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

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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.”

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race IndyCar stars in iRacing at Michigan

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).