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BECCY GORDON GETS HER SHOT AT LONG BEACH
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Robby Gordon’s sister, primarily an off-road driver, will be in Saturday’s Pro/Celebrity race.
By DAMIAN DOTTORE
The Orange County Register
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Beccy Gordon just might be an accident waiting to happen Friday on the streets of downtown Long Beach.
It’s not that NASCAR driver Robby Gordon’s sister, one of the competitors in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race, can’t handle a race car. In 2006, the Dana Hills resident teamed with her sister Robyn Gordon and Heather Bonnani as part of All American Girl Racing and finished the Baja 1000 while competing in the Baja Challenge division. That made them the first all-female team in the race’s history to complete one of the most grueling endurance tests in motor sports.
The way she learned how to drive, though, is as untamed as the terrain in the Mexican desert that she conquered two years ago.
Passing is not something that happens a whole lot in off-road racing. But whenever she happened to come up on a slower driver, she gives them a tap, a signal to let them know that it’s time to move over and let her by.
Those kinds of tactics, though, might not play well on a narrow, twisty street course, like the one she will have to navigate today during today’s qualifying session, which will set the starting lineup for Saturday’s 10-lap race.
“I guess I will have to do some of that … bumping on Saturday,” she said with a laugh. “I have been pretty clean in practice, but we will have to see what happens on race day.”
This whole experience, Gordon said, has been “surreal.” She’s getting a chance to drive on the same streets on which Robby finished third while driving in the featured CART Champ Car race during the 1994 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
While her brother drove for Toyota, she kept pestering the Pro/Celebrity folks to give her a chance in their extremely popular race. And finally she’s getting a chance.
But she’s not just in the race. She is considered one of the pros, so on Saturday she’ll have to beat defending NHRA Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon and Mike Skinner, who drives in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series like Robby, to win her class.
“I really can’t believe this. I mean to be considered a pro … it’s a huge honor,” said Gordon, who was a part of the United State national softball team that traveled to the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.
But being considered a pro is also a huge disadvantage for her because she will be starting 30 seconds behind the celebrity field, which includes Raymond Cruz (“The Closer), William Fichtner (“Prison Break”) and Wilmer Valderrama (“That ’70s Show”).
That’s a lot of time to give up for someone like Gordon, who never has done anything like this. Still, she hasn’t ruled out winning the whole thing.
Her strategy: Keep Skinner in sight.
“If I can do that, then maybe he will make a mistake and then who knows? I think I can find a way to keep up with him, I will be fine,” Gordon, 29, said. “But I am here to win. There’s a difference between drivers and racers. Anyone can drive. It takes someone special to go out there and race. And if I am racing in it, I want to win it.”
Besides going through the Pro/Celebrity training camp at Willow Springs International Motorsports Park in Rosamond, she’s been driving go-karts with her boyfriend and IndyCar Series driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay. Just like Gordon’s brother, Hunter-Reay has driven in the big race during the Grand Prix of Long Beach, so he’s given her pointers on where to brake and shift on Long Beach’s 1.968-mile street course.
But she will have to go it alone on race day. Hunter-Reay will be competing in the Indy Japan 300 in Motegi and her brother is in Hungary and Romania, driving his Hummer in the Central Europe Rally. It’s a make-up event for the Dakar Rally, which was scheduled for January but was canceled because of terrorism concerns in Mauritania.
“Finally, I get my chance to race in Long Beach – and where are Robby and Ryan? My two biggest sources for info this weekend will be out of town,” she said.
But her brother is going to be there for her this year in the Baja 500 and 1000. He’s letting All American Girl Racing use his buggy, which she said will likely be entered in Class 1.”But we keep pushing him to let us use his Hummer,” she said. “Maybe if he brings it back in one piece from the rally, and it’s just sitting in his shop in Anaheim, we might have a shot at racing it.”
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BECCY GORDON HITS THE PAVEMENT IN TOYOTA PRO/CELEBRITY RACE
TORRANCE, Calif. (April 11, 2008) – Off-road racer Beccy Gordon’s certainly no stranger to being quick on the gas and hard on the brake as she tries to out-race her opponents. But having pavement under her race car is a much different story as she prepares for the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race April 19, one of six events to be run in conjunction with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Of course, the part owner and driver for All-American Girl Racing is following in familiar footsteps by getting her early pavement experience at Long Beach. Beccy’s older brother, Robby, finished second in the 1990 Long Beach IMSA GTO race in just his fourth-ever pavement start before heading to a career in Indy cars and now NASCAR.
“Words can’t express how thankful I am to Toyota for inviting me to be part of this incredible event,” said Gordon. “Toyota has been a part of my family for many years and I have attended this race since I was eight years-old. I’m still in shock that I’m going to be racing on the streets of Long Beach and representing the off-road world! It’s totally surreal.”
Despite it being her first pavement start, Gordon will participate as one of six racers in the professional category that start the race 30 seconds behind the celebrity division. She will compete against the likes of NFL Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, “That 70’s Show” star Wilmer Valderrama, “Dancing With the Stars” winner Drew Lachey, former NBA star John Salley, ESPN NASCAR reporter Jamie Little and fellow pro’s NASCAR SPRINT Cup driver Mike Skinner, Tony Pedregon and Whit Bazemore, both NHRA Funny Car champions, as well as former Olympic gold medal cyclist Marty Nothstein.
“I can’t wait for the race! The competition, not only in the pro category, but amongst the celebrities is stout,” relayed the third-generation driver. “I definitely have my work cut out for me, but I’m ready for the challenge. If I can minimize my mistakes on the track, I should be in good shape. This is such a different beast than I am used to in the dirt. The Scion tC’s that we are driving are awesome cars and handle like proper race cars on the streets. They are fast little machines. Toyota’s created a monster in me… I think I found a new love.”
In addition to the on-track competition, Gordon also will be helping to raise money for “Racing For Kids,” and in particular to raise money for local children’s hospitals in Southern California. To date, Toyota has donated more than $1.6 million to local children’s charities in conjunction with the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race.
“The best part about this race is giving back to the kids in our community,” said the Orange County native. “I’m a local So-Cal girl and I’ve been able to see firsthand the difference Toyota is making in the lives of some of these kids. My race team and I have always supported local charities and I look forward to adding ‘Racing for Kids’ as one of our beneficiaries. Anytime you can put a smile on a child’s face, you know you’ve made a difference even if it’s just for a moment.”
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It’s ‘The Fast & The Famous’ in 2008 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race
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LONG BEACH, Calif.– An eclectic roster of stars of film, television and sports will strap into brand new race-ready Scion tCs to vie for the checkered flag in the world’s longest-running, most successful celebrity racing event: the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race on Saturday, April 19, part of the 34th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The field of 18 is revved up for competition in this historic, 10-lap race for charity on a 1.97-mile street circuit through the downtown streets of Long Beach in Southern California. The Pro/Celebrity race, one of six featured events during race weekend, gives fans a chance to see their favorite stars duke it out on the track during exciting action-packed competition.
This year’s field includes the following group of fiercely competitive entertainment personalities, sports stars and media:
Drew Lachey Singer and actor, best known as the second-season winner of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and member of the group 98 Degrees. Appeared on Broadway in “Rent.”
Raymond Cruz Actor, best known for his roles as Det. Sanchez on CBS’s The Closer and as Tuco in the critically acclaimed AMC series Breaking Bad. Film roles include “Clear and Present Danger,” “The Substitute,” “The Rock,” and “Training Day.”
Wilmer Valderrama Actor, best known for the role of Fez in the FOX sitcom That ’70s Show and host of MTV’s Yo Momma.
Eric Dickerson Pro Football Hall of Famer, widely considered to be one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. In his 10-year career, played for the Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Raiders and Atlanta Falcons.
John Salley Sportscaster, Emmy-nominated Best Damn Sports Show Period; four-time NBA champion. Retired from the NBA Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers.
Daniel Goddard Actor, starring as Cane Ashby on The Young and the Restless. Also played Dar on the BeastMaster TV series.
Jamie Little ESPN/ABC pit reporter for NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series. Has covered the Indy Racing League and both the Winter and Summer X Games.
Nancy Lieberman ESPN women’s basketball analyst. Renowned collegiate and WNBA professional basketball player and coach; member of the Basketball Hall of Fame; Olympic Silver Medalist.
Brad Lewis Film producer and director. Executive Producer of Pixar’s Academy Award winning film “Ratatouille,” the 20th Century Fox hit “Broken Arrow” (with John Travolta and Christian Slater) and Dreamworks’ “Forces of Nature” and “Antz.”
William Fichtner Actor, starring as FBI special agent Alexander Mahone in the FOX series Prison Break. Also appeared in Academy Award-winning best picture “Crash,” as well as “Blades of Glory,” “Armageddon,” “Black Hawk Down,” “Go,” and “Heat.”
Professional off-road racer, ESPN pit-reporter and feature host for the Champ Car World Series Beccy Gordon joins the “Pro” category with cyclist Marty Nothstein, the 2000 Gold and 1996 Silver Medalist in the 1000-meter (Sprint) Olympic Track Cycling competitions and 34-time U.S. Nationals Champion with titles in seven different events. Other Pro drivers include NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion Mike Skinner, NHRA Funny Car Champion Tony Pedregon, two-time NHRA U.S. Nationals Funny Car winner Whit Bazemore, and Grand-Am race car driver/fine jewelry designer Sarena Traver (who garnered a spot by bidding $80,000 in the Boys and Girls charity auction).
The Southern California Toyota Dealer seat is being filled by Bud Gordon, General Manager of Quality Toyota of Corona. Rounding out the field is the second Boys and Girls Club charity auction winner Craig Barto, whose matching $80,000 donation also earned him a chance to challenge the celebrities and pros in this year’s race.
“We’re looking forward to one of the most competitive races since we created the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race more than 30 years ago,” said Les Unger, Toyota’s national motorsports manager. “The Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race is renowned for attracting ‘the fast and the famous’ because it offers the unparalleled celebrity-pro challenge of real high-speed racing, combined with a chance to support a worthwhile charity.”
Toyota will donate $5,000 to “Racing for Kids” in the name of each celebrity racer, and another $5,000 to the winning racer’s charity of choice. Racing for Kids is a non-profit program benefiting children’s hospitals in Long Beach and Orange County, Calif.
Finally, a $15,000 donation is made in conjunction with the 11th annual “PEOPLE Pole Award.” Sponsored by PEOPLE magazine, the award honors the pole-position winner of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race qualifying session on Friday, April 18. On behalf of the race and its participants, Toyota has donated close to $1.6 million to various children’s organizations since 1991.
Courtesy Toyota Motorsports
THE P.R.I. SPECIAL PREMIERS SATURDAY, FEB. 2 @ 10 PM EST ON SPEED. BECCY IS ONE THE HOSTS! IT WILL PLAY THROUGHOUT SPEED WEEKS AND BEYOND.
AAGR INVITES YOU TO JOIN ‘ROBBY’S UPRISING’!
AAGR DESIGNED A T-SHIRT FOR HURLEY’S ART CHEST, A FUNDRAISER HELPING ‘BOARDING FOR BREAST CANCER’. HERE’S WHAT WE CAME UP WITH:
CLICK ON IMAGE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HURLEY’S EVENT
AAGR IS EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE THAT WE WILL BE RACING THIS WEEKEND IN THE 2ND ANNUAL M.O.R.E POWDER PUFF RACE FOR THE CURE IN BARSTOW, CA. IF YOU ARE IN THE AREA COME OUT AND SUPPORT THIS AWESOME ALL-WOMEN’S RACE!
LAST WEEKEND WE HEADED OUT TO BARSTOW FOR A LITTLE FUN IN THE DIRT. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE MORE!
AAGR HAS A 3-PAGE SPREAD IN THE NEW ‘RIDES’ MAGAZINE. CLICK ON PHOTO TO CHECK IT OUT!
AAGR HAS A 3-PAGE SPREAD IN THE NEW ‘RIDES’ MAGAZINE. CLICK ON PHOTO TO CHECK IT OUT!
EARLIER THIS YEAR BECCY WAS IN ‘STUFF’ MAGAZINE, SORRY WE’RE JUST NOW POSTING IT
2006 BAJA 1000 VIDEO
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BFGoodrich SELECTED ALL-AMERICAN GIRL RACING TO BE PART OF THEIR ELITE ‘BRAND AMBASSADOR’ PROGRAM. BECCY REPRESENTED THE TEAM AS SHE VISITED THE BFG/MICHELIN HEADQUARTERS IN GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT BFGoodrich CLICK ON THE PICTURE.
BFGoodrich Brand Ambassadors
LAST WEEK HEATHER WAS FEATURED IN THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER!
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ROBYN MADE THE AUGUST ISSUE OF QUAD MAGAZINE WITH A 2-PAGE SPREAD!
Dust and Ruffles: ALL-AMERICAN GIRL RACING ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE OC REGISTER
Heather Bonanni, Robyn Gordon & Beccy Gordon
Thursday, February 8, 2007
By VALERIA GODINES
The Orange County Register
Like all serious off-road buggy racers, they needed a sponsor, but they faced some challenges.
Big potential sponsors wanted more information. What would they race? What kind of track record did they have? How would they represent the sponsor?
One by one, they got their rejections. But the racers kept in touch with their contact at SoBe, which sells vitamin-enriched water, who promised he was working his connections. They crossed their fingers and hoped for the best.
The call came on a Monday. “Where do I send the check?”
They won’t say how much they got, but sponsorship in the racing world can range from $50,000 to $1 million.
And they had a race that Saturday.
That gave them four days to prepare.
Oh, and they officially became the All-American Girl Racing Team, an all-female team in the male-dominated sport of off-road racing.
They had a four-wheel dune buggy, but a lot of things stacked against them. They had no tires. They had no toolbox. They had to borrow fire suits and gloves.
“We literally did not sleep for four days. We were zombies,” says Heather Bonanni of Laguna Niguel, a driver and founder of the group.
Would they have a shot on Saturday? Would anybody take them seriously with their pink gas tanks?
They wear lipstick and mascara and enjoy a good manicure. They admit with pride that they’re “girlie girls.” One is a former Miss Downey.
They also go 92 mph in an off-road vehicle, doing laps on a rough course fraught with dips and rocky bumps. The four-wheel buggy has beefy desert tires, big shocks and extra suspension. The women take turns as drivers.
And, yes, they can change their own 80-pound tires, thank you very much.
There are other women racers, such as Danica Patrick, but she works with a team of men. These women, who range from 28 to 34, run their own show.
The All-American Girl Racing Team, based in Orange County, formed a year ago.
Bonanni said she got bored watching her husband, John, race.
“I’ve got to get a bunch of us out there,” she thought. She called Robyn Gordon, who paused. But Beccy Gordon, Robyn’s sister, started yelling: “We’re in! You tell her we’re in!”
A friend and fellow racer, Brian Burgess, donated his off-road vehicle for a year with the condition that they return it in pristine condition.
“He was just totally hip on a bunch of girls racing. We put a brand-new engine in, brand-new seats and had all the shocks redone. We rebuilt the whole car,” Bonanni said.
Racing is in their blood. Beccy, who lives in Dana Point, and Robyn, who lives in Orange, grew up in their dad’s shop in Orange. Their father, Bob, was an off-road racer who made sure his daughters knew how to take apart an engine. He never treated them any differently from how he treated Robby Gordon, who grew up to be a NASCAR racer.
Their family vacations weren’t typical. No skiing trips for them. Instead, they hit the racetracks. Beccy says as a kid she used to wear a bathing suit and make dirt angels.
Their mom did a practice run when she was seven months pregnant with Beccy and had Robyn sitting on her lap.
They’re an athletic family. Beccy, 28, surfs, snowboards, and plays tennis and golf. Robyn, 34, water-skis.
Heather, 34, whose dad is a mechanic, also grew up around cars. Heather was a tomboy who loved dirt bikes and played softball and volleyball. But one year she decided to try out for Miss Downey. She won.
“But then I was done with that, and I was like, ‘Can I have my dirt bike back, please?’ “
Heather, now a soccer mom raising four kids, acknowledges that racing can be dangerous, and her youngest child, who also happens to be her biggest fan, is especially concerned.
“She worries the most about me,” Heather says. “She says a little prayer for me. She makes me kiss her hand to leave my lip marks on her while I race.”
She once was injured when she fell into a deep ravine. “I was going 35 miles per hour, and one of my harnesses was undone, and I knocked myself out on one of the bars,” she says. “I crashed and had a concussion and was out of it for a couple of days.”
And that isn’t the only time.
“I’ve spun out on the pavement a couple of times, and, knock on wood, I’ve never rolled. I’m not too worried about it,” she said. “If I was too worried, I wouldn’t do it. We’re doing it because we truly enjoy getting into that car and racing.”
The team has developed a loyal following of young women and girls who help with repairs and cheer them on.
And their Internet site has drawn interest from girls who want to go into racing, as well as from men whose girlfriends and wives are interested in the sport.
They had four days to prepare for the 200-mile race in Primm, Nev. There were 100 entrants – all men, except for them.
They had to get the car painted. They were hoping for pink. Robyn went to the shop late at night and called the team in tears. “It’s yellow!” she moaned.
They got pink lizards – the logo for SoBe – embroidered onto their silver racing suits. The sponsor, who missed his wedding anniversary, flew out so they could take him on a prerun. They made sure to wear braids to keep their hair out of their faces. And this time there was no makeup.
When they showed up to the race, they had an entourage of about 50 people – family members and friends and a television crew from New York making a documentary on them. They got noticed.
Somebody snidely remarked that they were Robby Gordon’s sisters and wondered whether they’d make the cut.
“It was a little bit embarrassing, because we hadn’t proved ourselves yet,” Robyn says.
Heather was the driver at the starting line, watching the green flag.
“I was extremely nervous,” she says. “I just remember sitting at the starting line. I was so afraid that I was going to stall the car. I revved the engine so high. Your adrenaline kicks in. Five minutes into it, I got my groove. It turned out it was awesome.”
It turned out better than awesome.
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PATRICK DEMPSEY TEAMS UP WITH ALL-AMERICAN GIRL RACING AT THE BAJA 1000
Patrick Dempsey and the Girls. Click here for more Baja 1000 Photos
USA Today: BAJA 1000 BECOMES GORDON FAMILY REUNION
Beccy Gordon, left, is making her first Baja 1000 start, while Robyn has won it once with her brother and father..
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