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LONG BEACH GRAND PRIX NOTES : Ribeiro Repeats in Celebrity Run

TIMES ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

Alfonso Ribeiro had such a good time winning the pro-celebrity race last year at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach that he relived the experience Saturday.

This time, though, he made it look easy.

“They put me in the back (of the celebrity field) to make it even,” said a grinning Ribeiro, who plays the preppy Carlton Banks on the television sit-com “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” “But I guess it wasn’t.”

Ribeiro and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, another TV actor who raced here last year, qualified first and second among the celebs but started from the rear because of their experience edge.

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Ribeiro passed much of the field on the long front straightaway after the green flag dropped, moved into the lead on the third lap, when front-runners Matt LeBlanc of “Friends” and Jason Priestly of “Beverly Hills 90210" tangled in a turn, then ran well ahead of the carnage the rest of the field was inflicting on itself.

“It definitely was more fun this time,” said Ribeiro, who averaged 66.799 m.p.h. “I was very lucky I got a great jump. I knew I could get a few cars on the start and my plan after that was to stay in (the race) and stay clean. I saw the (LeBlanc-Priestly) crash . . . and when I saw that opening, I just took it. If they let me back next year, I’ll definitely be in the pro division.”

Glenn Quinn of “Roseanne” was running a distant second when a yellow flag closed the field at the finish, sportscaster Steve Hartman was third, and rally driver-Pikes Peak winner Rod Millen was the pro winner, finishing fifth overall.

All drivers raced similarly prepared Toyota Celicas, the pros starting 30 seconds behind the celebrities in the 10-lap event over the 1.59 mile street course.

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“Starting 30 back, that’s too far,” Millen said. “These guys are getting too good.”

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Pole sitter Sean Roe of Jacksonville, Fla., led all the way in winning the Bridgestone Supercar race for sports sedans. Roe, who posted the first victory of his pro career in the series season opener at Sebring, Fla., last month, made it two in a row.

Roe, driving a Corvette, out-raced Shawn Hendricks of Pickens, S.C., who finished second in a BMW M-5, and Peter Farrell of Manassas, Va., who was third in a Mazda RX-7.

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Roe averaged 80.377 m.p.h in the 26-lap race.

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If Michael Andretti’s performance today is as impressive as the rest of his weekend has been, he will become a two-time winner of the Long Beach Grand Prix.

He was the fastest driver in every practice and qualifying session, and he broke the track record eight times in becoming the first driver here to exceed 109 m.p.h. in qualifying.

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The 1986 winner--it was his first Indy car victory--earned the 30th pole of his career with a qualifying speed of 109.066.

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A number of veteran Indy car drivers are not here this year, among them Scott Goodyear, Arie Luyendyk, Roberto Guerrero and Michael Andretti’s cousin, John.

John Andretti is driving stock cars this season in NASCAR. Luyendyk, the 1990 Indianapolis 500 winner, drove last week at Phoenix, and Goodyear, who finished second at Indy in ’92, has a ride with Honda for Indianapolis, but neither has a full-time ride this season. Guerrero drove his first race this season at Phoenix and also is looking for a full-time ride.

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Back, after a year’s absence, are Danny Sullivan and Eddie Cheever. Sullivan is driving a Reynard-Ford Cosworth this season for PacWest, and Cheever is driving A.J. Foyt’s Lola-Cosworth.


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