Each spring, a select group of Hollywood's elite heads to Long Beach, Calif., to train and compete against each other and professionals in the annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Celebrities will zoom around a 1.97-mile track in race-ready Scion tCs through the streets of downtown Long Beach April 16. The event, in its 35th year, is the largest, longest-running corporate-sponsored celebrity racing event in the world.
Close to 550 celebrities, such as Keanu Reeves, Adrien Brody, Cameron Diaz, Ashley Judd, Patrick Dempsey, Donny Osmond, Jay Leno, George Lucas and Queen Latifah, have taken time away from sets, stages and studios over the years to fill a new role: race-car driver. The stars receive extensive training in order to suit up on race day as certified drivers. Oscar-winners and prime-time heroes set stardom aside for a few days to chase a different dream - a need for speed.
"Win or lose, this race thrills celebrities and pro drivers alike, because it offers the high-speed challenge of real racing, combined with a worthwhile charitable endeavor," says Les Unger, national motorsports manager at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.
Some of the star drivers are already racing enthusiasts, while some have never accelerated faster than the speed limit. What they have in common is their passion to do good - both for their own charity of choice and the charity that the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race supports: Racing for Kids, a national organization that benefits children's hospitals in Southern California. Toyota donates $5,000 on behalf of each driver to Racing for Kids and $5,000 more to the winner's charity of choice. And every year since the event's inception in 1977, the participating celebrities make a visit to a children's hospital to spend time with some of the ill and recovering kids who benefit from the $1.9 million that has been donated over the years by Toyota.
Dr. William Pinsky, a New Orleans-based pediatric cardiologist, founded Racing for Kids in the late 1980s as a way to connect sick children with their favorite race-car drivers, and in this case, stars. "I used to race cars, but I wasn't any good at it, so I decided to combine two of the things I loved most," says Pinsky, who visited Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach with last year's racers.
That same passion makes the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race a must for the celebrity drivers. "I love getting to do events like this where you meet people you've looked up to, and you do things you don't normally get a chance to do," says 2010's winning celebrity driver Brian Austin Green. "And in this event we did it for charity; it benefited the children's hospital in Long Beach and in Orange County, Calif.; it was amazing."
To learn more about the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, one of six main-event attractions taking place during the 37th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, in California, go to www.toyotaracing.com. Find out more about which stars speed to the finish line to help children in need and pick your favorite choice for who will win this year!