They are gone now. At least most of them. You still see a few of them hanging around the edges of the sport; serving as team owners and tuners. The majority, however, have retired, moved on, hung it up. Sadly, all too many of them have crossed that final finish line.
There was a time when these men and women were the rock-stars of motorsports, barnstorming throughout the country setting records and creating unforgettable racing legends. And I was fortunate to have a front-row seat for much of it.
At one time, I was the track photographer for Detroit Dragway, Milan Dragway and Motor City Dragway. I also did occasional work at Central Michigan Dragway near Lansing. Those gigs were my bread and butter, keeping me in film, food and darkroom supplies. My real income came from freelancing. As a magazine writer/photographer, I covered major NHRA, IHRA and AHRA events throughout the eastern US and Canada. There were very few weekends where I wasn’t attending at least one race, and often two or three.
While the bulk of my income came from covering drag racing, to make a full-time income I had to photograph anything that moved. I covered Endurance Racing in Sebring, Florida, Formula Atlantic cars wending through the streets of Hamilton, Ontario and stock car events at Michigan’s Flatrock Speedway. Sand drags, mud bogs, snowmobile races. When Milan Dragway added a MX and BMX track, I added those events to my schedule as well.
In addition, I filled in the “off-season” by covering the SCCA Pro Rallye scene in Michigan, Ohio and parts of Canada. The grand-daddy of these events was the legendary Press on Regardless rally out of Marquette, Michigan. Every November found me chasing rally cars through the dark woods of Upper Michigan. While the POR was king, I also dragged my cameras through plenty of mud, snow and sand at smaller rallyes.
This was well before the advent of digital photography, so I shot all of these events with film. Kodak Tri-X, Kodachrome, Ektachrome and Ilford XP-1 were my media of choice. Rolls and rolls of the stuff. 35mm, 120mm, negatives, transparencies. All of it tucked neatly away for decades in wooden boxes or plastic sleeves.
So the plan is to dig out many of these images and display them on this blog. I also have many of my old stories, columns and features, which I will republish here as well.
This isn’t a new concept. A number of other old photographers are catering to nostalgia racing fans by posting images from “back in the day.” However, I have images that no one else has, just as other lensmen have photos of people and cars I am missing. No one could have documented everything that went on in that era, and I think I have more than a few unique images.
I don’t plan to publish these photos in any particular order, because it would be too difficult to post things in chronological fashion. I will start with some very old 126 Kodak Instamatic images from well before I became a professional. From there, who knows? I could dig out photos and stories dating from anytime between 1965 to 1985.
As I said, there are thousands of images, so I don’t anticipate the well ever running dry. Even if I published an image every day, I doubt I would run out of material during my lifetime. I do have a life, and other writing and photography pursuits, so I probably will maintain a schedule of posting new (old) material a couple of times a week.
There are a lot of old race track friends who I have lost contact with over the years. I would love to reconnect through this blog. Leave a comment and I will be happy to follow-up with you.
To prepare for my initial Vintage-Nitro blog posts, I have been busy digging through my old negatives. Even I don’t remember everything buried in those old contact sheets. So stick around. I think this will be a lot of fun!