Shelly Anderson, the world's fastest woman race driver, has spent most of her career learning to keep her top fuel dragster headed in a straight line at 300 m.p.h.
Saturday, in the pro-celebrity portion of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend, she will try something new--turning left and turning right at speeds closer to 65 m.p.h.
The 29-year-old Cal State Fullerton graduate set a National Hot Rod Assn. elapsed-time record of 4.718 seconds in winning $50,000 in the Budweiser Classic last October during the Winston Select Finals at Pomona. After four events this season, she is eighth in top fuel standings.
"I'm really looking forward to it, but I don't know what to expect," she said after her third day of practice on the road course at Willow Springs Raceway. "It was like learning to drive all over again. I never had any thoughts of driving anything but a dragster, so it's all new to me."
Anderson and a dozen others, mostly TV personalities, will drive Toyota Celica GT Liftbacks in a 10-lap race over the same 1.59-mile circuit that the Indy cars will compete on Sunday.
She will miss the Winston Select Invitational, a non-points race this weekend, at Rockingham, N.C., to race at Long Beach.
She is not the first drag racer to drive in the Toyota pro-celebrity event. Former world champion Joe Amato, who raced sports cars before becoming a full-time drag racer, won the celebrity division in 1992. John Force, Cruz Pedregon, Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen also drove in earlier races.
"After Joe won, they changed the rules and now I have to run as a pro driver against guys like Rod Millen," Anderson said. Millen won the Pikes Peak hill climb last year and is a three-time Grand National truck champion in Mickey Thompson stadium off-road racing.
Celebrities entered include defending champion Alfonso Ribeiro of "Fresh Prince of Bel Air;" Jason Priestley of "Beverly Hills, 90210;" Grant Show of "Melrose Place;" Matt LeBlanc of "Friends;" and actresses Cameron Diaz of "The Mask," and Helene Udy of "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman."
Also on Saturday will be a 30-minute sprint race for Bridgestone Supercars, the second of a 10-race International Motor Sports Assn. series. Favorites include Sean Roe of Jacksonville, Fla., winner of the season opener at Sebring, and Randy Pobst of Melbourne, Fla., who is driving a BMW for Ed Arnold Racing. David Donohue, last year's Long Beach and series winner, drove for Arnold, but this year has moved up to the Exxon Supreme GT series.
On Sunday, in addition to the Toyota Grand Prix Indy car main event, there will be a 75-mile race for Firestone Indy Lights and 60-mile race for Toyota Atlantic cars.
The Indy Lights series is the proving ground for future Indy car drivers. Former Indy Lights champions in Sunday's main event include Paul Tracy, Bryan Herta and Eric Batchelart.
The Toyota Atlantic race will feature defending champion David Empringham of Canada and three local drivers, Richie Hearn of Arcadia, Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach and Zak Brown of North Hollywood. Hearn won last year at Long Beach and was second to Empringham last week in Phoenix. Auberlen finished second at Miami but crashed in Phoenix.
Brown, who has raced most of his career in Europe, will be making his first appearance on his hometown track.
SPEEDWAY BIKES--National and former world champion Sam Ermolenko will ride Friday night in the Coors Light Challenge, opening event of the 1995 season at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. Facing Ermolenko will be a full field of Southern California riders, including Brad Oxley, Bobby Schwartz and Robert Pfetzing.
OFF ROAD--Citing lack of sponsorship and a dwindling entry, the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group has canceled the remainder of its stadium series, involving events in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver and Salt Lake City. Danny Thompson, MTEG president, said his organization will continue to produce U.S. Supercross events and took a look at returning to stadium racing next year.
STOCK CARS--The Coors 100 NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour will return to Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield Saturday night for a 100-lap feature. . . . Ventura Raceway will open its street stock and IMCA modified season Friday night. . . . IMCA cars will also run Sunday at Sunrise Valley Raceway in Adelanto. . . . Saugus Speedway will feature super late models, street stocks and Figure 8s Saturday night.
MIDGETS--U.S. Auto Club midgets and Western States three-quarter midgets will share the track Saturday night at Ventura Raceway.
SUPERTRUCKS--NASCAR's newest division, SuperTrucks, will race Saturday at Tucson Raceway Park, and the following Saturday night at Saugus Speedway. With a purse of $150,000 for a 67-mile race, it will be the richest race in the 50-year history of the Saugus track. Entries include Indy car drivers Pancho Carter and Stan Fox, former NFL coach Jerry Glanville and Winston Cup drivers Geoff Bodine and Ken Schrader.
NECROLOGY--Edgar Elder, longtime midget racer and Indy car chief mechanic for Elmer George, Ray Crawford and Chuck Stevenson, died Friday of heart failure at his home in El Monte. Elder, 71, is survived by his wife Gerry, daughters Sherri Weir and Tamra McGarry, son Eddie and seven grandchildren.