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Short Track documents the world of semi-professional dirt track racing: from the downtrodden bombers and high-end stock cars, to the fans, drivers, and mechanics’ lives on and off the track. With roots going back to prohibition-era rumrunners, stock car racing has evolved into a national phenomenon and has become America’s second-most watched televised sport. For racing enthusiasts, hot days spent sweating over busted engines and damaged bodies give way to nights of tearing up the earth in front of a crowd, mud spraying from tires with the pedal jammed down and the adrenaline cranked up.
The “short track” is any oval track less than a half-mile round, and countless semi-pro races are held weekly on dirt short tracks across the country. Drivers in these events, race at breakneck speeds, seeking triumph while courting disaster, and spectators know there is as good a chance of witnessing a crash as getting a first look at NASCAR’s next up-and-comer. Mendel traveled to the Deep South, Arizona, and New Mexico—hotbeds of stock car racing—in order to capture the raw power and gritty determination of life on the short track. As most drivers can’t afford their expensive hobby, many rely on assistance from family and friends, and even from fellow competitors, in order to maintain their cars. But for the die-hards, stock car racing is more than a sport; it is a way of life. Short Track puts readers in the passenger’s seat for an up close ride-along through the world of America’s most dangerous, grease-splattered, high-octane, pastime.
Short Track, the book is available November 2009 from powerHouse Books at the following link:
Jake Mendel is a photographer living in Santa Fe. He was born and raised in Alabama in 1971. Although he harbored a passion for photography, he put it aside to pursue a career with his father’s company. In 1999 he left the family business to return to photography full-time. Since then, Mendel’s photographs have been included in various solo and group exhibitions throughout New Mexico and Alabama.
(editor’s note: as per Jake Mendel’s request, comments will be closed under this essay…you may discuss under Dialogue )