Grand Prix of Long Beach races to another successful year

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Photo by Jose De Castro

#57 UFD Racing Stadium Super Trucks driver Bill Hynes jumps over a ramp during the first race of the weekend, while #7 SPEED Energy driver Robby Gordon limps behind in his damaged truck during Race 1 Saturday, April 13, at the 45th annual Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Hynes finished 6th, while Gordon would finish 9th in the 10-truck field.

Race fans flocked to the coast over the weekend for a healthy dose of sun and speed, as the Grand Prix made its yearly return.

The City of Long Beach hosted the 45th Annual Acura Grand Prix from Friday, April 12, to Sunday, April 14, in downtown, where organizers closed off a portion of Shoreline Drive and Pine Avenue to set up the race track this month.

After a long partnership with Toyota, the event was sponsored for the first time by Acura and featured a mix of racing and live-music.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia joined Jim Michellian, the CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, on Sunday to welcome spectators to the city and speak about the races.

“This is our biggest event in Long Beach, and we’re very proud of it,” Garcia told an excited crowd.

Photo by Jose De Castro
#88 VP Racing Fuels Stadium Super Trucks driver Blade Hildebrand limps to the checkered flag after tangling with #7 SPEED Energy driver Robby Gordon in Race 1 Saturday, April 13. Gordon and Hildebrand would finish 9th and 10th, respectively, in the 10-truck field.

The Grand Prix has been a popular event since its beginning in 1975. Since then, it has gone on to become one of the oldest Indycar races in the country, with drivers from all over the world traveling to the city to earn their place in history.

Adding his name to the track’s record books is California native Alexander Rossi, who won his second straight Long Beach Grand Prix. The recent win puts Rossi in an exclusive club as only one of eight competitors who have won the race twice, and one of only six to do it consecutively.

In a press conference after the race, Rossi talked about how much the win meant to his team and thanked his sponsor.

Photo by Jose De Castro
#27 NAPA Auto Parts IndyCar Driver Alexander Rossi exits out of turn 11 hairpin during the 45th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Sunday, April 14. Rossi dominated the competition, leading 80 of the 85 laps for his second straight Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach victory.

When asked about his most recent achievement, Rossi acknowledged the prestigious history of the event, but downplayed his most recent win.

“I don’t care about two in a row or whatever,” Rossi said. “It’s just about making as many wins as we can.”

Photo by Jose De Castro
#27 NAPA Auto Parts IndyCar Driver Alexander Rossi celebrates in the victory lane after capturing his 2nd consecutive Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach victory Sunday, April 14. Rossi become the first back-to-back winner at Long Beach since Sebastien Bourdais won three in a row from 2005 to 2007.

Aside from the Indycar race, the competition featured the Super Trucks and the drift competitions, both of which drew fans from all over Southern California. Anaheim resident George Kaiser is a longtime racing fan who attended the event for a third year.

“We really wanted to see the drift this year, because last year we went to the truck races [with] jumps,” Kaiser said.

While some fans were experiencing the sights and sounds of the racetrack, others took the chance to meet their racing heroes.

In the exhibition hall, located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, fans lined up to meet racing legend Mario Andretti. Over his 36-year career, Andretti earned a total of four wins at the Grand Prix of Long Beach and is considered one of the most successful American drivers in the sport.

Daniel Green | Signal Tribune
Lifelong racing fan, Martin Punzo, has his photo taken with racing legend Mario Andretti at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Punzo has attended the event for the last six years.

Similar to Rossi, he is also one of the few winners to hold back-to-back wins in Long Beach.
Racing fan Martin Punzo has attended the event for the last six years and was one of the fans who waited for an autograph from the icon.

“[It’s] great that I got to meet a legend,” Punzo said in an interview with the Signal Tribune on April 13. “Mario Andretti has been in the sport forever. [He’s] been an inspiration since his Formula 1 days. It’s just awesome to finally meet him.”

Aside from the numerous activities dedicated to the racing world, the Grand Prix also hosted multiple musical acts. Organizers arranged a free concert, entitled a “Rock ‘N’ Roar,” for ticket holders in front of the Performing Arts Center on Saturday night.

The concert opened with a jazz set, featuring students from the Trombone Shorty Foundation in New Orleans. The next band was a three-piece electric indie band, known as Moontower, from Los Angeles.

Daniel Green | Signal Tribune
Long Beach band, the Cold War Kids, returned to perform for an enthusiastic hometown crowd, Saturday, April 13, in front of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Frontman, Nathan Willet, told the crowd that performing for them was nostalgic.

The main attraction of the night saw former Long Beach residents, the band Cold War Kids, return to a hometown crowd. The band played a mixture of classic hits, such as “First,” and new songs off its 2017 album, “L.A. Divine.”

Between songs, lead singer, Nathan Willet, told the crowd that returning to Long Beach was nostalgic for him and that he used to live near the intersection of 1st and Cherry.
The band ended the night with the song, “Something Is Not Right With Me.”