1986 Dan Gurney* Perry King The Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race was an annual 10-lap auto race held each April since 1977 until 2016 as part of the United States Grand Prix West, and later the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend at Long Beach, California. Beginning in 1991, the event raised money for “Racing for Kids,” a national fund-raising program benefiting children’s hospitals in Long Beach and Orange County.
The TPCR pitted celebrities against professional racers from various types of motor racing. They raced in identically prepared cars built by Toyota or Toyota owned Scion. From its inception until 2005, the drivers drove showroom stock Toyota Celicas. Scion tCs were used from 2006 to 2012, and the Scion FR-S began use in 2013. Celebrity contestants ranged from Hollywood’s “A-list” elite, budding young stars and starlets, professional sports figures, local Southern California television and radio personalities and selected Toyota dealers. One seat was put up for auction, the high bidder for which also participated in the race. Often, a member of the broadcast team for the feature race would race in the event; Ken Squier, Paul Page, Jack Arute, and Jamie Little (the 2008 winner) have all participated in the race while broadcasting the feature.
All celebrities were given thorough practice, safety, and training sessions before competing, and no serious injuries occurred, despite a large number of crashes throughout the years. Several celebrities who have taken part in the TPCR have gone on to take up auto racing as a part-time hobby or as team owners.
The celebrities received a 30-second head start to begin the race against the professionals and past champions. In 2015, actor Alfonso Ribeiro won while classed as a pro (thus starting with a 30-second handicap) and thereby became the third driver to have won the event in both “celebrity” and “pro” classifications, after Adam Carolla in 2013 and Sean Patrick Flanery in 1997/1998.
On March 11, 2016 it was announced that the 2016 running of the event would be the final event due to Toyota moving its headquarters from nearby Torrance to Texas.