NHRA Northwest Nationals, an event that has long been a yearly occasion for me. Since I can remember, my dad has been taking me to Pacific Raceways for a weekend of amazing racing. So for me it is easy to know why I attend every year, it has always though been a challenge to make others understand what makes this event one to attend. Most just say that it’s just drag racing and who wants to pay that kind of money for watch cars to in a straight line.
In the last few years, I have finally convinced people to join me on this adventure of a race. I always start out by taking them to the pits where the teams are working on rebuilding the engines in between rounds of races. It’s an amazing feet which should leave anyone in awe, they take an engine completely apart, rebuild it, test it and get back in the staging lanes in 75 minutes.
One thing that always catches people off guard on their first time attending the NHRA drag races, is the sound and pressure emitted from the cars as they launch. When 7,000 horsepower worth of car launches and screams towards the finish line, it is an amazing sight. Flames reaching 6 feet or more out of the exhaust, Nitro Methane gasses burning your eyes and nose, deafening sounds and amazing speed, what is there not to love about Top Fuel and Funny Cars?
For the first time in my photography history, I was able to obtain a NHRA Media Credential with the help of My Life @ Speed and our friends at Pacific Raceways. I thought in my many years of attending I had seen it all, I was wrong… Standing on the starting line a mere 4 feet away from these cars as they launch, is a feeling I fear I will never be able to describe to anyone. The first few cars I photographed actually scared me as they launched, I would have a shot or two of the sky before returning back to the car. As the car would fly by me the intense pressure and heat from the exhaust just astounded me, that exhaust also puts down 1,000 pounds of down force, so you can only imagine what it does as it hits you.
This year at Pacific Raceways was a tough one for all the teams and drivers, the track on Friday was very unpredictable so they had one heck of a time setting up the cars to run right. After a day full of trail and error, a few cars managed to put down good qualifying times while the left were left scratching their heads. After the days runs, the NHRA Safety Safari and Pacific Raceways crew spent the night working their butts off and resurfaced the track.
I arrived on Saturday to an overcast and slightly misting morning. They had to stop runs for a while to allow this weather system to pass. Thankfully the system did not stick around for long, the track was dried and racing was resumed. As it came time for the Top Fuel and Funny Cars to begin their second day of qualifying, it was going to be the true test to see if the track was any better then the previous day. After watching the first few runs, it was obvious they had done their job in fixing the track and allowing the teams a chance to have a fair qualifying day, and some even setting track time and speed records.
Sunday morning I arrived early to the track, to avoid the mass of people who would be attending the races that day. They started the day off with a top qualifier introduction, as well as some drives from throughout the history of the NHRA. The Mayor of the City of Auburn was also in attendance as one of the day’s VIP’s.
Once the opening ceremonies were finished, the drivers were given the word to start their engines and begin racing! The stage was set for an action packed day of single elimination drag racing. Many top qualifiers fell as the rounds progressed, as some drivers continued to lay down amazing times and speeds with a day that presented us with great weather and track temps.
We also were fortunate to witness some history in the making, Alexis Dejoria in the Tequila Patron Top Alcohol Funny Car went on to take the overall event win in her class. Only the second time ever has a woman won this class in the history of the NHRA.
When the day’s racing was over, the winning drivers all joined each other on the podium to collect their trophies and celebrate their much deserved wins. As yet another perk of having the media credentials, we were able to get some great group shots with the winning drivers and crews. Check out the gallery below to see my favorite trophy shots, as well as my favorite photos from the ceremonies.
– Kyle Lewis