I've decided to write a blog throughout my trip, along side veteran photog Roger Richards, as we travel the NHRA testing schedule with stops in Phoenix and Vegas. Enjoy!
Entry #1 - Thursday, January 21st, 2010 - 1 PM
Blogging is not my choice of entertainment, but on an adventure like this, I couldn't pass up the chance, so bare with me. The 2010 Geezer & Graves Testing Tour had plenty of excitement even in it's earliest hours. Roger's trip to Texas started off well until he crossed the state line. After leaving South Carolina around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, Roger crossed into Texas around five o'clock. Around that time, the weather in North Texas took a wild turn for the worse, just in time to cause Roger some unwelcome grief.
"I was cruising on down the road listening to my satellite radio jazz station and the program was interrupted by the national weather service, claiming a severe thunderstorm watch and tornado warning in Marshall, Texas. As the broadcast came back to play, I passed a sign that said 'Welcome to Marshall' followed by my verbal outburst which was, 'Oh Crap!'"
At this time I had caught wind of the situation via a local television news broadcast. I called Roger and he informed me that the windshield of his 2000 Chevy Astro might give way at any moment, as it was being pelted by extremely heavy rain and hail. I then learned that Interstate 20 was closed in both directions due to downed powerlines in Canton, TX. I called Roger to report the bad news, that his access to the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex had been closed off. Needless to say, his arrival was delayed by over three hours due to the closings of I-20 and a malfunctioning Garmin navigation system.
Fifteen minutes after 10 p.m., Mr. Richards arrived on location in Carrollton, Texas. We discussed our options and rather than drive straight through all night to Phoenix, considering the very wet forecast for the area through Friday night, we decided to get a few hours of sleep and hit the road around 4 a.m. fresh and eager to knock out the miles.
After some 3:30 a.m. biscuits and gravy provided by Mrs. Max Cackle (my girlfriend, Tera) we were off! We killed a few hours talking photography, exchanging a bit of personal history with eachother, and both knocked out a few hundred miles behind the wheel before noon. We did make one unexpected morning stop, to snag a new Garmin navigation system, from Wal-Mart in Abilene. It's now a half hour past 1 p.m. and we lack 202 miles before crossing into the beautiful city limits of El Paso, Texas (joking about the beautiful part). We have enjoyed one encounter as we continue across the extremely desolate I-20. A blown truck tire caught air as it went under the car in front of us, then attempted to throw us off the road, but being the seasoned veteran road tripper he is, Roger calmly alerted me with an "Oh Crap!" followed by a large thud as the tire smacked the driver side of the Astro. I hope my mom isn't reading this. All is good!
(On a diet of low carb pork skins and sliced apples, Roger continues this mission unhindered by tornadoes, hail and flying truck tires.)
We should pull into Phoenix this evening if all goes well, and you may view testing photos from Phoenix on www.competitionplus.com courtesy of Chris Graves & 1320 The Magazine, of course along with all of Roger's wonderful work. We just got word that racing has been canceled for Friday, so keep an eye on Comp Plus on Saturday for some nitro methane flavored testing from Fireird Raceway. Don't forget, Vegas testing is next weekend and I will continue to blog thoughout the conclusion of my road trip with Double R.
That's it for now! I'll try and include some photos to go with all my following entries of the Geezer & Graves 2010 Testing Tour.
Entry #2 - Friday, January 22nd, 2010 - 1:30 PM
Well, we're here! Driving through New Mexico and southern Arizona with rain, winds up to 40-50 mph, in the dark is always fun! Roger and I enjoyed a full load of crab legs, shrimp and other various seafood treats for dinner at Joe's Crab Shack then stocked up on weekend groceries at Wal-Mart.
One big announcement in the world of Max Cackle Photography became official yesterday evening, as Max Cackle was announced the Official Photographer of the AHRA Series. For more, check out www.ahradragracing.com.
After some much needed rest, Roger and I woke up and piddled around for a few hours before heading out to Firebird Raceway just to soak up some of the stagnant racing atmosphere to be found there. Sure enough, not much going on. Lots of crew members standing in circles talking, that's about it! Racing should be plentiful tomorrow through Tuesday, which we are highly anticipating.
On the roster so far, Cruz Pedregon, the Force Funny Car trio, Jessie Harris/Doug Foley, Troy Buff, Bob Tasca and Kenny Bernstein. After a drive though the pit area, we now find ourselves munching down on ham and cheese sandwiches back at the hotel, listening to the cackle of nostalgic drag racing courtesy of "Big Sounds of the Drags". No complaints here!
We have a tentative plan to cruise out to some canyons in search of some scenic photography opportunities with Roger's friend Marty Reiger. Ideally, we will return with some stunning sunsets plus who knows what else, but you never can tell! Until next time, Geezer & Graves out! My next blog should finally include some nitro flavored reading for you.
Entry #3 - Friday, January 22nd, 2010 - 9:00 PM
We had a great time wandering around in the mountains, here's some shots...
Click here... to see more
Our progress was halted by an overflow caused by the downpour of rain the Phoenix area had seen in the last week. We had to get out and take an up close and personal look. I shot the following photos with my iPhone.
Everyone agreed it was lunch time and we stumbled into a very unique place that not only had some great burgers, but had some outstanding wallpaper, dollar bills!
Our last stop before heading back to the hotel brought us to a small time hot rod shop, owned and operated by one man, who completes one car per year. These aren't just regular cars, but highly detailed street machines built completely unique and from the ground up. I forget the owners name, but this was his daily driver, nuff said!
Best news yet, nitro will be in the air tomorrow in Phoenix!
Entry #4 - Sunday, January 24th, 2010 - 9 AM
The first day of testing, well, it happened. With only tree Top Fuel cars and five Funny Cars (four ran, Wilkerson will run today) topped off with three nostalgia cars and five or six sportsman cars didn't provide with much excitement. But hey, nitro was in the air and that makes my mood improve regardless.
I haven't been to a drag strip in a two months or so. Feeling a little rusty isn't my favorite emotion, but all you can do is get out there and do your thing. I think I'm ready to go today, as we embark on day 2 of testing. The only "full pulls" were from Team Force, with Robert and Ashley both clocking a 4.11 at 302 mph.
Seeing a lot of my photog friends was great, I always enjoy chatting it up with the ones I look up to in the industry. I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Rebelias, that was cool. I almost asked for an autograph, just kidding. Seeing some new paint schemes and finally achieving my nitro whiff made the day an overall success. Check out our shots on the CompetitionPlus.com Photo Gallery which holds shots by Roger, Marty and myself.
Roger and I woke up earlier than planned this morning and drove out to Firebird Raceway to snap some sunrise photos, in 40 degree weather, it was nippy to say the least. We spent about an hour playing around by the lake at Firebird, then I talked Roger into hanging out a little longer and shooting the crews as they unloaded their hot rods.
Click here to see photos from this mornings activity. (Starts on page 5, continues to page 6).
In a few hours, the pros crews will be torquing the heads, warming up, and heading to the staging lanes. Let's see what Day 2 has to offer!
Entry #5 - Monday, January 25th, 2010 - 8:30 AM
Yesterday's testing action was much more successful for the professional teams making passes, as a number of teams put down full passes. The day was highlighted by Troy Buff's fuel fire, caused by a faulty fuel line.
Roger and I spent some time shooting atop the tower of Firebird Raceway, although the preferred sunlight is on the opposite side, sometimes you can use it to your advantage. As the sun sets around 4:30 PM it ducks behind the stands and billboards, but leaves an open area just a few feet past the starting line, I knew this area would provide some unique lighting situations as the cars passed through it. This shot of Ashley Force Hood is my favorite.
After uploading all our images, Roger and I along with DragRaceCentral.com's Rick Green decided to take advantage of the rare opportunity to get some decent eating done on a race weekend. After an hour wait, we were finally seated at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar. Although I didn't really care, the Vikings vs. Saints game was on and seemed to be the center of attention among those dining, including us. But screw football, we were there to eat and that we did! Rick and I opted for the New York Strip and I must say, it was the best steak I've ever sank my teeth into, while Roger picked a very appealing Salmon fillet. Roger is seafood man and we already have plans to indulge in a few all you can eat sushi bars once we get to Las Vegas on Wednesday, that will make my girlfriend jealous.
We are currently charging batteries, both on our cameras and our bodies, before we head back to the track for Day 3 of testing in Phoenix. I am planning on spending some time at the top end, hopefully I'll come up with some goodies. Until then, Geezer & Graves out!
Click here to see the latest shots from Phoenix.
Entry #6 - Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 - 8 PM
Well we just had a double helping of Hungry Man microwave dinners, so stuffed and pretty fatigued, it's time for another update. Roger and I are chatting away on Roger's weekly Tuesday night chat on his Pro Modified forum website www.promodifieds.us. I had the chance to give my buddy Bret Kepner some grief, hadn't talked to him in a while. Phoenix was busy yet again today, with Tasca, Force, Hight, Force Hood, Bernstein and Wilkerson all making numerous runs, along with Mike Neff who went 30 or 40 feet before striking the tires behind the wheel of John's car.
Yesterday was a blast and a few of my images landed some headline coverage on Competition Plus. Force came out in the first session and tagged the 1320 cones, wounding his beautiful 25th Aniv body. I was at the top end to see a very frustrated Force express his emotions, ahhhhh, gotta love John when he's heated.
Other than that, it was a rather uneventful day, of course still very exciting with 8,000 horsepower nitro monsters pounding pavement on a Monday. Beats sitting behind a desk right? The shot below was one of my favorites, one that I know my mother and grandmother will appreciate, as Robert Hight gives me a good look going about 175 mph. Tera (my girlfriend) told me not to show them, but I couldn't resist. ;-)
Roger and I closed yesterday's action shooting from the top end, as each car continued to smoke the tires. So we provided some photo ops for ourselves, as did many others in Phoenix, using one of the many puddles in the pits to create some unique reflection photos. Below is Roger in the "Geezer Mobile"
Today the track was busy, most teams made four laps within six hours. Last night I received a call from my best buddy Alex Conaway, cylinder head specialist for Ashley Force Hood's team. Team Crew Chief Dean Antonelli had requested some photos that gave a good perspective of how their new body was reacting to the wind resistance on the second half of the racetrack. Roger and I now had a mission! We both shot Ashley's first run positioned further down track that usual, resulting in some good shots which I burned to a CD and "turned in" to Team Force. Prior to her first run, I was able to get some nice warm-up shots of Ashley early in the morning. The photo below is my favorite.
Roger and I were the only photographers on hand, with the addition of James Drew for a portion of the day. Oh James Drew. James and I hungout at the top end, atop the Goodyear crossover bridge, shooting the cars as they blasted down the strip, or smoked the tires and coasted (grin).
James is never afraid to speak his mind, which created the shot above as he belted something out to John Force, who had coasted to a stop just beneath us. John looked up and asked us how we were doing and gave us a friendly wave. Nice.
Four days of consecutive early mornings and late nights, filled with nitro fumes and funny cars, has almost come to an end. Roger and I have enjoyed a rather uneventful testing session very much, good company can do that. My best friend Alex, along with all the crew members laboring here this weekend, are worn out to put it simply. The final two passes of today's action resulted in a strong 4.06 from Ashley Force Hood. I shot this photo of Alex in the staging lanes before that pass.
Brandon Bernstein was the last driver to make a pass this evening, later than anyone had before, which allowed for the sun to duck down behind the stands, which in turn allows for MORE FLAME! Here's a shot from his last pass today.
We plan to head out early, waving goodbye to Phoenix and welcoming the Hoover Dam on our way to Las Vegas. I'm very excited about shooting at Vegas, as I will be able to shoot the first funny car passes by my hero, Troy Green, 2008 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Top Fuel Champion and newly named driver of the Bomb Squad Nostalgia Top Fuel Funny Car. Troy has been a big part of my inclusion to the drag racing world and is a darn good guy to boot! I highly anticipate photographing and witnessing his first stab of the loud pedal in a fuel funny car.
Entry #7 - Thursday, January 28th, 2010 - 9 PM
It’s just under a 400 mile drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas and just before reaching sin city you cross the Hoover Dam, a sight I haven’t experienced until now. From far, it doesn’t appear to be as large as I anticipated, but when you walk the walkway and stick your head over the edge, it’s an incredible distance to the bottom. Roger and I both don’t enjoy heights. We were both tip toeing to the edge and just barely peeking over the side to take some shots. The emotion you get when heights make you uncomfortable gets even stronger when your looking through a camera, unable to relate to your location with your perifial vision.
Knowing Roger was equally uneasy as I was, I had the chance to spook him and I did. As he tip toed to the edge and leaned over, I grabbed him firmly and boy, it spooked him good! (Sorry Rog!) Our hotel reservations were set to begin on Thursday, so we had one night to find a room and using Priceline.com we nabbed a four star room at the Treasure Island Casino for a great price. Our other reservations were set for a Days Inn located a few miles off the Strip and we wanted to spend one night on the Strip, soaking up the Las Vegas vibe even for just a few hours.
Ok, I admit it, I did gamble. Only for an hour or so on some penny slots, and yes, I lost money, about $50 bucks. You never know when you might hit it big right?! I can see my parents shaking their heads now. Today (Thursday) we woke up and after grabbing breakfast, we stopped by the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to see what was going on. What was going on was absolutely nothing. Gates locked. Realizing we had a “play day” in Las Vegas, Roger and I went straight to the strip club and wasted a few hundred dollars on seductive entertainment. Just kidding. We went to the camera store, surprised? We both picked up a few goodies and also stopped by the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, more commonly known as the pawn shop on the History Channel’s Pawn Stars.
We both anticipated a monsterous store filled with everything from DVDs to Shelby Cobras. Well, they had DVDs, but no Cobras, and the store was incredibly small. A large group of “fans” were inside, lined up to take photos with the employees who star on the tv show. So instead of buying items and browsing for treasures, people just wanted to see the employees live in person and take a picture with their iPhone. Wow, wonder if the owner of the shop regrets signing up for the show? I noticed many items I had seen on the show, still sitting on the shelf. The hottest item in the shop was the autographed shot glasses, being signed and sold by the case. Whatever you have to do to make a buck right? We were in and out in less than ten minutes.
Speaking of in and out, After a stop at Fry’s Electronics to get a few photography related necessities, we had dinner at In-N-Out, a must for any non-local who can only enjoy the Double Double Burger on special occasions. We now find ourselves laying across out beds, laptops open and bellys full. The wonderful customer service at the Wild Wild West Days Inn has resulted in a comment card from yours truly filled with negativity. The hotel offers free internet, yet it does not work. Long story short, we don’t have internet and the wonderful front desk staff at Days Inn surely doesn’t seem to be concerned with it. If you’d like to call and help our cause, please do, by calling 702.740.0000 and telling them to fix their f#c*ing internet! The weather should be nice this weekend and although not many NHRA nitro burners, if any, plan on testing this weekend there should be plenty of action hopefully headlined by some nostalgia funny cars and the first PSCA (Pacific Street Car Assoc) event of the season. In the meantime, you can kill a few minutes browsing my shots from a few weeks ago that I finally had time to go through, from the Dallas World Aquarium which Tera and I went to on my birthday.
Till next time, Geezer and Graves out!
Entry #8 - Sunday, January 31st, 2010 - 8:45 AM
Sorry for the delay in this update, Roger and I have been slammed with nitro fumes and NHRA pro cars testing, not. But, there has been nitro in the air and a handful of door slammers hopped up on fogger systems and hair dryers. The weather in Las Vegas has been pleasant, but when the sun starts to set it can get quite nippy. Roger and I have been constantly posting updated photos on competitionplus.com and I’ve been keeping my gallery update on maxcacklephotos.com.
You may recall in my last blog that I highly anticipated being on hand to witness Troy Green’s first passes in a fuel funny car. Well, the icy weather system that is currently occupying northern Texas and likely all of Oklahoma caused all the flights to be canceled, therefore preventing Troy from stabbing the loud pedal this weekend in Vegas. Boo. The “Bomb Squad” car did make two solid low six second passes on Friday, with Chris Bennett, and called it quits for the weekend. Green will now make his license passes sometime soon in Bakersfield. I was also looking forward to a few of my photos being used on Troy’s hero cards, which won’t be happening now. Boo.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is very similar to the Texas Motorplex in that there are a few solid hours or absolutely retched lighting. The sun parks right above the strip from behind the tower, backlighting any exposure you’d hope to get from the front. The morning and afternoon light is wonderful. Not being on any direct assignment this weekend, I had the ability to shoot basically whatever and however I wanted. I wanted to do some low profile burnout box shots with “The Strip” in the background. My favorite is seen below.
A local independent Alcohol Funny Car racer, Jessica Cherniack, provided me with a nice “three wheels off the ground” shot on her first pass Friday. The crew forgot to set the wheelie bar, which resulted in a nice initial wheelstand, she lifted, which sent her body’s momentum forward, which in turn stabbed the throttle again, resulting in this photo. Got that?
Now to some PSCA action. I’ve never been to a PSCA race, but it is very similar to many doorslammer events held in my native state of Texas, which is packed with the similar overpowered usually uncontrollable machines. I must admit, I’m a nitro junkie through and through, but some of these cars are incredible and when they do hook up (about 35-40% of the time) they haul ass and are impressive to say the least. I respect the drivers who can keep it on the floor with the front wheels carrying out to the 330’ cone two feet in the air as seen below.
After two days of shooting trackside, the same cars three times a day, Roger and I are going to venture to the top end in hopes of some keeper parachute shots during the first round of eliminations in the feature classes of the PSCA. Below are some of my favorite shots from this weekend. The maroon 55 Chevy is probably my favorite car at this event, simply because I have a weak spot for tri-fives and it’s probably very similar to what my dad’s 55 will look and run like upon completion (minus the paint color). The vertical burnout shot is my favorite burnout shot of the weekend so far. The shot of Roger is just plain funny, one of many I have captured of Roger on this trip that created a chuckle. Finally, the blue Malibu wheelstand is my favorite action shot so far.
One more full day of “pro / nitro” testing (which includes two A/Fuel dragsters, two blown alcohol FEDs, one nitro burning Nostalgia Funny Car and one alcohol burning Nostalgia Funny Car) and PSCA heads-up doorslammer racing to go. Then Roger and I will wake up Monday morning, shoot over to the all you can eat Sushi buffet at Planet Hollywood to stuff ourselves with the finest of raw seafood and other various underwater born creatures, then off to the airport I go to return home from the 2010 Geezer & Graves Testing Tour.