The green flags waved Tuesday as a 60-day countdown started to one the biggest racing events on the West Coast.
Officials gathered at Shoreline Drive and Linden Avenue near what will become Turn 10 of the racetrack in the 39th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19-21.
Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster joined with Papadakis Racing owner Stephen Papadakis and Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President and CEO Jim Michaelian to celebrate the first full day of construction to turn the streets of Long Beach into a 1.97-mile international raceway.
Foster said he loves the race, that it is "one of my favorite weekends in Long Beach."
"We have a great partnership with the Grand Prix Association," he said.
"The event, the races, the weekend is a great thing for the city."
In the coming weeks, crews will spend more than 30,000 hours installing more than 1,400 concrete blocks, three miles of fencing and 16,000 bolted-together tires, along with more than a dozen spectator grandstands, as well as pedestrian bridges and giant vision boards for full-circuit TV coverage.
But this is just the beginning, Dwight Tanaka, director of operations for the Grand Prix Association said.
"Leading up to race weekend, our staff will also install hospitality suites, tents, electrical equipment, phones, porta-johns, trash containers and a hundred other little things up until race weekend," he said.
One new addition to this years race will be night racing in the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge on Friday and Saturday night.
"Along with the six other racing events here in April, this should make for one of the most entertaining weekends in our history," Michaelian said.
Michaelian has been president and CEO for 12 years now, and said that it is just as exciting each and every year.
"We are constantly adding new things," he said. "We will have night racing this year - a full on competition among the 16 best drivers, it will be a blast. And we have the usual concerts and other race events, it will be jam packed with action, fun and excitement, and what makes it exciting is that we get to invited 170,000 of our friends to enjoy the weekend."
The 39th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will featuring the IZOD IndyCar Series, which will feature defending Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay; four-time Series champ Dario Franchitti; defending Long beach winner Will Power; Helio Castroneves; Graham Rahal; Marco Andrettie and Scott Dixon.
The weekend will also include the 37th edition of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Celebrities will be battling professional drivers in the all-new, race-prepared Scion FR-S vehicles.
There will also be the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge, which will be presented under the lights; the Stadium Super Truck Exhibition Race; the Tequila Patron American le Mans Series Race; the Firestone Indy Lights, and the Pirelli World Challenge Championship.
About 175,000 people are expected to attend the three-day event, which in addition to racing, will also feature Tecate Light concerts and the Miss Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pageant.
"The weekend will be full of entertainment, on and off the track," Michaelian said.
All businesses along the race circuit, which includes Shoreline Drive, Aquarium Way and Pine Avenue, will remain open during the race track's construction.
"The race brings two very important things to the city," Foster said.
"First is the massive economic impact - thousands of people coming to the city filling up our hotels and restaurants, and secondly, you get to see Long Beach on TV, which really shows off the new and improved beautiful city of Long Beach."
Tickets are on sale now at the Grand Prix office at 3000 Pacific Ave. Call 888-82-SPEED or go to gplb.com for more information. Ticket prices range from $28 for a Friday General Admission ticket to $130 for a three-day ticket that includes Saturday and Sunday reserved seating in grandstand upper levels.
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