The first real car I ever drove was a race car. I was ten or eleven and my cousin Jason was racing dirt track stock cars at the time. His car was pretty much exactly like the one in the last photo in this post. What possessed a man who spent all his free time working on his car to then allow that car to be driven by a ten year old, I will never know. But he boosted me in through the window, clipped me into the five point harness and crouched on the passenger side holding onto the roll cage while I drove for the first time. It was incredible. I'm not what you would call a stock car fan, but from that day on there has always been a little soft spot in my heart for dirt track racing. It's not like the big NASCAR events. It's all little teams of two or three guys working in garages and little shops and backyards, building a car on nickels and dimes, and giving it hell every Saturday night because its fun. And you can tell they're loving it.
Jason stopped racing a long time ago and I hadn't been to a track since he hung up his driving gloves, but yesterday I had a free night and Sarah was out of town, so I grabbed a camera and went to ABC Raceway in Ashland. If you've never been before, let me say that short track dirt racing is a quintessentially American past time: It's loud. It's dirty. And it's not quite like anything else I've ever seen. Like any new sporting experience, the key to really enjoying it is to pick someone to cheer for. I was rooting for the guys from Lakeshore Sales and Service since they replaced the brakes in my truck last week. Whoever you cheer for, win or lose, the fun is in the drama.
Since this kind of racing is so classic, I decided to shoot it in black and white with a heavy film grain to give it a more timeless look. These shots could be from any one of a thousand tracks on any summer Saturday night in the last 50 years. That effect, which roughly approximates a classic black and white film called Tri-X, also helps to cover the need for high ISO and cancels out the weird color combinations that come from a mix of halogen, tungsten, and sodium vapor stadium lighting. It's a very different feel than the rich colors and smooth gradients I usually try to get. It's not the right look for everything, but for this, I think it's perfect.