This wasn’t racing, it was celebrity bumper cars.
From the very seconds after the green flag dropped on the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach, the cars were bumping and riding each other worse than any NASCAR race in recent years. The celebrities were driving these souped-up Toyota Scions like they could just walk away from them at the end of the day.
When it was all over Brian Austin Green finished first among the celebrities, running some impressive laps and staying out of the accidents and debris that littered the track around him. Adrien Brody was right with him on the last lap until Brody’s tires caught a little oil patch on the course and he slid out wide and his chances of winning went with them.
“The oil spread on the course looks like all the rubber from the tires in the other races,” Brody said.
That oil came from the crash of the day (which was quite a feat for this group).
Turns out Long Beach’s Shoreline Drive was not Dream Street for Jesse McCartney. Midway through the race the singer and actor came in too fast to turn one and slid in a protective tire barrier, then bounced back on to the edge of the course.
Five seconds later Chris Ashworth — a Toyota dealer — came through and T-boned him. Just full speed into the passenger side door in the kind of accident usually reserved for the Fast and the Furious franchise. It had the crowd gasping — then watching the 12 replays they showed of it on the big screens around the course. It was impossible not to rubberneck that one.
Good news — nobody was hurt. McCartney said he saw the accident coming a couple seconds before and was able to tighten his seat belt harness a little more before it went down. Ashworth’s car literally was on fire for a while. They got their money worth out of that accident.
The overall winner of the pro-celebrity race was a pro, Jimmy Vasser. Which is barely fair, the Canoga Park native is a legendary racer and current IndyCar race-team owner who won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in 1996 in the Sunday main event. He’s a pro’s pro.
But on the restart after a yellow flag, Green drove like a pro himself, holding off Adrien Brody in the first turn, then latter holding off Vasser through the second half of the course. But he could only do that for so long.
The other big accident was skateboarder Tony Hawk, who got pushed into the wall by Jerry Westlund (a local businessman who bought his way into the race, with all proceeds going to Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach). Hawk just got rubbed out into the wall.
It was just part of celebrity bumper cars, as Levi explained, but it was clear everyone was having fun. Even when Levi lost the pole.
“(Brody jumped past him) I knew I was giving up pole position right then,” Levi said. “I started to squeeze in and make the line for turn one and apparently (Adam) Corolla was in my blind spot so I started touching him… but in a very manly way, as only a race car driver can.”
Race car driver, bumper car driver. Whatever. For one day it was the same thing.