Grand Prix of Long Beach Drivers Enjoy Lakers Game, Meet Beckham
(L to R) Nelson Philippe, Ernesto Viso and Enrique Bernoldi
Enrique Bernoldi, Nelson Philippe and EJ Viso flew into Long Beach from Miami on Tuesday afternoon and drove immediately--and very quickly--to the Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings NBA game for an eventful evening at the Staples Center.
At the game, the three drivers preparing for this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach watched Kobe Bryant lead his team to victory, clinching the top seed in the Western Conference for the upcoming NBA playoffs. Bernoldi, Philippe and Viso also got the chance to meet several celebrities including famed international soccer star David Beckham at halftime in the Wachovia Chairman's Room. The three drivers were guests at the game of Jeanie Buss, Vice President of Business Operations for the Lakers.
(L to R) Enrique Bernoldi, Ernesto Viso and David Beckham
"Beckham and I actually share a mutual friend, and we spoke briefly in Spanish, which by the way he speaks very well given his previous years playing for Real Madrid," said Viso, who is competing in this season's 2008 IndyCar Series and will pilot the PDVSA HVM Racing #33 DPO1 at this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. "It was the first NBA game that I've ever seen live, and I really enjoyed myself." Viso hails from Caracas, Venezuela.
Conquest Racing's Bernoldi, who has frequented many pro sporting events during his career, including the recent Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament in Miami where he watched fellow Brazilian Gustavo "Guga" Kuerten play, also enjoyed the experience. "I love to watch top athletes perform, and I've been to several Miami Heat games--but they're not as good this year as the Lakers, of course," said Bernoldi, who will drive the #36 DPO1 this weekend. Bernoldi also is competing in the IndyCar Series this year.
Philippe, a Champ Car driver who will pilot the #4 DPO1 for Minardi / HVM Racing team, has a special surprise for the fans this weekend. He will sport a new racesuit specially designed for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend. "It's my way of showing appreciation to all of the Champ Car staff and fans who have supported me over the years," said Philippe, the popular Frenchman now living in Florida.
The drivers sat near a host of celebrities at the star-studded event, including actors Denzel Washington, Jack Nicholson, David Arquette, Andy Garcia, Rob Lowe and Guy Pearce. Tennis legend Jimmy Connors also attended last night's game and joined the drivers in the Chairman's Room at halftime.
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