LONG BEACH, California – The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is annually one of the biggest Verizon IndyCar Series races on the schedule. Today, it attracted some of Tinseltown’s big stars and a few celebrity out-of-towners, too.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman took Honda’s Fastest Seat in Sports thrill ride, speeding around the 11 turns of the 1.986-mile temporary street course ahead of the start of the 21-car field of Indy cars to start the race. Edelman, whose jaw-dropping, fourth-quarter reception in Super Bowl LI is already legendary, was the passenger in the custom, two-seat Indy car driven by someone else familiar with legends, racing icon Mario Andretti.
“Holy smokes, that was awesome!” said Edelman (shown at left above with University of Southern California football coach and race grand marshal Clay Helton in Alexander Rossi's garage area before the race). “It was fun, I had a blast. I want to go start racing now. I think I chose the wrong sport! No, but it was fun.
“You definitely feel those Gs and you feel the acceleration of that thing. You see how close they get to the walls. A couple times they get about 5 or 6 inches away from (the wall) and the skill that they have to have to be able to do that is unreal. Your appreciation for this goes to a whole new level. I’m speechless.”
Celebrity seekers who were looking in INDYCAR drivers’ pits and garages before and during the race got what they were looking for.
Actress and model Chloe Grace Moretz (shown below with Mario Andretti), known for “Carrie” and “Let Me In,” was spotted with Conor Daly’s AJ Foyt Racing team. Tory Belleci of “MythBusters” and “White Rabbit Project,” DJ MAKJ, YouTube personality iJustine, Walk the Moon bassist Kevin Ray and television producer/writer Andrea Feczko also visited the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet driver’s pit.
Comedian Jeff Ross and Bridget Marquardt, known as one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends on “The Girls Next Door,” were among Marco Andretti’s fans. Marquardt brought her fiancé, Nick Carpenter. “Vampire Diaries” actress Nina Dobrev was also spotted around Andretti’s No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda.
James Hinchcliffe’s celebrity fans included friends the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver made during his runner-up stint last year on Season 23 of “Dancing with the Stars.” Terra Jolé, known for “Little Woman: LA,” took a morning ride with Mario Andretti in the two-seat Indy car. After the ride, Jole said she has always been too short to ride on roller coasters, so “this was my best roller coaster ride ever! I loved it.”
Pierson Fode, star of “The Bold and the Beautiful” and singer/songwriter Leona Lewis (shown above right with Hinchcliffe) also visited with Hinchcliffe.
Mickey Mouse, star of Disney’s “Mickey and the Roadster Racers” waved the green flag to start the race.
Earlier in the weekend, “Dancing with the Stars” professional Sharna Burgess visited with Hinchcliffe, her dance partner for Season 23 of the ABC hit show, and NFL analyst Rich Eisen took a two-seater ride with Mario Andretti.