In all the right ways, longtime attendees at the Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix will notice the same familiar atmosphere that has made this event one of the world’s crown jewels of street-circuit racing.
But there’s one very noticeable difference as well with the introduction of Acura as the new title sponsor of the overall event weekend. After 44 years, Toyota red and white has become blue, orange and white for the 45th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
“As you go around the track, like yesterday we were going through all the branding and everything that’s out there, to some of the street signs being covered with the Acura name, it’s amazing to think this is all going on,” said Acura Brand Officer Jon Ikeda in a Friday media briefing.
“It is a fantastic event. It’s a weekend event. It’s a family event. Jim [Michaelian, race promoter] and his team have done such a great job of making this event open to just not just racers, but an event to come to for everyone.”
While it’s a new look, Ikeda is quick to give credit to his predecessors at Toyota for building the annual street race into such an iconic event.
And now that it’s become the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Southern California-headquartered brand has grabbed the baton.
“I think Toyota did a fantastic job of curating this race all these years,” Ikeda said.
“We’re an innovative company. We want to look into the future. We feel that we could add new things and dimensions to what this race has been about. It’s a great foundation to build on, to move forward.”
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race is the Saturday headliner at Long Beach.
The 100-minute race featuring the DPi and GT Le Mans classes takes the green flag at 5 p.m. ET and will be televised live on NBCSCN.
It will include a pair of Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi cars on the front two rows, with Helio Castroneves starting from the pole position in the No. 7 entry he shares with Ricky Taylor and Juan Pablo Montoya starting right behind his teammate in third aboard the No. 6 Acura DPi he co-drives with Dane Cameron.
Acura’s participation in IMSA was a key driver in the brand’s decision to sign on as title sponsor of the event weekend.
“I think IMSA and the caliber of racing that we’re able to see, I think we really got together with IMSA at the right time, exactly,” Ikeda said.
“We see continued growth and interest in the whole program, so bringing that caliber of racing here, it exists here, its history is here, I think it’s just great. I mean, Saturday’s just as big as Sunday here, so it’s really, really fun.”