EMPTY STANDS

Like a lot of photographers, we’re all looking for a different view but are rather limited when it comes to drag racing. You’ve got burnout shots, launch shots, photos from the stands, and maybe some top end parachutes. You’ve all seen these. Other than a sharp looking car, the shots resemble all the rest.

We tend to take a lot of photographs during the course of an event. I don’t take as many as some of the photographers out there on the starting line; some take as many as 3,000-5,000 a weekend. Why take so many? Everyone does have a different reason. In the magazine’s case, we do that in order to have a good library of photos to choose from when it comes time to publish an issue or post a story on our website – www.dragracingedge.com.

I give a lot of credit to those who stand out there all day long taking photos. I really don’t have the patience to stand out there for too long taking what amounts to the same photo, just of a different car.

Things got a little tougher last year when the NHRA mandated that trackside photographers kneel down on the guard wall from behind the starting line to a point 100-feet from the line during pro sessions. Their claim was that spectators complained photographers were in the way. I’m not sure I believe that explanation, but nonetheless it is what we have had to live with for now.

In any event, one of the problems associated with that mandate was that often you’d end up with shots of empty grandstands in the background; shots which do nothing to capture the true excitement of the sport. In the pages of Drag Racing Edge or even on our website – www.dragracingedge.com, we try extremely hard not to run a photograph of a car with empty grandstands in the background. It just doesn’t look good. Sometimes we have no choice. When it comes to shooting bracket races or sportsman events, they offer little in the way of spectator appeal and as such you end up with empty grandstands, but we have no choice at that point. Oftentimes when forced to use a shot such as that in our print edition, I’ll have the art director blur out the stands or use text over them. At zMAX Dragway in North Carolina, the grandstand seating on the left side of the track utilizes different colored seats which provides some illusion the seats aren’t empty. So much for that.

I didn’t attend the NHRA event in Dallas last weekend but noticed they ran the sportsman classes down to a final round on Saturday night, bringing both finalists back on Sunday afternoon. As they did in Charlotte the weekend prior when they completed sportsman classes on Saturday night, I think that’s a good move.

Previously they have run the sportsman classes down to the semifinals on Saturday, bring the remaining three or four cars back Sunday afternoon. The problem with that is losing in the semifinals earns you only a check for $600 or so. If you’re unfortunate to lose in the semis, you’ve had to wait around Saturday night and until late in the day on Sunday, which doesn’t earn you much money.

Of course, there’s the argument that we’re not racing for the money, but you can’t tell me the money doesn’t help. Now then, win the semifinal round and you’ve made it to the finals where even the runner-up gets a portion of the contingency money which could amount to thousands. Not sure that was the thought of the NHRA when they made the schedule, but I think it’s a good one. Let’s see if it continues.

What are your thoughts? -JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO