Vasser, Unser Jr. and more promise a show for final celebrity race

Papis and Unser Jr. Photo: IndyCar
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LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) A tradition will come to an end at the Grand Prix of Long Beach when the checkered flag waives for the final time on the fan-favorite Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race.

The race Saturday will be the 40th and final of the longest-running corporate-sponsored charity race in the country. The event, which has helped Toyota donate more than $2.3 million to “Racing For Kids” since 1991, will be celebrated with an all-star field that includes 18 previous winners.

Included in the field are Stephen Baldwin, Frankie Muniz, Brian Austin Green and last year’s overall winner, Alfonso Ribeiro.

But so are retired racers Jimmy Vasser and Al Unser Jr., who swept the front row in qualifying Friday. The two then learned the field will be inverted for the green flag, and they’ll start in the back on the 1.97-mile street course. Vasser and Unser will have 10 laps to try to make it to the front. Vasser, the pole-winner, was the overall winner in 2010 and owns three Toyota dealerships, while Unser was the overall winner in 1985 and 2009 and the pro winner in 2014.

“It makes for a fantastic show, it gets exciting,” said Unser, the “King of the Beach” because he’s the winningest driver at Long Beach, with six IndyCar wins and three Pro/Celebrity wins.

“It’s going to be carnage for 10 laps.”

Added Vasser, the pole-winner: “We’re going to burn it down, the last race.”

It wasn’t the forecast Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales, wanted to hear. Carter, who has zero racing experience, is one of only two drivers in the field who have never won this event. He’ll make his racing debut on Saturday and will start near the front in the inversion with the hard-charging pros coming after him.

“I originally thought (the inversion) was a good idea, but now I realize you two guys are behind me,” Carter said.

Carter spent four days of training with the other drivers in the field at Willow Springs International Motorsports Park, which is about an hour north of Los Angeles. He’s so enjoyed his experience with the other drivers, he dubbed the event “the top weekend of my entire life. This is a really special group of people.”

Vasser said he’s holding out hope that a title sponsor will come aboard and take over the event so that Saturday’s race is not the last. He said he remembered the race from his days at Long Beach, before he had a professional ride, and they were always enjoyable.

“It’s been a laugher,” he said. “I remember Donny Osmond rolled it in Turn 1. There’s Donny Osmond climbing out of a car.”

Peacock to stream all Supercross and Motocross races in 2023, plus inaugural SuperMotocross Championship

Peacock Supercross Motocross 2023
Feld Entertainment, Inc.

NBC Sports and Feld Motor Sports announced that Peacock and the NBC family of networks will stream all 31 races of the combined Monster Energy Supercross, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and the newly created SuperMotocross World Championship beginning January 7, 2023 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California and ending October 14 in the place where Supercross was born: the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The combined series will create a 10-month calendar of events, making it one of the longest professional sports’ seasons in the United States.

The agreement is for multiple years. The season finale will air live on Peacock and the USA Network.

Peacock will present live coverage of all races, qualifying and heats across both series. The 31 total races will mark a record for the combined number of Supercross and Pro Motocross events that NBC Sports will present in a single season.

NBC, USA Network and CNBC will provide coverage of all races, including the SuperMotocross World Championship Playoffs and Final, through 2023 and beyond. For more information about the Peacock streaming service, click here.

“With our wide array of live and original motorsports offerings, Peacock is a natural home for Supercross and Pro Motocross races,” said Rick Cordella, Chief Commercial Officer, Peacock. “We’re looking forward to providing fans with an easily-accessible destination to find every race all season long, including the exciting finish with the newly formed SuperMotocross World Championship.”

MORE: A conversation about media rights created the new SuperMotocross World Championship Series

The NBC family of networks has been home to Supercross for the past several seasons and this is a continuation of that relationship. The media rights for both series expired at the end of 2022, which allowed Supercross and Motocross to combine their efforts.

In fact, it was that conversation that led to the formation of the SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).

The SMX series will begin on September 9, 2023 after the conclusion of the Pro Motocross season. Points will accumulate from both series to seed the SMX championship, which creates a record number of unified races.

“The SuperMotocross World Championship adds a new dimension to the annual Supercross and Pro Motocross seasons that will result in crowning the ultimate World Champion,” said Stephen C. Yaros, SVP Global Media and Supercross for Feld Motor Sports. “We are thrilled to be extending our relationship with NBC Sports so our fans can watch all the racing action streaming live on Peacock and the option to also watch select rounds on NBC, USA Network and CNBC.”

Complete 2023 coverage schedules for Supercross, Pro Motocross and the SuperMotocross World Championship on Peacock, NBC, USA Network and CNBC will be announced in the near future.