My friend Jon Paulette, the writer, dragged me up to the Vintage Racer Group's 13th annual Turkey Bowl road race, at West Virginia's Summit Point Motorsports Park, last Saturday. I'm glad he did. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to be at a race and not be on assignment. I was shooting for the heck of it and having a blast.
Mark Palmer, president of the Vintage Racer Group's board of directors, sits on pole and leads the pack around the course in his '57 MGA, during a warm-up lap. (Click directly on any of the photos to see larger versions. All photos copyright John Edwin Mason, 2009.)
I've spent the last few years photographing drag racing exclusively, so it was liberating to be back at a road course, facing a very different set of challenges.
Sam Smith in his 1960 Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
The cars raced in several different classes. I wish that I could identify the cars and drivers more fully, but there were no programs at the track, and I couldn't find an entry list or printed results. I'll be grateful to hear from anyone who can help. Just leave me a comment or send an email.
Update, December 02, 2009: Bob Graham and the VRG's Mark Palmer have sent information that has helped me to identify some of the cars and drivers. There are still some holes to plug. If you can help, let me know.
The class that small cars competed in--like this late '60s Fiat Abarth 1300, driven by Hugh Tompkins--was a hoot to watch.
It was good to be reminded just how sweet a snarly four-cylinder engine can sound.
There were several Minis on hand. This driver remains unidentified.
It was also nice to discover that I haven't forgotten everything that I know about shooting sports cars.
Dave Smith in a 1959 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite.
There were a fair number of true exotics at the race, as well. This is the real deal, a '60s-vintage Ford GT40, driven by Robert Andersson.
The GT40 is a heck of a machine, but Robert Andersson had to work hard to get past Fred Pfeiffer in this very quick 1974 Porsche 914-6.
Update, December 05, 2009: The GT40 may have gotten past, but it didn't stay there. Pfeiffer and his Porsche finished the race in front of the Ford.
There was a lot of terrific on-track dicing in every class. Here Bill Schwacke, in a '55 Corvette, tries to hold off a mid-60s Mustang.
It took a few laps, but the Ford finally got around the Chevy.
This particular Mustang was the class of its field, blazingly fast. If you know who this guy is, send me a note. I want to give credit where credit is due.
A Lotus 7 or one of its successors. Another mystery driver.
No joke, this is the quickest Volvo I've ever encountered. It's a 1963 122 Amazon, driven by Rich Kushner. It was very competitive in its class.
Open wheelers (mostly) take the green flag at the start of their race.
A very pretty 1967 Lotus 51C, with Dick Leehr at the wheel.
Bill Maisey, driving a 1969 Crossle 16F FF.
That's a Mini Cup car, leading the pack down the hill.
You usually see this Mini Cup cars on oval tracks. They looked right at home on Summit Point's road course, and they were impressively fast. I don't know the drivers.
Like the Mini Cup cars, Legends racers are usually found on oval tracks, but they didn't seem at all bothered by road racing.
To get a sense of just how small those Legends cars really are, take a look at that Mustang looming behind them.
A Lotus Esprit X180R, driven by Jaime Gaffaux.
A couple of Mazda Miatas duke it out on the main straightaway. The one on the left is looking a little battered, but as the circle-track drivers say, rubbin' is racin'. Mike Schwarz is in number 0.
George "Dodo" Brockman in his 1977 Mustang II Super Speedway Modified. (Remember, you can click directly on any of the photos to see larger versions.)
I've saved the rarest and most exotic car at the track for last. Amid the Lotuses, Ford GT40s, and even a Peerless, the car that stood out for me was "Dodo" Brockman's 1977 Mustang II Super Speedway Modified. Only three of Super Speedway Modifieds of any sort are known to exist, and this is the only one still being raced. (By way of comparison, there are six Bugatti Royales--one of the rarest and most expensive of all classic automobiles--in existence.)
Nascar developed the class in the late 1970s, to race at super speedways (as the name suggests) such as Daytona and Pocono. It canceled the class when it discovered that the Modifieds were faster than the Grand National cars, which were then Nascar's premier class.
Brockman had the car restored in the late '90s. It looks just like it did in its glory days.
The car looks great and sounds amazing. It's quick, too. But, sorry Blue Oval fans, there's a Chevy big block under the hood.
I did a lot of talking, as well as shooting, at the track. Everyone that I met was terrific, willing to share their knowledge of the course and the cars or just tell racing stories. Thanks to the Vintage Racer Group and the Summit Point crew for making it such an enjoyable day.