Long Beach Grand Prix The Indianapolis 500 takes place this weekend with Indy car stars Danica Patrick and Helio Castroneves. Producer Barrett Golding gets us in the mood for the race with a visit to the Long Beach Grand Prix.
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Long Beach Grand Prix

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Long Beach Grand Prix

Long Beach Grand Prix

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

OK, more entertainment. The Indianapolis 500 race is this weekend. Thirty-three cars speed to more than 200 miles an hour.

(Soundbite of loudspeaker)

Unidentified Man #1: Gentlemen, start your engines!

CHADWICK: It's a rush for drivers and fans alike, as experienced a few weeks ago at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

Unidentified Man #2: The long Beach Grand Prix is one of the greatest events in Southern California. I love everything about it. I love all the great people that come by, the racecars, the noise, the whole atmosphere. That's why I come back here every single year. My kids have been raised on this event, and I would recommend it highly to anybody, anybody who has never been here for Long Beach Grand Prix weekend, to make it a priority.

(Soundbite of cars racing)

(Soundbite of loudspeaker)

Unidentified Man #1: Here comes the field. Can you feel it?

(Soundbite of cars racing)

Unidentified Woman #1: I've been here since day one. Never missed a race ever, ever, since 1977.

Unidentified Man #3: I used to live in Long Beach, and when we moved to Florida five years ago, I told my wife, one thing is non-negotiable. I get to come to the Long Beach Grand Prix every year. I don't care if we're broke or anything. Long Beach, this is the Monaco of the United States.

(Soundbite of cars racing)

Unidentified Woman #2: I love the engines revving. It just gives me chills and goose bumps. I just love to be here.

Unidentified Man #4: Cars are my passion, dude. Ever since I was five years old, I've been collecting Hot Wheels cars. I like to go fast, man.

Unidentified Woman #3: I needed a day off from my kids, and you know, it's a gorgeous day at Long Beach, California. What more could you ask for?

(Soundbite of cars racing)

Unidentified Man #5: I'm watching these guys go 200 miles an hour, a couple of inches apart. You've got to be pretty talented to do it.

Unidentified woman #4: The way they, like, hold it super tight, and then boom! Come out of it and then vroom!

(Soundbite of cars racing)

Unidentified man #6: I love the speed. I have a lot of speed tickets. So, I love speed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of cars racing)

Unidentified man #7: Every American imagines themselves in that cockpit with a racecar going fast, having a blast. We all know we can do it. And that's why we love to watch it because we can envision ourselves racing the car.

Unidentified man #8: And here they come. Here they come.

(Soundbite of cars racing)

Mr. JIM MICHAELIAN (President and Chief Executive Officer, Grand Prix Association of Long Beach): We're right by the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Three hundred sixty-two days a year, the travelers go down the street and use that as a major thoroughfare, and for three days it turns into a high-speed street race in downtown Long Beach, California.

(Soundbite of cars racing)

Mr. MICHAELIAN: I'm Jim Michaelian. I'm the president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach and what we try to do is we provide three days of entertainment. It happens to feature racecars going around the track, and that's the noise you hear and the vibrations you feel.

The headline event is what we call Champ Car Racing, which are open-wheel, open-cockpit racing, just like they have at the Indianapolis 500. And then we have sports cars, Ferraris and Porches, in a different race. We have drifting competitions, which are cars sliding around the track. There are six races here in one weekend, so it is packed with racing activity from eight o'clock in the morning 'til six o'clock at night.

(Soundbite of cars racing)

Mr. MICHAELIAN: It's about a two-mile circuit. We line it with concrete blocks and fence and safety equipment, so there's no chance of the cars going off and hurting anybody or doing any damage.

(Soundbite of cars racing)

Mr. MICHAELIAN: Although, we all like to think we can drive, these are really the masters at it, because you can't make one mistake. It isn't like in football or basketball or baseball, you get another swing or the hit, to try to catch the pass again. You make one mistake here of any major proportion, you're either in the wall, in the case of a street circuit, or in the case of a road circuit, you're going off into the woods some place.

(Soundbite of cars racing)

Mr. MARIO DOMINGUEZ (Racecar Driver, IndyCar Series): My name is Mario Dominguez. I am a racecar driver, and I race champ cars. I'm racing here at the great Long Beach Grand Prix this weekend.

(Soundbite of cars racing)

Mr. DOMINGUEZ: I cried to my father for like three years every single day for him to buy me a go-kart. Finally when I was 10, he accepted, he bought me that go-kart. He said, this is it, I'm never buying you anything faster, and that year I was national champion in Mexico. And then he lightened, so then he was spending whatever it took for me to have the fastest go-kart possible.

(Soundbite of cars racing)

(Soundbite of zipper)

Ms. SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (Racecar Driver; Winner, 2008 Atlantic Championship): I am Simona de Silvestro. I'm from Switzerland and I'm driving in the Atlantic Series. And it's a really cool street course so, I'm enjoying it a lot and you know, with the times, it's really close. We're, like, in six-tenths, the first 12 drivers, so it's really competitive.

Unidentified man #9: Hey, man. Just drive it like you stole it.

(Soundbite of engines revving)

Mr. LUCIAS: I'm Lucias (ph) from Mexico. I do it because it makes me feel alive. I cannot imagine my life without doing this. I love every place that we go. I love meeting people. They really make a difference, when you are inside the car risking your life, when you need to risk a living more, sometimes you do it for them and it's pretty special.

(Soundbite of cars racing)

CHADWICK: The Long Beach Grand Prix, by Barrett Golding and Joseph Skyward, at the new NPR series Hearing Voices.

(Soundbite of cars racing)

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: And there's more in a moment on Day to Day.

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