Moto GP Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix - Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

The Moto GP Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix and the Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals are both three-day events that I would normally cover from start to finish. But due to scheduling conflicts with the California Rodeo Salinas and the Bank of the West Classic, I was only able to shoot one day of each race. Shooting one day is infinitely better than shooting no days, but it does severely limit the scope of pictures you can get. So I combined the two shoots into one post for you motorsport fans. Laguna Seca is a great place to watch or shoot a race, and the big, flashy bikes of Moto GP make it even better. It had been years since I was there, and I was surprised to find that fans are allowed to bring in pretty much any photo gear they have. The fences were lined with guys shooting big lenses, which I am all for. What I am not for is dudes yelling at me because I'm on the track side of the fence and "in their way." Only at Laguna.

Colin Edwards - 2011 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix

Andrea Dovizioso - 2011 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix

Allesandro Branetti and Shelina Moreda - 2011 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix

Valentino Rossi - 2011 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix

Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa - 2011 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix

In Moto GP, there is a rider named Casey Stoner, and a team sponsored by rolling paper company Rizla. And in perhaps the greatest injustice of all time, STONER DOES NOT RIDE FOR RIZLA. This is an outrage, can't they arrange a trade?

Casey Stoner - 2011 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix

Alvaro Bautista - 2011 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix

Team Jordan rider Ben Bostrom who competes in the AMA American Superbike division received a wild card and made his first appearance in Moto GP at age 37:

Ben Bostrom - 2011 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix

Jorge Lorenzo - 2011 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix

I've shot NHRA at Infineon a few times now, and it occurred to me that shooting it once per year gives me just enough time to forget exactly how intense it is. Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycles are what I would call "normal loud." If you've been to NASCAR or Indy Car, you know that it's loud enough that you can't hear anything else, but it's manageable. The nitro classes, Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster, are something else entirely. First, foam earplugs aren't even close to enough protection, full-on construction-type headphones are all that prevents ruptured eardrums. When the cars pass you, the pressure is enough to knock you back, and the heat, nitro fumes, and acrid smoke gets in your nose and waters your eyes. It's touch to keep shooting, but it's a really impressive display of horsepower.

Bob Tasca III - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

Brian Thiel - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

Antron Brown - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

Jeff Arend - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

Tony Schumacher - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

Morgan Lucas - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

The combination of the fumes and the setting sun made it look like drag racing on Mars:

NHRA 2011 - July 29 - Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

Of course all of this horsepower leads to speed, in fact, a neck breaking amount of it.

Mike Edwards - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

Paul Lee - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

Jason Line - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

Greg Stanfield - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

The drivers waiting their turn have an intensity not often seen:

Brian Thiel - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

Antron Brown - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

Michael Phillips - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

After each session, workers burn off the excess rubber from the track with torches, and then scrape up the burning gloop with shovels:

Burning Rubber - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

Security was so clueless that they actually tried to stop Tony Schumacher aka The Sarge from watching from the retaining wall. Lucky for them, he laughed it off:

Tony Schumacher - 2011 Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals

And of course the inevitable breaks in the action when someone blows an engine and oil sprays all over the track:

Killing Time