AutoMatters+: Goodguys Full Throttle Fun in Del Mar

Cruising at the 15th edition of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association’s “Meguiar’s Del Mar Nationals.”
Cruising at the 15th edition of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association’s “Meguiar’s Del Mar Nationals.”
Cool cars filled the fairgrounds

AutoMatters+: Goodguys Full Throttle Fun in Del Mar

The 15th edition of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association’s “Meguiar’s Del Mar Nationals” combined a car show, a thrilling autocross, vendors, live entertainment, a Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge, and more to produce a family-friendly celebration of the car and truck hobby.

Full throttle autocross competition

With the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific Ocean in the background, hundreds of cars and trucks from 1972 and earlier were on display at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Added to that, All American Sunday was open to all years of American-made or -powered vehicles. Together, they filled the exhibit halls and outdoor parking areas. Many slowly cruised the Del Mar Fairgrounds, under palm trees basking in the Southern California sunshine.

Beautiful vintage Corvette

As if to put the exclamation mark on the event’s “Full Throttle Fun!” billing, the ever-popular Goodguys autocross challenged its competitors — including yours truly — to drive our vehicles to their handling, acceleration, and braking limits. The penalty for going beyond that was a time penalty, calculated on the number of traffic pylons knocked out of their boxes.

Al Unser Jr. strategizing

The excitement in the grandstands kicked up a notch whenever the high-performance, purpose-built cars and trucks in the PRO-class took to the track. Special guests at this year’s event were Al Unser Jr., Robby Unser and Chip Foose.

Hitting pylons earns a time penalty

On Sunday, after everyone’s timed runs were completed, it was time to clear the course of pylons. Kyle Tucker took to the course one last time in his Detroit Speed 1970 Camaro, drifting around the turns, and leaving countless flying pylons in his wake.

Cool Ford truck

After the exhibit halls closed at 3 p.m., I headed over to the O’Brien Gate to photograph the cars as they cruised out of the fairgrounds. A large crowd was already gathered behind the temporary, freestanding railings.

While most of the cars and trucks slowly cruised by, a few drivers could not resist the cheers and encouragement of spectators to “light them up.” In response, they revved their engines, performed tire-smoking burnouts and sometimes even did donuts on the wide expanse of pavement. The driver of a beautiful, bronze ’69 Dodge Charger returned for a second pass, exchanging enthusiastic hand gestures with the crowd. They seemed to amplify each other’s energy.

Crowd cheering for burnouts

Workers with “Elite” printed on their red jackets were standing nearby. I assumed that they were there — at least in part — to perform a security function, but they did not intervene. With adults and children alike standing so close to speeding, drifting cars, this seemed dangerous. At races I have seen cars suddenly lose control, hitting and moving very large, heavy concrete barriers. The temporary metal railings that lined the cruise route would be no match for an out-of-control, speeding car or truck. Several times I expressed my surprise to nearby spectators that security was not shutting this down.

Billowing tire smoke

The next car to enter what had become a drifting zone was a late ’50s or early ’60s red Corvette convertible. A man was driving and a young boy was in the passenger seat. Encouraged by the cheering spectators, the driver sped away with tires squealing. Suddenly, as I turned back to the starting area to see what car would be next, I heard a loud, sickening crash. I saw that the Corvette had left the road and crashed into the elevated landscaping, knocking over landscaping bricks and a pole along the way. It came to rest beside a building and a large tree. I could see the driver, but not the boy.

An accident ended the event

People ran to help. Then someone walked out from behind the far side of the car, carrying the boy in his arms. A spectator told me that the boy had been ejected from the convertible.

Incredibly, while all this was happening, some cars were still doing burnouts as they approached the accident scene. Fortunately, a few moments later, the understandably dazed and shaken boy was standing, gingerly supporting one of his arms.

Soon emergency vehicles arrived. The boy was checked out and then moved to a stretcher in the ambulance. The driver had a cut treated. The Sheriffs began their investigation.

As much fun as this may have seemed at the time before the accident, this could easily have ended in tragedy. Professional and amateur races are officially sanctioned. There are rules and regulations, and appropriate safety measures are taken. All things considered, we were lucky this day.

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Copyright © 2015 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters+ #380