Friday, April 11, 2008

Stars Gear Up for Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race

Wilmer Valderrama and Drew Lachey
Wilmer Valderrama and Drew Lachey get in some practice laps at Willow Springs Raceway prior to competing in the upcoming annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. (Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)

LONG BEACH, California — With 10 days to go until the big race, we're getting a sneak peak at the famous and the not-so famous participants in this year's Toyota Pro/Celebrity race. Yesterday, the stars got in another day of practice on the track as the media took part in a trackside press event.

The Pro/Celebrity race is one of the world's longest-running, most successful celebrity racing events, and is one of six featured events at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach now in its 34th year.

If you're not sure who's racing this year, you're not alone. Even after the list of celebrity racers was revealed, there was still confusion as to who these people were. Due to the writer's strike and the timing of its end, bigger named celebs such as Ugly Betty's Vanessa Williams and My Name is Earl star Jason Lee were forced to drop out and get back to work. So, know them or not, here's a list of who's racing in this year's event:

William Fichtner from Prison Break, Daniel Goodard from The Young and the Restless, Raymond Cruz from The Closer and Brad Lewis, producer/director of Ratatouille are among some of the "big" names. Slightly better known are Wilmer Valderrama, from That `70s Show and singer, actor and season two winner of Dancing with the Stars, Drew Lachey.

From the world of sports, there's NFL great Eric Dickerson and the NBA's John Salley. A few TV reporters are also racing, including ESPN's NASCAR guy, Jamie Little and ESPN's basketball analyst, Nancy Lieberman.

This year's list of celebrity racers is a far cry from the glittering stars of the past. Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Cameron Diaz and Joe Montana are just a few of the big names that have made the celebrity race so popular to watch since it began in 1977.

But even this year's low star power will be challenged on the track, driving race-ready Scion tCs and competing against each other as well as professional drivers and charity auction winners. The field of 18 will run the 10-lap race for charity on a 1.97-mile street circuit through downtown Long Beach in Southern California.

Purely for entertainment purposes, Las Vegas gaming expert, Anthony Curtis recently predicted that Drew Lachey and Jamie Little will be the celebs giving the pros some heat during the race.

The Toyota Pro/Celebrity race runs Saturday, April 19.

What this means to you: Well, at least what's his name is in the race. — Carol Moody, Correspondent