Digital Mitchell Event Photography | Night Under Fire 2013 NHRA Drag Racing

Night Under Fire 2013 NHRA Drag Racing

August 31, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

NHRA Drag Race CarNUF-2013-291

Every year the Summit Motorsports Park, an NHRA drag racing facility, has a 24 hour event called Night Under Fire. Located in Norwalk, OH the race track is owned and operated by the Bader family who started the facility 50 years ago this year.  Each year towards the end of the racing season they bring out all the big names in racing, along with exciting acts, music and of course fireworks, in recognition of all the fans and racers that patron their facility.  This year they had 40,000 fans in the stadium, and they were almost as loud as the cars.

My friend Mike Davis, of Moto Lens Photography, is the Summit's official track photographer.  Each year he hand selects photographers to photograph the event.  I have been fortunate enough to be selected the past three years.  It is a long couple of days, but in the end, the images that we get are worth it.  The fans, and racers appreciate the work that we do and always stop and tell us that.  It is nice being told that your efforts are appreciated!

Below are some of my favorites from the event.  


photograph of golf cart with barNUF 2013-1675

Now that is the way to get around!

photograph of young mechanic helping his fatherNUF 2013-1708

Daddy's little helper!


Photograph of racing car owners RVNUF 2013-1724

This is the way that Larry "Spiderman" McBride sets up when he is at the track, wow what a spread it was!


photograph of the starting lineNUF-2013-001 This is the starting line, it is where everything is on the line!


photograph of the 1970NUF-2013-147 These are the ladies that help position the cars on the track for their final runs, in 1970's uniforms.


The Night Under Fire really is an event that they take very seriously at the Summit Motorsport track.  Below you can see their desire to present a first class show.  All the track personnel wear tuxedos, especially the owner.

photograph of the track official in a tuxedoNUF-2013-165

Track staff looking good!

photograph of owner Bill Bader in a tuxedoNUF-2013-169

Owner Bill Bader in his NUF "uniform"


All day long the track races cars, as it normally does, just a lot more of them.  When it starts getting dark, later in the evening, the the festivities begin.  They start with a "Parade of Cars" which showcases the more prominent cars and drivers.  They all drive side by side down the track  and every now and again Bill Bader stops a driver to speak with them.

NUF-2013-174 NUF-2013-179
NUF-2013-181 NUF-2013-182
NUF-2013-183 NUF-2013-184
NUF-2013-185 NUF-2013-189

These two 13 year old girls were the two champions of their class.

NUF-2013-203 Larry "Spiderman" McBride
NUF-2013-213 NUF-2013-216

Jill Canuso in her Queen of Diamonds II Jet powered dragster.

NUF 2013-1583

Bob Motz and his 200 MPH Jet powered Kenworth


One of the big names of the event is John Force, 15 time Nitro Funny Car Champion.  The first time I met John was the first year I photographed the Night Under Fire.  I was assigned to photograph the autograph session, and he was there along with the other celebrity racers.  Later that night he stopped by the photography trailer to look at the images taken of him and his friends and I happened to be the only one there.  We chatted for a while, longer then just polite conversation would dictate.  I really did not know who he was, but he came across to me as a very nice, sincerely interested person.  We talked about this and that, nothing in particular, I really could not talk about racing, as I knew very little about it, but he kept talking to me anyway.  After he left some of the other photographers came in and I told them about my conversation, and they all said: "Do you know who that was?!"  I said; "not really, just one of the racers from the autograph session."  They all shouted back: "That was John Force, he is the biggest racer there is!"  "Really" I said, I did not know that.  Maybe that is why he stayed so long to chat with me, because I was not star struck with him and he knew it, maybe he just wanted to have a normal conversation for once.  Anyway, I now know who John Force is, and I am a fan of his for several reasons.


John Force himself!

NUF 2013-1594

The specially painted car for the event, that John drove


After the parade Chris Morena did some two wheeled stunts, I have no idea how they can drive on two wheels for so long, they went the entire length of the track, 1,000 feet!


photograph of stunt truck on ramp on two wheelsNUF-2013-231 photograph of truck on two wheels and stunt man on topNUF-2013-238

Stuntman Chris Morena waving to the crowd



Photograph of large American Flag from underneithNUF 2013-1620

How patriotic is that, a 50 yard American Flag!


Then the racing started:

photograph of old drag racing car doing wheelyNUF-2013-242 photograph of old orange drag racing car with smokeNUF 2013-1635
photograph of old drag racing car with smokeNUF 2013-1639 photograph of drag racing car with smokeNUF 2013-1647
photograph of drag racing car with fireNUF 2013-1699 photograph of drag racing car with fireNUF-2013-291
photograph of two drag racing cars with fireNUF-2013-296 photograph of jet drag racing car with flameNUF 2013-1723
photograph of jet drag racing car with smoke and flamesNUF-2013-307

Jill Canuso and her Jet powerd Queen of Hearts II car.  She is from Potstown, PA where my Uncle Stan is from.

photograph of jet drag racing car with smoke and flames and ducking photographersNUF-2013-317 My friend Joe Miller ducking as the Jet powered card flys by, those flames are really hot.  [Note that my other friend Rachel Speir is NOT ducking out of the way.]
photograph of drag racing finsih timeNUF-2013-322

That's 282 mph in 5.58 seconds!!

photograph of jet drag racing semi truck with flamesNUF-2013-327

That is one hot Jet Kenworth driven by Bo Motz.

photograph of jet drag racing semi with flamesNUF 2013-1733

Notice the camera person running for safety!

photograph of John ForceNUF-2013-434

John Force riding to the applause of the crowd.

photograph of drag racing motorcyle with fireNUF-2013-263

Larry "Spiderman" McBride on his supercyle

photograph of drag racing motorcyle timeNUF-2013-270

He went 220 mph in 5.88 seconds!

drag racing car doing wheelyNUF 2013-1408-2

I wonder what would happen if they did not have those wheely bars.

dual drag cars racing with flamesNUF 2013-1502-2

My good friends Rob Miller photographing John Force (right) edging out the other racer (left)

photograph of jet car with flames and smokeNUF 2013-1559-2 photograph of 2 jet cars racingNUF 2013-1611-2


After the big name racing was over, they actually had a wedding!  Interestingly enough, I had photographed this couple's engagement session, out on the track, at last year's Night Under Fire, so it came full circle.

photograph of wedding on drag racing trackNUF 2013-1343-2


After the wedding, the Pyro acts started.  The first was "Benny The Bomb" who started the special events out with a big bang!

photograph of exploding car step 1NUF-2013-345

The calm before the storm, all looks peaceful...

photograph of exploding car step 2NUF-2013-346 ...and then the car blows up!
photograph of exploding car step 3NUF-2013-348 photograph of exploding car step 4NUF-2013-350
photograph of exploding car step 5NUF-2013-355

The safety crew reached Benny right away and pulled him out.

photograph of driver of exploding carNUF-2013-358

...and Benny The Bomb was unhurt, and at the age of 71!


After Benny The Bomb walked off with a loud roar from the crowd, up next was Bubba Blackwell who jumped 13 cars, then it was Disney stuntman Chris Morena's turn to make his jump.  We also had two "Monster Trucks" take their turns at crushing cars.

motorcycle jump part 3NUF-2013-370

Bubba Blackwell motorcycle jump

car jump with explosionNUF-2013-395

Chris Morena spiral auto jump

photograph of War WizardNUF-2013-535

Randy Moore

photograph of monster truck jumpingNUF-2013-450



Then it was time for the big finale, it started with burning down "the sign," which is a fan favorite.  Bob Motz lended his Jet Kenworth's jet engine to fulfill the crowd's wishes.

photograph of jet car burning down signNUF 2013-1630-2


The evening was ended with a large firework display.

fireworks 1NUF 2013-1406 Firworks 2NUF 2013-1427

Those fireballs were extremely hot even from where I was standing.

Fireworks 3NUF 2013-1516 Fireworks 4NUF 2013-1533


It was a long, long day of photographing and as tired as we all were, we had a great time of it.  Looking forward to next season's Night Under Fire.



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