Long Beach weekend atmosphere thrills Roger Daltrey, as he promotes Teen Cancer America

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As founding member and lead singer of The Who, Roger Daltrey knows a thing or two about teamwork – working with a band and a stage crew to put together an off-the-hook show.

So when he saw Justin Wilson’s Verizon IndyCar Series Dale Coyne Racing team up close and personal this weekend, as a guest of Honda to promote the Teen Cancer America organization, he took notice of the similarities.

“It’s quite similar, really. I don’t think people – unless you’re a true race fan – they don’t give enough credit to the teamwork,” Daltrey told MotorSportsTalk in a Sunday interview at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. “Most of the races are won because the team works well. It’s a complete effort. How these guys change a wheel in seven seconds or so, I haven’t got a clue!”

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Roger Daltrey flanked by Justin Wilson and Dale Coyne.

The Teenage Cancer Trust organization began in the U.K. and Teen Cancer America, co-founded by Daltrey and The Who bandmate Pete Townshend in 1990, works to raise both awareness and funding for teens (starting age 13) through to age 24 who suffer from cancer.

The logo appeared on Justin Wilson’s car during the race. Wilson has had other charitable organizations (Dempsey Challenge, Clarky’s Corner in 2013, among others) in the past, and this continued the story.

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The Teen Cancer America logo and crew.

Daltrey headed to Long Beach this past weekend where besides the charity promotion and a Sunday morning press conference, he took up residence in a two-seater IndyCar with Mario Andretti for the race start.

“He is such a legend, and what a great looking guy for his age,” Daltrey, 70 himself, said of the 74-year-old Andretti before taking the lap. “I’m sure he hasn’t slowed down. I know for sure, being a passenger is not as easy as being a driver. You don’t feel the balance of the car and get thrown about it.”

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Daltrey with Mario Andretti and Hernan Berangan.

But back to the charity: Daltrey explained a bit more about the gap for teens and where Teen Cancer America fits into the equation.

“By isolating the group to have them (teenagers) as a separate group, you will be able to focus the medicine better,” he said.

“We’ve had some things in Britain … for instance we had a 19-year-old diagnosed with a specific leukemia. Because he was in one of our units, they thought they’d try a pediatric therapy on him, and they’re now getting a 25 percent improvement on curing that leukemia.

“There’s all those benefits associated with isolating. A big one is there’s less burnout for the nurses. They burn out quite a lot. Training them can be very expensive. If we can cut the burnout rate by about 3 percent, that’s huge savings. Huge.”

For Daltrey, this was also a chance to re-introduce Hernan Berangan’s story. A two-time cancer survivor, Hernan begins a tour through all 50 states as part of a Road to Rebellion tour.

“It’s amazing that anybody is listening to us and that you guys are listening to us,” Berangan said. “When I was 15 and knew that something was wrong with the system, all I could translate that to was anger. What I do is I should video profiles of teen cancer patients and I sit and I listen to them for a few hours and turn that story into something digestible for them and us.”

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Hernan Berangan with Teen Cancer America teens.

Daltrey concurred: “For a start he’s a great filmmaker. There’s a film within a film here. Every state he goes to, he makes the media know he’s there. There’s a lot of mileage in this. It’s a very interesting piece of work.”

Beyond the organization, Daltrey discussed what he enjoyed about racing and the event of Long Beach himself.

He had attended one past British Grand Prix, spending the day with Sir Jackie Stewart. “Those were a different class of driver!” he said. He added that he had a chance to spend a day at the Lotus test track in England earlier in his life.

Daltrey said he’d love to try a modern Formula One car, noting its high levels of technology.

Asked how he’d compare a race weekend to a concert, Daltrey said it’s not dissimilar.

“It’s pretty much the same actually… really a bit of the human condition,” he said. “It’s kids, getting on with each other. Festivals are a big thing. But I’ll tell you this band here is a lot louder here!”

He said both the music business and race teams operated with military-level precision.

“The truth is, now the way the music business is, we do run like a military operation,” he said. “It’s incredibly detailed and specific. If they’d have sent the ‘roadies’ into Iraq, the war would have been over in about a week! They would have been having parties instead of fighting each other!”

Lastly, he spoke very highly of the Long Beach weekend itself.

“I’m amazed at how far Long Beach has pulled itself up. Coming here in the early days, it was a pretty rough area. It feels fantastic.”

It was also fantastic to see a rock legend/Hall-of-Famer with eyes wide open, thrilled by one of North America’s greatest racing events, and be as down to earth as he was.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/