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The race and the reality: a behind-the-scenes look at the Riverside 500

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Photos courtesy The Henry Ford.

Our impulse to pull back the curtain, to see the humble and real genesis of our fantasies, where does that come from? Are we not impressed enough with the film that we have to watch the “making of” documentary? Are we not entertained or informed enough by personalities and celebrities that we have to consume paparazzi photos of them and gossip columns about their lives?

Nope, not really. And in fact, sometimes the rough-and-tumble behind-the-scenes stuff makes for better viewing than the spectacle itself. It adds context, sure, but it also shows us that mere mortals accomplish greatness and by inference that gives us hope of becoming something greater than ourselves.


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Dave Friedman’s photos of the 1969 Riverside 500, scanned and collected on The Henry Ford’s Flickr page, show the stock car race action. Cars going around a course, vying for primacy and prize money. Spinouts, crashes, passes, and the victory celebration. All standard race coverage for a photographer. But they also show something more: little moments focused on amped-up drivers before the race, glimpses of the technology in and under the cars in the race, snapshots of the resources and the manpower necessary to put on such a race.

The photographs come without descriptions, but the names and faces and the mechanical bits are familiar enough to allow us to start piecing together narratives beyond the horse race, to allow us to further understand what went on that day, to see what really mattered and what only mattered on the surface.


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