Monday, December 28, 2015



If the late Dennis Hopper can play a photojournalist, so can I. He looks the part more than me (and probably makes more money), but I have a weekly blog, whereas Hopper only appears in a film every few years. So there. (Photographer unknown)

NOTE: Since this piece originally published, some of the principals in the story have contacted SGE with clarifications, which now set the record somewhat straighter. Kinda. Thanks guys! - Scotty 1/12/2016 

Tools of the trade. Not shown: Divorce, bankruptcy, malnutrition, and premature death.(Photographers unknown)

(Photographer unknown)

"Photographer unknown" has to be the saddest phrase in all of photojournalism. These heroic daredevils risk it all for the sake of illustrating our passion to the masses, and for what? A laughable paycheck (when there is a paycheck), and the occasional photo credit. In my print work, I go to great lengths to acquire signed releases from every contributing photographer. Most SGE blog shots are "borrowed" from friends (personal and otherwise) who have already posted them online. Alas, a surprisingly large number of the photos I find are uncredited. That breaks my heart. With enough effort, I can compose a lucid sentence, but have always struggled mightily with the camera. It's a machine as complex and precarious as a computer, an atom bomb, or a piano. I don't know an f-stop from a throttle stop, and the photographic learning curve is way steep for a mouthbreather more versed in hammers and torches. Thus, my plea to the humans of Earth: If you know who shot an uncredited photo, please speak up and make it right.

Below are some hot rod shuttermasters from my hero list. Irony: They represent dozens more that I don't have photos of. Several of these lensmen and shuttergals have passed tips and trade secrets on to me, for which I am eternally grateful, but am just not skilled enough to employ.

Gray Baskerville downplayed his photo skills, yet always produced images that conveyed his passion vividly. What else can one ask of a photographer? (Photographer unknown)

Jeff Smith has actually pioneered some of the tech feature photo techniques that we take for granted today. He's testing an experimental Simpson firesuit here in his venerable Chevelle. (Photographer unknown)

Mister Smith, exposing his more human side, on the clock. (Photographer KNOWN: Courtesy of Dave Wallace Jr., who confesses, "I shot Jeff in his bitchin backyard shop/office building." Smith explains the 'Look Stock' plate was a welcome-to-CC gift from departing staffer Al Kirschenbaum, who got it from Rick Voegelin: "Rick gave it to me when he left. Perhaps I was supposed to give it to the next guy in line, but this came from two of my heroes, so I kept it! AK was the very first CC staffer I spoke to when I made my first phone call to those hallowed fifth-floor offices." Al Kirschenbaum chipped in this bit of background clarity: "Jeff's plaque was manufactured by my brother Steve, when he worked for an outfit called 'Hot Press/Design-a-Sign' in Manhattan during the late-Sixties. The hot-pressed plastic plaque was one of a short series with appropriated sayings that included, 'On the Seventh Day, God Created the Hemi' and 'Sundays Will Never Be the Same', among others. Note that all were fabricated from non-Asian-sourced materials, so some have survived well into this next century.") Future inquiries regarding Smith's plaque should be directed to and/or the "Jeff Smith's Plaque" Facebook page.

Rob Kinnan and friend celebrate yet another issue of (fill in favorite magazine) being put to bed. Like many of us, Kinnan seems more comfy at the keys than the shutter, but still gets the job done.  (Photographer unknown)

Hey, photojournos are people too, with exhaust valves in need of occasional service. Gotta blow off some steam to keep your balance. (Photographer unknown)

Cole Coonce in his element - the media center at Famoso Raceway. I've also spent some rehab time in this Central Valley oasis, and am eternally grateful for the A/C, hydration and nourishment. (Photographer unknown, courtesy of

Trackside reporting is the norm for roving drag scribes like Coonce, et al. Home is where the laptop is. (Photographer unknown)

Mike Bumbeck got an early start, just like Yours Truly. He did more with the holeshot advantage than I did though. (Photographer unknown)

The prolific Pam Conrad (with nitro whisperer Jimmy Pflueger) rarely gets to sit down, but when she does, she makes it count.  (Photo courtesy of Darrell Conrad)

Whenever/wherever photojournos gather, there will be trouble. This deceptively tame example from the 1990 Car Craft All Star banquet is narrated by my personal trainer, Dave Wallace Jr: "I can (barely) remember 1990, and the fact that our CC table was referencing the extended-tongue photo of IHRA prexy Billy Meyer that had just been printed in my Drag Racing Magazine editorial. Clockwise around the table, from left: Ron Lewis, Dave Wallace Sr, Sky Wallace, Steve and Laura Earwood, Steve Collison, Francis Butler, Don Gillespie, Jeff Burk, and my DRM successor, Brian Hatano. These Indy Week banquets were always a blast, attended by everybody on Thursday night. Political correctness not found here!(Photographer KNOWN: courtesy of Dave Wallace Jr.)

Wallace Jr, on the clock at Fremont Drag Strip. He paid for this shot with his right eardrum, but claims it was worth it. It made the cover of Hot Rod Magazine. The full story is told in Lost Drag Strips II, now available for pre-order from (Photographer KNOWN: Courtesy of Sky Wallace!)

Spike Kilmer and I have teamed up on some projects with good results. We're currently working on yet another magazine piece. Spike is sighting-in Aaron Grote's '38 Plowboy Special here. Look for a feature on Spike here soon... (Photographer uncertain, but it's probably Plowboy)

We Did It For emperor Don Ewald is that rare photojourno who drove the strips for decades before shooting them. Unbeatable cred. (Photographer unknown)

 Mister Ewald also has a knack for putting a subject into perspective. (Photographer unknown)

 Some youthful energy has recently been injected into the office-pool via of a fresh wave of  (pre-cynical) photojournalists such as Chris Shelton (okay, he's pretty cynical)...  (Photographer unknown)

... Kleet Norris... (Photographer KNOWN: courtesy of Kleet Norris)

... Holly Martin...  (Photographer unknown)

... and Maria Panova (Photographer unknown)

The above are but a smattering of my shoot-it-and-write-it heroes. There are too many to list on one blog post. Below are a couple of the local yokel mentors I get to hang with on a regular basis.

Dennis Vollmar began following the national drag race circuit before I was old enough to hold a camera or a wrench. (Photographer unknown, but it might be me)

 In recent years, Dennis has volunteered his services at our local track (Champion Raceway). I captured him at his usual perch, but he's actually everywhere, all the time. (Scotty shot)

Mary Wilkins-Kelly shoots everything but cars, yet has been a huge inspiration and influence. She knows photography inside and out, and has generously shared her insights and experiences with this cub reporter. That's what keeps the wheels turning. (Photographer unknown)



The Christmas tornadoes that danced through the south took no mercy on Holly Springs Motorsports Drag Strip in northern Mississippi. Track managers Terry and Carol Forsythe lost their trackside home to the twister purported to be nearly a mile wide as it ripped through the town of Holly Springs, leaving several injuries and at least one fatality in its wake. These images came courtesy of, who did not credit the photographer. (Photographer unknown)

SGE pals reported last week that Douglas, Wyoming's Motorsports Park is no more. The track provided thirty years of service to Mountain West racers and fans before becoming a nuisance to city fathers intent on developing the land. Bangshift's Brian Lohnes quips, "While it may be shocking to think that Wyoming only had one active sanctioned quarter-mile  drag racing facility, the population is really what dictates stuff like this. The track closing was not about the attendance as much as it was about the municipality owning the land that the track was on." One could write a book about all of the strips that have closed across America in recent years. It would make for a heartbreaking obituary, but at least these precious playgrounds would be saluted for posterity. (Photographer unknown)



Renowned squirrel photographer Ansel Adams (purportedly a distant shirt tail cousin to Grizzly Adams) recently submitted this rare action shot of his family pet,"Lil Grizz". Pretty dynamic shootin', Adams. Just don't quit your day job. (Photo courtesy of Ansel Adams)

Chassis designer and fabricator Bob Thrash was shooting his rollaways for us when photobombed by an in-progress '61 Impala. Tough break, but don't give up, Bob. It happens. Maybe we can squeeze in a shot of the box next week. Meanwhile, the bodywork is lookin' good on the Chevy. Shop could use a little tidying-up though. (Photo courtesy of Bob Thrash)


If you haven't heard, we lost The Goodguy to a heart attack this weekend. Goodguys Rod & Custom Association founder Gary Meadors played a pivotal-if-controversial role in establishing nostalgia drag racing as a viable alternative/backlash to the big show. He also produced some car shows. As usual, Gary's doing the driving here, while his passenger takes it easy. Godspeed, Goodguy. (Photographer unknown)


(Photographer unknown)

(Photographer unknown)

(Photographer unknown)

(Photo courtesy of Maria Panova)