Long Beach – America’s Monaco

Winner Scott Dixon staves off challenge by Simon Pagenaud in turn 6 early-on. [Joe Jennings Photo]

Winner Scott Dixon staves off challenge by Simon Pagenaud in turn 6 early-on. [Joe Jennings Photo]

I arrived in California on the Thursday before the race for the 41st running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which is one of my favorite events of the season.

Long Beach is much more than an Indycar race, it is a stellar event, with something happening on and off the track all the time. On Thursday evening I attended the RRDC dinner, where my good friend and racing legend Bobby Unser was honored. Jeremy Shaw did a great job as always as master of ceremonies and Bobby regaled the crowd with hilarious stories, including how, due to their on street activities, that both Bobby and his brother Al were banned for life from renting cars from Hertz or Avis. As any racer will tell you, never buy a used rental car within a hundred miles of a racing event.

In addition to the dinner, as I said before, there was something going on all the time on the track – from dawn till dusk and beyond. There was drifting, Robby Gordon stadium truck racing, the Pirelli World Challenge, the TUDOR United Sports Car race, the Toyota Celebrity race and finally the Indycar race on Sunday. Besides the on track activities, there was a large manufacturers display area, large vendor area and even concerts for race fans to enjoy.

Long Beach is a textbook example of how to promote and run a motor racing event. Racing promoters from around the country should attend the Toyota Long Beach race weekend and put into play a lot of the lessons they learn there.

I spoke with Lucas Luhr, 4 time Long Beach winner in the American Le Mans Series, and he said this race was like coming to a festival and how great of a job the organizers do at promoting the event and bringing young people to the track – which is vital for the future growth of motor sport.

And yes, the racing was great on track as well. The Taylor brothers won an exciting TUDOR race in their Corvette DP, Olivier Beretta won for Ferrari in the Pirelli World Challenge and Scott Dixon won a very close and exciting Indycar race.

But the racing was almost secondary to the overall experience at Long Beach. It is the total package that is attractive about going there. The racing, the atmosphere, and the organization – all are top notch.

Calling Long Beach America’s Monaco is not too far of a stretch. I certainly am looking forward to going back next year and for many years to come.

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