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For Him, It’s No Act : Lorenzo Lamas Would Like to Win Indy Before an Emmy

Times Staff Writer

Lorenzo Lamas can hardly wait for the Long Beach Grand Prix this weekend and a chance to mix with all those other race drivers. Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser, Paul Newman.

Lamas, who plays the despicably seductive Lance Cumson on “Falcon Crest,” would like to be the next Paul Newman, and then some. Newman is not only a part-owner of Andretti’s car but also a successful sports car racer in his own right.

“I’ve never met him,” Lamas said. “I’m really looking forward to meeting him. I admire the way he’s handled both of his careers, and they are careers. Racing isn’t a hobby for me, as I’m sure it’s not for him.”

Newman, 62, is limited because he started late. Lamas, 27, was the leading celebrity in the Toyota pro-celebrity race last year. He finished only eighth overall, but the experience rekindled some old fires.

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The son of Arlene Dahl and the late Fernando Lamas would rather take a checkered flag than a curtain call. He’d rather win the Indy 500 than an Emmy. In fact, that’s his ambition.

“Oh, definitely, I’m gonna try to go to Indy by 1989,” Lamas said, and he didn’t mean to watch. “I have youth on my side, and I love open-wheel cars.”

Lamas already has progressed so far that he’ll start back with the pros in Saturday’s celebrity event, granting a handicap to all those amateurs.

“Last year I just moved over for the pros,” Lamas said. “I had no right to challenge them. I didn’t have experience, and I didn’t want to challenge them and perhaps crash. This year it’s probably going to be a different story.

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“I’ve been doing a little racing throughout the year. I raced Formula Fords and got a second at Riverside, a couple of fourths and fifths. Did well enough to get a seat in the Pro Sports 2000 Cup this year.”

Lamas reiterated that his driving is not just a diversion.

“I’m very competitive,” he said. “I’ve been in martial arts for about seven years, and when you go to a tournament in karate, you put on a face like you do when you strap on a helmet and get into your car to race it. They call it ‘race face.’

“It’s an attitude. I find I prepare the same way psychologically. I get really calm before I compete. But when I’m out there I’m going for it all the way.”

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Despite the handicap of a privileged background, Lamas missed few of the joys of growing up in Southern California. For a time he worked at a McDonald’s. He parked cars. He tore around the public roads.

“When I was about 13, my dad used to pick me up after school two or three times a week and take me down to a go-kart track in Culver City and let me run around the track for a couple of hours.

“I was a street racer for a long time, but that wasn’t too helpful. I didn’t have any knowledge about how a car handles. What you learn on the street is to stuff it into a turn and hang on. I had to relearn all my techniques and break all my old bad habits.”

Lamas’ crowd used to head up Mulholland Drive or Angeles Crest Highway every Thursday night.

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“I had an old 916--one of those six-cylinder Porsches--and it ran really strong,” he said. “I had a lot of fun with that.”

Of course, it was kind of distracting trying to watch the road ahead with one eye and to watch the rear-view mirror for a red light with the other. The Los Angeles police kept insisting that the streets were for normal driving.

“They started to really crack down on street racing five or six years ago, and they practically shut down Mulholland,” Lamas said. “I can remember nights when I’d go up there to race and they’d have the roadblocks out.”

That effectively suppressed his racing career until he was invited to drive in the celebrity event last year.

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“The Long Beach race was my first car race ever, although I’d raced motorcycles in motocross when I was 19,” he said. “When I got into acting I had to give up motorcycle racing for the time element.”

Lamas doesn’t dwell on the danger of messing up his acting career with an accident, even after breaking his left collarbone and right shoulder blade when he crashed a Formula Ford in the high-speed Turn 9 at Riverside last November.

“I was in the car about an hour and lost concentration for a second,” he said.

“I was going through there about 110, spun around and didn’t scrub any speed,” he said. “I just went into the pit wall backwards. It made me mad.

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“I missed two days of work on Falcon and was out of racing for about a month because I couldn’t lift my arms.

“Falcon Crest has been so understanding. They don’t want me to get hurt, and yet they don’t want to corral a horse. They’re letting me do what I have to do. When I go to the track on race weekend I talk about Falcon Crest, because that’s my work and that’s how people know me. You can’t help people recognizing you.

“But my head’s in racing. I’m just another driver in racing, and I like that a lot. I need that balance in my life.”


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