Temperatures cooled on Saturday April 9, but power did not.
Excitement remained high throughout day two of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach as fans savored the mixed smells of greasy stunt meals and burnt rubber, eager to carry on the biggest party in town l penultimate day of the three-day event.
The gates opened Saturday morning to a salty ocean breeze, a respite from the near triple-digit temperatures the day before.
However, while it was cooler, the thirst for thrills and celebrations was not quenched. This was evidenced by a seemingly larger crowd, not particularly shocking since Friday is part of the working week and Saturday featured additional events including the Porsche Carrera Cup Race, Super Trucks Race, IMSA GTP Historic Race, the Super Drift issue – and, later that night, a live performance by all-star rock band The Royal Machines.
“There’s a lot going on,” said Cara Mahoney, 20, of Huntington Beach. “There is so much to see.”
Mahoney was at the Grand Prix with her boyfriend, 22-year-old Gage Correa. Correa, also from Huntington Beach, is a racing fan, so the Grand Prix is a chance for him to see cars go “really fast all the time.”
Mahoney, however, admitted that she was not a racing fan and was just helping out. But nonetheless, there are things to do and eat for everyone.
“He’s the car guy and I go there because it’s fun,” she said. “Even if you don’t like cars, it’s fun.”
Indeed, the Grand Prix offers opportunities and facilities for all ages and for those with a variety of pursuits.
Among these are staging areas, a relatively new addition to the Grand Prix, which was implemented recently with the aim of catering to the needs of a young crowd. They seem to work.
“There are small parties everywhere and it’s a matter of finding the right one,” said Max Powers, 37, of Long Beach. “It gets better and more fun every year.”
On Saturday afternoon, Powers was at a Don Julio-branded outdoor bar with his friend Rod Navarro, 37, from Los Angeles. The two had been sipping margaritas.
They’ve been on a number of Grand Prix occasions and, they’ve all mentioned, this one feels like a step up from previous variants.
In some ways, Powers said, this occasion feels classier than previous editions. But, longtime racing fans agreed, the occasion may take extra steps.
While they both mentioned that the staging areas and outdoor bars are nice additions, the occasion might be better if event planners splurged extra to usher in celebrities and host high-end events. As a fan of Formula 1 and IndyCar racing, Powers said, the latter has the higher races, but the former has the top status.
“They want the money to move,” he said, “the champagne is flowing.”
Even true motorsport enthusiasts seemed to agree.
Miles Jones, 60, was with a group of 4 different friends as they approached the Life Expo on Saturday afternoon. A motoring and racing fan, he has competed on 14 Grand Prix occasions and he agreed with Powers and Navarro, saying similar additions of extra food and drink choices are welcome.
“It’s an improvement,” said the Gardena resident.
But newlyweds Matt and Megan Spelman were hardly at odds. They too were at the Don Julio bar and said they appreciated the small changes, including having more meal options and places to drink.
Overall, however, they appreciate that the race and format have not fundamentally changed, the couple said.
“A lot of it hasn’t changed,” said Matt Spelman, 49, of Long Beach. “It’s been consistent and I like that.”
Consistency with the racing schedule has allowed the Spelmans to return to Grand Prix racing for nine years, said Matt Spelman.
Megan Spelman, 36, said she had no shortage of old sites like the movie star run, especially since she didn’t know many people who ran on the occasion anyway.
Ultimately, Megan Spelman said, she likes grassroots events like truck racing.
“I’m not going to spend $150,” she said, “if I’m not going to have fun.”
Event changes and innovations are critical to attracting new fans and retaining current fans, said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Long Beach Grand Prix Association, in a previous interview.
This is very true as the race will likely take place in Long Beach by 2028.
And the financial well-being of the city and its businesses is also banking on the success of the Grand Prix, as the occasion is a monetary boon every year.
The event attracts approximately 180,000 people each year, many of whom come from outside Long Beach. So in some ways, the Grand Prix is an advertising alternative for people to see new downtown developments, city officials said.
Nick, 37, and Stephanie Cooper, 35, on Saturday had been two such out-of-town visitors – and this was their first Grand Prix. Originally from Colorado, the two noticed the event in an advertisement and wanted to try something new.
So far, they’ve loved the cool climate and beachfront entrance, Nick Cooper said.
“It was really fun,” he mentioned. “It’s something new.”
Another newcomer, Rob Wuerfel, 50, traveled to Long Beach from Idaho with his 13-year-old son Tyler just for race weekend. Rob Wuerfel mentioned that he has participated in different races, but this is the most important one he has ever participated in.
“It’s always been a dream for my son,” he said. “This is really well done.”
And of course, the best is to come back. Friday is usually the warm-up act and Saturday is the prelude.
Sunday – when the IndyCars start their engines for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach – is the main occasion.