NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series star and Red Bull Camry driver Mike Skinner is the defending champion of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race and he's back to defend his title in '08. The race is run in conjunction with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach...
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series star and Red Bull Camry driver Mike Skinner is the defending champion of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race and he's back to defend his title in '08. The race is run in conjunction with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Indy car race and has helped raise more than $1.6 million for local children's charities in Southern California.
Leading up to race day
On Thursday, we went up to Miller's Children's Hospital in Long Beach. Going to the children's hospital is the high and the low of the entire weekend for me. The high point is seeing the smiles on a young child's face when guys like Eric Dickerson and our celebrities come into the room to meet the kids. The low point is to see any young kid suffer. We all think our time is so precious, but to be able to give a little bit of our time, and for Toyota to come out here for all these years and give all this money to charity really gives you a warm feeling. Whatever problems you may have personally don't seem nearly as important when you leave the hospital.
It's Friday, time to go racing -- or at least for us a day to practice and qualify.
We practiced in the morning and then set the grid in qualifying this afternoon. I had the fastest time among the professionals, who start the race 30 seconds behind the celebrity field. It's a 10-lap race and we have some celebrities that are fast enough that I don't think we're going to be able to drive up through the field and catch.
Unless there's a yellow flag, I think we'll just about catch the rest of the field on the last lap. What I want to do is be able to out-run the field in my class (Olympic gold medal cyclist and NHRA driver Marty Nothstein, NHRA Funny Car champions Tony Pedregon and Whit Bazemore, off-road racer Beccy Gordon and auction winner and SCCA racer Sarena Travers). Marty Nothstein is fast out there, he was about five-tenths off, but he should be able to hang with me and maybe we can draft and catch the rest of the field. I think we'll definitely be faster if we run together.
Overall, it's been a blast out here -- just like last year. You get a chance to talk to a lot of people from different backgrounds and meet new friends out here and you exchange numbers and keep in touch. I made two or three friends here last year and I'm sure we'll do the same this year. We stay in touch and get to see each other once in a while. It really provides a lot of fond memories. When it's all said and done, the race is almost secondary to the memories you get out of here.
Next Up: Race Day
-credit: toyota motorsports