Through a Young Fan’s Eyes
Through a young fan’s eyes
Since he was 2 years old, Rich Bunning of Wanaque, New Jersey, has been a race-track rat. He has hit every sprint, Indy, and midget race in the tri-state area that he could get into over the last 56 years. Growing up in northern New Jersey, Rich has long had access to many top-tier local raceways, and he used his proximity to these venues to his advantage. He has enjoyed the hobby that he was born into, a lifelong passion that was carefully cultivated by his father, Hank, and his car-crazy family.
Hank had a friend who was a renowned photographer for the National Speed Sport News. When the man retired, Hank took over that job for the periodical. So it was only natural that young Rich tagged along with his pop to all the major races, watching his dad snap photos for race features with his trusty Pentax Spotmatic 35mm camera. It was not just a hobby for him, but a way of life that his father enjoyed sharing with him.
It was on a 1969 trip to a sprint car race in Syracuse when things all came together for the then 9-year-old. “Dad handed me his camera so he could get into a Victory Lane photo with one of his friends,” Rich remembers. “While the other photographers snapped away, I pretended to do it as well. But I ended up taking a few pictures by accident. When dad saw how good they came out, he decided to give me his trusty Pentax camera when he upgraded his equipment the following season.”
Young Rich then hit the races in earnest. “I’ve shot everything: Indy, sprint, midget, NASCAR, NHRA, Can-Am, Trans-Am, even flattrack bikes over the years.”
It really didn’t matter to him what style of racing it was, as long as there was plenty of action. “In the early years I shot with the Spotmatic, but once Dad upgraded again, I used his Pentax ME Super. I shot film till 2008, when I got a Canon digital camera.”
The photos Rich shares here—from the Trans-Am race at Lime Rock, Connecticut, September 5, 1970—was his “first ever T-A race, and we went there to see some of our Indy Car friends.” Like always, the youngster was walking the beat and clicking away during the race, right alongside the pro shooters. He ended up coming home with several rolls of film from the event.
Today, in his spare time when he’s not painting or restoring cars for some of the top restoration facilities in the Metro area, Rich still shoots whenever he gets the urge. Was this particular race day in September 1970 anything special? “Besides seeing and meeting Paul Newman, it was just another day at the races for me.”
“It was just another day at the races for me”
“Neither Gurney nor Donohue would finish the race”
n Jim Hall in his Chaparral Camaro. n Parnelli Jones wins (left), and Paul Newman watches the action. n Dan Gurney (right) and Swede Savage talk strategy before the race. n This was the first year Mark Donohue (center, in blue windbreaker) raced for AMC.
n The opening photo shows the grid at the Lime Rock race’s start, with Dan Gurney in the AAR ’Cuda (48) and Mark Donohue in the Penske Javelin (6) on the front row. The end of the first lap saw Parnelli Jones’ Boss Mustang (15) and Ed Leslie (2) in the Jim Hall–built Chaparral Camaro creeping up on the pole position rides. Neither Gurney nor Donohue were running at the end of the race.
n When Roger Penske moved to AMC’s Trans-Am program, Chevrolet called on Jim Hall’s race shop to build and drive the automaker’s new T-A cars for 1970. Here, Hall in his Chaparral Camaro is up on the jack in the pits.