Drivers of final Toyota Pro/Celebrity race announced
For 40 years, springtime has been welcomed in Long Beach, California by a high-profile carnival of mangled Aichi steel. The 2016 Toyota Pro/Celebrity charity race will be its last, and the list of drivers has just been announced.
The longest running charity race in the US takes place ahead of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, held on closed-off public streets just down the street from the automaker’s Torrance, California US headquarters. Each year, the field is split between actual race car drivers and celebrity drivers, all thrown into identical Toyotas and let loose on the two-mile Grand Prix race course.
Professionals have ranged from Indy champion Al Unser Jr. to Pikes Peak winner Rod Millen to top-ranked drifter Ken Gushi. Then there are the celebs, some of whom do have an well-known association with racing (like Top Gear USA host Rutledge Wood and Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman producer Adam Carolla, who, oddly, did not drive a Corolla) to randos you haven’t thought about in years (like Alfonso Ribiero and Frankie Muniz).
Needless to say, the race has seen its share of spectacular wipeouts. Rear-wheel-drive Celicas were the car of choice when the event began, but in recent years Scion tCs and FR-Ses have been used.
After four decades, the race on April 16, 2016 will be the last, as Toyota prepares to move its US headquarters to Plano, Texas. Toyota will continue to be the title sponsor of the Long Beach Grand Prix through 2017, but no announcements have been made as to what happens after that. The Toyota Pro/Celebrity race raises money for a charity called Racing for Kids, which benefits children’s hospitals. See the entry list below.
Al Unser, Jr. 1985, 2009 and 2014)
Pro/Overall winner in 1985, 2009, Pro winner in 2014. Dubbed “King of the Beach,” as the winningest driver in Long Beach, with six Indy Car wins and three Pro/Celebrity wins. Also a 2-time Indy 500 winner, and 2-time IndyCar Champion.
Ricky Schroder 1989 and 1996
Celebrity/ Overall winner in 1989. Most recently starred in “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors.” Golden Globe winning actor best-known for roles in “Silver Spoons,” “NYPD Blue” and “Get Him to the Greek.”
Celebrity winner in 1990. He has starred in film, television and radio. Best-known for his roles in “The Usual Suspects” and “The Flinstones in Viva Rock Vegas.” He also appeared on “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Celebrity Fear Factor.”
Eddie Lawson 1993
Pro/ Overall winner in 1993. Motorcycle Hall of Famer and four-time 500cc World Champion. He also earned back-to-back AMA 250 Grand Prix Series, AMA Superbike Series Championships, won the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hour race, and was a two-time winner of the Daytona 200.
Alfonso Ribeiro 1994, 1995, 1996 and 2015
Celebrity/ Overall winner in 1994 & 1995, Pro/ Overall winner in 2015. Currently the host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” on ABC and “Unwrapped 2.0” on the Cooking Channel. Known for his iconic role of Carlton on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and in 2014, he took home the coveted Mirror Ball trophy on “Dancing With the Stars.”
Rod Millen 1992 and 1995
Pro winner in 1995. Winner of three-consecutive Grand National Sport Truck titles, 5-time Toyota Pikes Peak Unlimited class winner, and 3-time Toyota off-road stadium truck champion.
Dara Torres 2002, 2004 and 2015
Celebrity/ Overall winner in 2002. 12-time Olympic medalist swimmer, who was named as one of the “Top Female Athletes of the Decade” by Sports Illustrated. In 2002, she was the first woman to win the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race.
Max Papis 2004
Pro/ Overall winner in 2004. “Mad Max,” a stock car race driver has competed in many top-level motorsports events including the Le Mans 24 Hours, Formula One and Champ Car. He has three Champ Car victories.
Chris McDonald 2001, 2004 and 2005
Celebrity winner in 2004. Currently co-starring in HBO’s “Ballers,” after a stint on CBS’s “The Good Wife.” He has starred in over 100 movies, but is best-known for playing ‘Shooter McGavin’ in “Happy Gilmore.”
Frankie Muniz2004, 2005, 2006 and 2011
Celebrity winner in 2005. Starred in “Sharknado: Heart of Sharkness,” and best-known for his role in “Malcolm in the Middle.” His diverse resume also includes race car driver, drummer of pop-rock group’s Kingsfoil, and Ambassador for the Armed Forces Foundation.
Mike Skinner2007 and 2008
Pro winner in 2007 & 2008. 1995 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion, and the 1997 Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year. He has competed in over 550 races in NASCAR’s top three divisions.
Doug Fregin 2009, 2012 and 2014
Charity auction winner in 2009, 2012 & 2014. He has donated over $320,000 to “Racing For Kids.” Co-Founder of Research in Motion (now Blackberry) and Quantum Valley Investments Fund.
Brian Austin Green 1997, 2010 and 2011
Celebrity winner in 2010. An actor, director, and producer, who came to fame on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” recently starred on “Anger Management” on FX. He’s also known for roles in “Desperate Housewives,” “Smallville” and “Las Vegas.”
Jimmy Vasser 2010
Pro/ Overall winner in 2010. Former Toyota Atlantic Series and IndyCar driver. 1996 IndyCar World Series Champion. He is an IndyCar team owner, and owns three Toyota dealerships.
Ken Gushi 2011
Pro winner in 2011. He was once the youngest, most successful drift competitor in Japan, and in the U.S. With numerous Top 3 finishes in national and international drifting competitions, his racing career has just begun.
William Fichtner 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2012
Celebrity/ Overall winner in 2011. A television, theater and film star, he will be seen in the June releases of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” and “Independence Day: Resurgence.”
Adam Carolla 2003, 2010, 2012 and 2013
Celebrity/ Overall winner in 2012, Pro winner in 2013. He is best known as a comedian, actor, radio personality, television host and New York Times bestselling author. He can be heard daily on his podcast “The Adam Carolla Show.”
Rutledge Wood 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015
Celebrity/ Overall winner in 2013. A NASCAR analyst for NBC Sports, he can also be seen in History Channel’s “Lost In Transmission,” and as co-host of “Top Gear USA” which just finished filming its sixth season.
Brett Davern 2013, 2014 and 2015
Celebrity/ Overall winner in 2014. Actor who stars as ‘Jake Rosati’ in MTV’s hit series “Awkward.” He recently appeared in the Beach Boys bio-pic “Love & Mercy” and “The Stanford Prison Experiment.”
Dave Pasant 2001, 2002, 2003, 2010, 2013 and 2015
Celebrity winner in 2015, and 7-time charity auction winner. A retired insurance executive, he has participated in this race six ttimes, donating a total of $417,000 to “Racing For Kids.” He is also an executive producer of “Road Hard,” starring Adam Carolla.
Carter is the Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.
“This should be a thrilling race with so many of the participants past winners here at Long Beach,” Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach said. “It will be interesting to see who best recalls the racing technique that will enable them to once again stand on top of the podium.”
Since 1991, Toyota has donated more than $2.3 million to the “Racing for Kids” organization on behalf of this race and its participants.