Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy, Resident Evil: Afterlife) felt pretty good starting the ridiculously beautiful Saturday April 14, 2012 36th Toyota Pro/Celebrity race as part of the 38th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. After all, even in one of the worst storms to roll through Long Beach in some time on Friday the 13th, he managed to take the top Poll position, qualifying at 1:49:385 with Adam Carolla right behind him at 1:49:940 and Eddie Cibran right behind with 1:50:077; and those times were off of the morning qualifying heat due to the storm.
Coates' poll position won him the 15th Annual People Pole Award from People magazine and a check for $15,000 to his charity, One Heart Source in Africa.
"My daughter is involved with this charity, so you've made her very happy and this has made me a very popular dad," he said at Friday's qualifying event as People magazine awarded him and his charity a check for $15,000.
But how one evening can change things.
At Saturday's Toyota pro/celebrity race the tide quickly turned for Coates.
Remember, this may be all in good fun and for charity, but the celebrities and pros want to win. While there is a sense of team spirit, there is also real competition. For many, like Coates, this is not their first race or Grand Prix.
"It's fun when you get to crash other people's stuff for charity," Adam Carolla joked prior to the race.
It didn't seem too fun for Coates. His race ended early, after a promising start, in lap 7, when a crash sent him to the wall and then to be checked out by doctors shortly after the checkered flag was lowered. His car remained dangerously in lanes on the dreaded Hairpin curve of the track.
Coates wouldn't be the only celebrity to taste the wall or metal. Even before Coates left the race Brody Jenner and Eddie Cibrian clashed after Cibrian had trouble with a corner and Jenner collided with him in Lap 3, leaving Jenner out.
"It's a shame to ruin such a beautiful day this way," he said shortly thereafter. "I really wanted to finish, because, it's fun! Plus, I wanted to win. But it wasn't in the stars. I ran in to Cibrian, well, he ran in to me! Or somehow we ran into each other."
WIn or not, it must be fun being Brody Jenner. This star of reality TV who the term "bromance" was coined was the definite attention getter as women, and a few men, from behind the fence of the Toyota Grand Prix People Celebrity Paddock screamed for his attention.
"Well, at least if the fans are having a good time, and people are here for the race, it makes it all worthwhile. It is for kids, after all," he added.
Many celebrities talked of the charity, The Miller Children's Hospital and Racing for Kids. Toyota donated $5000 to Racing for Kids in the name of each celebrity and pro participant and an additional $5,000 to Adam Carolla's charity, because of the win.
Carolla was quick to clarify the charity aspect of this after.
"FIrst of all, this is the best part of being a celebrity, and one of the best perks, so I encourage you all to become celebrities quick," he joked as the press conference after the event began. "But let's remember, there's a lot of talk about how this is for the kids. Well, the kids are great, they are fine, but they could know me or anyone else from Adam at five or six. It's really the parents that need as much support. I can't imagine what it's like to hold your kid's hand time and time again, surgery after surgery, to be there, sleeping on chairs and cots, sometimes through very trying times. We need to remember it's as much for those heroes as it is for the kids. For us? It's just a blast," he concluded.
Racing for Kids is a national nonprofit program benefiting children's hospitals in Long Beach and Orange County, Calif. Toyota has donated more than two million since 1991. People magazine goes above and beyond by awarding the winning Poll placer $15k to their charity.
CSI:NY's Hill Harper took the race very seriously. He challenged Carolla for the lead for the last third of the race, never letting up until the end and taking a very decent second. Harper had the fastest lap of any pro or celebrity.
"The instructors were so great," Harper started. "We train for weeks out at Willow Springs and they take this race very seriously. Things happen fast out there, and you have to be prepared. I listened and studied hard, and I wanted to win," he added. "I will definitely come back if I can, I want this."
Latin superstar Kate del Castillo (NBC/Mun2) finished first amongst the women, including Grand Prix Queen Jillian Barberie Reynolds (the female veteran).
"Jillian has done this before, so it wasn't fair to paint us as rivals," Casitllo laughed after. "We drive like this in my country all the time, I like to speed," she continued in good spirits.
When asked about her involvement on behalf of the large Hispanic community now represented at the Grand Prix (Bellanova is the headliner Saturday, April 14th, a wildly popular Latin band) she said it was overwhelming to see the response.
"My fans brought banners and were so loud, it was so wonderful to see them all turn out here in Long Beach. I'd love to come back and reconnect with them again, and of course, do the race!" she concluded.
William Fichner (Contact, The Lone Ranger, Entourage) finished second in the pro, a category he earned by winning last year's Celebrity Grand Prix, with pro racer Frederic Aasbo finished first in the pro. Record Producer and American Idol Mentor Jim Jonsin took third in pro and Bryan Clauson fourth.
In all it was Carolla, Harper and Biff Gordon taking the top three podium spots in the 36th Annual Toyota celebrity/pro race. Gordon is a Toyota Dealer who drives through winning the spot on silent auction (again, for charity). Rutledge Wood came in fourth, with Cain Velasquez, Adrien Brody, Kate del Castillo, Jerry Westlund, Jillian Barberie Reynolds, Doug Fregin, Eileen Davidson (daytime TV), Eddie Cibrian, Kim Coates and Brody Jenner finishing out the pack; with the last two not finishing.
The average speed for the celebrities was 63.866 with the best speed 66.147. However speeds in excess of 100 are not uncommon during Grand Prix.
The 38th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach continues all weekend with the main race beginning at 1:30 on Sunday, April, 15. The race brings hundreds of thousands of people to Long Beach and is a major source of economic stimulus. It is the largest event in Long Beach and one of the top three in the state. Go to http://www.lbgp.org for more.
Thanks to Chris Esslinger and Sharon Noot for their assistance. Photos and video by Charles Karel Bouley and Brandon Crispo.
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Start of press conference:
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