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Doug Hearsom’s Spectacular 1984 Funny Car Crash as Captured by Gil Rebilas in the Gil Zone


I was shooting from the owners picnic area that gave me the great advantage of being just past the finish line.  This was in 1984, before NHRA mandated the use of reinforced concrete guard walls.  During the Alcohol Funny Car Qualifying session, Doug Hearsom during his car with its name on the side of the car “The Alcoholic” got out of shape and chose to drive the car into the green grass next to the racing surface.  Before I go any further, I need to let you know what my thinking was.  I was shooting 200 ASA, 36 exposure film.  When ever I shot, I always kept an eye on where I was frame wise.  When ever the frame count got to between 26 and 28, I would change to a new roll of film.  My reasoning about this was that if something big were to happen, I would have plenty of frames to capture the whole incident.  The Doug Hearsom crash was a good example.  If I were at frame 28, I would have missed the best of the crash.  I officially named this “The Never Ending Crash”.  It just kept on going and going and going!  Well, enough talking.  Let’s get to Doug Hearsom as he enters the “GilZone”!

20150220-image017The Image to the left would have been my last frame if I was at 28 and didn’t change film.  What a loss if that happened because the rest of the frames were the most spectacular in the whole sequence!  However, now, with digital photography, I have 1100 plus frames!

Out of all of the images in this sequence, frame 6 through 20 were the best! Every time I see a crash like this, I pray for the driver that he will survive to race another day! They can Fix or repair these, but they can’t replace a life lost!

Thank you for allowing me to share with you some of the most exciting part of my 45 years as a “Drag Racing Photographer”!  Please feel free to ask questions to me at my email address;  Also, in the “Subject” box, put the name of the article,  I will get back to you by way of your email.  So, please ask as many questions as you like, I’ll answer all your questions!  If you’re a novice photographer and you want to learn how to better your photography, you can ask me those questions.  So, fire away!  Thank you for your support!  Gil Rebilas.

1 Comment

  1. danlynch says:

    Was not 1984.. 1989 was the year.

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