Southern California has a growing problem: its racetracks are closing down one by one. In just the last two months, Irwindale, Fontana, Orange Show, and Perris have all closed to their respective forms of racing. Prior to that, we lost LACR, Pomona, and the planned track at Banning called Drag City. We’re seeing a lot more race cars for sale at swap meets, and street racing is again on the rise, as was most recently seen on the National Geographic Channel’s LA Street Racers special. The track situation in SoCal is so bad, we’re even questioning the wisdom of equipping Project Nova with an eight-point rollbar—after all, what’s the point? If there are no places to race, why pour on the costly safety gear? Yet we remain optimistic. We’ve been in these dire straits before, and things always got better.

One big reason for SoCal hot rodders to be positive is the growing interest in autocrossing, and open events like Run To The Coast. The Goodguys Rod & Custom Association is certainly doing its part; when Orange County, California, decided to sell off the fairgrounds to real estate developers (ironic because that’s how many tracks fall … ), Goodguys wisely moved their Costa Mesa event to nearby Del Mar, thus keeping SoCal gearheads satisfied. In doing so, Goodguys maintained its highly successful Street Machine Autocross right here in SoCal, and is the prime reason PHR sponsored it.

For those unfamiliar with West Coast geography, Del Mar is a picturesque oceanside town midway between San Diego and Los Angeles. The facility where Goodguys happens is just a stone’s throw from the Pacific, making it a fun weekend jaunt in the family hot rod. Ostensibly a fairgrounds with a horse racing facility attached, Del Mar is kind of tight on room, especially for an autocross, but Goodguys has done an admirable job maximizing the available space, positioning the compact circuit close to a side entrance making for easy egress for participants.

The Del Mar course was a tight one, with eight turns, a modest straightaway, and a little chicane midway through. Good lap times were in the low 30s, which kept the action nice and safe. We typically see one or two minor scuffles with barriers or fences, and Del Mar was notable for being incident free. The Fort Worth course at the prior event was longer, faster, and arguably more fun, but it was clear at Del Mar that the quality of cars and the variety of makes and models of muscle cars in attendance was hands down the best so far.

It was also evident from the beginning that the top 10 or so cars knew why they were there, and came prepared for it. And while we always get autocross experts at the top of the leader chart at every event, we were particularly impressed with the depth of competition at Del Mar—even the mid-pack drivers were experienced autocrossers. In the lower ranks, the difference seemed to be not so much the talent, but a lack of equipment. Typically, with the exception of the top five or so, competitors are either out for their first try, or they’ve just begun getting their feet wet—not so at Del Mar!

With so many hot shoes in attendance, it came as no surprise that a showdown was brewing for the end. Any lap time under 32 seconds was absolutely mind-blowing on the tight, technical course. The biggest temptation was to use too much throttle too early, and those who were patient were duly rewarded. To that end Brian Hobaugh (’68 Camaro), Mary Pozzi (’72 Camaro), and Aaron Ogawa (’70 Challenger) were trading increasingly hotter laps, when in the final 15 minutes of scored timing, announcer Chad Reynolds called the top cars to the staging lanes for a final winner-take-all session. With Aaron Ogawa in the lead, Second Place Pozzi had one last chance to grab the PHR winner’s jacket. Pozzi had been a full two tenths of a second off Ogawa’s pace, but on this final lap she eked out a 31.105 to win by eight thousandths of a second. Pozzi told us after the incredible final lap: “On the last corner, I got in a little over my head. I was trying to shave time and told myself, ‘OK, turn car, unwind the wheel.’ I saw the opening and went for it, and just hoped it was enough.” It was enough, and congratulations, Mary Pozzi—you win the PHR Street Machine winner’s jacket!

Look for us next at the 7th Nashville Nationals at LP Field on May 18-20, then at the 15th Goodguys PPG Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, on July 6-8.