‘Ten Laps of Carnage,’ Promised Al Unser, Jr.

He was almost too correct.

bySteve Cole Smith| PUBLISHED Apr 17, 2016 5:07 PM
‘Ten Laps of Carnage,’ Promised Al Unser, Jr.

“Ten laps of carnage,” promised Al Unser, Jr. He was talking about the 40th Toyota Pro Celebrity Race.

He was almost too correct.

This was indeed the 40th, and final. The last ever Pro Celebrity race – no more William Shatners or Ricky Schroders in fire suits, though Schroder was in this race. He finished 15th.

Though Toyota will remain the title sponsor of the weekend, which includes IndyCar and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the brand is pulling the plug on the Pro Celebrity race, and a spokesman for Toyota says it has nothing to do with the company moving its headquarters from Los Angeles to just north of Dallas. Whether this means there will be a bunch of race-ready Scion FR-S cars on eBay soon remains to be seen.

While Alfonso Ribeiro won, as he did last year and in 1994, ’95 and ’96, the race is likely to be remembered for some of the worst race officiating ever. The carnage Unser spoke of was nearly human, not mechanical, as Unser was referring to – “These cars have no place to go after this,” he said.

The race had barely started with motorcycle racer Eddie Lawson stuffed his Scion into the wall. The caution should have flown when a wrecker came onto the track to gather it up, but they kept racing. Then MTV star Brett Davern crashed and Toyota executive Bob Carter hit him just behind the driver’s side door, and they kept racing.

Wreckers came onto the scene, and they kept racing, until Sean Patrick Flannery came around the blind corner behind another car, pulled wide, and hit Carter’s car square in the back, which appeared to send the boom from the wrecker ahead of Carter’s car into the safety worker, knocking him head over heels. THEN the caution flag came out, and then the red flag.

Everyone was OK, which was amazing, and a coincidence. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen such horrible race calls made, especially since the race was televised internally, so officials knew who had crashed, and where.

Ok. So. Unlike previous years, all 20 drivers started according to their qualifying – but inverted, meaning the slowest guys were on the front row, and guys like Unser, IndyCar driver Max Papis, NASCAR racer Mike Skinner and off-road expert Rod Millen started near the rear. And unlike previous races, the Pros did not spot the Celebrities 30 seconds.

No one had anything for Ribero, who finished nearly five seconds ahead of Papis, and could probably do this for a living if the gleeful-hosting jobs dry up. Millen was third, Skinner fourth, drifter Ken Gushi was fifth, and “Malcolm in the Middle” actor Frankie Muniz was sixth. Unser was a factor, but fell back to eighth, one spot ahead of NASCAR funnyman Rutledge Wood, and in 10th, swimmer Dara Torres, who led for a while but was eventually spun by Skinner.

Then, pretty much everybody did burnouts until a furious wrecker driver ran down Rutledge Wood, hoped out, and read Wood the finger-shaking riot act.

Enjoy it for yourself when it airs. It will be broadcast on CBS Sportsnet on May 8 at 6 p.m. ET, and will re-air numerous times.