|The Long Beach crowds are big|
Long Beach will rumble to life next week as some 175,000 spectators converge on downtown to catch a glimpse of celebrity racers and cheer their favorite IndyCar drivers.
The city's biggest event of the year, the 39th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, will transform downtown into party central. The race will run Friday through Sunday, however the festivities get underway today with the Grand Prix Foundation Charity Golf Tournament at the El Dorado Park Golf Club in Long Beach.
On Wednesday, Belmont Shore will be the scene for the second annual "Roar in the Shore," from 5 to 8 p.m. along the trendy Second Street corridor. The free event includes a driver autograph session, race car displays, racing simulators and live music.
"Thunder Thursday" on Pine Avenue will again include several events ranging from the introduction of racing legends to the always-popular Tecate Miss Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach pageant. Festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. on Pine Avenue between First and Third streets.
The free event includes pit stop demonstrations with IndyCars, daredevil motorcycle stunt show, freestyle motocross and static race car displays.
Earlier on Thursday, the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame Introduction Ceremony will honor four-time Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach winner Paul Tracy and fan favorite Adrian Fernandez. The event will start at 11 a.m. on Pine Avenue, in front of the Convention Center.
During race weekend, fans can enjoy the "Tecate Light Cool Zone," a musical entertainment festival beginning with the Tecate Light Fiesta Friday concert featuring Moderatto and Moenia, and Brett Michaels will take the concert stage adjacent to the Long Beach Convention Center on Saturday.
In addition, "Club Patron" will open its doors again this year during race weekend. The inside-the-circuit club, located on the east side of the Long Beach Arena, is for fans 21 and older.
If you are feeling the "need for speed," head over to the to the Go-Kart Track atop the Arena Garage. For a small fee, fans will have the opportunity to take a few laps around the track.
There will also be plenty for race foodies – for the third straight year, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will have gourmet food trucks on hand. About two dozen of Southern California's gourmet food trucks will park for the weekend behind Grandstand 31 on the Shoreline Drive front straightaway, also known as Food Truck Village.
Some of the area's most popular trucks – some of which have appeared on Food Network's "Great Food Truck Race" – will be serving dishes throughout the weekend, including: All American Gourmet Grill, Ludo Truck, Breezy Freeze, Mangia Mangia Mobile, CoolHaus, Nom Nom Truck, Devilicious, Red Robin Yummm Mobile, Firehouse Chefs, Shrimp Pimp, George's Greek Cafe, Slammin Sliders, Gourmet Genie, Slap Yo Mama, Greenz on Wheelz, Sprinkles, The Grilled Cheese Truck, Tornado Potato, Hungry Nomad, White Rabbit, Let's Roll It, Yummy One, Los Saigon and ZZ Truck.
Gates for the actual race will open each day at 7 a.m., and racing will be virtually nonstop throughout the weekend. Two new additions have been added to the schedule this year, including the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge. The event will be the first time the Grand Prix has gone on under the lights.
Fans will also have the opportunity to watch celebrity drivers get behind the wheel to race for charity on Saturday, as well as the Firestone Indy Lights, Pirelli World Challenge, Super Trucks, Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series. And of course, the weekend's main event, the IZOD IndyCar Series, will take place on Sunday. Press Telegram