The King of Clubs Rockabilly Road Trip and drag races, which take place at the Barona eighth-mile drag strip at the Barona reservation, just east of San Diego, is not your typical, high-dollar motoring venue. In fact, the event is quite the antithesis of a lot of what we’ve seen today with the kind of “Richy Rich” rod building that goes on at the more corporate-driven end of our hobby.
Regardless, this year’s event was the fifth one held at the Barona Dragstrip. Like many motoring venues, the King of Clubs meet has become a “must do” on our hot rodding calendar. This is because the King of Clubs event is far more than just a laid-back drag race and rod meet for the early style of rods and customs that started the rodding hobby. In fact, this down-to-earth meeting of the like-minded features five bands playing live music, as well as a burlesque show on an outside stage.
As indicated before, the atmosphere is what makes this Barona Reservation rod meet something really special to see; the kind of cars that pull-up are the primer-black and flat-painted led sleds of yore that started this wild fascination for everything custom. And the “Rockabilly Road Trip” stays true to its theme, as many of the show and race participants get to enjoy camping-out onsite at Barona, the way that many of the event’s participants prefer to “swing it,” as well as a scenic drive through the nearby country and breakfast at an old-school diner in Escondido. But for those who want convenience, the King of Clubs event is only 6 miles away from the rather plush, Barona Casino, which is just on the other side of the reservation itself.
Usually held on a Saturday, the King of Clubs Rockabilly event offers three different classes of racing for participants to run their rod or custom on the eighth-mile strip: street, flathead and race. The drag racing portion of the event is as user-friendly as the atmosphere itself, and the “show” portion of the event is not really a “show,” per se, but can be more accurately described as a loose-bound, comfortable gathering that is scattered throughout the Barona parking lot, with a lot of the clubs present gathering in what could be more or less described as the “pit” areas of the lot.
Some of the drag racing results for Saturday, July the 16th were more than impressive, and these came from more than just the old-school rods. Race participant John Castro, in fact, ran an impressive eighth-mile time of 6.92 at 106.30mph in his ’69 Nova. This tarmac-tearing run was followed by an equally-impressive track time of 6.06 at 115.28mph, by Art Rizzi’s ’70 Olds Cutlass, and this impressive run would be followed further by the Ford Pinto of San Diego’s Rick Reynolds, running a 5.44 in the eighth at 125.36mph.
Other track times of importance for the day included Mitch Akers of San Diego’s ’60 Impala, running a 6.54 elapsed time at 97.85mph. Akers was followed that day by Don Julian of Santee, whose ’71 GTO ran an 8.45 track time at 80.78mph, not quite as slick as Akers’ early-’60s Impala, but still very impressive for a Pontiac Goat. For the Junior Dragster category, San Diego local Austin Heyward took the win with his half-scale car, running a 7.98 elapsed time at 75.82mph. This track time would be followed by other drag-race participants, such as by Remy Reynolds of San Diego, who ran an 8.92 elapsed time at 73.26mph, and by a “Run for the money” win by PJ Giacalone, who ran a 5.91 elapsed time on the Barona Dragstrip.
If it’s any indication of how profound of a venue the King of Clubs’ meet really is, the only complaint that one of this last July’s participants seemed to really have was that the King of Clubs car club only holds the event on one day instead of two, something that participants are apparently hopeful for for next year’s race-and-meet. And if there are only three reasons why anyone should go to the King of Clubs meet at Barona, it’s for the old-school drags, the burlesque girls and the live music from the event’s five different bands, though we know that looking at clean, old iron is the supreme motive for wanting to attend.
No matter what your favorite part of the King of Clubs Rockabilly event at Barona Dragstrip may be, it will always provide an inviting atmosphere for even the most discriminating gearhead. As has been commented before about the King of Clubs event: “the whole event is laid back, yet never leaves one lacking for something to do or see.”