LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) Alfonso Ribeiro won the 40th and final Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, a fan favorite event at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Ribeiro was also the celebrity winner in 1994 and 1995, and the Pro winner in 2015. The of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” also won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2014.
“I owe an awful lot to the city of Long Beach, they’ve been so supportive, and to Toyota, 40 years putting on this fantastic Pro/Celebrity Race and promoting Long Beach the way they have,” Ribeiro said.
Max Papis won the Pro category by finishing 4.872 seconds behind Ribeiro.
“It is just an amazing event and who won was the kids this event supports,” said Papis. “This is the best street course in America, maybe the world.”
The race Saturday was the final event of the longest-running corporate-sponsored charity race in the country. The event has helped Toyota donate more than $2.3 million to “Racing For Kids” since 1991.
This year’s all-star field featured 18 previous winners, and Doug Fregin, co-Founder of Research in Motion (now Blackberry) and Quantum Valley Investments Fund, who was the charity auction winner of the event in 2009, 2012 and 2014.
The last spot in the race went to Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales.
Jimmy Vasser won the pole in qualifying and Al Unser Jr. was second, but they learned after qualifying that the field would be inverted for the start. The fastest drivers had just 10 laps to pick their way through traffic, and Carter, making his racing debut, started from the pole.
Ribeiro, who did not have a great qualifying effort, thought the inversion helped him earn the overall victory.
“There were a lot of celebrities that qualified higher than I did, and to all those guys, they did a great job and they qualified great,” he said. “But they inverted the field and it worked in my favor.”
Rod Millen, the Pro winner in 1995, was third and followed by Adam Carolla and Mike Skinner, the Pro winner in 2007 and 2008.
Other notables were Frankie Muniz (seventh), Vasser (eighth), Ricky Schroder (ninth), Unser Jr. (10th) and Dara Torres, the only woman in the field, (14th) despite driving to the front and leading laps.
There was one frightening moment when Brett Davern spun into a tire barrier and Carter was unable to avoid hitting Davern’s turned car in the door. As the tow truck driver was trying to put the hook on Carter’s car, Sean Patrick Flannery rounded a corner and ran into the back of Carter’s car.
The impact knocked the tow truck driver off the hood and to the ground, but he popped up apparently uninjured.