2011 SAAC NorCal Mini-Nats - Nothing Mini About It
The SAAC NorCal Mini-Nats has the earmarks of a national convention with the ambience of a smaller regional event
Nor Cal, short for Northern California, is a regional club of the national Shelby American Automobile Club. NorCal is a huge region with over 500 members.
“We are buddies with Rick Kopec and all the guys from SAAC,” said NorCal’s Kevin Sittner. “In 2010, they came out and ran with us at the same track, Infineon, for their national convention.”
This year, the NorCal club held their 27th annual Mini-Nats at Infineon. However, NorCal’s annual Mini Nats is liable to be in the Los Angeles area at California Speedway, or Thunderhill Raceway near San Francisco. One year they even drove inland to Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City, Utah.
A track setting is central to the event’s theme of driving on a big-time road course. Formerly Sears Point, Infineon Raceway stretches more than two miles over the rolling hills of wine country north of San Francisco. The road course features several long straights, tight corners, and elevation changes. Lapping Sears Point—er, Infineon (I can’t get used to the new name)—is both a racer’s challenge and big league dream. The big boy racers race here.
I recall high 90-degree days in hot racing suits in 1987 when I attended Bob Bondurant’s competition driving school at Sears Point. The weather this year was low 60s in the morning, warming up to around 80 in the late afternoon. The cool ocean breezes were like free air conditioning for the mid-summer weekend of August 5-7.
The event kicked off on Friday morning with a car show in the paddock area behind the main grandstands. Friday wasn’t a track day, but participants could run two to three hours for “open testing.”
Open track, the main driving time, took place on Saturday and Sunday from about 9:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon each day. Anyone could run, from novice to advanced in four different skill groups starting with yellow and moving up to red, green, and finally blue for the most experienced. Two o’clock Saturday afternoon was the vintage race, obviously for advanced drivers.
Vintage racing can get very serious. The mood at NorCal is more of friendly competition and camaraderie. They even allowed a late-model NASCAR Thunderbird into the pretty much pre-’74 field for the vintage race. One might call this event more of a vintage exhibition race.
After 27 years, NorCal’s Mini-Nats has become a staple of the hobby. This event has the earmarks of a national SAAC convention with the ambience of a smaller regional event brought to you by one of the largest regional Shelby clubs in the country. MM