Dario Franchitti poses with his newly unveiled plaque on the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame. Photo by Jason Ruiz.
Festivities for the 40th Grand Prix of Long Beach commenced Thursday with hundreds of people gathered in front of the Convention Center to witness the induction ceremony of driver Dario Franchitti and team owners Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame.
The 9th annual ceremony was held on Pine Avenue outside the Convention Center which runs along the route drivers will race through this weekend. Mayor Bob Foster was in attendance to help usher in this year’s class of honorees where they were presented with a replica of the plaques that will be placed on the walk of fame.
“Dario Franchitti, Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven have made legendary contributions to the field of motorsports, and they have truly earned their place on the Motorsports Walk of Fame,” Foster said in a press release. “These three honorees have tremendous accomplishments, here in Long Beach and around the world.”
Franchitti, the winner at Long Beach in 2009 and winningest open-wheel driver in North American history, has won three Indianapolis 500 races and is 7th on the all time list for Indy Car wins (31).
At the press conference he reminisced about past experiences at Long Beach and cited taking the pole position at the 2007 race here as one of the highlights of his career.
“It means a lot,” said the retired Franchitti, who will only be watching this year’s race. “It’s a track that I’ve really enjoyed racing and a place that I’ve really enjoyed coming to. There have been a lot of great memories here.”
Forsythe was the victorious owner of back-to-back Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (2003,2004) as well as four Atlantic Championship Races (1993,1997,1999, 2006) with many notable drivers competing for his team. Kalkhoven’s and Jimmy Vasser’s co-owned KV Racing Technology was the winning team at the 2008 race.
Aside from winning, the two owners have played a larger roll in motorsports and Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, spoke of the influence both owners have had in the sport’s growth.
“When Cart went bankrupt in 2003, it was Kevin and Gerry and Paul Gentilozzi that stepped up and basically resurrected the road racing portion of Indy Car racing and brought it back to life,” Michaelian said. “So, they have certainly done their part in regard to this series and really have been able to raise the level what Indy Car racing is all about.”
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach runs Friday through Sunday on the shoreline south of Ocean Blvd. For tickets and information, visit www.gplb.com