took about a thousand pictures, got to see a car blow up. Watched Pro Stock, Alcohol, funny car and top fuel. Cars that exceeded 300 mph, could blow by an Indy car like it was standing still.

When the top fuel blow by you feel it deep in your core, they shake the house.

Fast Jack Beckman
Antron Brown
One of the cool things about the races is that the drivers are very friendly and you are welcome in the pits. Ken pranked me by having me step into a garage where they were firing up the nitro and he got the pleasure of seeing me cry and cough. Sentimental about cars, I guess...

We watched the actions in the pits for a while, crew doing the last minute torqueing and setup work. Ken explained how every engine is broken down to its smallest component after every race.
Note to any hipsters out there: If you buy the two foot corn dog, make sure there is nobody around snapping pictures. It is just a bit unseemly.

People bring a lot of cool cars up there and just hang, too. Lots of interesting characters, to say the least.

Really well done ink job

Saw some serious mullet action.

Now that's a set of fingernails!

This Reubenesque beauty is apparently more than a little into Hello Kitty. 

Ken says that at the drags, a guy like me looks positively svelte!

Of course there were cars there as well, lots of them.

Check out the flying object. Its Tony Pedregon's car body. Car exploded and sent this thing hurtling into the heavens. About 50k down the drain for just the body. Not a poor man's game.

Tony Schumacher had a ride where the chute never extended. Another wild ride. This stuff happens awful fast.

I was reading the NHRA magazine American Dragster and a guy wrote a column about how they would never seek sponsorship from somebody like Mercedes because the average fan takes in about 30k a year. A good demographic to hang out with. Very nice, dedicated and knowledgable. This might be a reach, but perhaps they are my brand of misfit.

John Force
I want to thank Ken for a great afternoon. I can't wait to go back. Lot of great pictures still there to take.


North County Film Club said...

It looks a lot different than it did in my high school days. Sorry, but no more interesting. I guess you have to be a guy to appreciate it. I had to pretend to like it when I had to spend so many weekends there with my high school boyfriend. The characters are interesting, though. I don't think they were there back in those days.

Anonymous said...

interesting, that bizarre subculture of car racing….little known fact: I used to race a '70 Cuda 340 at the 1/4 mile racetrack in Lancaster, NY outside Buffalo when I was a teenager with hormones ragin'…... It was not uncommon to be three sheets to the wind when I raced down that narrow track, hoping the guy next to me….was behind me…..quite a gas~!

Blue Heron said...

I used to steal my dad's aston martin db -5 and race once in a while. Blew the engine once on Palomar Airport Rd. He wasn't real happy. Leslie had a Cougar.

Ken Seals said...

Really great coverage and images.

grumpy said...

the noise and the exhaust fumes would get to me but i really dig the photos

Anonymous said...

Hey Sommers.......friggin great photos!!!!!


Blue Heron said...

By the way, the majority of race shots were taken with my Nikon d7000 with the 70 - 300 mm ed vr nikon lens at 2000th to 2500th of a second, shutter priority. The tight car shots were taken with my sigma 10-20mm wide angle. I also used my 18-135mm on occasion. Interestingly, at least to me, the shots I took at 250th of a second looked " faster" than the 2000th shots.

Larry said...

Jeanne Shanahan paintings are on display at the library and for sale thru the Brandon Gallery. All proceeds to the artist.

k55f5r said...

Nice pictures. Love the drags. You should check out the drag counter-culture, also.
The Mooneyes drags at Irwindale speedway this last year were awesome, with all the Bettie Page wannabes and zoot suiters. Great people watching venue.

Budd S. said...

I LOVE the smell of nitro in the morning! I was there Sunday for the finals Antron Brown's 10,000 HP nitro dragster blew up at the finish line going over 315 mhp. Really crazy crash but he was not hurt AMAZING. Nice shots Robert and your observations are right on.

Anonymous said...

Scott said My Uncle Eddie owned the late Island Dragway in Great Meadows NJ. Don Garlits broke the 200mph barrier and put the track in the record books forever. I used to roam around the pits as a child amazed at the loud incredible cars getting ready for their runs at the 1/4 mile , the xmas tree starting them off into escape velocity. The memories still bring out my inner gear head. You heard the ads for the track on Cousin Brucy on 77WABC NY if you lived there in the mid 60's and 70's on AM radio. Uncle Eddie also grew the sod for the World's Fair in Flushing.