FuelFest: Burning rubber across the US
Burning rubber smells terrible, but for the car enthusiast who lives for speed, it’s ambrosial.
The thrill of going fast in a high-powered, but potentially dangerous machine just gets the blood pumping.
That’s why events like FuelFest allow car enthusiasts of the U.S. to really rev their engines and enjoy thrills alongside their fellow gearheads.
FuelFest is an annual car event co-founded by Cody Walker, the younger brother of late “Fast and Furious” star Paul Walker. Upcoming events in the U.S. include Salt Lake City on July 23, Las Vegas on October 23 and Phoenix on December 10.
Hey SoCal was able to speak to Cody some time before the FuelFest event in Los Angeles on June 4. We had a conversation about FuelFest and what attendees could expect from this year’s event, along with future FuelFests.
Cody was excited to share the future of the event and how it can expand going forward. While not sharing everything he’s got planned for FuelFest in upcoming years, Cody’s ambitions extend beyond just the U.S.
What is FuelFest?
Hey SoCal: How would you describe FuelFest to someone who wasn’t familiar with the event?
Cody Walker: I like to say it’s a celebration of car culture. That’s what FuelFest is all about. It’s a car and music festival that brings together enthusiasts in the car world as well as people that just might have an interest in cars.
Maybe they’re not an enthusiast or a gearhead but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s very inclusive of everyone; we have a very wide demographic. People of all colors and all creeds and everything come out to the show. We reach a really wide audience as far as age is concerned too. It’s a family-friendly event.
We’ve got live music and this year we’ve got the largest stage with the biggest headliner that we’ve ever had in Joyner Lucas, which we’re really excited to have in our show, and Simba as well. And we’re gonna have an awesome, eclectic collection of cars ranging from millions of dollars to something that somebody poured their heart and soul into, in their garage.
We’ve got pro drifters there, they’re gonna be putting on a great show. It’s a fun event, our crowd is really chill. We’ve had several FuelFests now, it’s a great family atmosphere. It’s a lot of fun and I think a lot of people that come home after going to a FuelFest event go ‘Wow, I’ve never seen that, I’ve never experienced that! I want more of that!’
And that’s what it’s all about. We’re trying to reach more than just the enthusiasts — we’re reaching the general population. People that like the movies, there’s movie cars there, not just from ‘Fast and Furious,’ but a lot of other movies. It’s something I’m really proud of. I’ve got an incredible team that helps me put these shows together. And it’s just been an absolute blast, I love it.
Hey SoCal: What can non-enthusiasts look forward to?
Walker: We’re at Irwindale Speedway, which is part of Los Angeles. It’s where we were last year as well. Same venue. We’re using the venue in an entirely different way this year, different layout. We’re using the speedway side and I think a lot of people are really gonna have a kick watching all of the wild and crazy car performances.
We’ve got the Hoonigans that are gonna be shredding tires. We’ve got pro drift racers that are going to be drifting and if you’ve never seen anything like that before. It’s amazing. It’s the most satisfying form of motorsports to watch, whether you watch motorsports or not, it’s very appealing to watch.
You see the tire smoke, you’re smelling it, you’re feeling it, the ground is rumbling, it’s nuts! There’s all sorts of purpose-built drift cars and then there’s stuff that you’d never think would be drifting like trucks and all sorts of wild things that people bring out.
It’s fun; it’s a crowd pleaser for sure. We always have drifting and exhibitions like that going on and people are into it. You’ll see parts of cars flying off, because sometimes they make contact. It’s cool! It’s a lot of fun!
You don’t have to be a car person to have a good time at FuelFest; that’s one thing that has always been our goal and I think we’ve always exceeded at it and every show gets better and bigger.
Hey SoCal: What do you consider when looking into the musical line up for FuelFest?
Walker: I have people on my team that come from the music space, booking talent, doing the research. We know what our demographic is; it’s pretty wide. But just to answer your question, we do questionnaires after we hold our shows because we want response, we want feedback. Because we wanna make the next one better.
We know what type of music our demo likes to listen to and I also have members of my team that have their finger on the pulse of music and who’s up and coming and who’s hot. Market research goes into that obviously. These people aren’t free so you wanna do it right. We’re really excited to have Joyner, he’s huge and he’s just continuing to blow up like it’s really been fun watching him.
You’re not just shooting blind, you’ve gotta do the research and we’ll take feedback from this show too and see what people would like to see next and what they would like to listen to.
Hey SoCal: How are you building off of last year’s event? What would you say is the biggest change?
Walker: So, last year at Irwindale was our first time at that venue. So for us to return to Irwindale this year we took what we learned from last year to incorporate it into this year. You always wanna strive to make everything smoother. From the load in for people that are putting their cars on display, to your overall capacity, to how we’re going to use the space. Like I said, we’re using Irwindale Speedway in an entirely different way. This year, totally different format, different layout. We’re using the speedway side. So we’re really excited about that.
The speedway, just fyi too which is just a fun little thing that most people won’t realize, in ‘Fast 9’ there’s all these flashbacks with Dom, Vin’s (Diesel) character, Dominic Torreto as a young man. His dad’s racing; oval racing. He crashes, and there was a fiery wreck.
That was filmed at Irwindale, so it’s a fun little thing. We’re going to be using that this year. I’m really excited about the layout this year, and like I said, this is the biggest stage we’ve ever had — it’s bigger than last year. We’ve got bigger acts than we have ever had with Joyner Lucas headlining for us. And we’ve got Simba as well, Alexis and a couple of others.
I’m just really excited about the layout and how we’ve got everything set up. I think it’s gonna work even better than last year.
Hey SoCal: Can movie buffs expect to see Vin Diesel at the event?
Walker: Well, you know, we had Vin (Diesel) join us in Phoenix back in December’s FuelFest. Which was great, he came out and surprised everybody and flew out and joined us. We’ve had Ludacris, we’ve had Sung Kang. Obviously, Tyrese (Gibson) is a big part of the show, he’s been to just about every single one of them. You never know who you’re going to see at FuelFest. Keep in mind, they’re filming right now, they’re filming ‘Fast X.’
We have a lot of other people joining us. Tanner Foust, who is a good buddy of mine, who’s awesome — he does everything-nitro rallycross — he was on the U.S. version of Top Gear for a while. Very accomplished, professional driver. Ant Anstead from ‘Wheeler Dealers,’ you name it. He’s got his own Radford Motors Coach building company.
The list goes on and on. It’s really fun. The whole idea of FuelFest is: it’s not just a ‘Fast and Furious’ show. Of course, there’s the connections with that for obvious reasons, but the idea is that you never know who you’re going to see at our shows. Obviously, I couldn’t afford Vin Diesel at my show; he shows up to my show because we’re family. And that’s overplayed, it’s kind of become a joke — family, family, family. But we really are.
I grew up with them, going to set with Paul and everything. They’ve always been so supportive and that’s why they come to the shows, not because I’m paying them to be there, but because they wanna be there and they wanna show their support. And I never wanna overpromise anything because it’s not about who’s there, it’s everything else that’s going on at the show.
Hey SoCal: If you are an enthusiast, what can you expect at FuelFest?
Walker: A lot of cool, enthusiast builds, unique cars. I always say that a car is an incredible way for people to express themselves. Our audience, people who register their vehicles, they’re all modded. So no one car is the same. I’ve got some really great friends in OC that have some one-off cars that you won’t see anywhere else. And it really runs the gamut! I mean, you’ve got little tuner cars — that’s my world, that’s what I love — to crazy, multi-million dollar exotics, classics, restro mods, it’s all there.
Jay Leno, he’s a big car nut. We’re going to have some cars there that he has featured on his show, which is really, really cool. Lot of cars there that carry a lot of clout. That’s what’s fun about some of the stuff that enthusiasts will be able to see. We’ve got some incredible sponsors that are enthusiast brands, from Yokohama to Nissan. They’re going to have the new Nissan Z on display at the show and that car doesn’t come out for another month or so. So they’ll see that car at the show before they see it anywhere else. Which is really cool.
There’s a lot, we get a lot of early sneak peeks and early access at the show. So, people into that: come to FuelFest, you’re gonna see some stuff that you haven’t had an opportunity to see anywhere before.
Hey SoCal: As far as the future of FuelFest goes, where do you see it going and will charity continue to be a part of the event?
Walker: We’re pretty capped at doing about six a year here in the U.S. I wanna open up in the international space more. I wanna do more international shows. A few years ago, during the 2019 pre-pandemic era, we had a show in the U.K. We have a lot of supporters in the U.K that are screaming at us to come back, so we will go back to the U.K. I just couldn’t say when at this point, potentially next year. But we are going to Tokyo this year; we are going to Japan. We’re going to Fuji International Speedway on Aug. 11, which is insane and I cannot wait! I’ve been to Japan once before a few years back and I’ve always wanted to return, and so to be able to return with FuelFest is so sick and they’re so excited.
I think the answer to your question is: I wanna do one to two international events every year. This year we have a few new locations, we started this year off in Florida, it was our first time on the East Coast in the U.S. That show was bonkers, it was so awesome. We’re definitely going to be returning to West Palm Beach. Then we were in Dallas. Dallas was huge. That was a mega show, we had never been to Dallas. We’ll definitely be going back there. LA, obviously, we’ll always have an LA show…. By the way, fuelfest.com is where people can get tickets to the show.
There’s some unknowns ahead too, other new locations going on this year. We’re going to be at Utah Motorsports Campus outside Salt Lake, July 23. We’ll see how that show goes; if it’s good and everything we wanted it to be, we’ll go back. Another unknown for us will be Vegas. That’s end of October and we’ll finish the year in Phoenix again in December, which was an awesome show.
We’re fine tuning, honing into where the people are, and they wanna come to the show. We figured out several of them and some of the other ones are the wild cards. I wanna expand it; I’ve got some great ideas in my head that I’m exploring. I don’t wanna give too much. But there’s quite a few things that I wanna expand upon and new things that I wanna create with FuelFest that I hope I can make come into fruition in the next year or two. It’s exciting.
What’s so great too is being able to give back to charity also with these shows. Paul was the heart and soul of Reach Out Worldwide, which helps people after natural disasters. And so we’ve been able to support Reach Out Worldwide through our shows, giving them a portion of the proceeds. We’ve raised a lot of money for Reach Out Worldwide, that’s something we’re all very proud of and we wanna continue to do, forever, as long as FuelFest is around.
Hey SoCal: Are there other charities that you’d wanna give to?
Walker: I’m really involved with Reach Out Worldwide. It obviously means a lot to me. Paul was a huge positive influence on my life, I’m the younger brother by quite a lot so he had a huge impact on me. It’s a piece of him he left behind, so whatever I can do to help it stick around and succeed and continue helping people is really where my focus is.
That’s not to say that we won’t work with anyone else; we have. When we were in Arizona in December, we worked with a group called The Driven Project. It’s essentially a Make-a-Wish sort of a deal, it provides fun opportunities for kids with diseases or disabilities. They call it “supercar therapy,” so they get to ride in a supercar and we made it really special and they rolled into the show and everyone’s cheering and clapping and waving at them and we like that kind of stuff.
What’s the point if you’re not working on making the world a better place? I’ve been given this incredible platform and just like Paul did, I wanna use it for good. So that’s what I’m gonna continue to do. And FuelFest is another avenue for me to be able to do that.
You can reach Eloin Barahona-Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org.