As a professional photographer, the time in between working for clients is rarely idle. For Raleigh-based Bryan Regan, this period was spent on an eight-year-long personal project shooting small-town race tracks across North Carolina. His insider knowledge of the sport and dedication to the subject matter paid off, as he recently pitched this concept to Walter Magazine, a community publication in Raleigh, for their summer issue.
They asked if I had any ideas for fun summer activities and I said, “Sure! There’s a NASCAR sanctioned race track 10 miles from downtown that most people don’t know about.”
Wake County Speedway served as the perfect location for Bryan to showcase the racetrack and carnival-like environment that would draw in hundreds of local residents. With metal bleachers and food vendors lining the track, the space acts as an amusement park for families, groups of young folks, and some old-timers who have been coming to the speedway to watch the cars race for many years.
As a NASCAR-sanctioned speedway, this small racetrack is the starting point for many young drivers who are looking to kickstart their careers. This leads to a visible discrepancy that Bryan dubs: “the battle of the classes” between those who are just starting out and the seasoned pros.
You have drivers there with two cars, pit crews, and air-conditioned RV’s. Then you have people that show up with the bare minimum: an old car and a crappy trailer.
The events at Wake County Speedway are as much a car show as they are a high-speed race between automobiles. The vehicles vary from small cars called “Bandoleros” (which can be driven by kids as young as eight), Mod-4s (four-cylinder cars), and Legends or Bombers (retro cars modified with powerful engines). But in spite of these differences, everyone has the same end goal — watching the crowd cheer you on from your seat on victory lane.
I’ve seen firsthand that despite what you drive on the track everyone is equal.
While we can’t hear the deafening roar of the cars starting their engines through Bryan’s imagery, the excitement and anticipation are still palpable. Much like a concert, the crowd is alive and on their feet shouting and screaming for their favorite driver.
Even though the vehicles are the big draw for the crowd, for Bryan, it’s the individuals who attend the race that provide the most interesting photography subjects. In his many years attending these small-town races, he’s developed an ability to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds. As he wanders the grounds of the event, Bryan’s curiosity and friendly character provide images that capture the enjoyment and engagement of each patron.
Everyone was very welcoming and approachable, I think I’m really more there for the people than the racing.
See more of Bryan’s work on his website.