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Long Beach Grand Prix : Saturday’s Races : Lindley’s Luck and Oil Run Out on Final Laps

Times Staff Writer

To Trans-Am drivers, Shoreline Drive is just another street of broken dreams.

That’s where Scott Pruett ran out of gas a lap short of winning last year’s race, a supporting feature to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and Saturday, Les Lindley of Anaheim found fate on the hairpin that switches from the east-bound lanes to west-bound.

Lindley, 48, has driven 78 Trans-Am races, more than anyone except Jim Derhaag of Chaska, Minn. with 81, but he had never won.

Cruising in his Camaro with a 13.7-second lead over Irv Hoerr of Peoria, Ill., in an Oldsmobile Cutlass, Lindley seemed a sure thing as the race wound down to its 60-lap (100.2-mile) conclusion.

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Then his engine blew and he spun out in his own oil as he was about to turn down the straightaway to take the white flag signifying that victory was only a lap away.

“I feel for Les because I’ve been there,” said Hoerr, who inherited his first Trans-Am win in 18 starts after a series of high finishes. “Les really had his car hooked up today.”

On that last note, Lindley wasn’t terribly depressed.

“We proved we could run with ‘em,” he said.

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The end didn’t come as a shock. He had seen his oil warning light come on three laps earlier and, when his car started smoking a minute or two later, he knew it would be touch and go.

Lindley’s misfortune and another next-to-the-last-lap incident boosted Tom Kendall of La Canada from fourth to second in his second Trans-Am effort.

Kendall, the 22-year-old three-time IMSA/GTU champion from UCLA, had been holding his underpowered Beretta on the tail of a Camaro driven by Stuart Hayner of Yorba Linda because he could gain in the turns, although he couldn’t compete on the straights.

When they came upon Wayne Akers’ slower Mustang in Turn 1 of the 59th lap, Hayner spun out and Kendall ducked past.

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Actor Rick Schroder, who turned 19 two days earlier, knocked out rivals Brian Wimmer and Walter Payton on the second lap and held off Parnelli Jones by 0.574 seconds, or about 25 yards, to win the Toyota Pro-Celebrity race.

All drove race-modified Celica sedans. For the first time, all 15 cars finished the 10-lap (16.7-mile) event.

The only significant incident was when Wimmer, cut off Schroder in the first turn of the second lap. Schroder rammed Wimmer broadside into the tire bales.

“Cheap shot,” Wimmer said. “I figured he had to give me room, but he didn’t.”

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By the time Wimmer and Payton righted got their cars, straightened out, Schroder was well ahead. long gone. But Jones, starting 30 seconds behind the celebrity leaders with fellow pros Dan Gurney, Jeff Andretti and son P.J. Jones, was charging. coming hard.

Said Schroder: who appeared in “Lonesome Dove” and “Silver Spoons,” said, “I saw him coming with about three laps to go. He kept getting closer and closer until I could see his name (over the windshield), but I couldn’t read it in my mirror so I looked over my shoulder.

“I said a little player: ‘God, please don’t let him pass me.’ I think he let me win.”

Jones, the 1963 Indy 500 winner, shook his head.

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“I tried to catch him,” Jones said. “He just ran a heck of a race.”


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