Speed Racer

“We did four days of training at Willow Springs [International Raceway in California] at Danny McKeever’s Fast Lane Racing School. It’s an actual driving school that Toyota, the sponsor, puts us through. So, while we were there, everyone was sizing each other up, seeing who was faster. Then we got to practice at Long Beach. Two weeks later, we practiced again and then had qualifying the next day. The day after that was the race. Overall, it was an eight-day commitment, so only people who really wanted to do this did it.”


“Let me take you through the race and tell you exactly what happened. Basically, we started with qualifying, and I qualified fastest. I was faster than the pros, which was really good bragging rights because one of the pros, Rhys Millen, who’s ex-racer Rod Millen’s kid, was not too happy about that [laughs]. That was fun because he tried to beat me in qualifying because I beat him in practice as well. I was like, two seconds faster than the next qualifier, and two seconds [in racing] is like the difference between winning $100,000 and winning $1,000,000. It’s a lot.”

The First Crash
“Starting out, I was on the inside front row, [ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT’s] Mark Steines was next to me, [GREY’S ANATOMY’s] Patrick Dempsey was directly behind me, [Olympic gold-medal swimmer] Aaron Peirsol was next to Patrick and then it was Frankie Muniz. It was a rolling start and we went down the street and into turn one at about 100 miles an hour. Patrick made a move up the inside and I looked at him in the mirror just a little bit too long to try and cover my angle. I had a really bad entrance into the corner and I lost the rear end and slammed into the tire wall! When you slam into the tire wall, it makes a lot bigger noise than you think. It really didn’t do that much damage to the car — just a lot of dings and the mirror was broken. Then, everybody passed me.”

“I thought it was all over for me. I’m sitting there in the car and everybody’s going by me. I was hoping nobody else crashed into me because it was at the end of turn one, which is a really dangerous turn, and everyone was going pretty fast and I thought, ‘I’ve blown it.’ I was like, ‘You are such an idiot!’ But, I thought, ‘I’ll just see if this thing starts,’ and it did. I thought I might be able to drive it back to the pits and watch the rest of the race. So, I started driving and then started driving it harder and all of a sudden, the pros were right [on top of me]. Rhys Millen was right on my tail, and they kept waving this flag that I thought was the debris flag. All these things are going through my mind: ‘Are there bits hanging off the car? Am I dripping oil everywhere? Is my wheel falling off?’ I didn’t think my car was straight anymore after that hard hit.”

Back In The Race
“I couldn’t get my head around the fact that the car was still driving, but it felt fine, so I just put my head down drove. I didn’t see those flags anymore. (Later on, I realized that they were passing flags, which is an information flag to let you know that there’s someone else behind you.) I let Rhys by me at the end of the first lap, and then I followed him and we started catching the back of the celebrities. We worked our way past [former L.A. Laker] Karl Malone and then [singer] Meat Loaf. I lost Rhys after awhile because he put a few cars in between us. Then, I saw Patrick’s car and I was like, damn, ‘Patrick’s right there. That means I’m getting close to the front.’ Now, I’m thinking that I’ve got a chance to get third or second or something. I got from 14th all the way up to like 5th place. Then I saw Justin Berfield from MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE and I got around him and saw Frankie in the distance. I thought, ‘He’s in first. I’m going to take him.'”

The Home Stretch
“There were three turns to go. I was in second place celebrity, third place overall. It was a great comeback. I was really, really happy with it. I was laughing because I had already had such a great drive because I got myself all the way back up to almost an impossible first place for celebrity. I was catching up to Aaron. I was going as hard as I could. He was watching me in the mirror going, ‘I’m not going to let him pass. I’m going to brake really late.’ Well, he broke way too late, and I broke a little bit later than he did. I didn’t even look at the turn. I didn’t look at the brake markers. All I saw was the tire wall coming at me and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, damn. This is going to really hurt [laughs].’ You could see the rear of my car lifted like a half-foot off the ground when it hit, so I went in there pretty hard.”

The Moment Of Truth
“I immediately put it into reverse, but when I went to put it in gear I put it third by mistake and stalled the car. ‘Damnit!’ I really thought my car was completely screwed that time because the hood had buckled. It looked like a real good fender bender. I got the car rolling and Frankie came by me and on my momentum, there was nothing I could do. If I wouldn’t have stalled it in third, I would have come in second overall and first in the celebrities, even though I crashed twice. I panicked. It’s one of those things that replays over and over in your head when you’re sleeping at night [laughs]. It just bugs the s— out of you. I’m better now, but the first week, Patrick and I called each other every day and said, ‘I just can’t stop thinking about the fricking race!’ It was fun. I wrote a huge e-mail the next day to tell all my friends about the race and to do a little therapy on myself [laughs].”

Here’s the list of winners and their times from Toyota.com:

Overall Winner: Rhys Millen — 18:30.451

Celebrity Category:
1. Frankie Muniz — 18:44.117
2. Ingo Rademacher — 18:50.411
3. Aaron Peirsol — 18:54.264
4. Mark Steines — 18:57.944
5. Misty May — 19:00.791
6. Mike Sullivan — 19:14.139
7. Meat Loaf — 19:21.117
8. Amanda Beard — 19:26.035
9. Karl Malone — 19:27.185
10. Justin Berfield — (Did Not Finish)
11. Patrick Dempsey — (DNF)
12. Paige Hemmis — (DNF)

Pro Category:
1. Rhys Millen — 18:30.451
2. Ryan Arciero — 18:42.996
3. Matt Scranton — 18:57.189
4. Christopher McDonald — 19:20.314

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