AutoMatters: Wheels & Motorsports at the Fair

By Jan Wagner

Those of you who have been reading AutoMatters over the years already know that there are car shows, motorsports and other wheeled things to enjoy at the San Diego County Fair. The 2014 edition of the fair is no exception. I am so excited to share this with you as soon as possible that instead of writing the column that I’d intended and prepared for today, I will go through over 2,700 photos that I took today, edit a few and write this for you in time for my deadline tomorrow morning. This will be a real challenge.

Each year I show a car in the event they call “GREAT WHEELS! The Car Shows at the Fair.” At first I was showing one of my succession of three Mazda Miatas with the San Diego Miata Club. Eventually I sold my last MX-5 (Miata), special-ordered a beautiful white, with brick red leather interior, 2011 Mustang GT 5.0, and joined the Mustang Club of San Diego. Fortunately that club also participates in the annual car shows at the fair. Today was that day.

The fair – superbly represented each year by Bob Meigs, the car show’s master of ceremonies and event organizer, takes a photo of each car – to be mounted on a large foam-core board, complete with the year’s fair theme graphic, for presentation to us later, as we are about to leave the show. This year the fair’s theme is “The Fab Fair” “paying tribute to the British Invasion that revolutionized the music industry 50 years ago.”

After we were guided to park our cars in position in the car show display areas just inside a busy fair gate, we were free to head off to enjoy a few hours at the fair, hang out with friends on folding chairs by our cars, or both – as I did.

This day at the fair coincided with day one of Motorsports Week (“vrooom! Vrooom! We start the engines”). Under a roof that kept us shaded and cool, we fully enjoyed the spectacle in the Del Mar Arena.

There were two shows (I went to both). First Jimmy Fitzpatrick (founder of the “Fitz Army” and Metal Mulisha athlete) and Destin Cantrell treated us to a world-class freestyle motocross (FMX) demo, in which they performed incredible feats of skill and bravery. Speeding up a tall, steep ramp, they launched high in the air, got off of their motorcycles, performed seemingly impossible acrobatics and then got back on their motorcycles and landed safely, every single time! You can read more about freestyle motocross at: and

Next up was Tuff Truck Racing – the insane main event. “Tuff Truck racing is an exciting off-road racing event consisting of modified trucks (and sometimes stock trucks for fun) going around a course filled with different jumps, bumps and turns.” This course was all dirt, and there was plenty of it. “Tuff Truck racing is a game of survival!” The trucks were run one at a time, with their laps timed and an announcer calling the action.

When I cover motorsports I typically take a lot of photos but they are mostly of racing. It is only rarely that there is an on-track coming-together, and it is even rarer that I am in the place at the track where I could see that and potentially shoot it. The Fab Fair’s “Tuff Truck Racing: Open Class” was just about the opposite. For example, in close succession during the timed runs of three trucks, the drivers flipped their trucks over on a turnaround on the track – right in front of rows of screaming fans, who could see everything. I got photos of all of it, in case you were wondering how I could have possibly taken over 2,700 pictures in one day at the fair. That does not include all of the trucks that broke their suspensions (mostly in the first show) as they came crashing down hard from one particularly huge, nasty dirt jump. To find out more about this insanely wonderful and awesome sport, visit

Over the next few days at the fair there will also be a demolition derby (which I covered in AutoMatters #284 last year), beach buggy racing, antique car races, Terracross championship racing and monster trucks. If you miss the motorsports fun at this year’s fair, be sure to mark your calendars for next year.

As always, please write to

with your comments and suggestions.

Copyright © 2014 by Jan Wagner –