Getty Images

IndyCar: Scott Pruett named Grand Marshal of Long Beach Grand Prix

Leave a comment

Scott Pruett may be done racing a race car, but he’s not done with racing by any means.

The Hall of Fame driver will serve as grand marshal for the 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 15. He’ll cap off a weekend of activities by giving the command for drivers to start engines prior to the Verizon IndyCar Series race.

There’s a unique connection between Pruett and Long Beach. It was on the famous street circuit 36 years ago that Pruett won the 1982 Bridgestone Pro/Kart Challenge, one of the first wins in his racing career (he’d also win the same race a second time).

From there, the rest became history as Pruett went on to win countless races and championships, and was enshrined in the World Karting Association Hall of Fame, the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Pruett, who turns 58 on March 24, competed in his last race in January’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, leaving behind an outstanding legacy.

He earned more than 75 race wins in his career, including five Rolex 24 overall victories. Other wins include the 12 Hours of Sebring and a class win in the 24 Hours of LeMans.

His other wins or career highpoints included:

  • CART: Michigan 1995, Australia 1997.
  • IROC: Riverside 1988, Daytona 1991.
  • NASCAR: Three top-4 finishes.
  • TRANS AM: 24 wins and three championships (1987, 1994 and 2003).
  • GRAND AM: 41 wins and five championships (2004, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012).

“We are absolutely delighted to have Scott serve as Grand Marshal this year,” Jim Michaelian, President and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, said in a media release. “His racing career has been intertwined with the events here in Long Beach over the years, and it is entirely appropriate that we recognize his contributions to our success here as well as to the entire world of motor sports.”

Along with his career kick-off win 36 years ago at Long Beach, Pruett has won several other races there in his career, including the 1987 Trans-Am race, the 2001 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race and the 2006 Grand-Am race.

In addition, he competed in nine IndyCar races there, with best finishes of second in 1995 and third in 1997.

“Long Beach has always been a very special place for me,” said Pruett, who continues as a goodwill ambassador for Lexus in retirement. “I remember, for my 16th birthday, some dear friends gave me tickets and brought me down.

“Watching those F1 cars and meeting Niki Lauda was a dream come true. Little did I know at the time, what an impact this great track would have on me. I am truly honored to be the 2018 Grand Marshal.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Friday that Formula One teams have a responsibility to try to overcome their differences over the future of the sport in the face of a threat by Ferrari to quit because of a number of proposed changes.

Bernie Ecclestone, who ran F1 for 40 years before being replaced by new owners Liberty Media last year, has raised the possibility that Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne could walk away from F1 and form a breakaway series over Liberty’s future vision for the sport.

Ferrari is unhappy with Liberty’s proposal to simplify engines and redistribute prize money among F1 teams after the current contract with teams expires at the end of 2020.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene would not comment on the specifics of Marchionne’s previous comments at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday, but said: “My only suggestion, please take him seriously.”

Wolff is also taking the possibility of Ferrari walking away seriously. He told Britain’s Press Association before the Australian GP that he agreed with Marchionne’s concerns and that Formula One can’t afford to alienate Ferrari or lose the team.

“Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne,” he said. “Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.”

Wolff was more diplomatic on Friday, saying he hopes all sides could come together for the good of the sport.

“I think this as much a battle on track as much as it is a fight off track for an advantage,” he said. “It is clear the current governance and how the rules are being made is not very functional. There’s too much different opinions and agendas on the table and we need to sort it for 2021 for the best interest of the sport.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed there are too many competing agendas, suggesting that the FIA-Formula One’s governing body-and Liberty Media come together to decide on a set of regulations and financial framework for the next contract and the teams can then decide if they want to accept it or not.

“Trying to get a consensus between teams that have varying objectives, different set-ups, is going to be impossible,” he said. “It’s history repeating itself. It happens every five or six years, every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal.”

Tempers also flared during Friday’s media conference over another issue of contention between the teams – Ferrari’s recent hiring of FIA’s ex-safety director, Laurent Mekies.

Horner believes Ferrari broke an agreement among teams at a recent meeting to institute a 12-month waiting period for any former employee of FIA or FOM (Formula One Management) to be able to start working for one of F1’s teams. The concern is that former FIA staff who go to work for a specific team could share secrets from other teams.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months,” he said. “It almost makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.”

Arrivabene defended Ferrari’s move, saying Mekies would not join its team until after a six-month “gardening leave” period.

“There is nothing wrong with that because we were absolutely respecting the local law, the Swiss local law where Laurent was hired,” he said.