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Long Beach Grand Prix: Celebrities gear up for charity race

Wanda Sykes has one goal for the weekend: Don't catch on fire.

The comedian and actress is one of 21 people participating in this weekend's Toyota Pro/Celebrity race at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

The actress joined her fellow drivers Friday morning in Long Beach for a final practice session on the course before the afternoon's qualifying race. The final is 11:40 a.m. Saturday.

Photos: Behind the scenes at the 2013 Long Beach Grand Prix

Sykes said that although she'd like to do well in Saturday's race, it's not her main concern.

"I'm competitive but I usually like sports where you can't possibly end up on fire," Sykes said, decked out in the fireproof racing suit all the racers were issued. "No one has ever ran out and hosed off Shaq, you know?"

Finishing the race with herself and her car in one piece would be foremost on her mind, Sykes said.

Meanwhile, actor Jesse Metcalfe said he was out to win the whole thing.

Metcalfe, best known for his roles on "Desperate Housewives" and "Dallas," said this wasn't his first foray into motor sports. A "Dallas" storyline had his character, Christopher Ewing, get into stock car racing.

"I kind of caught the bug there," Metcalfe said after the morning's practice round. "This opportunity presented itself, and here I am."

Friday's practice session was the first time the drivers got to pass one another, an outing Metcalfe relished.

"The intensity of everyone being out there, being at full competition level, was pretty intense and exhilarating at the same time," Metcalfe said.

He experienced this firsthand in the final laps of the practice round when a pass attempt found him trading paint with the tire barriers on the side of the track. His Scion FR-S had cosmetic damage, but mechanics were able to hammer out the dents in time for the afternoon's qualifying race.

Metcalfe and Sykes are competing against other celebrities such as actors Jeremy Sisto from "Law & Order" and "Six Feet Under," Jenna Elfman from "Dharma & Greg" and Jackson Rathbone from the "Twilight" films.

The Toyota Pro/Celebrity race puts everyone into identical Scion FR-S cars that have been specifically tweaked and tuned for the rigors of racing. Toyota said that since 1991, the race has raised more than $2 million for Racing for Kids, a program that raises money for children's hospitals.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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