James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay were inducted into the Motorsports Walk of Fame to kick off race weekend festivities at the 2023 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was not able to be at the ceremony due to the deluge of rain that fell in Broward County Wednesday and forced the Fort Lauderdale airport to close down until Friday morning.
The 2012 series champion and winner of the 2010 Long Beach Grand Prix, Hunter-Reay, sent a text message which Jim Michaelian, CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, read. Michaelian and a member of the City Council unveiled the medallion in his absence.
Hinchcliffe opened with a joke at the ceremony that included Mayor Rex Richardson and other dignitaries.
“This is a very, very special day for me certainly,” he said. “When I told my wife that I was getting indicted here in Long Beach … Sorry … no, no, no. She was quite happy for me. As I am thrilled.”
Once the laughs subsided, Hinchcliffe got serious. He talked about how, other than the Indianapolis 500, Long Beach is the race that drivers, teams and officials mark on their calendars.
“Sports is all about history and just walking down this pathway here (where the medallions of inductees are embedded in cement), you see some of the greatest names of the sport that have raced here, raced all over the world,” Hinchcliffe said.
“This city committing themselves to the greats of the sport like this, like in victory lane, having names and faces down in the victory circle there, I think it really shows how much the city gets behind it and we feel that as competitors and as members of the community of IndyCar.”
Jim Michaelian, CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, read some comments Hunter-Reay sent him Wednesday while he was at the airport ahead of his flight getting canceled.
“What an incredible honor it is to be inducted into the Grand Prix of Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame,” Hunter-Reay wrote. “I grew up watching this race, idolizing the winners, dreaming of one day having a chance to wrestle an IndyCar around this crown jewel of street circuits.”
“To this day, I can honestly say qualifying at Long Beach in a dialed-in Indy car were some of the best moments of my racing career,” he wrote. “In 2010, my victory here was the turning point in my career, a critical win which I dedicated to my mother Lydia, who had just recently passed away from cancer.”
Michaelian noted that Hunter-Reay also won the Indy 500 in 2014 and that although he is no longer driving full-time, he will be driving in the Indy 500, which he won in 2014, in May.
Lucille Dust reporting live from Long Beach