Green Racing = 24 Hours in 100 minutes / Cheap Trick

Rick DoleOk. I’ll be honest. I have a love/hate relationship with the Long Beach Grand Prix. I hate it because it’s more pop festival than racing (see Tecate Rock and Roar). I love it because it’s high energy everywhere you go. I hate it because it’s more about walking around people watching than race watching. I love it simply because I love all things American Le Mans.

John ThawleyIt’s a great event, no doubt. But in the end, it’s never really about the race. It’s food, fun, bands (Cheap Trick), hospitality and about being seen. I’m sure I’ll get slammed for this, but it just strikes me that the actual racing has become secondary.

And the racing “program?” C’mon… who’s wet dream is this anyway? You’ve got every combination of vehicle and driver imaginable. IRL, ALMS, Indy Lights, World Challenge, Formula Drift and let’s not forget that gripping display of celebrity versus machine, the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race.

Somebody send the GPLB braintrust a memo. More is not necessarily more.

Drop something. Get a backbone. Take a stand. For God’s sake, figure it out.

Here’s what you do. Get yourself one of those high fillutin West Coast consulting firms. Buy them a a few of those fancy California Pizzas… you know, with pineapple, avocado… toss on some grilled arugula. Then bring ‘em some of those trendy chilled mocha chocha fru-fru lattes and ask them what they think about this year’s event. When they’re all done blowing smoke up your collective asses, write them a check for $100 (over compensation given the value of their input) and fire them.

Next, get ahold of the race tapes. Watch the racing. Watch them again, only this time with your iPhone off. Are you getting this?  Your event has more support racing than Dolly Parton has underwire in her living bra. It’s the racing stupid. It’s the IRL and the ALMS.

Here are the story lead-ins from’s own front page. This makes my point in a nutshell:

  • “Ryan Hunter-Reay led 64 of 85 laps - relatively unchallenged - and won the 36th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach IZOD IndyCar  Series race today.”
  • “Canada’s James Hinchcliffe led all 45 race laps from the pole for a convincing win in the Firestone Indy Lights race Sunddaythis afternoon.” (I left the typo cause I’m that kind of guy)
  • “David Brabham and Simon Pagenaud steered their LMP-class HPD ARX-01c to an overall victory Saturday in the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series race, winning by 0.353 seconds over the Lola B09 60 Aston Martin of Adrian Fernandez/Harold Primat.”
  • Jimmy Vasser, ex-Champ Car champion and co-owner of the KV Racing Technology IZOD IndyCar team, won the 34th Toyota Pro/Celebrity race Saturday by .645 seconds over fellow pro driver Tanner Foust, the two-time Formula Drift champion.” (ah, Jimmy… we knew you when)

Rick DoleFolks, I don’t think we need to call in the spikey haired geek from the Apple Genius Bar to break it down for us. Clearly, the ALMS feature was the only show worth the price of admission. Seriously, this is like having Penelope Cruz as the opening act for a Golden Girls reunion. Surely I’m not the only one seeing this?

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is arguably the most relevant race in the world. Le Mans is synonymous with real racing and real cars… except in SoCal. Here we can capture the full thrust of a 24 hour race in, oh… let’s say 100 minutes. Ok, fine… have your celebrity race, throw in some drift at intermission, but for God’s sake get a grip and put the real race cars on the track.

Shoot me… please… just shoot me now.

John ThawleyIt’s not that hard, Jim (you know who you are). You give equal billing to the IRL and the ALMS. You give them track time. Time to prepare and practice. You give them room in the paddock… room to work and room for the fans to see them. And you treat them equally. A twin bill. You give one series the Saturday feature and one series the Sunday feature. Not featurette, Jim… feature.

And Scott, if you’re reading this, don’t go back. Don’t go back until they give you what you want and your fans what they deserve. The 2010 ALMS race was nothing short of a high stakes drama. Hell, they haven’t seen that much drama in SoCal since a certain white Bronco led LA’s finest on a low speed chase. Jim needs you, Scott. Jim’s got nothing. Call his bluff.

It’s not that hard. Really, it’s not. Grow the racing and grow the event… enjoy another 36 years.

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