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Long Beach GP goes off today as unified series
For the first time since 1995, which is an eternity in the mutable orbit of sport, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach today will unfold with all the top IndyCar Series drivers competing on the downtown course rather than several notable ones boycotting it.

The only entrant who has posed for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Danica Patrick, will be present, and already holds the distinction of being perhaps the most publicized driver ever to appear in Long Beach - indisputably the most publicized female driver.

Even the only entrant who has won two Indianapolis 500 races, a "Dancing With The Stars" title, and an acquittal on a $2.3 million federal income evasion rap, Helio Castroneves, will be present to add even more allure to a race thick with intriguing plot lines.

Tony George, once Public Enemy No.1 among open-wheel aficionados, also will be present, and no longer is he the target of unrelenting scorn for the decisive role he played in the bitter feud that ensued when he broke away from CART 14 years ago and started something called the Indy Racing League (IRL).

CART eventually financially unraveled, as the IRL, which started slowly but forged ahead of its rival because its strong Indianapolis 500 lineage lured away so many of the big sponsors and name drivers.

To the victors go the spoils, and a year ago Tony George came out of the self-destructive dispute as the bloodied winner, as his IRL absorbed CART's successor, Champ Car, which was owned by Kevin Kalkhoven and Jerry Forsythe.

And so, the IRL will be the sanctioning body of this afternoon's featured 85-lap race that is scheduled to go off at 1:20 on the 11-turn, 1.97-mile track that figures to be lined with around 80,000 spectators. More at Long Beach Press Telegram

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