Arts & Life, Events, Features

Long Beach Grand Prix gives city a high-octane boost

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach has been a staple of the city since 1977. What started as a Formula 5000 race, hosting 46,000 fans, quickly became the premiere Southern California racing venue for Formula 1 and IndyCar.

Over the past 47 years, the streets of Long Beach have hosted motorsport legends like Gilles Villeneuve, Niki Lauda and Long Beach Motorsport Walk of Fame icon and Andretti Autosport founder Mario Andretti.

Long Beach, CALIF: Tom Blomqvist makes a quick turn during a NTT IndyCar Series Race at the Acura Long Beach Grand Prix. Blomqvist would finish 22nd out of 27 in the race with Scott Dixon taking first place.
Long Beach, CALIF: Tom Blomqvist makes a quick turn during a NTT IndyCar Series Race at the Acura Long Beach Grand Prix. Blomqvist would finish 22nd out of 27 in the race with Scott Dixon taking first place. Photo credit: Naoki Gima

The Long Beach Grand Prix is the largest event in the city every year, hosting upwards of 200,000 fans during a span of four days. The event is estimated to generate $33 million, $700,000 of which goes to tax revenue. The event is also a major employer in the city, creating around 600 jobs including ticket takers, expo exhibitors, food vendors and event staff.

Alongside the on-track action, a lifestyle expo at the Long Beach Convention Center features car brands, team sponsors and local exhibitors, giving racegoers even more to see during the weekend. One of those exhibitors is SHELL Roofing Solutions, owned by the family of Long Beach State public relations major Brisa Gutierrez.

“We get to expose our brand,” SHELL Roofing Solutions CEO Rudy Gutierrez said. “We combined our love for racing and roofing and turned it into a great marketing opportunity.”

Rudy Gutierrez and his brother Hector Gutierrez have been coming to the race for years, not only to market their brand, but also to experience the race. “It gives us a chance to meet new customers but also hang out with family and friends,” Hector Gutierrez said.

04/21/2024- Long Beach, CALIF: Acura Long Beach Grand Prix attendees sit in the stands to watch the NTT IndyCar Series Race to watch some of their favorite drivers take part.
04/21/2024- Long Beach, CALIF: Acura Long Beach Grand Prix attendees sit in the stands to watch the NTT IndyCar Series Race to watch some of their favorite drivers take part. Photo credit: Naoki Gima

The family-friendly event draws attendees from many different demographics. Eighty-five percent of racegoers are Southern California natives and the event welcomes new fans each year like Long Beach local Liz Garica, 35, who got free tickets to attend from a local casino.

“This is the first time we’ve come,” Garcia said. “We’ve lived out here a few years and have heard the race but have never attended. It’s a nice experience, especially living here, and it’s been super fun so far. I’m excited to see the racing.”

Aside from the newcomers, returning fans come year in and year out, with an estimated 70% of racegoers being returning fans. Dedicated IndyCar fans come to Long Beach to see their favorite drivers, like Debbie and Mike Farole, who have been attending the Long Beach Grand Prix for over 40 years and are fans of Brazilian driver Helio Castroneves.

Long Beach, CALIF: Acura Long Beach Grand Prix attendees check out the IndyCar shop inside the Lifestyle Expo.
Long Beach, CALIF: Acura Long Beach Grand Prix attendees check out the IndyCar shop inside the Lifestyle Expo. Photo credit: Naoki Gima

“I got into racing through a movie called ‘Rush’ about Formula 1, and then we bought an RV spot at California Speedway and stayed there for 25 years. So, we’ve been surrounded by it for a long time,” said Mike Farole.

Debbie Farole credits the atmosphere of the event with why they return every year. Each time they attend, they have a schedule. On Friday, they take the day to walk around the expo, meet other fans and check out what the weekend has to offer. Then, they lock into the racing on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s the Grand Prix of the West Coast on the beach, you know, what’s better than that?” Debbie Farole said when asked why they keep coming back.

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