Ace Lane Sr.
A man of infinite abilities and talents with what is now considered old-style film and camera photography, John “Ace” Lane Sr. combined his boyhood interests in auto racing and snapping pictures and – through hard work and dedication – was one of the leading automobile racing photographers for 25 years.
The fact, however, that Lane was a black man in a sport that was primarily populated by white participants made no matter to anyone of consequence because he was as true to himself as he was to auto racing and no one could find any fault with that.
Lane was first exposed to the excitement of Sprint Car-style racing when, as a kid during the Depression, he and his pals heard roaring engines as they played on the railroad tracks which ran by the old half-mile dirt New Market Speedway in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Interested in learning more about the throaty sounds, the band of friends snuck over the fence and soon saw with delight the colorful racing cars speeding around the track.
Right away Lane knew that this was something that he liked and as he later began to take an interest in photography, combing his two passions seemed to be a natural fit.
All of this, however, had to wait until the young Infantryman returned home from World War II. But once Lane started to make the rounds at local racing events, there was no stopping him in his efforts to be the best racing photographer that he could be.
The only problem that Lane had when he started his racing photography career was convincing track promoters that he was just interested in doing a good job. Iif there was any problem about his being a black man trying to do this work, he never said anything to anyone about it – including his family.
A carpenter by trade, Lane – like all of those men and women who documented racing history with a camera and black & white or color film – spent a lot of time not only shooting pictures but also working in the darkroom where his images were developed and printed.
Anytime that there was a big race, “Ace” would be there and after he made his rounds in the pits – where drivers and crews would purchase some of the latest examples of his work – he found the best infield position where he could get the kind of shots that racing publications of all kinds were after in order to help illustrate their printed stories.
The Official Track Photographer at the old Flemington and East Windsor Speedways in New Jersey, Lane also was a regular “shooter” at the Garden State’s Wall Stadium and at its old Pleasantville, Old Bridge and Trenton Speedways. Plus, he could be seen with a camera in his hand – and a couple of others slung over his shoulder – at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway and at the Keystone State’s old Langhorne Speedway and Nazareth Raceway.
For most of his career, Lane favored his trusty Rolleiflex Twin-Lens Reflex box camera; although in his later years he did upgrade to using a 35 mm Single Lens Reflex unit, to get his best shots at night, he always favored a large strobe light.
Lane’s work was seen in all of the major racing publications, but it was most often seen in the pages of “Area Auto Racing News.” An Ace Lane Photo of the aftermath of a major accident at Flemington Speedway was on the front page of the very first issue of AARN when the Trenton, New Jersey-based trade paper began publication in June 1963.
John “Ace” Lane Sr. died from complications of a stroke in January 1973 at age 54.
But his photographic efforts have been continued by his son John “Ace” Lane Jr. Each year the Eastern Motorsport Press Association presents its Ace Lane Memorial Award to the organization’s outstanding photographer.