Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell and defending champion Paul Tracy are among the Indy car drivers who will headline this weekend's 20th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, but there will also be a strong supporting cast.
In addition to Sunday's Indy car competition, which is the third round of the PPG Cup series, there will be five races. Bridgestone Supercars, pro-celebrities and electric cars will race Saturday, along with final Indy car qualifying. The Firestone Indy Lights and Toyota Atlantic cars will be part of Sunday's program.
Practice and qualifying will start Friday.
All of the competition will take place on a nine-turn, 1.6-mile temporary road course laid out on streets next to Long Beach's Aquatic Park and Shoreline Village, across the channel from the Queen Mary.
Dan Gurney, who joined Chris Pook in founding the Grand Prix 20 years ago, will be grand marshal of the three-day racing festival. Gurney, the former Formula One and Indy car driver, will drive the original 1975 Toyota Celica pace car in a parade lap before the Indy car race Sunday.
Indy Lights are Indy car Lola look-alikes powered by Buick V-6 engines and run on Firestone radial tires. Tracy, Mike Groff and Robbie Buhl are all former Indy Lights champions who are entered in the Indy car race. Tracy, the 1990 Lites champion when the program was called the American Racing Series, moved up to the Penske team in 1992, and last year made Long Beach his first Indy car victory.
Greg Moore, an 18-year-old from British Columbia, won the Lights opener last Sunday in Phoenix by leading every lap and setting a series record of 146.268 m.p.h. for 75 miles. The performance was reminiscent of Tracy's, when he won his first Lights race at Phoenix in 1988.
Steve Robertson of England, last year's Lights rookie of the year, and Eddie Lawson, four-time world motorcycle road racing champion from Lake Havasu, Ariz., are expected to be Moore's chief challengers. Robertson and Lawson drive for the Tasman Motorsports Group, directed by Steve Horne.
Bryan Herta, one of Horne's drivers last year, won the 1993 championship but is not defending his title in hopes of landing an Indy car ride.
The pro-celebrity race--in which professional racers, media, entertainers and a Toyota dealer compete in equally prepared Celica GT-S Liftbacks--is annually one of the weekend's crowd favorites. Drivers will earn $2,000 each to be donated to "Racing for Kids," a national program that raises funds for children's hospitals.
Clay Regazzoni, winner of the inaugural Long Beach Grand Prix when it was a Formula One race, will drive in a Celica modified with hand controls. Regazzoni was paralyzed in a crash at Long Beach in 1980. Other drivers include: Brian Redman, winner of a Formula 5000 race at Long Beach that preceded the Grand Prix series; Cruz Pedregon, National Hot Rod Assn. funny-car drag racing champion, and Juan Manual Fangio II, the 1991 and '93 Camel GTP champion.
Entertainers include David Alan Grier, Mark Curry, Sean Astin and Alfonso Ribeiro. Also expected to drive are former NFL quarterback Ken Stabler, Raider defensive end Anthony Smith and world jet ski champion Christy Carlson.
Adail Gayhart's brother-in-law paid $28,500 in an auction for a ride in the race and presented it to Gayhart.
Paul Newman will drive a Lotus Esprit in the 30-minute Supercar race, which features exotic sports cars and a four-door BMW sedan driven by David Donohue. Newman is part-owner of the Newman-Haas team that fields cars for Mansell and Mario Andretti.
A 20-minute Exide Electric Grand Prix will feature formula racing machines that are silent, even while running in the 125- to 150-m.p.h. range. Cars will make a mandatory pit stop, which means swapping battery packs.
The weekend will end with the Players Ltd. Toyota Atlantic race, following the Indy car main event. Another Canadian, David Empringham, is defending series champion but faces challenges from Richie Hearn of Arcadia and Greg Ray of Dallas.
INDY CARS--Roger Penske and Mercedes-Benz announced Wednesday in Indianapolis that a newly designed Mercedes-Benz Indy 500 engine developed by Ilmor Engineering of England will be used by Team Penske drivers Emerson Fittipaldi, Paul Tracy and Al Unser Jr. in next month's Indianapolis 500. The engine will meet United States Auto Club rules for the Indy 500 under a new pushrod-operated, two valves-per-cylinder design.
STOCK CARS--Winston Racing Series competition will begin a 22-week run this week at 36 tracks across the country. Included are Saugus Speedway, Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, Cajon Speedway in El Cajon and Las Vegas Speedway. All will run Saturday night. . . . Street stocks and IMCA modifieds headline the Friday night program at Ventura Raceway. . . . After two weeks off, Blythe Speedway will hold its annual Fair Race program Saturday night, featuring round one of the Las Vegas vs. Blythe Challenge. . . . The Kern County Raceway summer series will continue Sunday afternoon at Willow Springs.
SPRINT CARS--Bobby Michnowitz will be the driver to beat in Saturday night's California Racing Assn. main event at Bakersfield Speedway. The Dominguez Hills driver has won the last two races.
MIDGETS--The leading West Coast drivers, including Page Jones, Sleepy Tripp and regional champion Robbie Flock, will be out to stop Indianapolis' Tony Stewart, who has won two consecutive races at Ventura Raceway. This Saturday night's program will again be part of ESPN's Saturday Night Thunder series. The show will start at 5:30 p.m. to accommodate TV, with a three-quarter midget program to follow. The program will feature a "Salute to Frank Kurtis," with a display of Kurtis Kraft midgets, Indy roadsters and sports cars.
MISCELLANY--The six-race sportsman off-road racing series, scheduled for Glen Helen Park in San Bernardino, has been canceled by the sponsoring Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group. . . . The Costa Mesa Speedway will have scratch and handicap speedway motorcycle racing Friday night, plus New Zealand-style sidecars.
Long Beach Grand Prix
* When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
* Where: City streets of Long Beach. Start/Finish line on Shoreline Drive
* Length: 166.95 miles (105 laps)
* Track: 1.59 miles. 8 turns.
* Defending champion: Paul Tracy
* Celebrity Race: Saturday, 2 p.m.