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Long Beach CEO is a race driver too
Placing the first of more than 14 million pounds of concrete blocks this week that will line the racing circuit for the 38th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach swells Jim Michaelian’s anticipation for the event as much as it did for the inaugural race.

The event marked the beginning of two months of preparation for the 175,000 fans expected during the April 13-15 race weekend that features the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights. More than three miles of fencing will be erected, complementing 16 spectator grandstands, seven pedestrian bridges and super-size vision boards for full-circuit TV coverage.

“We’re looking forward to having a tremendous weekend,” said Michaelian, the president/CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach who was the controller of the inaugural race in 1975 and has served in a number of capacities over the years including COO from 1998-2001. “Last year was a great year for us and we’re putting in additional programs that we think will be of interest, such as a Joan Jett and the Blackhearts concert on Saturday (April 14). We’ve expanded the Family Fun Zone and all the other activities, such as the go-kart track, the Green Power Prix-View and Lifestyle Expo are all in place to create that festive atmosphere that we’re constantly looking to complement our hardcore race fans that come out to see the racing.”

Racing has held special interest with Michaelian since his youth, which chiefly is among the reasons he became involved in the team that organized the second street race in the world (behind Monaco) on the streets of “Navy Town” in 1975. Michaelian, with a master’s degree in Business Administration, also serves on the board of directors of the Grand Prix Foundation and the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.

He’s been able to transfer that interest to the driver’s seat.

“I’ve always had a passion for the sport, but I was never really able to indulge my passion until I was a little older and then I started running at various circuits (Watkins Glen, Spa, Dubai, Sebring) after our event just to see what they’re like,” he said. “I started going to driving schools when I was in my late 40s and early 50s, and then I got a chance to ride in my first professional race in 1992, so I’ve been doing it 20 years.

“I was a little older, but I was heavily involved with the Grand Prix and we were doing a number of different projects and it just didn’t afford the opportunity to go out and run with any consistency. I’m not at all unhappy about the timing because I devoted what I needed to help get the Grand Prix running and going and then I had a chance to indulge my passion.”

Last month, he co-drove a Porsche in the GT class of the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona for The Racer’s Group (he’s been on teams that have finished the race eight of 15 times).

“The Rolex in January works out timing-wise with our event in April,” he added.

Michaelian, who has co-driven in the 24-hour race with one of his two sons among numerous others, already is making plans to return to Daytona in early 2013.

“As long as I can turn decent times, I’m going to go out and see how well I can do,” he said. “I hope to delay retirement (from the seat) as long as possible.” IndyCar.com

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