Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2006/06/22

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Subject: [Leica] a day at the drag races
From: profmason at (John Mason)
Date: Thu Jun 22 13:50:07 2006

Nice photos, Arche.  You and I and our cameras have
been spending time in similar places.

> Interestingly, to me anyway, there is a much 
> higher proportion of black participation in drag 
> racing, by far, than any of the other motor sports
> I've witnessed.

That's absolutely correct.  Drag racing is far more
ethnically and racially integrated--at every level,
from grassroots bracket racing to the top NHRA
professional ranks--than any other motor sports in the
US or Europe.  (Drag racing, coincidentally or not, is
racially integrated some parts of South Africa.)  The
mix will vary with the region of the country.  Around
here, it's blacks and whites.  In the west, there will
be lots of Latinos as well.

God willing, by the end of the summer, I'll have
finished shooting and interviewing for a book that
will, among other things, try to explain why this is

It's not simply that the crowds are integrated:

Or that black men like Kenny M. and David W. have been
drag racing since they were in their teens.  That is,
they were racing white guys and each other at the
track, before Jim Crow was dead and buried:

Or that you can find three or four generations of
black racers in the same family.  John B., pictured
here, has long been one of the best drivers and
mechanics in Virginia; his daughter and grandson, also
pictured, race junior dragsters:

Genuine interracial friendships form at the track and
often extend beyond it, as well.  The man in the golf
cart is Al Gore, who is more responsible than anyone
else for bringing organized drag racing to the east
coast; the other men are two of the Steppe brothers,
some of whom have been racing on Al's tracks for

One of the perplexing facts about drag racing is that
the demographics, as far as white racers and fans are
concerned, is pretty much the same as for Nascar,
which has been (and still too often is) a hostile
environment for blacks:

At the drag strip, self-proclaimed (an admittedly
semi-ironic proclamation) rednecks have black buddies:

Drag racing is also much more open to women drivers
than any other motor sport, again, at all levels,
grassroots to pro.  It wasn't easy for the first women
racers, but they've been racing the guys since the
late '40s:

Bunny Burkett was one of the pioneers and is still
active in alcohol funny cars:

The gals keep beating the guys, too:

IIIf, M2, Nikon F100.  CV and Nikon glass.  Superia
and T400CN.


J Mason
Charlottesville, Virginia

DEMOCRACY OF SPEED, a Photo Documentary Project:

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Replies: Reply from philippe.orlent at (Philippe Orlent) ([Leica] a day at the drag races)
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