Long Beach Diary:|
Race Day Finally Arrives
Long Beach, CA, April 16 — As I write this, it's actually several days past the Grand
Prix. Let me tell you, I'm tired! My husband is tired. We are sore and sunburned. Of course,
we would not have wanted to spend our weekend any other way. We're race fans, and watching cars
go as fast as they can around a track is what we enjoy. As a couple, we were thrilled to find out
that we shared the same mania. After all, it had strained or ended other relationships when the
man or woman was not a race fan. My guy loves having a wife who has mastered the "race kiss" —
eyes glued to the track with lips just brushing his.
Our Sunday race strategy has always gone something like this: we get to the track as early as
possible, stay glued in our seats, and leave only after the last race. It's not very
sophisticated, I'll admit, but it works very well. We do this to avoid the insanity that ensues
due to the way Southern Californians attend events. The Grand Prix's last day attendance balloons
in the middle like a bulimic stomach. We go from about 15,000 at 9 AM to maybe 60,000 by CART
race time. It also doesn't help much that the Indy Lights race — the dullest of the weekend's
races — is the one scheduled for Sunday morning.
That dullness only intensifies the Southern Californian's entertainment dilemma. The problem
with SoCal is, there's too darned much for us to do here. Ask anyone — including Hollywood's
Michael Ovitz, who has tried to bring a professional sports team to LA — about the problems that
come from having too many choices. Like it or not, the majority of those who attend the LBGP do
so as part of a whole list of things to do that day. A common combination is — brunch at your
favorite restaurant, followed by the Grand Prix, followed by a few hours of relaxation. The
result of this working it in to one's schedule is that most fans arrive noonish and leave right
after the checkered flag has dropped. By arriving before this multitude, we avoid crowds. It
also works when leaving after the last race — at least 75% of the crowd has already left
In sharp contrast to this very casual approach to race day attendance are those many people
who actually work at the event. Two friends of ours, Tom and Margee, spent over 12 hours per day
staffing the SCCA booth in the Expo. We watched our friend Bil — with One L — work at
turn 6 all three days as a volunteer race official. I saw several single mothers using strollers
to carry enormous bags of aluminum cans — presumably to sell for recycling —
around with their children at the end of each day. Whether to benefit the sport or to support
family, many of those attending this weekend did not have the luxury of worrying about where to
go to brunch. To all those who made our weekend special, thank you so very much.
Drive of the Weekend: Somebody forgot to tell Paul Tracy that 17th place qualifiers
don't usually win races. Darn. "Crash" Tracy has matured into a competent driver who makes his
own luck. Impressive, very impressive.
Why I'm Mad At Bobby Rahal: Two words — Bryan Herta. Excuse me, but I don't understand
the reasons for firing a driver who has done all of the winning for your team for two years.
Ganassi Soup: Remove Mo Nunn and shake. Montoya has not finished either of the first
two races. Stir in a new package and turn over to a veteran driver — Jimmy Vasser — and have him
wind up second in the points. Simmer all season.
Trans-Am Demolition Derby: The TA steward must be one confused dude. After showing the
green and white flags together on the "last lap", he changes his mind and decides four hours after
the race that the "last lap" didn't really count. Huh? Is he going to spring for the repairs on
everyone's car that got wrecked on the lap that never was? More to the point, is he going to
share whatever he's smoking with the rest of the (illicit drug taking) class?
Turn One Problems: We walked around the track and shook our heads over the tiny
half-circle around the dolphin fountain in front of the Long Beach Aquarium that makes up Turn One.
This little "turn" was the site and cause of many retirements over the weekend and was the cause
of Indy Lights polesitter, Jonny Kane, losing his race. I'd hate to reconfigure again, but if
any changes are made to the course, this should be it.
The Ghost of Hiro: Everyone at Long Beach remembers from past years the long train of
cars whizzing by — followed by Hiro Matshusta. Sunday, it was like Hiro had returned. Bringing
up the rear — and finishing in the points — was Luiz Garcia, Jr.
Fire Is Inspirational, But...: A scary moment seeing Christian Fittipaldi having to
jump from his car on a pit stop, and also Michael Andretti with a fire, although not as
immediately threatening as Christian's. Let's be safe out there, guys.
I also would like to thank Deep Throttle for the opportunity to bust my writing chops over
the weekend. I appreciate the chance to have a forum.
Copyright © 2000 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.