Long Beach Diary:|
The World’s Largest Beach Party Gets Underway ... Sort Of
Long Beach, CA, April 6 — The way I figure it, the gestapo must have been all booked up this weekend.
Instead of the usually-thrilling full body cavity searches on the way into the Grand Prix, the
workers employed at the entrances to this year’s race politely asked if we had any glass
bottles and patted down our packs and then let us in. It was absolutely incredible, and a
terrific change from last year.
Friday was a cold day in Long Beach, with the wind providing an over-abundance of air
conditioning at what is billed as "the world’s largest beach party." The cold weather
meant less exposed flesh, which probably disappointed those who came to people watch.
So, check this out. Nobody’s wearing a bathing suit, nobody’s going swimming or
surfing, and nobody’s lighting a fire. This is a beach party? I don't think so!
It has become, for better or worse, the premiere event for a series whose premiere race was
hijacked several years ago by a man with an ego run rampant. As a result, everyone pays
attention to the event, but the races run here are almost secondary in importance, at least
on the surface.
This year, the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach was kind enough to provide me a
press credential, so I was able to work part of the day and spend the rest of it in my usual
guise, that of a rabid race fan. Lest you think that yellow credential has gone to my head,
let me assure you, it’s not quite the same as being invited into the pit suites.
Although very appreciative for the credential, the same courtesy was not extended to our
photographer. So, we don't have the type of photos we were able to offer with our Sneak
Preview coverage. Jeff Davidson, however, did manage to get some terrific
shots—credentials be damned—and I'm sure these will be posted soon.
My "work" was attending a press conference featuring Bobby Rahal and doing an
interview with Trans Am’s Leighton Reese. My use of the quotation marks is quite
deliberate. I certainly can't complain about spending my time hearing about Bobby’s
adventures in F1 (which will be featured in a future article) or Leighton’s new
experiences as a non-driving team owner (ditto).
As you may have guessed by now, I will
talk or listen to talk about racing any amount of time. Both men had intelligent things to
say about racing today, and I can't wait to tell you about them. And, of course, I skipped
the Stallone press conference. I do wish Sly well—I never wish anyone anything but well—but
I get quite enough exposure to overblown egos in my day job, thank you very
So, by afternoon, I was thoroughly ready to sit back and just be a fan. I make a good race
fan. I found out today that I'm the kind of fan a new father will leave his baby with while
he goes to the bathroom. Now, if you're the mom involved with this little family, please
tell your husband not to do this—EVER!
Our seats are still in Grandstand 34, which
means a walk past the Trans Am paddock, over the Budweiser bridge, another walk
to the Convention Center (where the Expo is located), and then across the
Texaco/Havoline bridge and down another flight of stairs. On arrival, I am winded but
still thrilled to be sitting on Shoreline Drive listening to the announcer guy and trying to
find a big-screen within my line of sight that doesn't have a giant palm tree right in front
of it or splitting it in half. Today, this was not possible!
Still, the racing was terrific. I do, however, miss CART’s two-day qualifying which
makes sense on this track. And I always enjoy laughing during the Pro-Celebrity Race as
most of the latter try valiantly to not make fools of themselves in front of hundreds of
thousands of people. So, here’s my quick run down of the on track activity, by series.
Atlantics: While David Rutledge took provisional pole, rookie Joey Hand was most
impressive in his series debut. It will be very interesting to see how these two fare in
tomorrow’s qualifying and race.
CART: The return of Zanardi and the standout performance of Bryan Herta. There’s just
something about these two drivers and California. Will we see another dramatic duel
between these two? I think it’s a very real possibility, but this time, my money’s on
Indy Lights: The field is just too small—but that’s nothing against the talent of the
drivers. Veteran Mario Dominguez is on provisional pole, while newcomer Jon Fogarty
(no, not the guy from Creedence Clearwater Revival) was a solid second. Let’s hope they
can attract some more drivers for their next race—before they become the Incredible
Pro/Celebrity: Scott Pruett was awesome leading the Pros—and everyone else around
the track. Why won't someone in CART give our Scooter a ride? And soon? The celeb
contingent would have been more fun with Ashley Judd, but this year we got to hear Mr.
Announcerman go overboard with Captain Kirk jokes when William Shatner’s car got
Trans-Am: What can I say? I love these guys. They put on quite a show, and richly
deserve that better television deal. Oh, and Leighton? That Kenny Wilden guy you hired
to drive your car? Awesome! Another podium is in the works, I can just feel it. Of course,
Brian Simo also shone in the short time they were out on the track.
Tomorrow, I'll have more to report. And, remind me to tell you who Bobby Rahal
said was the best driver he’s ever seen. The answer may surprise you!
Copyright © 2001 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.