Long Beach Diary:|
Long Beach, Calif., April 19 ó So, the weather is fine, the skies are clear and the air smells of race car fumes. Yes, folks, itís time for that favorite rite of spring, The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
This is the 14th consecutive year that Jeff and I have covered the event for Deep Throttle. A big thank you goes to our long suffering Editor, Russell Jaslow, who has remained our friend in spite of numerous differences of opinion over the years.
In our first year as part of the Media, there was a problem with Jeff's photo credential. Thus for our first year, Jeff was known as "Luis the Photographer" because he was given a pre-printed paper credential with that first name on it.
Most of the photo galleries on this site have been done by Luis. a.k.a., Jeff, and our friend, Angelo Lisuzzo. Countless hours have been spent sorting and captioning pictures for your viewing pleasure. Jeff always takes the time to get what we call "Russell shots" which feature beauty queens and especially hot chicks. Itís amazing how my dear husband takes the time to do this for RJ. What a guy!
This also seems like a strange weekend to have a race. On Monday of this week, the Boston Marathon was mired by two bombs which killed three people and injured close to 200. The prelude to this weekend involved figuring out who did it and on Friday night, the police found Bomber Number Two during ALMS Qualifying. Bomber One was killed earlier in the week.
There is increased security with security guards searching my purse and roller bag on my way in. I can recall being searched in years past. It seems just when life gets back to what passes for normal these days, some psycho weirdo or our friends at Al Qaeda like to shake things up.
It is particularly troubling to me that #2 bomber is our youngest daughter's age. I bring this up not so much out of sympathy, but to point out that kids of that age, 19, are more easily influenced by others than older young adults. There is speculation that #2 was greatly influenced by his older brother, #1, and if so, that is also a tragedy. But mainly, I am a patriot who cries when my country is attacked and am ready to kick butt as soon or even before my tears dry.
Race wise, Friday is the most laid back of the days we are here. For many of us, this is the first we have seen racing friends this year. Lots of hellos and how are yous float through the air. Most of the media are old enough to be the parents of the drivers or even grandparents. The technical people are old enough to be older brothers and sisters. No matter what age, there is a lot of catching up for everyone to do.
And it is like a circus. For two or three days, no matter where we are, we establish a little village which has its own rules and dynamics. Jeff and I long ago established a beachhead in the Internet/Photo Press room in the first row, middle set of tables in the Media Center. No one else is allowed to sit in our area unless we say so. The back row of our room is always occupied by the photographers of LAT. The Deadline Press are in another room which is ruthlessly guarded by people from the Committee of 300. The teams and the series each get their own press rooms.
Each track is different as are all media centers. The most overall friendly MC is at Race Sonoma. But no matter where we are, we meet racing friends who we haven't seen since last time.
The IndyCars are getting closer in times than any other series. Today, we end Friday with 15 cars within a second of each other. Interestingly, the top three times are recorded by the three drivers who won the last three races. Will Power, who won in 2012, is third quick today. Fastest is reigning champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2010 winner. 2011 winner Mike Conway is second. Because all 27 cars are so close in lap times, qualifying, tire management, and strategy will combine help to pinpoint the pole sitter and the Sunday race winner.
The showcase event for the day is for Saturday's ALMS race. This will be the last year that ALMS runs here, or anywhere for that matter. The series is merging with the Grand-Am Series owned by NASCAR and the combined series has yet to select which races it will keep from the two series' dance cards. Long Beach looks like a probable keeper because it is so large and high profile, but NASCAR has its own way of making its decisions. Stay tuned.
Qualifying for the ALMS field is done in sections by class. The GT Challenge class qualified first, with Jeroen Bleekmolen taking pole. When veteran driver Tommy Kendall tweeted about Viper on the pole after the next qualifications for the GT, we knew something special had happened. The Prototype Challenge pole went to Bruno Junqueria for Rocketsports Racing. There was a joint qualifications session for the two prototype classes, both won by former open wheel drivers. Ryan Briscoe, late of the IndyCar Series, took the P2 pole for Level 5 Motorsports. Champ Car vet, Neel Jani, won the P1 pole driving a car that had never run a street race!
The day concluded with Drifting, not my favorite thing and a very loud concert. It was probably not a great idea to have the last of three gel injections done in both knees right before this, but live and learn. I fell asleep quickly Friday night and got to sleep in on Saturday. Saturday is always our latest day, so am finishing telling you about Friday today.
Until then, I am off to the races!
Copyright © 2013 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.