Press Telegram | April 1, 2014
LONG BEACH >> U.S. Olympian Carmelita Jeter knows her way around a race track. After all, the Gardena runner sprinted her way to gold, silver and bronze medals at the 2012 Olympics in London.
But is “The Jet” ready to dominate on a different race track, namely the 2014 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, where Jeter and actors such as Adrien Brody, Cole Hauser and Max Thieriot tear around the iconic 1.97-mile Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach course for charity?
“I hope so — that’s the plan,” Jeter said in between practice runs in downtown Long Beach on Tuesday. “I’m definitely trying to bring the competitiveness from track and field to the … Grand Prix,” she said. “I’m definitely coming out here for the W.”
More than a dozen celebrities came out to Long Beach to meet the press and practice on the seaside course before the Pro/Celebrity Race on April 12.
The charity race, which in the past has featured such celebrities as George Lucas, Cameron Diaz, Paul Newman and Keanu Reeves, is one of several races featured during Grand Prix weekend April 11-13.
The charity race benefits Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach and Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Since 1991, Toyota has donated more than $2 million to various children’s hospitals on behalf of the race and its participants.
The celebrities did four days of training at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond in mid-March, but many found Long Beach’s course vastly different than Willow Springs’.
“It’s definitely harder in the way that you can’t just run off the track — there’s walls,” said actress Tricia Helfer, who portrays Texas Ranger Molly Parker in ABC’s “Killer Women” and was known as the seemingly unstoppable Cylon Number 6 in SyFy’s “Battlestar Galactica.”
“You can’t spin out without consequences, and it’s harder because you can’t see what’s ahead.”
When the drivers drew their numbers for their cars, Helfer appropriately drew 6.
“High School Musical” star Corbin Bleu found the Long Beach course easier than the one in Rosamond.
“You actually keep yourself a bit more contained,” he said. “When you know you have the option to hit the dirt, you do it, and that’s when you end up spinning out. There’s no ‘hit the dirt.’ It’s ‘hit the wall’ and you’re done.”
The talk wasn’t all serious.
“I’m going to stick a banana in Nick Wechsler’s tailpipe — that’s going to happen,” said “Being Human” star Sam Witwer on sabotaging the “Revenge” actor. Both are driving in the race this year.
Jeter also got into the competitive racing spirit.
“Adrien cut me off a couple of times,” she said of Academy Award winner Brody. “I think I’m going to have to get him back.”
Helfer, a racing fan, admitted that she’s a little nervous about the race.
“I’ve got a few people watching out for me that are actual racers, and I want to make sure I do well for them so I don’t embarrass myself,” she said.
Still, Helfer wouldn’t mind taking the top prize — a chance to compete as a pro in next year’s celebrity race.
“I want to do well,” she said. “Do I want to get first? Yeah, I want to get first. Am I going to? I won’t say no. … (But) there’s a lot of good racers out there.”