A runaway and a steal in Toyota Pro/Celebrity race
Alfonso Ribeiro takes overall and Pro victory, Pasant takes out leader to win Celebrity class
The 39th Annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity charity race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach was a runaway and a steal – “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” actor Alphonso Ribeiro won overall as a Pro Class driver, due to his past win of the event.
And in the Celebrity division, Dave Pasant, a wealthy entrepreneur who got an entry into the race by, for the sixth time, outbidding others for the seat, won that race and finished second overall.
At least that is what the record will show – “Young and the Restless” actor Joshua Morrow, who qualified fastest among the celebs and led the entire races, was taken out on the last turn of the 10-lap race by Pasant, who dove under Morrow in the hairpin, spun him out, and drove to the checkered flag. Morrow ended up 10th.
In the post-race press conference, Pasant said he was sorry the race ended that way -- he said he did not intend to take out Morrow, "and if I had it to do over again, I probably would be happy and proud with second place. It's so unfortunate it happened that way. Josh is a great driver and I have a lot of respect for him."
Ribeiro, in his third race here, turned in an amazing performance, driving from the rear to take the overall lead before lap 5. The Pro drivers are supposed to start 30 seconds behind the Celebrities, but they group of five – Ribeiro, Dara Torres, Rutledge Wood (in photo above from a previous race), Antron Brown and Brett Davern – sped up early and were only 16 seconds instead of 30 behind the Celebreties at the green flag, waved by Motley Crue’s Vince Neil, who will give a concert later today.
Ribeiro, who first came here to race 21 years ago, went on to some professional racing in karts, the Pro Mazda and Skip Barber series. His wife is expecting any day, and he thanked her for allowing him to race again. Ribeiro won "Dancing with the Stars" last year, and holding up the trophy for the race, he said, "This is as good as the mirrored ball," which is the "Dancing" trophy.
Willie Gault takes a hit
There were no major crashes, but there were some damaging ones – actor Mekhi Phifer crashed twice, but former NFL player Willie Gault hit the tire barrier head-on, and was collected by drag racer Antron Brown, ending his charge toward the front.
Spanish actor Raul Mendez started second to Morrow in the Celebrity field, but was passed late by Pasant on his way to crashing leader Morrow out of the lead. Mendez finished eighth. Second overall was actor Nathan Kress. Last year's Celebrity winner Brett Davern was sixth.
Toyota has donated more than $2 million on behalf of the race to children's hospitals since 1991.
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