Sunday, March 23, 2008

World Renowned Vegas Gaming Expert Picks Drew Lachey and Jamie Little as Favorites in 2008 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race


atatouille Producer Brad Lewis, Prison Break's William Fichtner, The Closer's Raymond Cruz and Soap Star Daniel Goddard Among the Top-Seeded Celebrities Also Tapped by Handicapper Anthony Curtis to Surprise in Prestigious Grand- Prix-Style Race on April 19 

LONG BEACH, Calif., March 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Drew Lachey, the smooth- stepping second-season winner of Dancing With the Stars, and NASCAR pit reporter Jamie Little are among Las Vegas gaming expert Anthony Curtis' celebrity picks to give the pros some heat in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race on Saturday, April 19, part of the 34th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

(Logo: )

Curtis, president of and one of the world's most recognized and quoted gambling authorities, has sized-up how the stars of film, television and sports will fare in this historic, 10-lap race for charity, which is conducted in race-ready Scion tCs on a 1.97-mile street circuit through the downtown streets of Long Beach in Southern California. He offers his expert predictions solely for entertainment purposes exclusively on and . [There will be no actual wagering on the outcome of the race.]

"The Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race is one of the world's longest-running, most successful celebrity racing events, and it's hard not to get fully immersed in all the captivating, fast-paced action," said Curtis. "Every fan has his or her favorite, and of course it's interesting to see if the 'long-shots' can pull off an upset."

Here's the morning-line on how Curtis sees the field of 18, fresh off their four days of drivers' training at an undisclosed location in the California desert.

Stars of Entertainment, Sports and Media:
-- Drew Lachey (7-1) Young, athletic and possesses major celebrity-
challenge chops, having won the second Dancing With the Stars. Plus,
the street says he's been hanging out with NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson
(consecutive winner of the last two NEXTEL - now Sprint - Cup
championships). Drew's the fave among the celebrity drivers.
-- Jamie Little (8-1) A serious racing pedigree that only starts with her
day job as ESPN/ABC pit reporter for the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint
Cup Series (lots of racing connections here). And she's had glowing
training reviews. Jamie's a serious threat.
-- Brad Lewis (12-1) "Antz"? "Ratatouille"? As a producer/director of
family fare, this guy looks safe, right? No way! Word is he has
motorcycle racing experience and burned it up in training. Brad's
right up there with Drew and Jamie in my book.
-- William Fichtner (18-1) Prison Break's FBI special agent Alexander
Mahone has raced in this event before and his experience is big.
Track-moles report that William has skeeelz.
-- Raymond Cruz (22-1) Unknown and difficult to rate. Judging by his
roles as Det. Sanchez on TNT's The Closer and as Tuco in the critically
acclaimed AMC series Breaking Bad, he seems tough enough on TV...but
that's not the track. Good reports coming in from spies, though. Give
him a puncher's chance.
-- Daniel Goddard (23-1) He's got the soap-star good looks as leading man
Cane Ashby on The Young and the Restless and plenty of enthusiasm - but
maybe too much of the latter. Rumor has it that he'll be a contender
if he can keep his adrenaline in check.
-- Nancy Lieberman (24-1) As an Olympic Medalist, collegiate and WNBA
professional basketball player and coach; here's that tall thing again
(see John Salley). But this Basketball Hall of Famer has earned her
relatively short odds among the celebs.
-- John Salley (35-1) A world-class athlete with real racing chops (he
raced in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race last year) - but this dude's 7-
feet tall. There's not much in auto racing's history to support a big-
man advantage, let alone NBA-sized big.
-- Eric Dickerson (45-1) He's famous for wearing his racer-like visor on
the field, but that's as close as this Pro Football Hall of Famer will
get to being comfortable behind the wheel. NFL superstars are more
used to being driven than driving - and mostly in longer vehicles (like
buses and limos).
-- Wilmer Valderrama (60-1) That '70s Show? Fez? Scion driver?
Despite good training reports and hard work, meet this year's long

Professional Category:
-- Mike Skinner (3-1) The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion won
the Pro category in this race last year. He's the one to beat!
-- Tony Pedregon (4-1) This NHRA Funny Car Champion showed true grit,
emerging from a spectacular crash earlier this year. He's got our
respect - and short odds.
-- Marty Nothstein (5-1) Professional cyclist, Olympic Gold and Silver
Medalist and 34-time U.S. Nationals Champion with titles in seven
different events. Can you say "competitive"?
-- Whit Bazemore (6-1) Two-time NHRA U.S. Nationals Funny Car winner.
Maybe this race will get him some well-deserved attention from a
potential sponsor.
-- Beccy Gordon (11-1) Don't count out this professional off-road
racer, NASCAR spokesmodel and ESPN pit-reporter. With virtually a
lifetime of motorsports experience growing up in a family of dedicated
drivers, she's got winning in her blood.
-- Sarena Traver (14-1) Grand-Am race car driver and fine jewelry
designer (who garnered a spot by bidding $80,000 in the Boys and Girls
charity auction). Brass and class. Let's see how she does.

Rounding Out the Field:
-- Bud Gordon (22-1) He's not just the General Manager of Quality Toyota
of Corona, Calif.; he's got racing experience. Bud's participated in
this race as a dealer three previous times....he's looking good.
-- Craig Barto (30-1) A genuinely nice guy - and a generous one, too.
He won his spot by being the second $80,000 high bidder in the Boys and
Girls Club charity auction - let's see if he can translate that
competitive spirit to the track.

"Anthony Curtis understands the dynamic transformation the drivers go through, from 'celebrity' to 'race car driver', and his predictions are meant to be entertaining," said Les Unger, Toyota's national motorsports manager. "The excitement and competition is fierce. Stars sign up thinking the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race is a friendly rivalry for a good cause - which it is - but it attracts 'the fast and the famous' because it also offers the genuine challenge of high-speed auto racing."

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 non-profit program benefiting children's hospitals in Long Beach and Orange County, Calif.

Finally, a $15,000 donation is made in conjunction with the 11th annual "PEOPLE Pole Award." Sponsored by PEOPLE magazine, the award honors the pole-position winner of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race qualifying session on Friday, April 18. On behalf of the race and its participants, Toyota has donated close to $1.6 million to various children's organizations since 1991.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Celebrity odds are provided for entertainment purposes only. Wagering on the outcome of the race is neither encouraged nor implied.

ABOUT ANTHONY CURTIS: Anthony Curtis is one of the world's most recognized and quoted gambling authorities. The president of, he has appeared as a casino expert on "Dateline NBC," "48 Hours," A&E, E! Entertainment, Discovery, The Travel Channel, The Food Channel, The Learning Channel, and has been the subject of articles in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Diego Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Arthur Frommers' Budget Travel and Discover magazine. Curtis is author of Bargain City-Booking, Betting and Beating the New Las Vegas and The Art of Gambling Through The Ages. Considered one of the world's foremost experts in tournament play, Curtis' top tournament wins include $76,000 World Matchplay Blackjack Championship, $125,000 Atlantic City Craps Championship, $50,000 Las Vegas Keno Championship, and $60,000 Las Vegas Blackjack Championship." mime-type="application/octet-stream"/>
AP Archive:
PRN Photo Desk,

Toyota Motorsports