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Vintage Racing at Auto Club Speedway, Fontana

A few weeks back, I got a chance to run one of my Datsuns at the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

The track is a bit different than where I usually drive. The scenery around Fontana isn’t quite as easy on the eyes as Laguna Seca or Sonoma, but it’s local, which is nice. It’s also really big and fast—a bona fide superspeedway that’s a banked, D-shaped oval with big grandstands, skyboxes and all that.

Adam Carolla racing his Datsun BRE 510 at Auto Club Speedway

It’s best-known as a NASCAR track, but if you’re into more than go fast, turn left, they have a configuration for running sports cars. They cut off about half of the big oval and you weave through a level course laid out on the infield.

I took my Datsun 510. Now, I’ve run at this track before, just never in this car. Even though that 510 is “ol’ reliable,” we had recently swapped out the rear diff from a 4.88 to a 4.11 to help me out on Fontana’s long straightaway. And we had monkeyed around with the ball joints. The boots were torn and had been oozing grease onto the front rotors, which is only a problem if you like having functional brakes, which I do.

Adam Carolla racing his Datsun BRE 510 at Auto Club Speedway

The fact that we had so recently taken so much stuff apart on the front end gave me ants in my pants, just a little. Somehow, taking stuff apart to make sure it was OK made me more nervous than when it was left alone, but set up wrong. When the green flag drops, these other B Sedan guys were going to be on at full speed and I just had to have faith that everything had been put back together right.

And of course, I hadn’t shown up for the practice run. My official position is that practice is just another 25 minutes where something can break or someone can wreck. I think that’s a fair assessment. But truth be told, I don’t feel like waking up at the crack of dawn to drag myself out to the middle of the desert, either.

Adam Carolla racing his Datsun BRE 510 at Auto Club Speedway

I started 28th in qualifying and made it up to 10th for the race. I finished in 6th place against some really good cars and drivers. One driver in particular was a real nice guy named Troy Tinsley who was driving his 510 wagon like he was late for dinner. The car’s set up really well and he’s a great driver. (He’s #2 in the Two-Five West points standings.) But I was still glad to finally get past him when his transmission started overheating. Getting beaten by a wagon is a tough pill to swallow, no matter how good the car and driver are.

It’s a fast track and it was fun to get the throttle wide open on the bank. The hairiest part was where you head into the road course. After howling down the bank, you come right into a 90 degree, left-hand turn. It takes a downshift nearly into first gear and the cars get bunched up pretty quickly. Watch the embedded video below and you’ll see how close our bumpers get in lap #2.

In-car racing footage:

I’m proud to say that nothing broke and I didn’t trade paint or kiss bumpers with anybody. The 510 I drove is a really cool piece that is a genuine part of racing history. This is the BRE Datsun 510 that stock car legend Bobby Allison drove in 1972. It’s had a beautiful restoration done to it and is nearly pristine. Only a couple of 510s exist that are worth a decent chunk of change, and this is one of them. The sister car to this 510 is in a museum. It’s not being wrenched on and then doing 125 mph.

There are lots of other B Sedan and Trans-Am guys out there driving beaters in these races. Now, one of my favorite things about vintage racing (especially with this group) is that it’s a totally affordable class to run in, so I’m not busting on these guys. They’re good guys and good drivers. I’m just saying I genuinely love this car, yet I haul it up to Laguna Seca and out to Fontana and drive the wheels off it against cars that have a lot less to lose.

Adam Carolla racing his Datsun BRE 510 at Auto Club Speedway

I don’t mention any of this to brag or complain. But I do mention it for all of you haters out there that were dog-piling on me about not driving my Miuras. Listen, I really do think it’s great that you drive your pampered, rust-free El Camino to work every day. More power to you. But spare me your emoticon warrior outrage. I put plenty of real wear and tear on my vintage race cars. I’m entitled to have some cars that are just art pieces.

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  1. Adrian August 13, 2013 at 10:11 pm Reply

    Carcast is a blast while I am working out.

    Wondered if you have ever run at Watkins Glen vintage races (Sept.6-8) Paul Newman used to run there and has plaque in downtown walk of fame. Beautiful countryside and when in that same area a gearheads must see is the Glen Curtiss museum in Hammondsport, NY

    Your lifetime car pick is very nice but IMO the Aston Martin Rapide has better lines than the Panamera if you can do without the hatchback.

  2. Patrick Brass August 21, 2013 at 12:37 pm Reply

    This is the first in car video I’ve seen of you in this car, Ace. Looks like this car is a blast! Pretty well balanced!
    Nice driving, but what was up with the sea of cones at the end of the playground towards the end of the race? That’s the most important part of this course to nail perfectly if you want great lap times! I know I’m gonna have a good lap if I come through there on 2 wheels on the verge of losing it, and doing a massive slingshot onto the straight!

  3. Wayne mcatee August 21, 2013 at 2:45 pm Reply

    I’m the guy with the orange 510 behind Adam. Ace, you have to pick it up on the way in to the infield. It was a lot of fun in Fontana and at Laguna, I can’t wait for Coronado. As for “Beaters” come on most of the trans am 2.5 cars were not BRE or team cars they were built by guys with small race shops or home built cars. As for cheap I guess that is relevant to your income. If you look at the cars that come out Troy Ermish’s shop they are the fastest 510’s around and they look good. Less builds clean cars as well. Some of us have a good deal of cash in our cars well for us it’s a lot you will have $35k to over $100k in a good 2.5 race car and spend at least 1k per weekend. Now compared to a CAN AM car yes they are cheap to buy and race. As for bang for the buck they are hard to beat.

  4. Steve B. August 21, 2013 at 8:55 pm Reply

    WTF!!!, why is it that someone has to rag on other cars as being beaters, the majority of 510’s that weekend would match up his “special” car any day, take a look at the vintage racing in England where they run the wheels off million dollar cars all the time!, it’s a race car so use it as such and if you wreck it … fix it.

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