â€œLights. Camera. Action!â€ Story and photo by Vickie Miller
With all of the drama of the previous Grand Prix racing weekend, it was fitting the event was located in Long Beach California, just miles away from mega movie epic town, Hollywood!
This weekend was quite the production, filled with the comedy version of â€œDown Periscopeâ€ starring the periscope antics of Ryan Eversley and Jordan Taylor; the jogging version ofâ€Run Forest Runâ€ #letJohnrun starring John Dagys; the no-holds barred action packed â€œCannonball Runâ€ featuring the Pirelli World Challenge race; and the tear-jerker where â€œNice Guys Finish Firstâ€ starring Ricky and Jordan Taylor. To continue the movie theme, letâ€™s recap using my version of â€œThe Good, the Bad, the Bizarre, and the Uglyâ€. I hope I make Clint Eastwood proud.
First the good. I am fortunate to have friended many TUDOR teams and drivers. While I have my obvious favorite, very rarely am I unhappy with the teams on the podium. This weekend was no different. I am very happy for Spirit of Daytonaâ€˜s third-place finish. And I am so very proud of Ricky Taylor getting the pole and Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) winning the race.
Over the years, I have watched Ricky and Jordan grow up. Technically they were always taller than me, but you get my point. Yes, WTR is a first-class team. Yes, the team benefits from sponsorships and good relationship with Chevrolet. However Ricky and Jordon are still human and they have faced struggles and adversity no sponsorship money can shield from them. For me Ricky getting the pole was a big highlight of my weekend.
Now, the bad. The Grand Prix of Long Beach (GPLB) is a street course with the obvious issues of big buildings, and reserved seating grandstands so you canâ€™t see much overall racing. I saw only one TV screen, but there might have been more. For this race, I had INDY Pit and Paddock credentials and my normal IMSA crew hard card, as the track declined my media credential, with a very lame explanation, but I digress. I had no reserved seat to watch the race and only option were two general admission grandstands. So I was delegated to walk around catching a glimpse of racing where possible.
Of the tracks I have attended, besides Baltimore, Long Beach has the narrowest of pit roads. I would not even call it a â€œroadâ€, itâ€™s more like a tiny winding path walking around team equipment. Even having the proper credentials, I choose not to go onto pit road for any Indy activities. I just didnâ€™t need to be there. For TUDOR, I only ventured down to the #60 Michael Shank Racing pit twice, snapped a few photos, and left. Pit road is so narrow with a big street curb and is very dangerous for the teams and any spectators.
This was my third year attending the GPLB, which is also located near the Long Beach Convention Center and race weekend is home to a Home Exposition. In order to find the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) paddock area, you have to meander your way through the gauntlet of persistent vendors. There are the big displays from Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota, then keep walking and go past the local companies.
Just like Baltimore, the PWC cars are stuffed in the back where the area is only open to the public at certain times. Sorry but no fans can walk freely around the paddock. I am unsure as to the reasoning on this, but I would assume PWC or the Expo saw a liability in fans walking around the make-shift garage area when all the teams were out on track.
Yes, I understand vendors pay a fee to put up their tent and display their products which may bring money into the pockets of the event organizers and bring people to the track that may become potential race fans. But as I walked through the expo, declining the offers of discount aluminum siding, I stopped myself from asking many of them, â€œWhat cars are on track, right now?â€
I guess I didnâ€™t want to know how many people were there not realizing it was a premier series race weekend. The poor location of the PWC paddock is only over shadowed by the placement of the TUDOR paddock. I will save you all the misery of reading of my access issues which is getting to be a regular track experience.
Next, the bizarre. With Long Beach located on the west coast, the backdrop of beach, yachts, palm trees are expected. Surprising to me was the mentality of people who the idea of â€œkeeping Long Beach cleanâ€ is a foreign concept. Along with the picturesque setting of the coast, comes the issue of wind. Near the food vendor area there are a few picnic tables, great idea!
However, fans would eat their food at the tables and walk away leaving their hot dog wrappers and napkins to blow in the wind. With the cardboard trash bins, unused and empty, the bins were left to blow down the walkways being stopped by anything stationary including port-a-potties or car haulers. Food wrappers and trash was also left all over the grandstands. With the wind not realizing there were cars on track, the wrappers happily floated onto the course.
When I attended NASCAR races, the vendors stopped giving out napkins and hot dog wrappers for the reason of ending upon the track and onto the front car grill and cause all sorts of air intake issues.
Lastly, the ugly. PWC race. Enough said. On a personal note, I choose not to write about a race I do not see in person. For the PWC race on Sunday, I had arrived home from the airport in time to watch on my laptop. My only comment is that I hope something is learned, rules are reviewed, and positive changes are made for the future of PWC racing.
As the final curtain drops and we head into the last scene into our movie, I bet you are wondering for all my complaints about the venue and flying clear across country for this event where TUDOR only races for 100 minutes, why do I attend? Vickie loves racing.
Onto one of the highlights of my weekend, spending time with the lovely and talented, Eric Curran. Eric is the driver of #31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette Prototype for Action Express Racing. I have seen Eric around the paddock for years and was very excited to finally sit down and chat with him. Here is part of our conversation where I ask the hard-hitting questions!
Q: If you hadnâ€™t been successful in racing, what career path would you have chosen?
A: Eric was born in Easthampton, MA and his father ran an independent Volvo dealership in Hadley, MA. With his college business management degree, Eric would always have a role in car dealerships and towards this goal; he has started â€œWest Coast Exotic Carsâ€ dealership with Boris Said. You can find â€œWest coast Exotic Carsâ€ on Facebook!
Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: Anything of Austin Powers
Q: Of all your podiums, which one is our more rewarding and why?
A: In 1999, Eric worked with his dad to build a Chevy Camaro Z28 race car for the Valvoline SCCA Runoffs at Mid-Ohio. It was his first year in a national series race and even though he was disqualified for practice, he raced back and won.
Q: If you could go to any track to view a race as a fan, what track would it be and what race series?
A: Without a doubt, Circuit of the Americas. Eric continued by mentioning the track is very visual with the red, white, and blue patriotic painting and the way the track is laid out. He was there for the V8 racing and loved the sound of the cars and close racing.
Q: What is one thing about you not published on website or Facebook, that no one knows about you but you are willing to share with fans?
A: Eric offered a few. He has raced BMX bikes, his nickname is â€œHollywoodâ€ because, as he jokes, in his little town of Massachusetts, he is a big deal. And most of all, in his downtime, heâ€™s still a used car salesman! Yes, I would buy a used car from this guy.
After chatting more with Eric, I think heâ€™s a big deal too. Thank you, Eric.
To can learn more about Eric at his website: http://www.ericcurran.com/
Facebook at Eric Curran Racing and on Twitter @ericcurran31
You can learn more about Ericâ€™s team on the Whelen Motorsports website http://www.whelen.com/motorsports/ and on Twitter Whelen Motorsports @WhelenMTRS
Thank you all for reading and I welcome your comments. I have no affiliation with IMSA, TUDOR, etc. just a fan. There are many blogs and websites where you will find statistics, results, and scoring from the race; this is â€œjust the way I see itâ€. Got a response? Follow and tweet me @viclovesracing