Hundreds of drag racers (and their families and friends) turned out for the Southern Bracket Racing Association's championship finals at Eastside Speedway,in Waynesboro, Virginia, on 2 to 4 October. This annual event draws the best racers from six small, grassroots dragstrips in Virginia and Maryland. Tracks like these, and the people who race on them, are the foundation--the bedrock--of drag racing.
I was there to continue working on my book about the people and culture of drag racing, Democracy of Speed. (Click directly on any of these photos to see larger versions.)
I made these photos with two medium format cameras, a fifty-year-old Rolleiflex and a twenty-year-old Mamiya 6. They're great fun to use and produce the naturally square images that you see here.
I was worried about the turnout for the race. Drag racing is an expensive hobby (none of the racers in these photos are pros), and many of the racers that I know well have been hurt by the recession. Hours have been cut; clients have disappeared.
As it happened, the number of cars at the race was off only slightly from last year. These racers have a real passion for the sport. Where I saw the difference was in the number of spectators. The grandstands were significantly less full than last year.
Here some of the faster cars line up for their turn to race, in the staging lanes.
This car is performing a burnout to clean and heat the rear tires. The cleaner and hotter the tire, the better it grips the track and the quicker the car runs.
Friends and family members are always on hand. Nobody races alone.
There are lots of cameras at any racetrack.
I'm not kidding when I say that drag racing is a family affair. This girl's father is one of the best racers at Eastside. Her grandfather, who's also a fine driver, has been racing at the track since the mid-'60s.
Race control. No, the boy's not working. But his mother (not seen) works the timing system, when she's not racing her motorcycle.
The rocks and dirt clods would come from the action on the "circle track" (a dirt oval, for stock car racing), not the dragstrip. The oval is right next to the dragstrip. I've never seen anyone hurt at the track, but remaining alert is good advice.
As I was saying, the grandstands weren't particularly full.
The racing went on well into the night. The fans stayed. Night racing is terrific.
Nights were chilly. Ice cream was much more popular during the day.