Before anyone practice started for this weekend's 35th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, racing legends Al Unser Jr. and Bobby Rahal were inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame on Thursday.
The fourth annual ceremony took place on South Pine Avenue in front of the Long Beach Convention Center, which is along the route of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Mayor Bob Foster presented Unser and Rahal with their medallions, which included depictions of the honorees' cars and their major achievements in motorsports.
Unser, who has won the Grand Prix a record six times and will compete in Saturday's Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, followed in the footsteps of his famous father and an uncle, Bobby, to become a two-time champion at Indianapolis 500, winning in 1992 and 1994. Racing greats Mario Andretti and Paul Tracy won at Long Beach 4 times each, Andretti winning it once (1977) when the race was still an F1 event. It stands as the only time an American has won as US Grand Prix event.
Al Unser Jr in front of the medallion signifying his induction into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame
Unser won the Long beach Grand Prix in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994 and 1995 and the Pro/Celebrity Race in 1985.
"It's an honor to be mentioned with these driving legends," said Unser. "After I won the race 4 times (88 thru 91) in a row Jim [Michaelian] changed the track that used to run under the Hyatt garage. In 1992 Danny Sullivan got close enough to reach out and touch me," referring to their on-track contact that ended Unser's 4-race winning streak.
"After losing in '92 and '93 I figured out the new track and won in '94 and '95. Then Jim changed the track again in '99. I'm just glad to be back to this place and happy to be racing in the Toyota Pro Celerity race Saturday."
Rahal is one of the select group of individuals who have won the Indianapolis 500 both as a driver (1986) and as an owner (2004).
Rahal made 15 starts at the Grand Prix, finishing second four times. In 1996 he formed Rahal Letterman Racing, with David Letterman as a minority owner. Mark C. reporting from Long Beach
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