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Yesterday we attended the second day of the three-day Long Beach Grand Prix!  We arrived in Long Beach at around 11:00AM and as we neared the Long Beach Harbor, we could hear the distant roar of race cars echoing off of the buildings in downtown Long Beach.  Parking was spread out throughout downtown in private lots, ranging anywhere from $15 to $25 depending on the distance from the track.  Because the gates opened at 7:00 AM that morning, we did not experience any ticket lines at all, so we were able to walk right in.

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Upon entering the track, the first thing that you notice is how integrated the track is with the surrounding area.  Being a road track, the race cars are racing on streets that you would normally drive down on any regular visit to the Long Beach harbor.  The track encompasses the Long Beach convention center and Aquarium of the Pacific, and the entire area up to the water’s edge is all part of the event.

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The first race that we watched was the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, which began with the singing of the national anthem by LeAnn Rimes and a flyby by an air force C-17 cargo jet.  After that the race was ready to start!  The charity race included a pack of celebrity racers, including Adam Carolla, Kim Coates, and Brody Jenner, who started the race out in front and were chased down by 4 pro drivers who started 25 seconds behind.  The race was fun to watch because you can tell that the celebrities really get into the competitive spirit of the event.  Early in the race Brody Jenner and Eddie Cibrian made contact in one of the corners and they both hit the wall, with Brody Jenner taking the brunt of the damage.  Adam Carolla took an early lead and never looked back, fending off a late charge by Hill Harper to take the 1st place.

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Normally, when you think of an event like this, you think of tents with vendors selling “fair” food.  While they do have these options, the cool thing about the race being held in Long Beach harbor is that many restaurants are also located here, so instead of grabbing a corndog, you could just head over to the Yard House or other restaurant.  We opted for that and ducked into 33 Degrees Harborside Pub while waiting for the next event to start.  The pub had a limited menu because of the increased traffic and we assumed that most other restaurants probably have short menus as well.  We grabbed a couple beers here, and because they were served in plastic cups and the entire area was part of the event, you could leave the pub with beers in hand.

The next event we checked out was Indycar qualifying runs.  The event consists of 15 minute heats where drivers are trying to get the fastest one-lap track time to qualify for the pole position on the next day’s race.  Being that these cars are the fastest of the weekend, it was an exhilarating experience to see them zoom by at 100+ mph. (And really difficult to capture in a photo!)

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We also walked over to the Indycar pit area.  Although we didn’t have pit passes, we were able to snap a photo of the crew prepping a car for the race.

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The Long Beach convention center included a hall with sponsors exhibits, called the Lifestyle Expo. The exhibits included many automotive companies and many had free giveaways and games to play.  The hall also housed the drift cars and Speed World Challenge touring cars, which were also racing on the next day.

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We headed back out to the track at 4:30 PM for the main race for the day, the American Le Mans Series race.  The race consisted of 5 separate classes of cars all on the track at the same time, including prototype race cars, Ferraris, Porsches, Corvettes, and even an Aston Martin.

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The race is unique in that there are so many different types of cars.  As they race by, each car has a distinct sound and look.  Being that there are faster and slower classes of cars racing at the same time, it adds to the excitement watching faster cars maneuvering around the slower cars to maintain their lead.  The race was a 2 hour timed race, and included pit stops with driver changes.  The overall winner of the race was the prototype 1 Muscle Milk car driven by Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr.  They were forced to make a second pit stop in the race because they did not fill up their fuel all the way, but raced from the back of the pack to take first place!

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Overall, the event was a great first experience watching road racing in Long Beach.  Hearing and seeing the cars racing around an area that you can normally drive through is a really amazing thing.  Next year we’d like to check out the Indycar race, so we will definitely be back!

PiiQ’d by David

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