Long Beach Toyota Grand Prix Pro/Celebrity Race Dads 8

Ricky Schroder and Alfonso Ribeiro espouse 
fatherhood and their love of racing

Father’s Day has been celebrated for more than 100 years and this year, it is on June 19th. We like to recognize fathers, fatherhood, paternal bonds and the influence they have in our society. The day also has a role in providing a spur for retailers and so, we all participate in the desperate search for a unique gift. On Father’s Day we masculinize our purchasing style and head out the door looking for big boy toys: cars, motorcycles, boats, jet skis, watches, you name it.

Ultimately, Father’s Day isn’t about shopping but about honoring fathers. While at the Toyota Grand Prix Pro/Celebrity Race, two of the drivers and iconic celebrities–Ricky Schroder and Alfonso Ribeiro–had the chance to endorse fatherhood.

Schroder, a father of four, and Ribeiro, a father of three, have shared a friendship since 1984. Ribeiro was cast as Ricky Schroder’s best friend on the TV series Silver Spoons. The sitcom focused on a father-son relationship that was aired on NBC from 1982 to 1986. Both actors grew up together in Los Angeles and share many memories. Schroder, with a Porsche, and Ribeiro, with a Camaro, impressed the ladies with their driving skills and loud presence along Topanga Canyon, Laurel Canyon and Coldwater Canyon.

“We liked to go fast because girls liked that,” Schroder says, while both reminisced enthusiastically about their past.

Ribeiro recognizes that to have attended race school actually prevented him from continuing to race on the streets. Conditioned by his own experience and, as a protective father of a 13-year-old, a two year-old and an 11-month-old, he plans to sign his children up for racing school and, by doing so, hopes to deter them from racing on the streets.

Schroder did not attend race school, but, as a committed father, has realized that kids watch their dads very closely, for the good and the bad. He feels they are always inclined to like the same things as their parents.

“My sons love to fish, they love to drive cars, they fly airplanes, they like to shoot, and they like all the things that I like to do,” he said.

Both Ribeiro and Schroder have strong parenthood skills and lead by example. Nevertheless, it is not up to them to decide how are they going to be honored on Father’s Day. Their tastes and likes are taken into consideration when planning the event, but it is mainly up to the family to decide what is going on. In Schroder’s case, the most common thing is to spend the day going to lunch with the family, and, for Ribeiro, it is spending the day playing golf.

“My kids let me play golf in the morning,” Ribeiro says, “and I will spend the rest of the day at home with them.”

Both men like a quiet, relaxing day with the family, but, ultimately, it is up to their families to decide how they will be honored that day.

The 40th and final Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race took place in Long Beach on April 16th. For 40 years, the race has been supporting “Racing for Kids,” a charity for children designed to use the popularity of motorsports to focus public attention and funding on the health care needs of children.

“We love Racing for Kids,” Ribeiro says. “They are a wonderful charity and being able to see the kids at the hospital is fantastic. To be involved with a wonderful charity like this is always an honor.”

The heart of the program consists of interactive visits of drivers to hospitalized children. So far, drivers have visited around 25,000 young patients in approximately 500 hospitals, raising nearly $6 million. The Pro/Celebrity race in Long Beach is responsible for raising $2.3 million of the total amount for the cause.

This year’s race was very special, not only because it was the last one, but because 19 of the 21 drivers were former champions. They made the race much more competitive. Participants such as William Fichtner, 2011 winner, Sean Patrick Flanery (1997-1998), Dara Torres (2002), Adam Carolla (2012-2013), Chris McDonald (2004), Frankie Muniz (2005), and our protagonist Ricky Schroder, one of the early winners (1989), are just a few of the names.

In a different category, we have the “King of the Beach,” Al Unser Jr., who won the Indy 500 six times and the Pro/Celebrity Race three times. Alfonso Ribeiro, our other protagonist and best known for his longtime role as Carlton on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, had wins in 1994, 1995 and 2015.

Saturday, April 16th, was race day, and it was characterized by the roaring of engines and the accelerated pulses of the 21 celebrity drivers participating at this year’s race. The race was the final event of the longest-running corporate-sponsored charity race in the country. Toyota is moving its North American headquarters from Torrance, California, to Plano, Texas, so the charity event had to be ended.

The final race’s winner was America’s Funniest Home Videos host and past Dancing with the Stars champion, Alfonso Ribeiro! Winning the race for the fourth time, Ribeiro was followed in second position by Max Papis (2004). Nicknamed “Mad Max,” he has competed in many top-level motorsports events, including Le Mans 24 Hours, Formula One and Champ Car. In third position was Rod Millen, the Pro winner in 1995, followed by Adam Carolla in fourth place, and Mike Skinner in fifth, the pro-winner in 2007 and 2008.

The only woman participating in this year’s race was Dara Torres, who finished in 14th position. Ironically, the last spot in the race went to Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales.

For more information about the race results, visit GPLB.com/News