Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Unser Jr., Rahal, Long Beach Motorsports Walk Of Fame – ‘Nuff Said

2008 LONG BEACH MOTORSPORTS WALK OF FAME induction ceremony - Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones and Gary Gabelich were the honorees. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (The EDJE) 2008

Unser Jr., Rahal, Long Beach Motorsports Walk Of Fame – ‘Nuff Said

The previous honorees to have a custom medallion honoring their motorsports achievements ... laid in a concrete strip running North to South along Pine Avenue, in front of the West facing Long Beach Convention Center ... all had a connection to the event of the Long Beach Grand Prix, lived and worked out of Southern California, and/or had broad motorsports careers of great achievement and success.

Phil Hill (left) and Jackie Stewart at the 1991 United States Grand Prix. Image Credit: Stuart Seeger

The first inductees of Phil Hill, the first American Formula 1 champion in 1961 and was raised in Santa Monica, California, where he lived until his death August 28, 2008, and Dan Gurney who also made most of his fame in Formula 1 (86 Grand Prix starts ranks third, and his total of four GP wins is second only to Mario Andretti) and team owner from Riverside, came in 2006.

The Andy Granatelli STP Special Gas-Turbine car driven by Parnelli Jones in 1967, on display at the Indianapolis 500 Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. Image Credit: The359 (2007)

2007 Walk of Fame Inductees saw Brian Redman the first winner of the LBGP in 1975 with the one-time Formula 500 series event (a feeder series to Formula 1), Chris Pook the innovator of the modern day temporary circuit and creator of the 34, going on 35 year LBGP event, and Newman/Haas Racing Team owners - Paul Newman and Carl Haas who as team owners delivered a car and driver combination that won the LBGP a record six times (three wins with Mario Andretti / three wins with Sebastian Bourdais).

Walk of Fame Inductees for 2008 included Mario Andretti, a four time winner of the LBGP and the only driver to have repeat wins while driving in different open wheel sanctioning series (1977 with Formula 1 and beginning in 1984 in the inaugural CART/ChampCar World Series race).

The Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame medallions include renditions of the racers' cars and their major achievements in motorsports. 2008 inductee Mario Andretti's medallion above. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (The EDJE) 2008

Life long resident of Torrance, California, racing legend Parnelli Jones won races in many types of vehicles: sports cars, IndyCars, sprint cars, midget cars, off-road vehicles, and stock cars. With the sanctioning take over of the race by IndyCar in the merger, Parnelli was a key inductee in that he is most remembered for being the first driver to qualify over 150 mph at the Indianapolis 500, winning the pole position at a speed of 150.370 mph in 1962, his 1963 Indianapolis 500 win, and almost winning the 1967 Indy 500 in an Andy Granatelli STP sponsored turbine car. The third inductee for 2008 was Gary Gabelich who was honored posthumously (August 29, 1940January 26, 1984) by the City of Long Beach. Gary, a resident of Bixby Knolls, set the land speed record with his rocket-powered vehicle "Blue Flame" on October 23, 1970, achieving an average speed of 622.287 mph (1,001.474 km/h).

Al Unser, Jr. and Bobby Rahal represent drivers (and car owners) from a more current era. These guys could almost hop in a Dallara IndyCar right now and be competitive on the track through the 11 turns and two speed sections that make Long Beach the challenge that has set the standard for temporary street circuits. After all, this would be the first time the Dallara will be racing in the streets of Long Beach, but these inductees have owned the track a time or two during the heyday of their driving careers.

1991 Long Beach Grand Prix podium left to right with Eddie Cheever 3rd, Al Unser, Jr. 1st, and Bobby Rahal 2nd. Image Credit:

This excerpted and edited from –


"I'm delighted that we will add two more racing legends to the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame," said Mayor Bob Foster, who will be presenting the medallions to the honorees.
"This year's inductees represent not only great drivers, but individuals that have contributed much to the success of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach over the years," said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. "That's why 'Little Al' is known as the 'King of the Beach' and Bobby has achieved great success at Long Beach not only on the track but also as an owner."

Al Unser Jr. followed in the footsteps of his father and an uncle (Bobby) to become repeat champion at Indianapolis, winning the '500' in 1992 and 1994. Champion of the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series in 1990 and 1994, Unser won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach an incredible six times: 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994 and 1995 and, overall, took the checkered flag in 31 events between 1984 and 1995. Unser won the 24 Hours of Daytona at age 24, is a two-time IROC champion and the youngest IROC champion ever. In 1994 he dominated the CART open-wheel racing season winning eight of 16 races and was named ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year. Unser will be competing in this year's Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, Saturday, April 18, having won the world-famous event in 1985.

Bobby Rahal is one of a select group of individuals who have won the Indianapolis 500 as a driver (1986) and an owner (2004). Between 1982 and 1992, Rahal won 24 races and captured the CART season title in 1986, 1987 and 1992. He won on ovals, road courses and competed in Formula One and NASCAR events. Rahal won championships driving sports cars, winning several SCCA titles and shared the winning car in the 24 Hours of Daytona (1981) and the 12 Hours of Sebring (1987). He made 15 starts at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, finishing second four times. In 1996 he formed Rahal Letterman Racing, with David Letterman as a minority owner.
Reference Here>>

The 4th annual induction ceremony for the Long Beach Motorsports Walk Of Fame, and the first one held with the full field of IndyCar Series teams and drivers ready to take it to the streets of Long Beach, is April 16 during Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Week.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m. at the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, located on the Eastside of South Pine Avenue right in front of the Long Beach Convention Center.

… notes From The EDJE

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