Saturday, January 18, 2014

Back to the beginning

I've told this story various times in the past but never illustrated it. This is the picture that really started it all for me.

As a young boy in the 1970s I was completely in love with drag racing. Crazily-named race cars driven by colorful characters with names like Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen, and "Big Daddy" Don Garlits captivated my attention. I paged through magazines over and over looking at pictures of them and their wild machines.

When Dad said we could go to Thunder Valley Dragway in Marion, South Dakota I was very excited. On that May 1976 day he also brought along a 35mm camera from his office and shot this photo of famous wheelstanding cars "Hell's Fire" and "Hemi Under Glass."

I think when I saw this and realized that photos like this didn't just exist in magazines I started to get an idea what I wanted to do with my life. If Dad could do it, so could I.

My original goal was to work for one of the magazines that I loved so much. After studying photography at Custer High School and Black Hills State University I ventured out into the world, but never quite found a fulltime job at a racing magazine.

As an intern for the South Dakota Department of Tourism in 1985 I did make it back to Thunder Valley to shoot my own photos of wheelstanding drag cars.

By 1990-92 I had moved to Indiana and shooting a few freelance gigs for various magazines at events like the U.S. Nationals and the Indianapolis 500. Awesome stuff for me!

Here is the aforementioned Don "The Snake" Prudhomme getting ready to do battle in his top fuel dragster at the 1990 U.S. Nationals.

Thanks to Scott Howard for loaning me the slide scanner which lead me down this path of drag racing nostalgia.


Mark Gacke said...

I used to frequent Thunder Valley in the early 80's. They were very nice to us as budding photographers. I still treasure the pictures I took out there.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for posting. I was the driver/owner of the blue C/SM Maverick. This is the best piture ever taken of my race car! Would you have nay others?

George Rogers
C/SM 5319