The annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach just wouldn't be the same without the rough-and-tumble slugfest known as the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Even though the actors, singers, pro athletes and television personalities who compete could probably care less, they have actually been driving safety-modded Scion tC street cars (StopTech brakes, window netting and roll cages) instead of Toyotas ever since the Celica went the way of analog television. No matter, Toyota is still the title sponsor of the whole shebang, even though there are no Toyotas in any of the racing classes tearing up the nearly two-mile street course in downtown Long Beach. Renaming it the "Scion Grand Prix..." just doesn't have the same ring to it anyhow.
Follow the jump to see the full list of entrants and the race recap, and don't forget to click below to see the rest of the pics.
Photos by Frank Filipponio and Andre Ravinowich/Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
The field of celebs in this year's event ran the gamut from TV icons to movie leads to radio hosts to household neverheardofems. The players included Academy Award winner Adrien Brody, 90210 alum Brian Austin Green, sometime Autoblog columnist Adam Carolla, "True Romance" star Christian Slater, singer Jesse McCartney (#11, below), TV-Saab-mechanic and Tick personifier Patrick Warburton, One Life to Live starlet Tika Sumpter, Rules of Engagement star Megyn Price (#3, below), skateboarding guru Tony Hawk and Zach Levi, the guy who plays Chuck on, uh, Chuck.
Vying for the win in the "Pro" category were automatically-bumped-in-class returning Celebrity champion Keanu Reeves (#24 above), CART/Champ legend Jimmy Vasser, everybody's favorite Kiwi Nissan tuner/racer Steve Millen, NHRA racer Marty Nothstein (#21, above), BMX vert rider extraordinaire Jamie Bestwick and Autoblog friend/TV personality/drift champ Tanner Foust. Oh, Southern California Toyota Dealer Chris Ashworth and charity auction winners Jerry Westlund and Dave Pasant were also strapped into a Scion of their own for the 10-lap event.
Qualifying had seen a fair bit of fender banging and tire-wall-testing, but in the end it was Zachary Levi (Car #6 below) on the pole, followed closely by early favorite Brian Austin Green (Car #7) and Adrien Brody in the front pack. The Pros get to start 30 seconds behind the Celebs, with Jimmy Vasser (Car #25) qualifying first overall just ahead of Foust (Car #23), Millen and Nothstein.
Within seconds of the green flag being waved, you could tell it was going to be a great race, as Corolla timed the start perfectly and started building momentum, quickly jumping ahead of Green and Brody and into second. Corolla and Green battled hard early on, but eventually Green moved into the lead, followed by Brody and pole-winner Levi. The racing was intense, if a bit sloppy. Every time the cars rounded the hairpin, you'd swear there was going to be a pileup, with cars being shoved aside like toys on every lap. It looked like the best arcade driving games, where you can bank off a competitor to keep your cornering speed up. The Pros quickly closed the gap on the Celebrities, making traffic even heavier all the way around the circuit.
We can't imagine how Jesse McCartney's voice changed when he went head-on into the tires at Turn 1, but we're guessing it didn't help matters when Chris Ashworth T-boned him as he rounded the semi-blind corner. We don't know if Toyota has a service bulletin on it or not, but it was rather alarming to see Ashworth's tC burst into flames moments after he was extricated from the car.
Up at the sharp end of the field, Tanner Foust pulled a great bump-draft maneuver on leader Jimmy Vasser, the twist here being that Brian Austin Green was the buffer between them. Foust came into the Aquarium Fountain complex rather hot and booted Green ahead and into Vasser's backside, causing Jimmy to get a little squirrely. Vasser reined it in though and never gave back the lead. The tap did allow Tanner to slip past Mr. Fox for second overall, though. BAG held on to claim top celeb honors, meaning he'll have to give up his 30-second head start next year should he demand a rematch. Brody and Levi were just a fraction of a second behind Green, separated by pro-class driver Nothstein, who finished alongside Green at the checkers.
It was a hard-fought win for both gentlemen, and another fun afternoon of adult bumper cars in this 34th running of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach. You can catch the whole race for yourself when SPEED airs it on May 1.
FINAL RACE RESULTS
|3||Celebrity||Brian Austin Green||13||27:34.563|
|10||Charity Auction Winner||Dave Pasant||13||27:44.956|
|13||Charity Auction Winner||Jerry Westlund||13||27:56.299|
|17||North Hollywood Toyota Vice President||Chris Ashworth||6||11:24.403|