Stars burn rubber in practice runs in preparation for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro/Celebrity Race
LONG BEACH-Comedian Wanda Sykes said she didn’t have a clue what she was doing. Actress Kate del Castillo is determined not to flameout like she did last year when she crashed into a wall. Actor Michael Trucco said he’s just trying to get the hang of things, but feels comfortable enough to believe he can hold his own against other celebrities.
This is the time when the pedal truly hits the medal. Sykes, del Castillo and Trucco and other celebrities came out to the shoreline of Long Beach to get their official practice runs in as they make preparation to compete in the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro/Celebrity Race on April 20.
The 37th annual race is part of the 39th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend taking place April 19-21. The participants in the race, which is sponsored to benefit the Racing for Kids organization, all exuded their competitive juices and look forward to seeing who is going to come out on top. Del Castillo is making her second appearance in the race.
An advocate for social justice, del Castillo, appointed Ambassador for the Mexican Commission on Human Rights to fight human trafficking in 2009, said she enjoys the rush that comes from the sport of auto racing.
“I’m an adrenaline fan,” said del Castillo. “I think that is what it is. I love extreme sports. I just love adrenaline I guess.”
Del Castillo’s need for speed is basically just another avenue to transport her infectious energy. As an actress, del Castillo, said she does most of her own stunts, so getting behind the wheel of a race car and peeling out at over 100 miles per hour on a race course, isn’t too far removed from the norm of what she does regularly.
“Just because I’m an actress you get to do a lot of stuff,” del Castillo said. “I get to do my own stunts as long as it doesn’t put the whole production in danger.
A high-profile thespian in Mexico, del Castillo (Under the Same Moon, Trade, Miracle of Spanish Harlem), said she felt the jitters the first time she tried her hand at racing in the celebrity race. She’s a bit mellower this time around, although Castillo acknowledges her competitive nature will still be very high on the day of the big race.
“I was nervous,” Castillo said at the press day event. “I was like, ‘I got to win.’ It was like the Mexican part of me was there all the time. And now, it’s even worse. I’m very competitive, but in a different way. This time I’m better I’m more calm. It’s different; better I guess.’”
Sykes, one of the funniest comedians around, enjoyed hanging out with the other drivers, networking and being part of an effort that would benefit children. But she also revealed that auto racing is not for the faint of heart.
“It was like crazy,” Sykes said in between practice runs. “I was like, ‘What the f— am I doing?’ Why am I here? What am I doing? I know why I’m here. I’m here for a great cause-for Children’s Hospital. That’s why I’m here. Everyone’s great. All the drivers…I’m having fun with them. [But] It’s crazy. I don’t even know why they allow people to do this. It’s nuts. It’s crazy. I don’t if these people have driver’s licenses, man. This is the nuttiest thing ever. I’m just trying not to get T-boned by Jenna Elfman that’s all.”
Because she’s not a real big racing fan, Sykes said she would have a hard time figuring out who’s who in the auto racing world.
“If Jeff Gordon walked over here and smacked me, I would just say, ‘Some white guy just smacked me. Did anybody see him? Anybody know that guy?’ I know Danica (Patrick). I probably wouldn’t know her unless she had on a GoDaddy outfit on or something.”
Other celebrities taking their chance on the speedway include Jesse Metcalfe (Desperate Housewives, John Tucker Must Die), Olympian and Long Beach native Jessica Hardy, Jenna Elfman (1600 Penn, Two and a Half Men) and Jeremy Sisto (Suburgatory, Law & Order).
Trucco, star of television shows such as Battlestar Galactic, Fairly Legal and Revenge, grew up watching auto racing. A big fan of the sport, Trucco followed the career of race car legend Mario Andretti. So climbing into the driver’s seat of an auto race car to unleash his childhood fantasy has been a great opportunity to him.
This is Trucco’s second go-round racing up and down the streets of Long Beach in the pro/celebrity race. Despite the intense and grueling preparation all the drivers have to go through in preparation for race, Trucco said he is excited to be part of it.
“I’ve seen this race so many times,” Trucco said. “It’s great to be out here. We’ve been training at Willow. But this makes it real…I grew up watching racing. My dad was a race fan. Where most kids were watching football, basketball and baseball, I was watching F1, IndyCar back before they were called IndyCar.
“NASCAR, I watched it all. I’ve always had this in the back of my mind as something to do. Finally, I got lucky enough as an actor to be able to do it and here I am.”