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.
The race today was really, really good. I got a really good start and started catching the back of the celebrity field in the first three or four laps. I never really expected to catch the front of the field without a caution, so I was pretty surprised that we eventually made our way up there. It was kind of neat. Going in, the professionals were about three seconds a lap faster, so over a 10-lap race while going through traffic, I knew it was going to be tough to get up there. The biggest challenge was just getting through traffic with inexperienced race drivers. Most of them did a really, really good job, though. Then I saw the leaders up ahead and I said to myself, -- I can't believe I caught them', then I said, -- now let's pass them'.
I had a couple of different opportunities to try to pass ESPN pit reporter Jamie Little for the overall lead on the last lap, but it wasn't worth the risk of taking us both out. I really give her credit, she really did an awesome job and was the celebrity winner, while I won the professional class, so I accomplished what I'd hoped to do. One of the cool things about the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race is the camaraderie that goes on during the event.
Being a professional racer, I was able to offer some tips along the way to the rest of the field and maybe reinforce some of the things that are taught by Toyota's racing instructor Danny McKeever. And let me add, it's not just the celebrities who get the benefit of the instructors wisdom as Danny really helped me a lot as well. As far as the celebrities, I think that maybe that when you hear it from the school teacher and then when you hear it from someone who does it for a living, it really sinks in a little more. After the race, I had four or five of the celebrity drivers come up to me and say -- I took a page out of your playbook' in saying -- this is what I did on the start, or this is what I did around the fountain' and it was kind of neat to be able to help out all these super successful people in doing what I do. One thing you have to realize on a street course like that is there's not any one place on this race track that you're going to make up a second or two. You have to whittle your way all the way around this race track by taking off a tenth or two here and there and it adds up, so hopefully some of the tips I was able to offer paid off. I really enjoyed that part of the event and there might be a little more of it in my future.
I've been filling in to help mentor A.J. Allmendinger in the Redbull #84 Camry and we've been talking to the Red Bull folks about a possible future role in helping their young drivers along as a consultant.
This weekend as a whole was an A-plus. It was a great weekend. We tested fast, we were fast in qualifying and we raced well, but the most important thing was it was a good for the kids that we were able to help through the charity in raising more than $100,000. Hopefully, my entire experience isn't over here in Long Beach. I hope to continue my relationship with Toyota in the years to come. I'll be behind the steering wheel for at least another year and maybe two or three and if I'm fortunate enough for the Toyota folks to invite me back against for another Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, then I'll definitely be here.
-credit: toyota motorsports