Capturing the thrill of auto racing

Local photographer Linda Weldon-Feldhorn has captured some of the most arresting photos of racecar drivers the sport had ever seen. She now has compiled them into a recently released book.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

With more than 80 million fans and events broadcast in 150 countries, NASCAR (the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) continues to be one of the most popular sports in the country, generating $3 billion annually in sales of licensed products to male and female motorheads.

But back in the 1960s and ‘70s, stock car and Formula series auto racing was almost exclusively the domain of men, with women appearing only occasionally in the stands. That is, until a pretty and lithe young photographer named Linda Weldon showed up at a Riverside raceway one day to take some photos. She managed to snag pit passes to a heretofore exclusively male realm of thrill and danger, and captured some of the most arresting photos of racing drivers the sport had ever seen.

Malibu resident Linda Weldon-Feldhorn has assembled the best of those photos in a new book she just published called “Road Racing: Drivers of the ‘60s and ‘70s.”

“I was photographing kids for album covers and things like that back then and found myself at the Riverside International Raceway one day in 1966,” Weldon-Feldhorn said in an interview with The Malibu Times from a vintage car show in Palos Verdes, where she was showing a 1973 model Dino Ferrari. “A guy approached me and offered me a pit pass and escorted me around.”

That guy was legendary British racecar driver Sir Stirling Moss.

Weldon-Feldhorn said she took one whiff of the petrol fumes and was hooked. “It was my first race,” she said. “The smell, the energy, the noise, the whole manly thing. I instantly became a passionate fan.”

She also became a reliable source for action shots published in a number of racing magazines like Road & Track. Weldon-Feldhorn quickly gained access to the central paddocks and pits where cars would stop for a 14-second tune up, affording her unusual proximity to drivers and their teams.

Her candid images caught drivers’ expressions in split-second moments of triumph and frustration, their attention riveted on the road ahead. But the very accessibility she gained also put her in precarious proximity to the action.

“They don’t let photographers down where I was on the tracks anymore,” Weldon-Feldhorn said. “You are literally five feet away from cars traveling 150 miles [per] hour. But I was young then, and you never think anything will happen to you. It’s a much safer sport today. Everyone is so protected; it can’t be compared. But back then, the danger was part of the energy and thrill of racing.”

Weldon-Feldhorn befriended the drivers and was regularly on hand at events throughout the Southland. She continued to shoot racecar events and moved on to photographing other sports as well, including bull fighting. “I think I fell in love with the men involved in those blood sports,” she said.

Not that Weldon-Feldhorn thinks women don’t have a place in auto racing.

“I think Danica Patrick is fabulous,” she said, referring to the 28-year-old IndyCar Series driver who has upended the sport. “She really knows how to drive and she is competitive. There were lady drivers like Shirley Muldowney and Pat Moss who were really equipped and qualified. But generally, I don’t think auto racing is in our DNA.”

Weldon-Feldhorn said racecar photography continued to be her favorite subject until she stopped in the ‘70s because, she said, too many of her friends were dying in crashes.

“Bruce McLaren, Peter Revson, Mark Donohue. They all crashed,” she said. “I just didn’t want to shoot racing anymore.”

Weldon-Feldhorn moved on to set photography for film and television. She later expanded her career in the entertainment industry with stints as casting director, script supervisor and production manager, and even as stunt double.

Then, about 10 years ago, she came across a box of negatives from her racing days.

“I was amazed that these negatives survived at all,” she said. “Some were in terrible shape and it took forever to organize them. I never thought I’d finish the book. It was a 10-year project.”

The resulting book includes candid shots of racecar drivers on the track, action shots with the crowds blurred behind vintage racing models and biographies on different drivers.

Rich Fowler, editor of the online racing publication MotorSport Retro, said Weldon-Feldhorn’s presence in the racecar pits was anything but typical 40 years ago.

“What makes Linda’s photos so special is the way she has been able to disarm the drivers,” Fowler wrote in an e-mail. “No doubt, being a beautiful young woman wielding a camera allowed her to capture the drivers off guard and entice them to show a softer side. Linda’s images are precious as they document the cheekier side of the racing drivers psyche.”

Today, Weldon-Feldhorn and her husband, Bill Feldhorn, participate in rally events and hone their own skills at the country’s top racing schools, while restoring vintage cars.

“Last year Bill and I took a course at the Skip Barber Racing School in Monterey,” she said. “I learned the techniques for a skid-past. It was great!”

Linda Weldon-Feldhorn will sign copies of her book at World Class Motoring in Agoura Hills June 30. Her book can also be purchased online at or at

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