Before Steve Millen, winner of the 1994 24 Hours of Daytona, could compete in this weekend's Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, he had to attend a beginner's driving school. Here's a first-hand account he wrote exclusively for us. —Ed.
Earlier this year, I was invited to compete in this year's Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix Pro/Celebrity race. It's a tremendous honor, and I am excited to participate. In order to be eligible to race, Toyota told me that I would need to attend racing school. I started laughing and asked when I should show up for practice. I've never been to a driving school before and I've been racing for nearly 40 years — I didn't think they were serious.
Turns out they require all competitors to participate in a mandatory driving school at Willow Springs Raceway prior to the event. I figured it would be a great opportunity to learn how to drive the Scion TC — the car used in the school and the race — to its full potential, and to relearn momentum driving. Prior to heading out to Willow Springs, I reviewed the list of entrants. As usual, the other pros are great drivers: Indy-Car champion Jimmy Vasser and drift champion/rally driver/Hollywood stuntman Tanner Foust. I was excited to get out on the track with these guys and see what would unfold. This is what I learned.
If you'd like to read Steve's piece on a single page, free of our gallery layout, click here.
1. Progress, Progress
The old adage that you can't teach an old dog new tricks is true: I'm all confused after hearing some of the instructor's "tips and tricks."
2. Passing Only Where Legal
There are passing zones during racing? Apparently you can only pass on the front straight, and if you pass anywhere else, you get kicked off the track and have to sit in the "penalty box."
Photo Credit: Tom Grundy/Shutterstock.com
3. Rules? Aw!
Sitting in the "penalty box" for passing anywhere other than the front straightaway is boring — sorry about that! Good news, though: I've been told that there are no passing rules come race day!
Photo Credit: Denis Pepin /Shutterstock.com
4. Don't Use Up the Car
The chief driving instructor, Danny McKeaver, did not want the participants to be too hard on the cars during practice since it really didn't count for anything. On top of that, the Scions had to be ready to go just a few weeks later at the race. Sorry Danny, I'm just used to warming up the tires when I leave pit lane…
5. Adam Carolla is A Madman
A slower driver ahead of us was having a "moment," so Tanner Foust broke to the inside and I broke to the outside and here comes Carolla, right behind both of us, blasting his horn for everyone to get out of the way!!!
(Ed note: Adam Carolla called out "the nice old man" Steve Millen on his show. It's on.)
6. Adam Carolla is a Fibbing Madman
Adam also lies — I have photographic evidence that my windows were down!
7. You Can Take the Tanner Out of the Drift Course...
Tanner Foust is a great driver, but I think he's a bit confused. There were a few times when I think he thought he was in his drift TC, because I saw the rear end slide into some turns as if he had just grabbed the E-brake! It might take some time for him to get used to going through a turn in a front-wheel-drive TC...
8. Age, Treachery, and So Forth
I discovered that Tanner was watching videos of me race while he was still in school. Now we're in school together, so I don't feel so bad!
9. Rules? Aw! Part II
Apparently, the racing line is intended for two cars to get through cleanly. All of the pros were a bit confused by this, as we're all used to the racer's rule: If you're on the inside of another car and you're even, mirror to mirror, the inside car has the line and the outside car had better get out of the way…
10. This is Going to be a Lot of Fun!
In all seriousness, I had a really fun time with all of the celebrities and pros. All of the celebrities were great — they're all very sincere people who are working extremely hard to do well at this event. It is a lot of fun to meet people who work so hard to master their profession and then watch them apply that same determination and effort to racing. Even if they aren't going that fast or doing that well, they never give up and are determined to do better.
Note: Steve last raced in this event in 1986. He passed Lorenzo Lamas for the lead, only to have Lamas barrel into him in a hairpin, taking them both out of the race. LAMAS! —Ed.
Since its inauguration 34 years ago, the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race has grown into the most comprehensive and longest running corporate-sponsored celebrity racing event in the world. This year's event is expected to raise over $100,000 for Racing for Kids, a national organization that benefits children's hospitals in Southern California.
Special thanks to Steve Millen, Josh, Kyle, Ryan and the entire crew at Stillen for playing along. You can check out the race this Saturday at 11:40 AM PST during the 36th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.