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Alfonso Ribeiro wins final Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race

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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.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.