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Motorsports Photographer Gil Rebilas captures Mark Kinsellas Spolsion at English Town

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Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to pass on my gift to other photographers.  Some of whom, have gone on to some very good and lucrative careers in photography.  Lesson: The one thing that I’ve taught everybody was not to worry about how far away something that’s happening, press the button and hold it down!  If it’s in focus, you never know what you might get!  I’ll tell you right now, if there’s sun hitting the track surface, you will have to deal with the heat waves.  In some instances you can use that to your advantage.

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In first round of eliminations on Sunday at ther Spring Nationals at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersy, Cory McClenathan (right), the number one qualifier faced number 16 qualifier, Mark Kinsella. The race looked close up until about half track. Cork Mac had a half car advantage when all of the fans attention went over to Kinsella who had this crank explosion with this monstrous fireball.  Yes, the picture is in focus!  The heat waves make it look like it’s out of focus.  Take note of the difference in the injector position on Cory’s engine as opposed to Mark’s.  Kinsella’s is leaning way over to the right behind his head.  Yes, I could have waited for Kinsella to get closer to my position so my image would be clear and sharp.  However, I would have missed this really dramatic shot.  My son Mark complains that a shot like this is junk because it is out of focus or made unusable because of the heat waves!  Not me!  I like the reflection of the fire looking like a mirage on the asphalt.  Don’t get me wrong!  I would rather that the image was sharp as a tack without heat waves!~ That’s the one thing that drag racing has over any other motor sport!  Everything happens right in front of you!  Whether you’re at the start of the race or at the end, you see it all!  The only beef that I have when shooting in the grandstands, is why do the fans need to stand up for every races?  Lesson: When I used to shoot from the stands, I always got there early, about 8am, and brought a milk crate with me.  I would go all the way to the top row of the stands and to the very end so I was at the corner.  I sometimes would take duct tape and tape my milk crate in place to secure it so it couldn’t move under me when I stood on top of it.  This got me up higher than the fans when they stood up.  I really doubt if they would allow a milk crate in the stands now a days.  That way I never had someone’s head in any of my shots!

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In first round of eliminations on Sunday at the Spring Nationals at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, Cory McClenathan (right), the number one qualifier faced number 16 qualifier, Mark Kinsella. The race looked close up until about half track. Cork Mac had a half car advantage when all of the fans attention went over to Kinsella who had this crank explosion with this monstrous fireball.  Yes, the picture is in focus!  The heat waves make it look like it’s out of focus.  Take note of the difference in the injector position on Cory’s engine as opposed to Mark’s.  Kinsella’s is leaning way over to the right behind his head.  Yes, I could have waited for Kinsella to get closer to my position so my image would be clear and sharp.  However, I would have missed this really dramatic shot.  My son Mark complains that a shot like this is junk because it is out of focus or made unusable because of the heat waves!  Not me!  I like the reflection of the fire looking like a mirage on the asphalt.  Don’t get me wrong!  I would rather that the image was sharp as a tack without heat waves!~ That’s the one thing that drag racing has over any other motor sport!  Everything happens right in front of you!  Whether you’re at the start of the race or at the end, you see it all!  The only beef that I have when shooting in the grandstands, is why do the fans need to stand up for every races?  Lesson: When I used to shoot from the stands, I always got there early, about 8am, and brought a milk crate with me.  I would go all the way to the top row of the stands and to the very end so I was at the corner.  I sometimes would take duct tape and tape my milk crate in place to secure it so it couldn’t move under me when I stood on top of it.  This got me up higher than the fans when they stood up.  I really doubt if they would allow a milk crate in the stands now a days.  That way I never had someone’s head in any of my shots!

20020519-image005In this image the can is coming in my direction and I decide that if it stays on its present course, I’m going to drop down flat to the ground as close to the inside bottom edge of the retaining wall as possible!  At 200 plus MPH, you would think that its momentum would be straight forward.  But, this can is not as round as a ball.  It has different edges, kinda like a football, you never can tell which way it’s going to bounce!  It’s got some more ground to cover until it gets close to me where I’ve got to make my move to hit the ground!

20020519-image008Like a football, the clutch can bounces high in the air over to the other side of the track.  I quickly look behind the car and in front of me in the near lane to see if there are any small parts coming my way. There’s nothing that I can see so I look back toward the car and the clutch can. Taking a closer look at the clutch can, there’s connected to the end of the can toward the top in the picture.  That, to me, looks like a pair of connecting rods on part of the crankshaft.  You can only imagine the violence of a crank explosion to have the can thrown out of the engine that still has two connecting rods attached!

20020519-image010Look at the engine sitting sideways in the chassis!  As I remember, that explosion had a lot of concussion that I could hear and feel from as far away as I was.  That’s about 800 plus Lbs, thrown around like it’s nothing!  I have no idea what was holding that engine between the framerails!  In the first image, you can see Kinsella’s head being pushed forward and to the right.  He’s being held in the cockpit by a five point harness that holds him so firmly in the seat that he can’t lean forward, but that explosion allowed his body to stretch those belts!  Also, if you look up that metal pole outside the wall, there’s that clutch can flying over the wall into the grass!

After the can went over the wall, there’s a lot of mud and water that brought it to a sudden stop! The image to the right shows, not only the two connecting rods, but those two nuts on that green looking piece is one of the mains that holds the crankshaft in the engine! Wow!

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This image shows that the whole engine block was split in half!  Look between those two red hoses.  You can see the split!  Also, check out the black tin work, how it’s all chewed up by the parts exiting the engine!

20020519-image025It’s unbelievable how much carnage that we’re looking at here!  You can clearly see the engine block split in half!  If you look below the red hose, you can see the cam shaft!  Look at the header pipe to the left!  It takes a lot of force to latterly tear an engine apart like this!  That huge fireball in images 1 was almost every one of the 16 quarts of motor oil vaporizing instantly!  Yes, thinking back, I would have loved to get that first image up close and in focus!

These last two shots show how far that engine is out of its place! From the underside, you can clearly see that the engine was split open like an egg!

Words and photos by Gil Rebilas.  If you would like to license these images, please contact Gil Rebilas at grebilas@gmail.com.

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