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The latest update as of October 18, 2010

"(getting ready to leave) Bakersfield - 6:30 AM"

The bags are being packed between paragraphs, all the gear is rounded up and it's nearly time to start loading up the rental "boat" and pilot it back to the depot at LAX. It took a day or so to figure out it's a Mercury, but nameplate aside, it's a waste of metal and leather and cheap plastic. Ah well, as long as it doesn't drop the anchor before I get back to the berth at the rental marina. Then on to the airport and a quick flight down to San Jose del Cabo for a week's vacation in Mexico.

And after that? Well how about a week in Las Vegas to "recover" from the week on the beach? Sounds like a great plan to me. Anything that involves not being at work or being in cold, rainy weather works for me. I'll be joining the team of ace photogs that SpeedZone has dispatched to the 10th annual Las Vegas Nationals and providing round by round coverage of all the pro and pro sportsman action from the "Strip at LVMS". It's going to be great.

Over the next week I'll fill in as many blanks as I can from my weekend in Bakersfield and try to get some of the photos posted. But my main focus is going to be on relaxation and there's only so many hours in the day... etc. Stay tuned for updates as often as I can manage them from Mexico.

"(getting ready to leave) Los Angeles - 1:30 PM"

File the next couple of items under the "you just never know..." banner. Part one happened at Famoso Raceway on Saturday afternoon, part two took place in the lobby of the Hampton Inn in East Bakersfield on Sunday evening.

PART ONE: So there I am at the guardwall, taking pictures of the racing action at the California Hot Rod Reunion, looking forward to the end of the day and a chance to rest my weary feet after an eight hour shift of standing, walking, and shooting pictures. It's almost the end of the program, but there's still a four-car exhibition of fuel altereds. Among them are the Rat Trap, Pure Heaven, Bradford's Fiat, and the (in)famous Winged Express. Photo op(s)? You betcha!

The first pair out of the bleach box - ok, that's dating me more than a little - the water box are Randy Bradford and Mike Boyd in the Marcellus & Borsch Winged Express. Bradford does his burnout in the right lane, blazing the tires hard and coming to a stop near the 330' mark. Situation normal. A few seconds later Boyd comes down the left side, tires billowing clouds of Akron smog, getting sideways, one front wheel nearly a foot in the air - situation more or less normal for the Express, then he completely loses it, crossing over into Bradford's lane. Yeah, so what? We've seen this happen before, haven't we? Especially with fuel altereds.

Hold on folks; we're just getting started on this epic burnout story. Boyd doesn't frantically get on the brakes or crank the wheel hard to avoid the stopped and unaware Bradford. Oh no, he just stays on the throttle - albeit lightly, with the tires not smoking anymore, and nonchalantly threads the needle between the stationary Fiat and the back-up guy - who's got his back to the action (in retrospect, not a really smart move) - and then proceeds to slalom his way back into the left lane without clobbering the 330' cone or nailing the 660' cones.

What next? Oh, how about the two cars proceeding to back up to the starting line - in very straight lines - stage up and make two straight-as-a-string passes with a very close finish that saw Boyd take the win light on a 7.27 - 205.85 pass, to Bradford's right-there 7.29 - 198.85. End of the story? Not hardly, as I've got a few great shots of the other photographers standing with their cameras on their hips or anywhere but pointed at the action and shooting. The other SpeedZone photog attending the event, Bob Snyder, did catch a few shots from downtrack, but no one else, none of the pros, caught the burnout of the year.

Directly after the run, I thought that the whole event was pre-arranged and choreographed, but after looking at the pics, I decided that it was simply a case of "do what you have to do to get through a bad situation" on the part of Mike Boyd, and thankfully, there were no injuries, physical or material. It could have turned out far, far worse and it's a bit of a miracle that Iron Mike was able to salvage things to the point where he won the race. I, for one, would have loved to have been in the pit area after that episode and heard (and/or seen) the "interaction" between the respective teams. My guess is that it wouldn't have been too severe and tense and that a few beverages later, any ruffled feathers would have been smoothed.

One favour to ask of the Winged Express team though: please don't do that again. A one-off is something for the memory banks and history books, but a repeat wouldn't be in anyone's best interests. Besides, I might not be there to record it for everyone to see. By the way, I learned one very important lesson of motorsport photography. Actually two.

Always be ready for something to happen, especially when it's a known photo-op subject, like the Winged Express, anything owned/tuned/driven or even looked at by Dave Benjamin, Arley Langlo (for the older, really hardcore fuel junkies) or in years past, Terry "The Torch" Haddock. Oh, almost forgot, in the midwest: Luigi "The Roman Candle" Novelli and until the IHRA (and financial reality) put an end to his act, Smax Smith in the Bob Leverich car.

The second important lesson that I learned, and thankfully I reacted without hesitation, is that when the chaos starts, keep the finger on the shutter button and don't lift until the incident is well and truly over. Of course it helps to have a seven frames per second motor drive to get all those shots. To all my fellow photographers who keep wondering if I'm every going to get the hang of this picture-taking thing, all I can say is that I'm learning, slowly, but learning it bit by bit.

And in case you haven't seen the burnout photo sequence that I've been rattling on about, go to SpeedZone Magazine to see the Burnout of The Century (at least I think that's how Dean titled it).

It's time to board the plane to Cabo now, so the second part of this story, a very interesting conversation with John "Nitro Boss" Hale (a nostalgia nitro funny car racer) last night in the lobby of the hotel, will have to wait until later this evening. Or tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for that one.

To see previous updates go to the What's Old page