Long Beach 2014
April 11, 2014
Spring has sprung in Northern California which is not a big deal since it looks pretty much like winter. It usually stops raining in the spring but since it did not rain much in the winter, it was hard to recognize the transition.
I have been playing softball since January. In April we just pick up the pace and I will play three to five days a week from now until September assuming I don’t hurt myself. So far I have played in 22 games with probably another 100 on schedule for this year.
But on April 11th I took a break from softball to go attend to one of my other interest-auto racing. I loaded up my car and headed to Long Beach, Ca for the 40th running of the Long Beach Gran Prix on the streets of Long Beach. This is a fairly unique race in that it is run on the city streets rather than on a race track. Along with making for some interesting racing it makes for a remarkable people watching venue with about 200,000 people attending over the weekend. If you can’t make it to Monaco for Formula one, Long Beach might just be a suitable substitute for you.
Long Beach is about a six hour drive from my home in Manteca. To break up the trip I made a rendezvous with my friends John and Sharon who just happened to be traveling north on I-5 returning from their winter in Mexico. We met up at a refueling stop and had something to eat while we caught up with each other.
My traveling companion and sidekick- Barbara Consuelo
Once in Long Beach we checked into the Residence Inn which is across the estuary from Long Beach, but just a short walk over the bridge to the festivities. We went over to watch the Friday afternoon events which were mostly practice laps by the cars that were to run in the weekend races. We did stick around for a concert by “Kinky” which had the effect of making me realize how ancient I have become. The music was ‘Rock Espanol’ which roughly translate into "I was the whitest guy there."
Afterwards we had a quick dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery and it was early to bed.
April 12, 2015
On Saturday we had a quick breakfast at the hotel and then took the water taxi across the water to the race circuit. It was another beautiful day in Southern Cal but they have a lot of those days.
After watching some practice and qualifying laps, the racing got serious with the Pro/Celeb race. This is a race in stock Toyotas with the drivers coming from Hollywood and with a couple of racing pros thrown in to make it interesting. The pros get to start well behind the celebrities and their challenge is to see how many they can pass. I have seen several of these races in the past but this one got pretty dicey with the celebs sticking the fenders into each other on the tight turns. Adrian Brody in particular was racing quite aggressively and may have a career in racing if he ever gets tired of acting. At the end of the race the pros burned the tires off of their cars just for show.
Adrian Brody: Pianist and race car driver.
We watched the Indy cars qualify and then it was time for the IMSA Tudor sports car race which has become my favorite form of racing. (Tudor is a brand of watch, in case you were wondering.) There are usually four classes of cars racing at the same time but due to limited pit road space at Long Beach this race was limited to two: The prototypes and the GT cars. The prototypes look like something from another planet while the GT cars are Corvettes, BMW’s, Porsches and Vipers looking much like a car one could go to a dealer and buy. These cars have been modified significantly for race purposes but they at least look like something you see on the open road.
Pruett/Rojas prototype car
After the races were over we had a drink it one of the overcrowded hangouts along the waterfront. It did not take long for that to get old and we took the water taxi back over to the quiet side of the estuary. We had a nice dinner on the terrace at the Maya hotel, a place I have stayed at several times but now has been revamped into an upscale resort.
April 13, 2014
Sunday the racing got a bit more serious with the Indy Lights cars running the first race of the day. This is a development series for Indy Car drivers so the cars look pretty much the same but have less power and less accomplished drivers. Gabby Chavez took the lead in turn one and never lost it, which often happens in road races.
The Indy cars then took the field. These are the cars that will be going to the Indy 500 in May. They put on a great show until lap 60 out of 80 when all of the leaders crashed into each other after the last pit stop of the day. Once that carnage was cleared up Scott Dixon found himself in the lead and he held that lead until the last two laps of the race at which point he had to come in for fuel, handing the win over to Mike Conway. A good race over all.
We hung around to watch the drifters do their thing. Drifters are 900 hp cars that go every direction but straight ahead. They burn the tires off of their cars in one lap but put on quite a show while doing it.
We headed back to our hotel stopping at Parker’s Lighthouse for an après race drink. We went out to The Reef for a nice dinner with a great view of the Long Beach skyline. It was the end of another good day.
On Monday we made our way back home in my new car, pictured below.
Me…In my dreams