Motorcycle speedway racing boils down to: Racing 'round a dirt oval track on a fast motorcycle with no brakes. Basically, in the U.S. it's a short, flat, oval dirt/clay track, usually 1/8 mile long. 500cc motorcycles with no brakes, racing counter clockwise around the track. To maintain speed around the corners the bikes slide sideways around the "corners".
For those who would like more info on what Motorcycle Speedway is, here's Wikipedia's Definition
If you already follow speedway the following names should give you a little insight into when/how long I've been watching. Shawn Moran, Bobby Schwartz, Kelly Moran, Alan Christian, Sam Ermolenko, Steve Lucero, Mike Faria, Lance King, Brad Oxley, Eddie Castro, Jim Fishback, Shawn McConnell, Bruce Penhall, Bobby Ott, Mike Bast, & Dennis Sigalos. These are just some of the names of riders I remember seeing at races growing up, and thankfully a few of them are still around doing their thing.
My Father started taking me to watch motorcycle speedway racing when I was somewhere between 10 & 12 years old (I can't remember, it was a long time ago). The track, located in San Bernardino California, was then was known as Inland Motor Speedway, Inland Motorsport Speedway, Inland Motorcycle Speedway or simply IMS.
I don't know how many times we went, but it was something that stayed with me. We went to off road races, with trucks, quads, dirtbikes, etc, but speedway for some reason has always been my favorite.
Back then I remember there being lots and lots of people coming out to each race we went to. There were grandstands almost all the way around the track and they were all full. Racing, drunk people, fireworks, all on a Wednesday night. "The Only Reason for Wednesday Night!!!" It was exciting.
There doesn't seem to be an interest in speedway in SoCal now like there was in the early eighties. I see videos on YouTube from the U.K. events, with giant grandstands full of people cheering for their teams. Watched a championship race from Poland 2012 I think, and they mentioned 40k spectators in the stands. I remain hopeful that speedway in the U.S. will regain it's popularity and one day be at least as big as soccer. (I can dream can't I ?)
I don't really follow sports (Football, Baseball, etc..), and speedway isn't an exception, but when I do get to go I love it. I went to speedway around 1980-1982, then skipped to around 1991? and went to a bunch of races when IMS was at Glen Helen. Between then and now (2013) I've been to a few races, and been to a few weekend practice sessions, but not much more.
A few months ago I went for the first time in a long time, and this time I brought my camera, and started posting my Photos on flickr.
IMS is now Pirate SpeedwayWatching speedway as a spectator, and watching speedway as a photographer are two different worlds, or at least they seem to be. The first week back I talked to a few people as I shot the races, the next week a few more, the next week more, and by the fourth week I had talked to Bruce Flanders (IMDB, Info) (What a great guy), who offered to get me a press pass to shoot from inside the track. By the last race of the season I got to talk to "Crazy" Chris Ackerman who offered me a shot at shooting from inside the track at a few other tracks he would be announcing at. I think I like shooting from outside the track. Most good speedway photos you see online are from inside the track, all well and good, but I like to think I'm getting a different view, the view that the audience remembers from being there. Plus, I'm close to the Porta-Potties, the beer stand, and I can move around freely. I also shoot without a flash, at night, with the inconsistent lighting on the track. If I was inside, much closer to the riders I have to believe I'd need a flash. On top of all that, my chances of getting run over is much lower outside the track. :-)
One of the very few times I've used a flash at speedway.
Shot speedway a while back at the 2013 AMA National Speedway Series Round 2 in Victorville, CA. That race was the first race I shot in the daytime. WOW!!! Fast shutter speeds, lots of sunlight, long shadows, it was like a dream come true. I'm now looking forward to shooting Speedway during the Winter series races. Cold, windy, overcast, but not dark and cold and windy...
I take my photography pretty seriously, but frankly, I've never shot any sports until I started shooting speedway a few months back. I'm a macro photographer, I shoot insects, not things that move fast, and do it under the cover of darkness. Over the course of the last few months I've learned a lot, made some new friends, talked to a few of my racing idols, talked to Eddie Castro about my back pain, and his back pain, passed out eye patches for pirate night, had Bruce Flanders talk crap about me over the PA, got family and friends who normally don't attend speedway races to attend, & generally had a great time hanging out with and photographing great people.
Looking forward to many more seasons of photographing a sport I've loved for many years, for many years to come.
If you want to check out speedway photos from the people who do it better than I do, check the links below. These are the hardcore guys.
My Local Track
Also, check out Chris Ackerman's "The Crazy World of American Speedway" Podcast HERE
You'll probably notice, and I hope you do, I shoot the whole race night, but I try really hard to capture the little weird moments that most people overlook. Not everything interesting at the racetrack is racing. It's the happiness, the sadness, the camaraderie, the friends and the enemies. Every night at the track is different, and I strive to capture the little moments that most people never even notice.
I feel sorry to announce that as of Nov-25-2014, any and all racing at Pirate Speedway has come to an end. Shawn MC Connell kept the track running as long as he could (and I thank him for that) but it can no longer support itself. I was there on the last day until about 11:45PM when there were only four of us left, Shawn, Benny, and two other people I don't know..... It was a very sad day for a LOT of people...