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Michaelian is revved up for the Grand Prix
Jim Michaelian is breathless in anticipation of this city's highest profile event in which more than 150,000 patrons are expected to show up next weekend for the carnival of car-racing, beer-guzzling, food-gorging people-watching, expo-enlightening frolic known as the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"It's going to be better than ever, I tell you!" beams Michaelian, the Grand Prix boss. "There are just so many story lines! This is Champ Car's last race. What history! And then we have the youngest driver ever to win an IRL race, Graham Rahal, who finished on top at St. Petersburg last Sunday, trying to make it two in a row.

"And in the Speed World Challenge GT, we have a father, Mike Davis, who owns Applied Computer Solutions out in Orange County, racing against his son Brandon. The classic father versus son duel.

And in the Formula Atlantic, we'll have the two sons of one-time Formula One and Champ Car champion, Nigel Mansell, Greg and Leo, competing..."

Jim Michaelian is a spry, 65-year-old dynamo who's always in motion, and he reverts to sort of a stream of consciousness when discussing an affair in which he's been a part of since its inception in 1975.

"But it's just more than racing," he continues without a pause. "Just look what we have going on Thursday. First, we're going to have the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame inductions - Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones and Gary Gabelich posthumously - on South Pine Avenue in front of the Convention Center. Both Mario and Parnelli will be present.

"And then for the first time ever on a Thursday we're going to have cars racing around the course, as the ALMS (American Le Mans Series) and Drifting ones will alternate practice runs between 3 o'clock and 5:45. And during that period the Lifestyle Expo will be open at the Convention Center. The paddock area also will be open.

And it all will be free!

"And then in the evening we're going to have the Tecate Thunder on Pine with stunts from the Red Bull motor cross team and pit stop competition. We're also going to have something called Tuner Thursday at The Pike in which there will be autograph sessions among the Drifter drivers. And the Shark Lagoon at the Aquarium of the Pacific will be open to the public between 6 p.m. and 9 on Thursday."

Jim Michaelian finally pauses to give his interlocutor a break, as one finds it literally impossible to jot down all the words quickly tumbling out of him on a notebook "Oh, gee, I almost forgot we're also going to have something called RaceMania at Shoreline Village in which people can drive Go-Karts on a track in front of the Yard House between 3 and 10," says Michaelian excitedly. "I tell you, what a day Thursday is going to be! And that's just our first day! And you know what we have planned for Friday, Saturday and Sunday - six races, two concerts, flyovers, sky divers and, of course, all the great exhibits that people find so entertaining at our Convention Center Lifestyle Expo."

And, naturally, Jim Michaelian had yet one more nugget to reveal about his historic event.

"And many of the Champ Car drivers are going to be at Smooth's Thursday night for a 7 o'clock reception," he said, referring to the restaurant owned by the one-time political gadfly, His Gray Eminence, John Morris.

And, incredibly, Mr. Michaelian insists he plans to make an appearance at all the different pursuits that will unfold Thursday, meaning he will be scrambling around downtown even faster than he can talk.  Press Telegram

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