The final installment of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race gets under way Saturday at 11:40 a.m., with a field that includes 18 past winners, including actors Brian Austin Green, Sean Patrick Flanery, Frankie Muniz, Ricky Schroder, Alfonso Ribeiro, comedian Adam Carolla and former Olympic swimming medalist Dara Torres
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach officials announced last month that they are discontinuing the event after 40 years. Toyota officials said they could no longer provide the support needed for the race since the company is moving its North American headquarters from Torrance to Plano, Texas. Toyota will continue to sponsor the main race event on Sunday, however.
“It’s been an integral part of our weekend for 40 years, especially on Saturday,” Grand Prix CEO Jim Michaelian told the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “We’re sad, but realistically, I understand Toyota’s decision. We’re looking into other things right now to bring in something that might match the celebrity race, but it’ll be tough.”
Former pro racer Jimmy Vasser earned the pole position at Friday’s qualifying session, but afterward race officials said they were inverting the field to inject some added excitement to the final race. The top starting position instead went to charity auction winner Doug Fregin. Vasser will start at the back of the pack.
The weekend festivities, which traditionally bring hundreds of thousands of people to the downtown Long Beach oceanfront, conclude Sunday with the 42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach at 1:30 p.m. Qualifying runs for the main IndyCar race take place today beginning at 2 p.m.
—City News Service