After weeks of training and flying back and forth from Cali to PA the stage was set to race the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach!
Thursday was the start of the festivities when we visited the Long Beach hospital. It was a truly amazing experience meeting all the kids and the great staff. the theme of the day was racing cars, so there were a lot of arts and crafts going on with the kids, which was great fun to jump in and paint. I got thrashed at Candy land by a young boy named Little D, he had been very ill for a while and had recently just started showing improvements in his health. I remember the victory dance he did was something quite special, everyone in the room cheered and clapped for him, a real treat!
On friday we had a morning practice and then the qualifying, turn 8 had been a real hard part of the track for me the whole time so it was no surprise when I smashed into the tyre wall early on.
Qualifying went really well I had a blast ripping round the track, the car felt great I had got used to it moving around alot more when the tyres were hot and generally I felt great! Lets race!
Saturday morning and it was a media fest in the compound, it was crazy but a really cool experience. You could see everyone was getting fired up to race even though the aim of the race is to raise money for Racing for Kids, and in the final meeting before we raced it was a little tense for some people in the green room, well except for Jerry!
So we head out to our cars and its time to race, everything from umbrella girls, the media and the fans going wild were all waiting for you at your car. A warm up lap behind the pace car and we are looking for the green flag, as this was a rolling start you were all assigned a spot and of course Mr Reeves was off his my a few car lengths so I had to back off and wait for him as I didn’t want a black flag of course this gave everyone in front a headstart and they are gone.
I really felt from the off that we were racing to catch back up with the guys in front, which was near impossible, especially after we had a couple of the celebs to get past early on, for the 2 and a half laps I was out there myself and Keanu had a good little race going on, swapping spaces and paint around the track. Tika helped me out a ton when she hit Keanu on the track allowing me to go up the inside of them both get a little lead on them, unfortunately good old turn 8 was coming up and my car ran a little wide hitting the concrete wall and breaking the front wheel. I did manage to get the car out of the racing line and under the bridge near the compound, so at least the walk of shame wasn’t too far.
It was unfortunate that I took myself out of the race early on, I got really frustrated as I had felt that all the training and advice that the race instructors, mechanics and drivers from previous year had given me had been laid to waste.
The opportunity to be given a chance to be a part of this race is very seldom, and to be given the chance to be a part of such a unique way to help others in difficulty is a blessing. But, there was a part of me that was left unfulfilled by not finishing the race.
Anyhow, the race was still on and Jimmy Wasser and Tanner Fousst were neck and neck around the track, super focused Adrien Brody and Brian Austin- Green were in a huge scrap for the win, and while this dramatic action was going on people were smashing up Toyota’s everywhere! Jesse McCartney hit the tyre wall then Chris Ashworth smashed straight into him and Jerry Westlund took out Tony Hawk in a huge counter steering maneuver! Which got him a blag flag for his efforts.
I thought Steve Millen was going to run away with it, but it just wasn’t his day.
When they gave the checkered Flag, it was Jimmy Vasser and Brian Austin-Green who took the victories in an epic race.
At the drivers victory dinner that night it was Steve Hartman who took us through some of the memorable moments of the entire race and reminded us of the fun we had along the way.
One by one everyone stood on stage a gave their thanks for being allowed to participate in the race and share some of their highlights and thoughts of being a driver in the Toyota grand prix. Ultimately though this turned out to be a huge comedy fest with people ripping on themselves and each other, much to the delight of everyone in the room.
It certainly was the perfect end to one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I truly want to thank all involved for allowing me this opportunity and for their tireless efforts in order to make the 34th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach a huge success.
I hope one day I can get the opportunity to redeem myself.
Cheers to all