Long Beach roars over Indy Racing League

April 19, 2010
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Maybe California is more prepared to embrace the unified world of open-wheel racing than the birth place of the sport—Indianapolis.

In Indy, emotions over the Indy Racing League-Champ Car split run deep—as do the scars of the battle which traces its roots to 1995.

In Long Beach last weekend it was more an attitude of live and let live. You could almost hear the crowd of 170,000 which streamed into the Shoreline Village and the surrounding waterfront racetrack over the three-day weekend saying in unison, “bygones.”

Not even the $9.75 beers and $8 hot dogs could stifle the jubilation among race-goers.

“We had a hell of a time,” Ed Gomez, a die-hard visiting from Colton, Calif. told the Contra Costa Times. “Awesome race and an awesome weekend.”

The Los Angeles Times called the 36th Long Beach Grand Prix a “marketing megaphone for the city.”

An almost perfect storyline evolved for the IRL with American Ryan Hunter-Reay emerging victorious, and dedicating the victory to his late mother. But Hunter-Reay’s nationality might be a bigger issue in the Heartland than it is on this nation’s Left Coast, where race fans marveled at the international collection of personalities comprising the IRL paddock. The match seemed to fit perfectly for Long Beach, known to locals and visitors as the “International City.”

What wasn’t a perfect match was this: Long Beach’s 13.5 percent unemployment, one of the highest in all California. Home to part of the nation’s busiest seaport complex, the beachfront city was hit hard by the global recession. It saw container traffic at its port drop 22 percent last year. Still, California race fans turned out in solid numbers.

The Indianapolis 500 attendance and its economic impact on the surrounding area still dwarfs the Long Beach Grand Prix. But far too many people stay away, chosing instead to grumble over a past that can't be changed.

Long Beach business owners, meanwhile, were effusive in their praise of the race and series.

“It’s like three New Year’s Eves in a row for us,” Steve Colvin, a longtime bartender at Alegria Cocina Latina, a Mexican food restaurant on Pine Avenue, a short walk from the race, told the L.A. Times.

Long Beach officials estimated the race had a $35 million economic impact on the region.

Even the stars turned out for the race and surrounding events, including rapper JayZ, actors Mark Wahlberg and Keanu Reeves and extreme sports star Tony Hawk to name a few.

The Hollywood stars and sun-tanned Californians don’t know Tony George from his mother and three sisters. They only want to see fast cars and the people who pilot them at break-neck speeds. And that probably has a lot to do with the acceptance of the sport in Long Beach.

And it shows in the way the drivers are embraced. No one got more attention last weekend from Californians—long known for their love of the hot rod car culture—than Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick. Hunter-Reay, a California boy, also was roundly supported.

So the fourth IndyCar race is in the books. Now back to the Midwest, where the IRL paddock will tee it up for the RoadRunner Turbo Indy 300 in Kansas City May 1.

The Indianapolis 500 follows May 30. Back-to-back ABC broadcasts capped off by the granddaddy of all open-wheel races should give series officials lots to anticipate.

Coming off the glowing reviews in Long Beach, it should be a glorious month of May for a series in need of a boost.

But there are still lots of big questions for this series.

The biggest among them may be this; Are the Midwest legions who made IndyCar open-wheel racing the most popular racing in the U.S. and a rival of Formula One two decades ago ready to forgive and forget?

Or will the live-and-let-live sentiment die as the series travels from west to east?

  • Never
    Congrats to the IRL for a successful weekend. But, 170,000 over 3 days? That race and this sport has not recovered from what was done to it by the leaders of the IMS. Those numbers are absurd...grandstands have been downsized and removed, you need to compare it with Long Beach in it's heyday....it was BIGGER and WAY BETTER. Using your analysis in the heyday they musta had 250,000 attendees.

    Toronto, 170,000 strong in it's heyday was reduced to 17,000 all WEEKEND for the first IRL event last year. TV ratings again will dictate what happens in the future...so far a 0.6, 0.4 and a 0.4 for the season. Maybe Long Beach will indeed eclipse a 0.6...we'll see. That 10 year VERSUS contract is golden.

    When the IMS / IRL take responsibility for the hypocrisy they spew THEN both sides can once again be ONE. Until then, NEVER.
  • Long Beach is a poor barometer.
    The LBGP is a So Cal festival party. IT comes at a time when the first real nice Spring weather hits and everyone wants to get out and grab some sunshine, a beer, look at the babes, and get their party on. They can do that anywhere in So Cal but an event is an event. And Long Beach is an event. Racing is just the backdrop. Most people milling around there wouldn't no Ryan Hunter-Reay from Ryan Briscoe from Ryan O'Neal. They could care less who is in the race. You could replace the names of the Indy Car Series starting lineup yesterday with the names of the NASCAR West Series and very few would ven notice or care. It is a party event. T
  • Izod Indycar Series
    99.9% of Americans didn't know it took place
    Some success. I hope Anthony doesn't believe that 170K number
  • Event fan vs. Race fan?
    It was the IRL and it's fans who DENOUNCED street racing yet now they lap it up like a kitten laps up milk? Why?

    Why is the IRL racing at Kansas on a SATURDAY afternoon? Hmmm....because the NASCAR CampWorld Truck Series is the headliner. ISC won't do tix extortion packs for the IRL anymore so this way they force NASCAR fans to STAY the whole weekend and tempt them to watch the IRL series with hanfgovers. NICE marketing touch!
  • Like robins returning in the spring, nothing brings the haters out like a favorable IRL article.
  • Strett race lover
    Iman loves IRL on street and road courses!

    What did it for ya Iman? I mean, what turned you against CART and Champcar only to embrace the IRL TODAY which is all CART and CHampcar-like without the CART and CHampcar?

    And folks wonder why there's a rift between fans and the management? Hypocrisy, Iman rolling in it...and so is IMS.
  • We're Not in Kansas Anymore
    Well, not next year anyhow. There are in Kansas one last ugly time. This event has been added to the kill list. Saturday race. Friday quals may be closed to the public. A third-tier NASCAR series as the headliner on Sunday. Maybe they IRL should tack onto that Chicago/Doobie Brothers Tour, you know open for them or something.
  • CA loved CART
    We Californian's had a love affair with CART, Long Beach, Laguna and Fontana were great events (Fontana's attendance after GM accident was bad but). But this guy is right, we love racing and we miss those heady days of multiple turbo engines, new chassis' and endless possibilties. The IRL may not be the series I cheered for, but I've attended the LBGP the last 25 years and I'm not gonna stop now. I will support the ICS because I love racing and it is obvious that the model for the new ICS is more like CART than the original Irl.
  • A few Californians
    99 percent of California residents could careless about AAA/USAC/CART/Champ Whatever/OWRS or the IRL. 98 percent of them have never heard of any of those. Drop the Cartisan politics. Love affair, good lord. Californians's have a love affair with a party, especially a free party, such as the free Marlboro tickets I got each year with thousands of others at Fontana CART races who saw a good opportunity for a beer and free Marlboro swag they could then turn at the flea market down the road in Chino. Greg Moore? I can't tell yuou how many people ask who that was when I tell them about that crash. I was there. Greg who? Oh, that is sad. Racing is so barbaric. Oh, I thought it was Earnhardt who got killed? Wasn't CART something that had to do with the Indy 500?

    Niche sport. Barely that. Gone in two years.

    Long Beach is going to be an SCCA race.
  • 2+2 = what?
    I watched the ALMS race on SPEED. Looked like the stands were about 75% empty in the overhead shots.
    And while I refuse watch the IRL, The SPEED Report showed some overhead shots that looked like the stands were about 40% empty. So I wonder where everyone was if they had the attendance they claim??? They sure weren't watching the race anyway.

  • Stay away
    It's been 20 years...please continue to stay away and move on with your lives. It's not healthy. :-)

    Bernard has the right ideas and he is looking for some new fans and bringing back the fans who care to come back. If you don't move on. See ya. Enjoy the rest of your lives.

    The Indy 500 will be around forever and it must be killing you that new people are starting to follow the sport. Like you stated LB fan's don't know if they are champ cars or Nascar...they know they are INDY cars.

    Champ Car died and nobody cared. The IRL could have died and nobody would have cared either. Nobody won.You must be one of the pathetic 39 people who are on "Crapwagon.Com" living out your miserable life hoping that things are just going to go back to the days of Andrew Craig..again too funny.

    Come to the race, I will buy you a beer. I will be on Georgetown Rd three sheets to the wind wondering what the hell the fuss was all about and having a great time with Indy car fans (You can bet there will be some of your Champ Car buddies there with me too!)

  • They just can't take any good news about the IRL. I guess they realize it delays their predictions of doom and gloom.

    I ma not a fan or road courses or street races. If I ran the IRL it would be all American ovals. But I also understand that those in charge feel bringing in former cart fans is important. I just hope they do not kill the vision recreating cart for those few cart fans who are still around.

    Again the IRL is still closer to the vision then cart was. Still ovals, still American drivers, still a chance for underfunded teams to compete.
  • Really?
    Iman, you REALLY feel the IRL management is extending the olive branch to former CART fans? HOW? By turning your beloved OVAL series into some diversity based rehash spec series?

    Let me tell you what (and IMS management too): YOU'RE GOING ABOUT IT ALL WRONG. You left us (fans on BOTH sides of the split) HIGH AND DRY, with not even a shed of remorse. You turned your back on the IRL's vision, you have shuttered even the very mention of CART/Champcar (and it's importance to this sports history). You parade on like NOTHING EVER HAPPENED.

    It's that indignant behavior by the Speedway, like a battle was never waged though the ruins lay in it's wake and human losses not even acknowledged....that's what burns in the memory of the people who supported this sport from the 1960's onward.

    Just labeling the same crap cars with a marketing blitz complete with street races and the same drivers who once rallied against the IRL....well, they (the Speedway) is woefully mistaken.

    But there is no joy in Mudville(Indy) â?? mighty Casey(IRL) has struck out.

    -Absolve the moniker IRL, appeal to the fans and take responsibility for the damage the creation of the IRL caused.

    -Start CELEBRATING CART/ChampCar as part of the past, just like the formative years of the IRL are important too.

    -Absolve the IRL moniker and any branding associated with it.

    -Unload that back-breaking car..ugly, slow and un-appealing..also sez "IRL" anytime it appears.

    And for all that YOU WILL have fans that feel that their contributions to this sport were and ARE respected. If not....let it all rot away. Capiche? I know, it's a language the management can't and won't speak....but they're actions know what I'm saying.
  • no crowd
    I wonder what crowd they are talking about. Free Friday was the only day there was a crowd Saturday and especially Sunday were probably the worst days ever for the race. Iwas there Friday and Saturday and even the folks at Shoreline Village were saying the same thing. They count on this weekend and it was not very good.
  • tired
    Boy, the talk is tiring. "The crowd was not as big as it was 10 years ago"...."My daddy makes more money than your daddy".

    Champcar is not coming back and you should not come back either. Move on, cya...later...don't let the door hit you.

    Go enjoy the next Champcar race....err..oh wait. Sorry
  • See...
    See...tuck's response is how IMS/IRL embraces the All AOW Oval fans left out by the IRL's plunge into CARTocrisy...and it's also how the CART fans who helped built this sport too feel when the IMS deliberately refuses to acknowledge CART/ChampCar accomplishments as part of the series history.

    See....that's how they are treating the fans...acting like nothing ever happened the past 15 years. tuck's response is a PERFECT example.
  • Would you like some cheese with that?
    In spite of the responses from the simple minded masses with their blinders firmly attached, this was a good article. Well done.
  • Start celebrating cart because it almost killed ow? I mean you admit that cart killed itself. Therefore if not for the IRL, there would be no open wheel racing. I go to the IMS museum, and they have not wiped the record books, they have not removed the cart faces from the Borg Warner.

    Why do you think the IRL has added street races and road races? Because they hope to draw in some cart fans. To a point it has worked, Long Beach is an example.

    If you want to tell someone how to run a race series, where were you when cart was killing itself? Why don't you start your own series if you think you know how. Risk your own money, That is something cart did not even do.
  • Indyman...
    You are prime example of why the sport will never heal. Turning potential fans away is a great strategy...
  • Nice attempt to steer the conversation away from what I actually said. Reread and try again. You claim that Indy has turned its back on cart. I have yet to see any proof.

    I mean wasn't it you that said that the IRL is becoming cart? so how is it becoming cart yet ignoring it? Please discuss amongst yourself and explain.
  • Your auto-lobotomy
    I steer away from NOTHING. Your continued amnesia is exactly what the IRL practices and why the sport will NEVER heal. NEVER.

    If you REALLY wanted healing you'd make the effort. You don't and neither will the offended sides. The IRL created this mess...keep reveling in your control.
  • I am starting to woner if you are either a little schizo or just can't remember what you typed. On one hand you say the IRL refuses to recognize cart and its accomplishments, on the other you say the IRL is cart-lite. Which is it? Show us where the IRL has tried to hide the accomplishments of cart
  • Never
    Sweet....move on. You're not our demographic anyway. See ya, and have a good, healthly, long and prosperous life. God Speed.
  • Iman
    Wow, I see comprehension is not one of your strong suits.

    Thanks tuck...I will.
  • Although I do not believe he will, thanks for the suggestion Tuck. It would be good if Chief got over it and got on with his life. He spends way too much time complaining about things he does not care about.
  • $644 MIllion and COUNTING
    I'm over it Indyman. Grand Prix is on TCM tonite....keep praying for uphill waters, hilljacks.
  • Good for you. I am glad to have helped you through your depression and hatred of losing your series. I wish you well.
  • TCM???
    Damn...Indy Car lost another of the coveted 70+ demographic. I hope Bernard addresses that. Oh well...Indy Car loss is MCL Cafeteria's gain.

  • TUCK!
    It's ALL YOU CAN EAT FISH FRY DAY at MCL's! What time you rolling in?

    Now, here's a free idea for the speedway....the great TWO weeks of Indy should have MCL's FISH FRY FRIDAY, every FRIDAY at the speedway. This would get demographics never before seen at the sppedway. Toss in Ludacris for a warm up band for Jim Nabors "Sings Gomers Favorites" and you got the makings of a great party! Tuck, you can be master of ceremonies! Get yer Fish Fry Friday.....better than FAST FRIDAY, because, well, the IRL has them cars that don't go fast anymore and Penske and Ganassi win all the time anyway.
  • Izod Indycar Series
    where were those 170K hiding?

    where were those 75k? hiding under the bleachers again..sheesh






  • WOW?
    I've seen with my own eyes pictures and videos comparing CART races at Long Beach and the IRL's folly. WOW....

    Someone's lying and it ain't Burl.

    Remember when Racer magazine Photoshopped the ILR fans into the stands at NAZARETH? I have them FAKE IRL fans in the stands pics. IRL FAKES EVERYTHING.
  • No photoshop here...
    INDYMAN... I can provide links if you want me to expose the IRL's past follys...if it fits your adgenda....

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