The 15th annual Fleet Week Coronado Speed Festival September 22-23 offered something for every one of the 25,000 spectators that came to out enjoy the racing action and celebrate San Diego’s military community. From the 50thAnniverary of the Navy SEALs to the second annual Military Pit Crew Challenge, from nine groups of vintage race cars to the SCCA Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, the 2012 Coronado Speed Festival was one for the history books.
“I have been to a lot of events over the last 40 years of being involved in motorsports,” says Steve Bottom, associate editor of Racer magazine and competitor in the Mazda MX-5 Cup. “None of them have the special feeling that Coronado Speed Festival has.”
Local favorite Elliott Skeer of Carlsbad, CA, 18, a senior at High Tech High School, missed winning the MX-5 Cup by a fraction of a second. “This is really cool to have an event that’s home,” says Skeer. “It was one position less than I was gunning for, but hey, I’ve got to be happy with second. It’s pretty good.”
Speaking of second, the second annual Military Pit Crew Challenge was a crowd favorite, as 13 teams comprised of Navy and Marine personnel faced off in a timed race to enact a simulated NASCAR pit stop. The final round on Sunday, September 23, saw four finalist teams compete for the top spot, with the winning times judged by 16ths of a second.
“This competition embodies the spirit and skills that characterizes these U.S. Navy personnel – hard work, skill, speed, and teamwork,” said Captain Chris Sund, Executive Officer of Naval Air Station North Island. “They practiced for only a short time and were able to accomplish their mission in about 35 seconds.”
The Pit Crew Challenge featured a customized NASCAR on display commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Navy SEALs, first commissioned in San Diego in 1962. Other events celebrating this milestone at Speed Festival were the spectacular flyovers and a jump by the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, during the lunchtime activities, and the event’s Co-Grand Marshal, Rear Admiral Cathal “Irish” Flynn, one of the most honored SEALs in history and a member of the original SEAL Team One.
When asked to compare the SEALs of today with his generation, Flynn said, “I think they’re better. I think that they’re stronger physically, swifter intellectually.”
Of course the “Race at the Base” wouldn’t be complete without plenty of muscle cars. This year’s marque was Shelby vehicles, in honor of the passing of one of racing’s greatest, Carroll Shelby. The Shelby Club of San Diego honored the designer with a tribute lap around the track.
And the winners of the 2012 Coronado Speed Festival races are:
Group 1 1952-1959 Sport & Prod Drum Brakes Bob Engberb, Elva Mk IIB
Group 2 1953-1966 Production Cars under 2000cc Don Anderson, 1964 Bobsy SR3
Group 3 1962-1972 Sports Racing & Formula Cars under 2000cc Dan Marvin, 1976 March 76B
Group 4 1969-1980 Sports Racing & Formula Cars under 2000cc Steve Schmidt, 1965 Mini Marcos
Group 5 1959-1966 Production Cars – Disc Brake Wayne McAtee, Datsun 510
Group 6 1964-1988 FIA Manufacturer Championship Cars Pete Whitehead, 1964 ISO Rivolta
Group 7 1962-1966 Sports Racing & Formula Cars over 2500cc Steve Hilton, 1968 Lola T70 Mk 3
Group 8 Historic NASCAR 1972- Dan Verstyuft, 2001 Ford Taurus
Group 9 1966-1972 Historic Trans-Am Tony Hart, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro
Group 10 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MAZDA MX-5 Cup John Dean
PHOTOS: MIKE GREENE