Danny Way and Unser Jr. win poles for Toyota Pro Celebrity race World Champion professional skateboarder Danny Way posted the fastest celebrity qualifying time to earn the pole position in the 33rd annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Way narrowly beat actor Keanu Reeves and Fonzworth Bentley, host of MTV’s “From G’s to Gents,” across the finish line in his race-ready Scion tC to set up tomorrow’s showdown in what has become the world’s longest-running, most successful celebrity racing event. “The King of the Beach,” six-time Toyota Grand Prix winner Al Unser, Jr., finished first among all drivers and won in the Pro category, followed closely by the reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Benson.
“X-Games champions traditionally do very well in this type of event,” said Les Unger, national motorsports manager with Toyota Motor Sales. “Danny, Keanu and Bentley came prepared for the challenge, and their competitive spirit made for a thrilling show. The enthusiasm of all the celebrities and pros, both on the track and off, demonstrates exactly what the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race is all about.”
Going into today’s race, Way was given a slight edge over the rest of the field of 18 stars of film, television and sports by professional handicapper Anthony Curtis, president of LasVegasAdvisor.com, who’d been analyzing and handicapping the drivers for weeks. He offers his insights solely for entertainment purposes on www.lasvegasadvisor.com. [There will be no actual wagering on the outcome of the race.]
But it was by no means a lock for the daring Way, who, despite holding the land speed record on a skateboard of 74.5 mph, found racing 10-laps on a 1.97-mile street circuit through the downtown streets of Long Beach in Southern California a little tricky.
“This was different [from skateboarding] and lots of fun,” said Way. “I’d done some motorcross before, but here, going fast actually feels safer, with the protective cage and headgear. It was a great race.”
As pole-position winner in the qualifying session, Way designated his $15,000 donation in conjunction with the 12th annual “PEOPLE Pole Award” to the Action Sports Environmental Coalition (ASCE). Sponsored by PEOPLE magazine, the award will support ASEC’s mission of progressive eco-education and empowering people to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. That goal, noted Way, is achieved through many different programs, each providing an exciting environment in which to learn, and Way is hoping the “PEOPLE Pole Award” will enable ASCE to build a “green” skate park for kids in Hawaii.
Additionally, Toyota will donate $5,000 to “Racing for Kids” in the name of each celebrity racer, and another $5,000 to the winning racer’s charity of choice. Racing for Kids is a national non-profit program benefiting children’s hospitals in Long Beach and Orange County, Calif. Toyota has donated 1.7 million on behalf of the race and it participants and various children hospitals since 1991.
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