“The Race at the Base” – Fun at the Coronado Speed Festival

Coronado Speed Festival the Race at the Base

On Sunday we drove down to San Diego and Coronado Island for the 19th Annual Coronado Speed Festival. Hosted by Naval Base Coronado on Naval Air Station North Island, the “Race at the Base” features a car corral, ten different car class races on an active runway, and the opportunity to tour the Naval base and ships and explore some of the aircraft on display.

We left Riverside around 7:30 AM (after a friend’s wedding the night before) and arrived shortly before 9:00 AM. Traffic was light so we were able to drive through Coronado Island onto the base and park with no waiting. After parking, we walked to security screening, much like at an airport, except that no large bags or backpacks were allowed. I was turned around with my small backpack as it was deemed too large. Luckily I brought my fanny pack along so I stuffed that with my wallet, cell phone, extra battery and ear plugs, and I hand carried a can of spray sunscreen. The marine layer was still overhead when we arrived, but we knew it would burn off and we would need sun protection.

The Coronado Speed Festival runs all day Saturday and Sunday and is part of Fleet Week San Diego. Tickets for each day were $25 for adults, but we had a coupon from Reader City for $15 each (Active duty military personnel are admitted free and children under 12 are free; a weekend pass is $35). While we missed some of the early races, each group of cars raced in the afternoon as well, and we were able to watch all the different groups race later in the day.

The Paddock

We walked around the paddock where each car was getting race prepped. There was a wide variety of cars to enjoy; I always enjoy the older cars, especially the pre-war racers.

Morgan automobile at Coronado Speed Festival in San Diego for Vintage car racing

A beautiful Morgan automobile.

A vintage Porsche at Coronado Speed Festival

A vintage Porsche

1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang at Coronado Speed Festival

The 1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang. When we peaked inside the back, there was gravel all over the car floor, picked up from the track.

1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang at Coronado Speed Festival

The back of the1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang exposed.

Paddock at Coronado Speed Festival

Three cars in the paddock.

Comedian, podcaster, documentary filmmaker and vintage car racer Adam Carolla, who was racing in Group 8 with his Bob Sharp Datsun 610, posed for a picture with us. He said that the first two races on Saturday seemed to go well, but there was something not right with the car, and they were not sure if they had it fixed. He advised that if we saw his car moving slowly on the track, it was the car and not the driver. Sadly when we watched his group race, we knew that his car problems continued, and he did not participate in the afternoon race for his group.

Adam Carolla at the Coronado Speed Festival

Dave and I chatted with Adam Carolla before his group raced.

Many of the cars had signs that described their provenance and race history.

1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Trans-AM / IMSA GTO in the paddock at Coronado Speed Festival

1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Trans-AM / IMSA GTO – this car would be in a heated battle for first place in the last race of the day.

1952 Allard K2 at Coronado Speed Festival paddock

The 1952 Allard K2

Watching the Races

We walked over to one of two spectator stands, and when we climbed to the top, we could peer over and see the cars lining up in advance of each race. It was fun to watch the cars drive in and be directed to their place in the grid.

Group 8 cars on the race grid at the Coronado Speed Festival for vintage car racing

Group 8 cars – mass produced cars and sedans built prior to 1973 – line up on the race grid.

Sportscar Vintage Racing Association group 8 cars on the grid at Coronado Speed Festival

Looking down on the Group 8 grid from the stands. In the distance on the left is the short course for the Jaguar test drives.

Sportscar Vintage Racing Association Group 10 cars on the grid at Coronado Speed Festival

Group 10 – NASCAR Cup and Nationwide Stock Cars – line up on the grid

Pre-war race cars at Coronado Speed Festival

The Pre-War race cars line up in the grid as the NASCAR group exits the track

pre-war vintage race cars at Coronado Speed Festival

The pre-war race cars lined up in the grid (the San Diego skyline is in the back on the right)

From this perch we could see almost all of the 1.7 mile race track. Facing north, sailboats sailed by on San Diego bay and flights departed from the airport as the marine layer hugged San Diego in the morning.

Sportcar Vintage Racing Association grid at Coronado Speed Festival

Group 9 – “Wings & Slicks” open-wheel race cars as raced from 1973 – 2008 – on the grid with San Diego Bay and San Diego to the north in the background.

Coronado speed festival sportscar vintage racing association

Heading from the grid

Coronado Speed Festival Sportscar Vintage Racing Association

Heading from the grid for Group 7

Other Activities at the Base

Unfortunately while we were watching groups 8 and 10 race, we missed the pit crew challenge. Active duty military personnel competed in a pit crew time trial with NASCAR cars and equipment.

We were treated to some of the Naval Seahawk helicopters flying over the racetrack while we were in the stands, and we also saw some F-18s take off (they were a bit too fast to take a picture).

Naval seahawk helicopters at Coronado Speed Festival

Naval Seakhawk helicopters flew over the track during the races

During the noon lunch break, I was fortunate to take a selfie with actor Gary Sinise. Gary and his Lt. Dan Band performed on Saturday at the fest. He was the Grand Marshall for the races. I thanked him for all that he does to support our military with the Gary Sinise Foundation.

Coronado Speed Festival actor Gary Sinise

Meeting Actor and Coronado Speed Festival Grand Marshall Gary Sinise (note my hand-carried can of sunscreen!)

I realized too late that while the racing paused for a lunch time breaks that hot laps were offered – spectators were being driven around as passengers in some of the cars. By the time I realized this and got in line, it was too late. Something I definitely would like to do next year!

After grabbing lunch, we stood in line to test drive Jaguars. Jaguar is a sponsor of the event and had professional drivers there to tell us about their vehicles. We had the option of either being driven around the short course on the field or driving the cars ourselves. The line to test drive the Jaguars was long, not surprising, and I wish we stood in line for the test drive when we first arrived – the line was shorter and the sun was still hiding behind the marine layer. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the drive and accelerating these beautiful vehicles on the track. I first drove the XE and then after getting a feel for the track switched to the F-type, with much more horse power and sportier styling. Both beautiful cars, and I liked their power!

The groups all raced again in the afternoon, and while we planned to leave early, we ended up staying to watch my favorite group, the pre-war cars. Since there was only one race after that, we decided to remain for that as well, Group 10b, and I’m glad we did. The 1998 Ford/Penske Taurus Stock Car and 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Winston Cup traded places the entire race, and as we could see all of the track from near the start/finish line, it was fun to watch them battle on track for position with one car being better in the turns while another caught up on the straights. All of the cars that raced by group are listed on the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association website, as are the results from each of the qualifying sessions (from Saturday) and races.

Pre-war cars race for the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association at Coronado Speed Festival

Pre-war cars race at Coronado Speed Festival

Pre-war cars race Sportscar Vintage Racing Association at Coronado Speed Festival

The Pre-War race featured this National with two drivers.

The last race of the day proved to be quite exciting.

csw-mustang-race-closecsw-mustang-racecsw-snapon-race

These two cars traded positions the entire race. Eventually the white car barely edged out the black car at the finish line.

Coronado Speed Festival Sportscar Vintage Racing Association

This Ford/Penske Taurus Stock car and Oldsmobile Cutlass Winston fought for first place the entire race.

Coronado Speed Festival Race at the Base Vintage Car racing

In this photo, the Oldsmobile is in the lead.

Learning About Naval Helicopters

Once the racing concluded, we walked out past the helicopters that lined the entrance to the event. The pilots allowed us to peak inside and tell us about their aircraft. We saw MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters with different configurations depending on the mission of each. It was amazing to see these machines up close, and even more amazing that they are able to leave the ground and fly.

MH-60 Seahawk Naval Helicopters at Naval Base Coronado

MH-60 Seahawk Helicopters parked at Naval Air Station North Island

Naval seahawk helicopters parked at Naval Base Coronado

MH-60 Seahawk Helicopters parked at Naval Air Station North Island

cockpit of naval helicopter MH-60 Seahawk on Naval Base Coronado during Fleet Week San Diego

The cockpit of one of the MH-60 Seahawks on display

Naval helicopter at Naval Base Coronado during Fleet Week San Diego

MH-60 Seahawk Naval Helicopter on display for the Coronado Speed Festival

While we didn’t beat the traffic leaving the base, the delays were not onerous as we sat in some traffic on Coronado Island heading to the Coronado Bay Bridge.

Overall, it was a fun day. While there are a good number of cars to see, there weren’t so many that it was exhausting. We were able to walk up and down each of the paddock lanes a few times each and see everything. Because we were only there on the one day though, we didn’t allow time for touring of the ships that were open or for touring the base.

The Race at the Base is a fun weekend event, something the entire family can enjoy. Where else can you see classic cars racing on a live naval runway with the beautiful waters of San Diego Bay surrounding you  and the skyline of San Diego to the east?

San Diego as seen from Coronado Speed Festival

View of downtown San Diego from Naval Air Station North Island and the Coronado Speed Festival

For more information on the other activities during Fleet Week San Diego, visit their website.

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