The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – Professor Quan’s Analysis

The 44th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach did not disappoint.  While our Professor’s Media Day Extravaganza may have been a bit more extraordinary – Long Beach’s biggest event of the year was another great success by all measures.  From the Lifestyle Expo to celebrity drivers and even new racing events – all the boxes were checked and record attendance achieved.  Hear the complete report in this iDriveSoCal Podcast with Clinton “The Professor” Quan.


Recording date – April 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, CA

Clinton Quan: There was record attendance this year at over 185,000 people attended this event. It’s pretty much like going to a car show where they have vehicles on display for you to check out. Almost every manufacturer brought up almost their entire line of vehicles. For the first time ever, the historic TransAm Challenge, that’s where they have the muscle cars from the late 60’s and early 70’s. This year Scott Pruitt was the Grand Marshall for the 44th Toyota Grand Prix.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, southern California. I’m Tom Smith, and joining me for yet another analysis of an automotive event is our good friend, the Professor, Clinton Quan. Say hello, Clinton.

Clinton Quan: Hi, Tom.

Tom Smith: Thanks for joining us yet again my friend. Today we are talking about the Long Beach Grand Prix, which has now made its way into the history books. Last week, I think it was, we released our podcast that we did that was your media day extravaganza leading up to the Long Beach Grand Prix, but now today we’re talking about your experience actually at the event itself. From what you just shared with me, they had record attendance?

Clinton Quan: Yes, I just read there was record attendance this year at over 185,000 people attended this event.

Tom Smith: That must have been because of the extra exposure we provided to Long Beach Grand Prix with our podcast we did on media day.

Clinton Quan: Yes, I hope so.

Tom Smith: All right, so I’ve been to Long Beach Grand Prix once, and when I went, I was actually in the radio business, and by way of that I had VIP access so I got into the pits. I got into the VIP hospitality area, and holy socks, what an experience that was. I mean a display of wealth first off, because many of these cars have extraordinarily rich individuals and corporations behind them, and it’s like no expense spared, or at least it seems that way to my inexperienced eye. I don’t know if that’s what you saw, but tell us about your experience, what day did you go, and what did you see, what did you do?

Clinton Quan: Well, I attended the event on Saturday, and I was there pretty much all day from 8: 00 in the morning until about 5: 00. I experienced the Lifestyle Expo, where I got to see a number of different vehicles from some of the major manufacturers.

Tom Smith: Hold on real quick. The big race was on Sunday, right?

Clinton Quan: The big race was on Sunday, the Indie.

Tom Smith: You were there on Saturday?

Clinton Quan: On Saturday, but there were a number of other important races on Saturday as well.

Tom Smith: Right, right, so you got there and hit the Lifestyle Expo. Now, what goes on at the Lifestyle Expo? What’s on display there?

Clinton Quan: A lot of different vehicles. Some of the major manufacturers. It’s pretty much like going to a car show where they have vehicles on display for you to check out. This includes Chevrolet, Cadillac, Mazda, Honda, Toyota, Lexus.

Tom Smith: All right, and did they have their sporty vehicles there, or was it everything? Chevy had trucks and what not?

Clinton Quan: They have a number of their sporty vehicles, but also a number of their other vehicles as well. Honda for example, had the Pilot, their midsize SUV. They also had the Odyssey, their minivan. They had the CRV, their compact crossover vehicle. Same thing with Mazda. They brought out the CX3, their subcompact crossover, the CX5, compact crossover.

Tom Smith: They had a little bit of everything?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, so it depends on the manufacturer, but almost every manufacturer brought up almost their entire line of vehicles.

Tom Smith: Wow, all right, so this was not small in scale?

Clinton Quan: No, not small in scale. It was held at the Long Beach Convention Center.

Tom Smith: Right, and that was the Lifestyle Expo, so what else other than the automotive manufacturers were on display at the Lifestyle Expo?

Clinton Quan: Tire companies such as …

Tom Smith: The Lifestyle Expo is basically a car show?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, it’s like a car show.

Tom Smith: Got it.

Clinton Quan: Different vendors. They also had vehicles from [crosstalk 00: 04: 06] Challenge.

Tom Smith: Yeah, funnel cake, icy cones, whatever …

Clinton Quan: Yeah, there’s also a Kid Zone in the other part of the Convention Center.

Tom Smith: Got it, got it.

Clinton Quan: They have a little bit of everything. Just outside on top of one of the parking structures, K1 Speed set up an outdoor electric go carting track as well.

Tom Smith: Fun, all right.

Clinton Quan: Then there’s live music outside. There’s a concert in the evening at 6: 00.

Tom Smith: All right. All right, so what else did you experience?

Clinton Quan: I also experienced all the vendors outside the Convention Center.

Tom Smith: Got your King Taco, perfect. All right. Funnel cake, cotton candy.

Clinton Quan: A little bit more than that.

Tom Smith: Sweet, all right.

Clinton Quan: Also got to check out some of the racing. For the first time ever, the historic TransAm Challenge, that’s where they have the muscle cars from the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Tom Smith: They called it the TransAm Challenge? Was it TA specifically?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, that’s the name of it. A number of different muscle cars.

Tom Smith: A Barracuda could be there?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: TransAm Challenge is just the name?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, that’s just the name of the organization and the race.

Tom Smith: The race was American muscle … Was it a straight away, or do they actually take these things through the Long Beach Grand Prix course?

Clinton Quan: No, it’s the same track as for the Indie cars.

Tom Smith: Really?

Clinton Quan: Yes, so that was really cool.

Tom Smith: These old muscle cars that go fast in a straight line really well, but don’t turn for … Don’t try to take a left or a right, otherwise you’re good in the old muscle typically.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, yeah, well these are professional drivers. They know how to handle the cars.

Tom Smith: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get that, but were they stocked in a true sense like factory stock or were they worked on?

Clinton Quan: No, no. They were worked on. Yeah, yeah, they were definitely worked on.

Tom Smith: That’s interesting. That’d be a pretty cool one to see.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, so that one was new for this year.

Tom Smith: Who categorically … Like, was it enthusiasts, rich guys that had these things? I mean because that’s a chunk of change there just for the vehicle, have it decked out for the race and then …

Clinton Quan: Oh, I’m sure. Yeah.

Tom Smith: That’s a whole subset of possibly sponsors if you go that route.

Clinton Quan: Absolutely, yeah.

Tom Smith: Is this a new race category that’s evolving?

Clinton Quan: Well, it’s new to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, but it’s been around.

Tom Smith: Been around So Cal, or been around the country?

Clinton Quan: I think it’s probably all over the country, so they have …

Tom Smith: They call it the TransAm Challenge?

Clinton Quan: It’s called the TransAm Challenge.

Tom Smith: That’s like a little subset of the race group world?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, so it you look up TransAm Challenge, there’s a website just for that. It’ll have all the info on that.

Tom Smith: What’s the criteria for that … Sorry to drill down about these questions, but I love those old … I love that group of cars, so the fact that somebody’s actually taking those around a track is kind of perplexing to me, because the coolest thing about those cars is … We talked about this last week, I think it was that just one old muscle doing burnouts, doing donuts, being able to just hammer the gas and get those tires spinning. That’s one of the things I love …

Clinton Quan: Big engines, big horsepower, big torque.

Tom Smith: Yeah, yeah, and big sliding the rear end back and forth. I love that, you know? That’s just fun. I mean drifting came of people’s love for that. When you all of a sudden tell me, “Hey, a 60’s or 70’s old muscle is now competing in a race that requires turning left and right,” that’s impressive to me, but I digress. Sorry. Carry on. That sounds like a really neat thing. We’re going to do a little bit more research on that. If there’s another TransAm Challenge in the southern California area, that might be a field trip that I might even attend with you.

Clinton Quan: Yes. There’s also the Sports Car Challenge, or Grand Championship, [inaudible 00: 07: 58].

Tom Smith: What is that? Like, street cars?

Clinton Quan: There’s actually three different classes of cars. There’s the prototypes, which are the sports cars, so Helio Castroneves compete in that series now. He was former …

Tom Smith: Who?

Clinton Quan: Helio Castroneves, formerly Indie Car …

Tom Smith: He’s a racer?

Clinton Quan: Yes, very well known.

Tom Smith: Professional driver.

Clinton Quan: Very well known, Indie Car. He was also on Dancing with the Stars, Brazilian race car driver.

Tom Smith: There you go. Dancing with the Stars and …

Clinton Quan: He’s a very accomplished Indie Car driver. There’s also GT Lemans and Daytona.

Tom Smith: Those were the races that went down on Saturday?

Clinton Quan: Yes. Well, there was also a drift and a truck series as well, so there was quite a bit of racing.

Tom Smith: Many … How many laps were each one of these races?

Clinton Quan: Well, it depends. Each race has a different format. Some of the races are based strictly on time, whereas Indie Car it’s 85 laps and it’s just under 2 miles per lap. It’s about 1.97.

Tom Smith: Well, and we covered that in the Media Day podcast that we did …

Clinton Quan: Yeah, yes.

Tom Smith: … The Long Beach Grand Prix. They have all these different classes of cars that race, and trucks, but they’re all doing that around the same track configuration.

Clinton Quan: Correct. All of these races are on the same track.

Tom Smith: Which still blows my mind, that old muscles going around these.

Clinton Quan: Including the trucks.

Tom Smith: Right.

Clinton Quan: Including those sport trucks.

Tom Smith: Back to the old muscle real quick, I’m hung up on this one. These things slide sideways so easily. I get that they’re professional drivers, but they slide sideways so easily and they’re big heavy cars.

Clinton Quan: Yes, they are.

Tom Smith: They’re still … Are they modified in such a way that the metal doors and quarter panels come off and a fiberglass kind of fake body goes on, or do they have …

Clinton Quan: No.

Tom Smith: It’s you bump quarter panels, you’re bumping quarter panels, and you’ve got some body work ahead of you?

Clinton Quan: Yeah. Yeah, it’s not modified like a race car. It’s a sports car, but they have some slight modifications to it, yeah.

Tom Smith: Right, okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Interesting. All right, cool. There’s a bunch of races, everybody’s racing around the same track. Fun day, party atmosphere, car show involved, what else? I know you went there as the fan boy that you are, but then also the one reason why you hang out with me and iDriveSoCal is because you get those media credentials. What do the media credentials get you for your experience at Long Beach Grand Prix this week, or this year?

Clinton Quan: Well, I also got access to the media center, had lunch down there.

Tom Smith: Did they have crab cake sliders again?

Clinton Quan: No crab cake sliders, but they did have a shrimp salad.

Tom Smith: Nice.

Clinton Quan: A shrimp salad and salmon with pasta.

Tom Smith: All right, if you guys …

Clinton Quan: That’s where I got to watch some of the TransAm Challenge, on the TVs down there.

Tom Smith: Got you.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, that happened during lunch time.

Tom Smith: If you listened to our podcast that we did, whatever it was last week or the week before, about Clinton’s experience at media day … If you haven’t listened to it, check it out. It’s worth a listen I think. He had a heck of a day. He wound up getting to ride 150 miles an hour downtown Long Beach on the track obviously, by a professional driver, but he did this completely on a full belly. Then the actual ride that he was supposed to do, which was on a drift car, he was like, “Oh no, I didn’t do that,” because after these other two rides that he got that he wasn’t supposed to get technically, he had to go back for their very nicely catered lunch that the media folks got. I threatened Clinton that I might have to send myself next year, because it sounded like he had entirely too much fun.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: That’s good, so you got a good meal out of the media area for the Long Beach Grand Prix. What else did you do media-wise at the Grand Prix this year, or was that it?

Clinton Quan: That was for the most part … Oh, I also got access to where all the cars were staged. I think I showed you a photo of one of the cars undergoing an inspection, so that was great. I got to walk around the areas.

Tom Smith: Pictures will be on so check them out.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, where all the Indie cars are staged beforehand, before going out for qualifying and practice. That was really cool. This year Scott Pruitt was the Grand Marshall for the 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and I also met him in the Lifestyle Expo during an autograph session held by Toyota.

Tom Smith: Scott Pruitt holds a very special place in Clinton’s heart for a story that he shared with me before the mics were live, but go ahead and hit that story real quick. Let me do a quick summary. Clinton is a huge, huge, huge car fan, car fan boy, car guy, car geek, car everything. He did some competition that involved driving. He was the number one person, got the top prize, wound up winning a $21,000 driving extravaganza experience that fell … It was non-transferrable, once in a lifetime opportunity, $21,000 value, fell on the same week that his son was due to be born.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Clinton, let’s pick up the story from there. Did you do the experience, a $21,000 value, or did you see your son born?

Clinton Quan: I saw my son born.

Tom Smith: I was hoping that we were going to lead up to that a little bit, but before …

Clinton Quan: Two once in a lifetime …

Tom Smith: Before deciding to see your son be born, you did investigate quite thoroughly the options of different hospitals near where the experience was taking place, did you not?

Clinton Quan: Along the route.

Tom Smith: Along the route, okay, because we’re in southern California, and the experience was taking place in northern California.

Clinton Quan: In Sonoma.

Tom Smith: In Sonoma, okay.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: That sounded like a heck of an experience. It was going to be a week-long thing where you got to drive a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, a this, a that …

Clinton Quan: Yeah, pretty much.

Tom Smith: Fancy dinners every night.

Clinton Quan: Sports cars from all the major manufacturers, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche, I think there was a Bentley in there. Just some amazing super cars, and a private dinner with Motorsports Celebrities each night of the week.

Tom Smith: I hijacked that story. Apologies for that, and it was Scott Pruitt who was involved in this somehow, and you got to see him again. How was Scott Pruitt?

Clinton Quan: Well, Scott Pruitt partnered with Lexus quite some time ago. He races for Lexus. He’s a very well known sports car racer.

Tom Smith: Right. Was he on Dancing with the Stars too?

Clinton Quan: No, he was not.

Tom Smith: Oh, okay. Nevertheless, Scott Pruitt was involved in Clinton winning this $21,000 extravaganza that he wasn’t able to do, because he got to see his son be born instead. Then Clinton was able to say hello to Scott at an autograph signing and got a picture with him. Did he remember you from that experience?

Clinton Quan: No, no.

Tom Smith: Oh, he didn’t remember you.

Clinton Quan: He wouldn’t remember me.

Tom Smith: What else about the Long Beach Grand Prix?

Clinton Quan: What else about it? Well …

Tom Smith: You can’t wait for next year. I cannot.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. I can’t wait for next year, and next year I think I’m going to have to be there both days, well Saturday and Sunday. There’s just so much going on and it’s hard to experience it all in one day.

Tom Smith: Who won? Well, there’s so many races, lots of guys won, right?

Clinton Quan: Well, Alexander Rossi won for Indie Car.

Tom Smith: That was Sunday, which you weren’t there for that?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, I wasn’t there, but I did watch it on TV. Another thrilling and exciting race, number 44.

Tom Smith: You can hear it in Clinton’s voice, can’t you folks? Thrilling and exciting is exactly how you would describe the tonality?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: All right, well very good. Clinton, thank you so much as always for another analysis of a fantastic southern California automotive event. Long Beach Grand Prix is an annual thing.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Happens next year … Well …

Clinton Quan: Actually started the year I was born, 1975.

Tom Smith: Oh, there you go. All right. Well, now you know how old Clinton is, and I’m slightly older everybody, so there you have it. Thank you so much Clinton, as always, the Professor. That was his analysis of the Long Beach Grand Prix. Thanks to the Long Beach Grand Prix for having us. Hope you will have us again next year. We’ll provide more coverage and analysis from the Professor. For iDriveSoCal, I’m Tom Smith. As always, thank you for listening.