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5199 E. Pacific Coast Hwy. #608
Post Office Box 15679
Long Beach California, 90815-0679
Phone: (562) 597-8000
Fax: (562) 597-9410
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Feature Stories

Grand Prix Vigilant After Marathon Bombs

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 8
4/19/2013


By Aaron Ledesma

By Aaron Ledesma

For local race fans, the best time of the year has arrived.
But in the wake of two bomb explosions on Monday during the Boston Marathon, both Grand Prix and local officials plan to step up security measures in ways that are both obvious and behind the scenes.

Late Tuesday, Mayor Bob Foster said, “As you make your way down for the race-week events, know that the City of Long Beach and the Grand Prix Association will take all appropriate meas-ures to protect the public’s security – some of these measures will be visible, some will not.”

Regarded by many as America’s #1 street race, today the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach drops the checkered flag on their 39th year of competition, beginning a weekend of live music, ce-lebrities, lots of food and of course – lots of fast cars.

Earlier this week, pre-race events included the “Roar in the Shore” IZOD IndyCar and American Le Mans Series car show; the Tecate-Light “Thunder on Pine” IndyCar and motocross expo; the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame induction ceremony, honoring drivers Paul Tracy and Adrian Fernandez; and the Grand Prix Foundation Charity Golf Tournament.

Today, the spectator gates open at a brisk 7 a.m. and a half hour later the first few engines fire. Drivers from the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series and Toyota Pro/Celebrity races will practice and make their qualifying laps, while competitors from the Firestone Indy Lights, Pirelli World Challenge Championship and IZOD IndyCar Series races go through their practice runs.

Following the preliminaries, two Tecate-Light concerts will feature Mexican rock bands Moderatto and Moenia, as American country recording artist Bret Michaels awaits a Saturday night Grand Prix crowd. Once the sun is down, the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge will add a new experience to the beach races as, for the first time in our track’s history, motorists drive under the lights and the night sky.

The 1.97-mile, 11-turn circuit lining the downtown landscape has come a long way from it’s original, slightly longer route. Those who remember the 2.02-mile track should also recall the fa-mous “Linden Leap,” where racers smashing down Ocean Blvd. would sometimes catch air as they cut onto Linden Ave. Several revisions later, in 2000, the track was changed to how we know it today.

This year’s 2013 competitions will begin Saturday with the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race, featuring Emmy award-winning comedian, writer and actress, Wanda Sikes; Emmy award-winning jour-nalist and TV host, Mark Steines; Golden Globe winning TV actress, Jenna Elfman and local 2012 Olympic medalist and world record holder, Jessica Hardy, among many others.

The more competitive bouts will be held later that afternoon with the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series race and the new night-version of the Super Drift Challenge. Sunday’s competi-tion begins with the acclaimed Firestone Indy lights race, followed by the meet’s feature event – the IZOD IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix.

Racers travel from all over the world to compete in the local Grand Prix, but its California’s own, AJ Allmendinger who will man the No. 2 Penske Racing Dallara/Chevrolet IndyCar.

Originally from Los Gatoa, CA, Allmendinger competed at the GP’s Champ Car World Series from 2004-06, accomplishing five wins, two poles and 14 podium finishes; his personal best in Long Beach being an 8th place finish in 2005.

“It’s exciting,” Allmendinger shared on the GP site. “I’ve always missed that race since I left. Being a California native, it was always a fun race to go to.”

Allmendinger will be this year’s 27th driver from the IZOD IndyCar Series. Following the Grand Prix, the races will close with the Pirelli World Challenge Championship.

Friday general admission is $28, Saturday general admission is $54 and Sunday general admission is $70, but 3-day passes and other packages are available.

To buy tickets or for any other information about the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, visit www.gplb.com or call (562) 490-4513. Also, fans can follow the Toyota Grand prix of Long Beach on Facebook at GrandPrixLB, on Twitter @ToyotaGPLA (#TGPLB) and on Instagram at ToyotaGPLA.

aaron@longbeachcomber.com